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Interview with Guy Manning by Edwin (November 2006)

Guy Manning may not be a household name (yet), but his albums never disappoint. His latest release, Anser’s Tree, is another great record, which will most certainly please many old-school progressive rock fans. Time to let the man himself do the talking.

Hello, Guy. First of all: my compliments on a great new album. I very much enjoyed it, and it’ll probably end up in my list of favourite prog rock releases of the year.

Thanks... that is very nice to hear!

So, who is Guy Manning? Should the name ring a bell for progressive rock fans?

Not really :0)
I have been playing music a long time, released my first official album in 1999 and am also a fully paid up member of the TANGENT (a multi national project band)

You’ve managed to release an album every year since 1999. Not many artists do so these days. Something of a workaholic?

No, I just get bored easily and for me the writing/creating of the songs is the most enjoyable part of the process…. so I like to get back into once I‘ve had the annual cycle of production, mastering and artwork to go through.

Your first album was released under the ‘Guy Manning’ name. Later, this was shortened to MANNING. Has this become a band, or are they still essentially solo albums?

The first album appeared under the name Guy Manning… but what I found was that everyone kept referring to it as a singer/songwriter album… but to me it was so much more with me playing the majority of the instruments etc. Is Roger Waters now a singer/songwriter? So I dropped the Guy bit for the next album but did exactly the same process and it got more kudos as a band album (for some strange reason… people’s perception I guess).

You are known as a ‘storyteller’. Where do you find the inspiration for your concepts? Are they in any way autobiographical?

Don’t know really. They just come to me. I prefer to write in the 3rd person normally and tell tales, though I have had a number of autobiographical songs published as well. I find it interesting to tell tales and draw the listener in (like a good book). It also allows me a certain amount of leniency in putting my own philosophical spin on things and getting my viewpoint on lots of topics across easier.

Can you tell something about the concept behind Anser’s Tree?

The concept is quite loose really. I had a series of songs composed about historical figures set in their own time zones and wanted a way of binding them all together. So we came up with the idea that they were all part of the same family tree. The characters stretch over 500 years from around 1605 in Scotland to the same place in 2089. I also took on board the idea that the World had succumbed to global warming chaos and the polar caps had melted... to add an ecological aspect to the “storyline”. In this way I can make it more dynamic and give background reasoning to the final piece.

In Ed Unitsky, you seem to have found a regular artist to provide the artwork for your albums. Do you think the ‘visualisation’ of your concepts is an important aspect?

Yes, I really do and Ed & I work hard to bring my stories to life on the page… my words on his backgrounds. I think however that Ed often finds this method a bit prescriptive as he loves to go off on wings of fantasy…. I however need the whole thing to be in total balance and so can be a bit demanding in the images we eventually come up with!

I tried to find a short and snappy description for the music you produce, but I just couldn’t do it – it is so rich and diverse. I just ended up calling it ‘progressive rock’. How would you describe your music?

IMO - songs primarily. Hopefully interesting and thought provoking lyrics set across melodic and ensemble complex arrangements. There is not great deal of out and out ‘widdly’ soloing on my albums… the solos are reigned into the arrangements as a whole.

There are elements of folk, jazz and rock… plus some classical references… but anything goes really in an effort to get the pieces across… and also I try not to repeat myself so, with each successive release you don’t really know what sort of style you’ll get next.

Could you name some of your favourite albums of all time?

Sure thing…

Jethro Tull – A Passion Play, Thick As A Brick
Genesis – Foxtrot, Selling England…., The Lamb…

Yes – Close to the Edge, Tales…,Relayer

Roy Harper – Bullinamingvase, Stormcock

John Martyn – Solid Air
Al Stewart – Past, present & future
Hatfield & the North – The Rotters Club

Gentle Giant – In A Glass House
Van Der Graff Generator / Peter Hammill – Pawn Hearts, Godbluff, A Black Box

Renaissance – Scheherezade…
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Inn e Mounting Flame
Return To Forever – Romantic Warrior

Frank Zappa – One Size fits all
Caravan – In the land of grey & pink, For girls…

Jake Thackray – Jake on the box

…and a whole load more………….. :0)

Which current music do you listen to?

Don’t get a lot of time to discover new artists, but ‘faves’ are at the moment White Willow, The Flower Kings, Phideaux.

It can’t be easy being a prog rock musician these days. Can you live off your music, or do you have a ‘proper’ job as well?

No it is NOT easy! I cannot make a living of it (wish I could…). I do a day job where I work consulting on computer solutions.

What are you up to at the moment? Are you gathering more brilliant ideas for future albums yet?

At the moment, new ideas are being sketched out in my home studio for a possible collaboration album with another band. At this stage I’ll just doodle away and save the results…then go back later and see if any have any merit for being developed further and take it from there. I have an idea for a concept to hang the ideas from but it is very early days!

Thanks for answering these questions and good luck with your new album…

Thanks for taking the time to listen to it, review it and take this further!

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Last updated: 11 november 2006 .
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