More than this Roxy Music make a sudden return: Interview with Andy Mackay - Mon 30th Jul

More than this Roxy Music make a sudden return: Interview with Andy Mackay
30 July 2001

This Preview is from The Chicago Daily Herald
By Mark Guarino

Roxy Music suavely crooned in the midst of all those loud, bell-bottom blues bands of the early '70s.

Influenced by '40s balladeers as well as '70s electronics, the U.K. band was an art school oddity that was not ashamed it was influenced by George Gershwin as it was the Velvet Underground.

The band disbanded after releasing its greatest album, 1982's "Avalon." But last February fans were surprised to learn singer Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and sax and oboe player Andy Mackay were reuniting (the tour arrives at the Allstate Arena Monday). (Founding member Brian Eno declined, reportedly saying "it leaves a bad taste.")

Mackay spoke last week from England about his reasons for re-charging Roxy Music's engines.

Q: I understand Roxy Music started your tour in late June.

A: We've done 15 shows so far. We started in Dublin and we did the U.K. and then we did some dates in Europe and yeah, things have been very good.

Q: How was it to play with these guys after over 20 years? Did you stand on the stage and look at each other and think how strange it was?

A: Maybe the first day of rehearsals, it was a bit strange. I think the most interesting thing was how quickly it feels as if we were doing it yesterday. We had to do a little bit of homework, we were playing some songs we haven't played on stage before. I had to practice to play saxophone and oboe for an hour and a half onstage. I play all the time, but it's for myself or in the studio. So to play a long set is completely different. So I had to get fit. But really, being onstage is something I've always done with Bryan and Paul. It seems natural that they're there. I understand the way they work.

Q: It was a strange surprise for fans when news of the reunion broke. How did it feel for you when you realized that it was really going to happen?

A: It was a mixture of reactions, really. I was kind of excited of playing the bigger venues with full technical setup because obviously things have advanced a lot since the '80s and a huge amount since the '70s. It's nice to feel we can deliver the real sort of rock 'n' roll package. At the same time I was nervous whether it was going to be OK and people were going to take it seriously but after it happened, it's worked out really well.

Q: How long was this in the making?

A: A long time. We were talking among ourselves over a year ago and it needed an offer, a contract for a guaranteed tour so that we knew how many dates it was going to be and we knew that it was going to be the same size of venues. And we knew there was going to be enough of a guarantee to pay for the production. And when those things came to place, we thought "OK, why not?" It's a good way of spending six months.

Q: I always think of Roxy Music as a '70s band that stands out from so many bands of its time because of its decidedly art sensibility. Was that a reaction against the surroundings of the time?

A: It was a reaction against certain things. The thing to do in the late '60s and early '70s was to kind of get up onstage in blue jeans with a guitar and play the blues very loud. And we thought that's not what we wanted to do at all. But on the other hand, Bowie was already starting to put his thing together and we were very much influenced by the Velvet Underground, the godfather of art rock groups. We were amateurs in the true sense of liking what we did and doing it and not really caring about the consequences. We were very confident and somehow thought we would be successful and luckily we were.

Q: Where did the band's lounge feel come from?

A: That comes from Bryan. Bryan has a very wide range of singing and you can tell, I think if you look over his work, that there's elements of jazz and blues and soul. Although we were initially considered an art school band in the U.K., by the end of 1972 we had a hit single and hit album and we were seen as just another pop group in what became glam rock, lumped in a group of people perhaps we wouldn't have wanted to be lumped in with. We always managed to come across a bit serious underneath it all and we just about got away with it (laughs).

Q: In a soul band setting, most sax players are relegated to solos or fills, but here was an opportunity for you to have a full voice in the songs.

A: I was very lucky since I co-founded the group. When I first met Bryan, he had a bass player and he was playing keyboards and that was it. So the sound was sort of built up in-cluding the sax and oboe from the beginning. And I think that put me in a particularly advantageous position in terms of pop music because the tendency is to bring a sax player to play a solo or play some riffs. But the wind instruments are a part of the texture of most Roxy songs. I think that's what exactly makes our sound very hard to reproduce. It's interesting that among all the tribute bands going around there's not in this country a Roxy tribute band. I think it may be just too difficult to combine Bryan's voice, Phil's guitar and my sax … people give up.

Q: Now that Virgin is re-releasing your back catalog, is there an album you've discovered is your favorite?

A: I was surprised at "Manifesto," which wasn't an album I was that happy with when it was made. But overall, I like the first and the last, but for quite different reasons. The first is very optimistic, it's a very young record just throwing out ideas and "Avalon" is more melancholy and introspective. Q: Any chance the reunion will spark any new music?

A: Honestly, we haven't made any plans for it. I suppose if we're still enjoying doing this at the end of the tour it's a possibility. But I don't' know. It would be interesting, but I don't know what would come out of it.

Q: So that wasn't the point of getting together?

A: No, it's really a kind of celebration of what we've done. It's great to be able to do it again probably for the last time and to just go through that body of work which no one else is playing.

Previous Article | Next Article