Intro: What does it take for a gifted musician to receive notice,
exposure and recognition for his vast talents? Apparently it takes a lot as my friend Guy Manning is still an unknown to many. As a composer, arranger and musician, Mr. Manning has released
seven titles under his own name beginning with 1999's 'Tall Stories For Small Children through his latest phenomenal offering 'One Small Step'. Along with his music, Guy has also been with Po90
and most recently received rave reviews for his appearances on all three recordings from The Tangent.
Richard Cornick sat with Guy for an in-depth interview and I'm
hoping this will go a long way in setting things in motion for what should be a banner year for Mr. Manning and his music.
Rich: Your latest album "One small step" was released last year. The centre piece of it is the 30min epic title track. This seems to
deal with some weighty topics. Tell us how that track came about and what was the main message you were trying to put across.
Guy: How it came about: I had ideas for music but nothing really in terms of lyric for a number of pieces that eventually were
on OSS > to try get some objective ideas I asked Ed (Unitsky - more about him later) to send me some pictures to 'inspire'
me..so my sort of 'Pictures at an exhibition' then he sent a few and one of them featured a man in a Bermuda shirt standing
on the edge of what looked like an asteroid peering into space. This got me thinking and the idea for the Main OSS title
track came to me. I got Ed to put a suitcase on the page, put more into the Galaxy etc and gradually the picture evolved into the Front cover. i.e. One Small Step...Man goes on holiday into Space!
Rich: The central theme is one of ..are we ready for this step? Are we fit to be ambassadors out there?
Guy: My own view is that we should get our own house in order first before stepping into other beings' back gardens! We
fight, we colonise, we are a greedy intolerant non-eco friendly bunch normally. So my overall quote "If we are to go on
holiday into Space..then as well as packing out swimming trunks, we'd better leave the rest of out baggage behind"
Rich: Are you happy with how "One small step" has been received in general and also by the progressive rock community?
Guy: Pretty much yes...It has got 4.5 to 5 star reviews at the review sites that are widely seen as the 'important ones' and I
have had a lot of nice e-mails from folks out there. However, lately, I have had a few people determined to bad mouth it
whatever it turned out like, but I suppose you always get a few bigots in the bunch. The problem that I have had with this
idiot small hardcore is that they insist on publishing their views all over the place where there is no place for me to publish a
rebuttal against some of the slanderous words. But I guess that is the object of their exercise! My view is this....research
before you buy.! I have put a whole album of songs on my website to download for FREE. If you like those tracks then likely
you'll like the albums - so buy one. If not, do not. I do not want to have people buying my albums and then complaining they don't like them..does nobody any good!"
Rich:There has been a couple of live shows featuring tracks from "One small step" How did those go and is there plans for more?
Guy: They were great and we had a fab time. Problem is getting gigs these days if you are not a 'big' name or a tribute
band. If anyone wants us/me for a show then let me know! I would like to play live more and have been sending off e-mails to festivals etc..no luck so far though!
Rich: Over the last few years you have released an album a year. Is that going to continue into 2006? Has the next one been started yet?
Guy: I have started sketching some tracks for the next project (I have an idea for the thing holding it all together now),..but
I'm not going at it as hard as in previous years. Normally by Feb I have a whole album ready in demo form to get the other players involved..this time I am being more lazy!
It will come out when it does..
Rich: You have used many musicians on your albums, some have been constant and others seem to come and go. Tell us a bit about that selection process.
Guy: A reverse Groucho? I will play with any good musician who would like to play with me?? The folks on the last few
albums have been around me for some time and we are an extended family of sorts. We meet up to record the albums over
a 2-3 month period. Some of them came to play and stayed longer than they expected because I try to make it fun and they
genuinely like the music. It also depends a lot on availability at the time I need them as to who does what on the end
product. Lucky for me that all of these people are excellent musicians and now good friends!
Rich: When recording do you get together as a band while recording or tend to do all your bits separately?
Guy: Separately - I have my own small home studio and although we can all fit in (like for LIVE rehearsals) I try to work
individually with the other players where possible. This process has its + and -. On the +, it means I can experiment and try
out permutations of ideas with a player without anyone else being impacted or bored. On the -, it can be a prolonged experience for me and the arrangement is pretty much all down to me
Rich: Your last two albums have been released on the "Progrock" label, was it a shock when you had to switch from
"Cyclops" and are "Progrock" doing a good job for you?
Guy: It was a move of necessity really. Malcolm @ CYCLOPS wanted to release less albums when I was ready for "A
Matter Of Life & Death" and I would have had to wait for a slot much later than I wanted, so I hunted around for alternatives.
Luckily, Shawn @ ProgRock was interested and we got off to a good start and had a lot of agreement about how the
relationship would work.The only real practical 'shock' is that it takes a lot of time & effort etc. to get my hands on my own
albums from the USA. PRR are doing a great job at the moment and the CDs are available Worldwide
Rich: Also on the last two albums "One small step" and "A matter of life and death" you have some marvellous artwork by
Ed Unitsky. It's very reminiscent of Mark Wilkinson's work with Marillion. Tell us about that and do you have an input into what ends up on it or is it left to Ed?
Guy: OK to Ed Unitsky - Ed has a vast amount of talent and lots of ideas and styles he can use. With my Project artwork
we have worked as a tag team sending iterations of drawings back and forth by e-mail, adding, changing etc until I was
happy with the end result. In the end I have to feel; the artwork supports the music and visa versa. For me the last 2 albums artwork has been superb! I can't complain one jot!
Rich: Andy Tillison (of PO90 and The Tangent) has been a long standing musical partner of yours, you have collaborated on
each others albums many times. Tell us how that relationship came about and developed.
Guy: Andy & I met in 1987 at his professional studio (Lion) in Leeds while I was recording a radio session with my band of
the time 'KingGlass' where I was keyboard player and co-vocalist. We obviously talked a lot about keyboards and
technology and hit it right off. When Andy's 'Gold, Frankincense & Disk-Drive' band folded and my own band imploded
too..we got together to write, record and pool equipment. We recorded the "No More Travelling Chess - Songs By Peter
Hammill/Van Der Graaf Generator" album at that time. We have been friends ever since and yes, we share work on each others Projects because it is fun!
Rich: You also feature on the new Tangent album. What was your musical contribution to that and did it include writing as well as playing?
Guy: I have been on all 3 Tangent Studio albums and normally overtly contribute different acoustic guitars, mandolin &
vocals (Lead & backing). Behind the scenes, I vet the arrangements and help Andy with reviewing the songs, takes &
performances, sound and production. On the latest Tangent album "A Place In The Queue", I co-wrote a piece with Andy called "Lost In London".
Rich: I know you also have a full time job outside of music. Would you like to be able to make a living from music? If so,
what would need to happen to be able to do this? (eg 100% increase in sales, backing from a major label etc)
Guy: I would love to do it full time, because I not all that enamoured of my daily career really (although I have being doing it a
long time). To be able to do that, firstly I would need to ensure that all outgoings (bills etc) were covered by income, which would mean a hell of a lot more sales!!
I am only a small artist in a small pond competing for a slice of people's time & interest and so the financial rewards are not that great to be honest
Rich: The current "progressive" music scene seems to me to be a "cottage industry" and I guess the advancement in
technology has helped create this. Can you see this situation changing so that a wider audience is exposed to the quality music that is being produced?
Guy: Technology has enabled people to record 'big' albums on a home PC . It has enabled collaborations over great
distances without ever having to be in the same room. It has allowed people all over the World to hear new music rapidly and
easily and has allowed sales to be pushed to the four corners of the Earth from a box of CDs in someone's living room. On
the other hand, if everyone can do it and does, then there is a flood of new music streaming out. How do buyers find the
time to hear it all and make intelligent discerning choices about things?? The problems of exposure on a mass scale to
those people who do not actively hunt down new 'Progressive music has been the same since 1977..i.e. the mainstream
Radio, TV etc are not that interested in promoting it or giving it its own space to develop, it still carries an amount of post
punk stigma (Dinosaurs of rock etc.)and so the movement is still relatively underground
Rich: With a full time job and involvement in many musical projects do you have time for other interests or hobbies?
Guy: I watch a lot of films and listen to as much music as I can fit in !!
Rich: Finally from a musical point of view, what are your short term plans and where do you hope to be or have achieved in say 3 to 5 years from now?
Guy: Short term - Write some more, play some more and try to enjoy it!
Longer - I still struggle to reach a larger audience and would hope that I might get some breaks and finally start to gain a bit
more profile out there. I want to keep on producing music I love and hope that others continue to support this and like what I do.