Editor’s Note: It was an honor to speak with such a legend that has been involved in music scores, Beck(especially the “Mutations” album), Jellyfish, and even got to collaborate with Eric Clapton. Recently, Roger Joseph Manning Jr. released his “Glamping” EP along with the reissues of “Land of Pure Imagination” and “Catnip Dynamite”. Fans can find Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RogerJosephManningJr
Madness To Creation: So, how has the response to the “Glamping” EP and the reissues of “Land of Pure Imagination” and “Catnip Dynamite” been so far?
Roger: It’s been just fine, we’ve been very happy with the response and the amount of traffic that has come through, and it’s so great to hear the fans all excited to hear new music from me again.
Madness To Creation: What is the importance of utilizing services such as PledgeMusic and GoFundMe nowadays?
Roger: Well, I can only speak for myself, I don’t know if its for every artist or every band in their situation, in my case, I’ve been working as a freelance musician whether it’s my own music or with other bands playing on people’s records or solo stuff for close to 30 years, and during that time I obviously made some fans along the way, but it’s been scattered and sometimes under the very public position, a forum like PledgeMusic has been great for collecting all of the fans into one area and letting them all know that I have new music if they want to be involved and check it out and participate in making the record, and being more involved and participating, which is very new no matter how long somebody has had to do it, it’s been a really great way to solidify that community.
Madness To Creation: In terms of the writing process, how did you approach this EP?
Roger: Same way that I have on my previous solo records, I haven’t put out a solo album for 10 years due to personal factors, but I’m always writing and there are songs on there that go as far back as my college days, maybe I had a chorus that I liked or a verse that was incomplete, I’m always inspired by personal music, it’s the most gratifying thing that I do, but over the years, it hasn’t necessarily been the most sustainable, that’s why I went to this Pledge model, because I thought that would be a good way to get my ideas completed and have that built-in audience out there who is ready to hear it.
Madness To Creation: I love the song “Funhouse” off of the EP, for the AM radio vibe to it, take us into that song.
Roger: Well, that’s an idea I had sitting around as far back as 1995, I originally was going to use it for another band, and Eric Dover of Sony Records, but other ideas took precedent, I decided that I wanted to finish it as I still believed in the idea, the lyric is just a fun look at teenage love at a carnival, with all of those metaphors for teen lust set to very fun Cheap Trick power pop rocker.
Madness To Creation: What were some teenage desires that you had growing up?
Roger: Probably the same as every teenage boy who had female interest, as challenging as that was, I turned a lot of my energy and passion into music, fortunately I had that to escape through and to express myself, so I started devouring into everything that I could, I got really into playing drums and keyboards, the more you play yourself, the more you learn, then I went to music school and found a way to have a career, and make a life of myself into music.
Madness To Creation: Considering all of the accomplishments that you have had in your music career, what is something that you still want to accomplish in your craft?
Roger: There’s a lot of things, there’s all kinds of people that I want to collaborate with although that’s not necessarily a goal, I would love to continue to write original music where more people would hear it, but a short term goal is to flush out a small music studio here in my house with several of my vintage keyboard toys and get back to work, I love creating new ways to get my songs with textures and arrangements. I also want to get better at recording technology. I have had very little interest in it for the most part, but I understand the value of it, and I want my recordings to sound better and better, but you have to apply yourself for that craft, and I want to continue to be a better jazz musician, which is kind of what a lot of my history is coming from music school as a teen, but I like so many different styles of music including pop and punk rock, but I only took jazz to a certain place, but I still feel that need to get better and better at, I mean I’m very self-indulgent, I mean people like hearing it, but it’s really for myself in terms of seeing how far that I can take it with my personal goals like an athlete.
Madness To Creation: Speaking of jazz, do you have a favorite jazz artist that you grew up listening to?
Roger: I have a lot of them, including classic keyboard players such as Herbie Hancock and Herb Alpert, I like a lot of other instrumentalists too including John McLaughlin and groups where jazz and rock met, the 1970’s were a very exciting time, I enjoy exploring that to see if I can play in that realm.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say Herbie Hancock was in the studio right now, what would you want to learn from him?
Roger: Really just some basics, there’s so much that I still know, but I feel like I’ve hit a wall, because I just need to sit down and practice more and to show him what I did know and have him go, “all right, you need to learn these five or six things, and go figure them out”, I feel that it will help my improvisational playing.
Madness To Creation: What were some memories that you had from the reissues of “Land of Pure Imagination” and “Catnip Dynamite”?
Roger: “Land of Pure Imagination” has three bonus tracks that were only released in Japan, so that’s something the whole world gets to share in it now, which is pretty cool. I have very fond memories making those records, it was very challenging work because I have very high standards for myself, it was literally locking myself in a room for ten months and trying over and over and over again until I got the sound that I was looking for, it was very hard work in exercise and discipline, but I love it so much and even when I listen to those albums now, a lot of my inspiration was from my teen years or college years or my time when I was with Jellyfish, so listening to those records is like being in a time machine where I can remember exactly where I was, it’s pretty surreal. I’m in my early 50’s now and I’m like “where’s the time gone”, but the music is the same. A song that I wrote in college, it’s just as vital, it’s like time hasn’t aged at all, if anything has changed, it’s my skillset, as I have another perspective on how to finish the idea, and to arrange it with a little bit more maturity as far as the architecture and the songcraft, it’s very cool and I love that kind of timelessness with the song ideas.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say 1998 Roger Joseph Manning Jr. met you today, what advice would you give him?
Roger: Oh, that’s easy, I grew up and I started playing drums first before I graduated into keyboards, and the whole time, I didn’t see why I ever needed to pick up a guitar or a bass because there were other guys that did that pretty well, a whole lot of it back then was just get as good as you can at an instrument because that’s what other musicians are for, I wish the younger version of me would’ve told me to get good at other instruments as well, “you don’t need to be a master” but get a good level of competency, in particular in the pop rock arena, which is my favorite genre playing, so that way I can be more of a one man band, I mean I love playing all those other instruments but it’s a real struggle to get what I want and to get what I hear, it’s not very fast, so keyboard is the only instrument that I have the speed on, and drums secondly, but I would love to play bass and guitar better and I never put in the time to fully practice that, and I still haven’t because life keeps us busy with all different kinds of things in order to put a roof over your head and to enjoy music. That’s the first thing that I would’ve told my younger self.
Madness To Creation: You have collaborated with the who’s who of music, tell us your favorite memory of collaborating with Eric Clapton?
Roger: Unfortunately, I was not in the same room with Eric Clapton. That was for a documentary, I think it’s out now actually “The Eric Clapton Documentary”, and for film composer named David Campbell for “Rock of Ages” for that score and he hired me to play piano on it, which was wonderful. But unfortunately, Eric Clapton was not in the room giving his pointers and critiquing.
Madness To Creation: You have also collaborated with Beck and won Grammys with him, what is your favorite memory with Beck?
Roger: Beck has been my musical brother for many many years now, and he’s responsible for creating some of the most memorable awe inspiring life changing moments, whether it was us playing in front of 100,000 people in “Rock In Rio” or simply a recording moment on the “Mutations” record or something, but winning that Grammy with him was pretty amazing too because we were all in the same room and we were backstage and we didn’t know what the outcome would be and they announced it over the monitor and we could hear it, we were both jumping up and down like little kids, it was so surreal. I’m just super thankful for all the doors that he has opened, and for all the incredible environments that he has invited me to.
Madness To Creation: What’s your favorite song that you have played with Beck on or worked with him on?
Roger: There’s so many, they have a special place in my heart, it was the most fun on his most recent record “Colors”, because he co-wrote that album with another tremendous songwriter who is a multi-instrumentalist, so I was actually invited to play keyboards on the record, and he had me sing background vocals on quite a few songs, and that was really fun because when he brought me in, the songs were not fully realized or were flushed out, and I got to see those songs in those developmental stages, and to be able to contribute vocally in a pretty substantial way, because a lot of the stuff I’m ghosting and doubling his lead vocal harmonies, sometimes you would hear my voice more prominently, sometimes more background, but it was really very flattering to be asked to lend my vocal skills to that. It was a new way to have my spirit and personality to be present in the music, and that was very enjoyable.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say an artist wants to collaborate with somebody, what approach should they take or what advice would you have for them?
Roger: I can only speak from personal experience, and that is be passionate about what the music really is about. Focus on those worlds and realms that you honestly enjoy, in other words do it personally, honestly, and with integrity, I think you’ll magnetize like-minded people whether they’re current or unknown artists, for example, I was recently connected with the band Squeeze, and he and I were talking about putting some material together. During our conversations, him and his wife were sharing that some of their favorite records were the Jellyfish records, and I didn’t know that of course, and I was very flattered and blown away, and at the same time, I thought it made sense, I was and am a still huge Squeeze fan, Squeeze has always been very inspirational to the music that I brought to Jellyfish and continue to write on my own, and they enjoy our musical offerings as well, it just really made sense because we were inspired by that same genre or same style, working with each other is a very natural thing. That’s what I recommend, is to keep applying yourself, and sharing what you do with the world, it’s going to be heard, in particular in this day and age. If you only look for opportunities for making money or getting your name out there, it’s pretentious and people can see right through it. When the time comes, there will be something valid and authentic to contribute, not something fake.
Madness To Creation: Can we expect anything from you and Squeeze coming up?
Roger: Not yet, this partnership literally happened two months ago. Chris and I just have to find time in our schedule in an effective way to collaborate, anything will be cool. I have my fingers in so many different things, hopefully in the next nine months.
Madness To Creation: It was an inspiration talking to you, where can people find “Glamping” or Jellyfish music or anything like that?
Roger: I’ll be looking to team up with an indie record label to get the music on Spotify and I-Tunes and all of that stuff. I’m pleased with the PledgeMusic campaign. Just trying to continue to get better at all my social media accounts so people are fully aware of what’s going on.
And there you have it! On Friday, August 3rd, Roger Joseph Manning Jr will be performing at Molly Malone’s for International Pop Overthrow in Los Angeles, California. For tickets and further information, click here.
In the meantime, check out the song “Operator” off of “Glamping”.