INTERVIEW - Roxy Music heralds 40th bash with Montreux revival

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - British art rockers Roxy Music are returning to the Montreux Jazz Festival after 37 years, as they lay special plans to mark their 40th anniversary next year.

Singer Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music perform during the Ohrid Summer Festival in Ohrid, west of the Macedonian capital Skopje in this July 14, 2006 file photo. The British art rockers are returning to the Montreux Jazz Festival after 37 years, as they lay special plans to mark their 40th anniversary next year. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski

The band celebrated its 30th birthday at the start of the millennium with its first tour in nearly two decades.

A possible new album and tour dates would make a fitting tribute to a group about to enter its fifth decade, guitarist Phil Manzanera and multi-instrumentalist Andy Mackay said in interviews.

“We have got something exciting planned,” said Manzanera, who was born in London to a Colombian mother and British father and grew up in different parts of the Americas.

They started work on a new album five years ago, recording together with legendary producer Brian Eno, who left the band in 1973 to become a pioneer of electronic and ambient music.

Other commitments got in the way of completing it and could still determine whether the project is finished in time for the band’s ruby anniversary.

“I’d like to finish off the Roxy stuff next year. I think that would be a nice way of doing some more recording, certainly of doing some more shows,” said Mackay, known for crossing the stage in a Chuck Berry-style duck walk during sax solos.

“Really that’s something you’d have to talk to Bryan about,” said Mackay, referring to singer Bryan Ferry, a working class lad from England’s northeast who created his own, distinctive lounge-lizard style. “He’s been working very hard on a project of his own.”

This chaotic approach is typical of a band from varied social and artistic backgrounds whose members have always flitted off to work on their own projects, often leaving Roxy Music in mothballs for years at a stretch.

“There’s no master plan with Roxy -- it’s just an anarchic bunch of people getting on with whatever they fancy doing,” said Manzanera, whose guitar rhythms define the band’s unique sound alongside Mackay’s driving sax and oboe riffs.

This pushing and pulling of different personalities adds to the dynamic tension of the group, he said.

“It’s pretty much the same as always really: just completely dysfunctional. It will never change.”


Roxy Music sees bookings at a string of the world’s more unconventional festivals like Switzerland’s Montreux, Sonar in Spain and Japan’s Fujirock this summer as an opportunity to revisit some lesser-known tracks from earlier albums, alongside crowd-pleasers like “Love Is The Drug”, “Do The Strand” and “Virginia Plain”.

“All they play are a couple of singles on the radio and you never hear any of the album tracks,” said Manzanera. “If we don’t play them, they’ll never be heard.”

Mackay would like to dig deep into the back catalogue to around the time the band played Montreux the first time.

“None of us particularly wanted to do another revival tour,” said Mackay, adding the earlier catalogue has been influencing some contemporary dance musicians.

“We were invited to do (festival) Lovebox in London, which (electronica duo) Groove Armada organises. Bryan had done some work with them on an album and we thought actually this was playing to a slightly different audience.”

Mackay and Manzanera hope Roxy Music can make a triumphant return to the Montreux Jazz Festival in July after watching rare footage from their first and only concert there in 1973.

“It’s actually some of the best stuff that we did, especially of that last period when Eno was still playing with us,” said Manzanera.

“There’s a certain cool prestige about playing the Montreux Jazz Festival. We all have that sort of attitude towards Montreux and we all wanted to play it.”

Editing by Steve Addison