Roger Joseph Manning – rock’s most prolific session man- and one helluva songwriter…

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In 1990,  radio was in need of a new direction…  Hair Metal was king, grunge had not quite taken a foot hold, and college radio was filled with so much of the same that it was a wasteland.  In the spring of that year, I was a college radio dj, playing a mix of all of this. Then along came a little album called “Bellybutton,” by a band named Jellyfish. It was filled with melodic, hook-filled songs that would have fit in perfectly in the early 70’s. This cd changed my views on music in that era. Sadly, it did not change radio…

One of the founders of Jellyfish was Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.  Since the demise of Jellyfish in 1994 or ’95,  Mr. Manning  formed another great band, Imperial Drag, and played keyboards on discs for everyone from Neil Diamond to Cheap Trick, Glen Campbell to Beck. He has also released two critically acclaimed solo albums.
Roger will be playing the Charlotte Pop Fest on September 26 in Charlotte, NC. With this event in mind, I took a moment to chat with Roger…

CH: Hey Roger. Thanks for taking a moment to speak to me.

RM: Hey, I appreciate the interview.

CH: I was listening to your latest release, Catnip Dynamite, this weekend and your song, “Down in Front” came on… just to let you know- I am am the “Tiny” you refer to in the song…6’9″ and I stand in front at concerts..

RM: HA

CH: Okay- since that is out of the way…In addition to your solo releases, Catnip Dynamite and Solid State Warrior, you have played or sang on records by, well…everybody.

RM: I have been so fortunate, over the years, to have been invited in to assist in whatever way I could , on these records. I am continuing to do that. In fact, if anything, now I am looking to expand that. I have not done it for a while, because I have been immersed in solo world. So, I am reaching out and trying to get back in to the community, and play on everything and anything. It is very fulfilling, because it is all across the board, you know stylistically. All kinds of different challenges, finding different ways to express. I like really coming through for the artist and giving them what they want.

CH: As a young musician, was this studio work something that you envisioned yourself doing?

RM: Well it was hard for me to envision life past Jellyfish. We had our challenges starting off, like any group. We did get signed relatively early on, and the machine started moving, and there is so much to do there, that you get lost in that world… It is hard to find the time to even think of anything else. And, as fast as that started- it was over, and we decided to go our separate ways. Suddenly it is just not there anymore. HA HA  Fortunately, I had a vision with Eric Dover to move forward, and then the same thing happened there. So the session stuff was just sort of a natural progression, that frankly, fell into my lap. I didn’t pursue it, but I found the more I did it, the more I enjoyed it. That led to a healthy “word-spreading, ” and it is something that I have done off and on for over 10 years now, and it has been great fun.

CH: So, back to your own material. Do you see yourself playing more live shows with your own material?

RM: No. It is simply a financial issue. It cost so much money to rehearse, pay my guys. HA, I mean there is no big production involved, but ..for an artist of my size, other than major cities or specialized festivals , like the Charlotte Pop Fest, or the shows I do in Japan, it is hard to have any kind of financial guarantee that is going to cover all the expenses. So logistically it ends up being inefficient, and there is just so much more to do, here, at home.
This Charlotte show is a real fluke, in that it is a well organized festival to coordinate funds and all the money for all the bands. James presented it to me, and it just made sense.

CH: So the Charlotte Pop Fest will be your only show of 2009, other than a recent appearance with another artist, Bleu?

RM: Yeah, and that barely counts, I was only on stage for a mere 4 songs.

CH: What kind of setlist can we expect in Charlotte on the 26th?

RM: Mainly stuff from the two solo releases, Catnip Dynamite and Solid State Warrior, and some surprises. HAHA

CH: Your touring band consists of at least one member from a former band…

RM: Yeah, Eric Skodis. He is the drummer, and he has some amazing vocal harmony sensibilities that he pulls off while he plays the drums. He is a real asset. All the guys are, they all sing like birds, and you know… There are plenty of great bass players and guitarists in Los Angeles, and drummers, but so few of them can sing, let alone have an understanding of more complex, involved harmonies. And I am really just so fortunate that away.

CH: The bass player, is that Linus of Hollywood?

RM: Yes, a true talent in his own right. He will playing his own stuff at the Festival as well.

CH: Wanted to mention a couple other things. I recently rounded up all my Imperial Drag demos that you released via the old “weed” format…great stuff.

RM: Yes, in a perfect world, we are going to be releasing  4 Cd’s of Imperial Drag outtakes and some live rarities. It will all be done in house, and I will be ideally selling it from my website, but that is still in the works.

CH: I randomly flipped over to “I won’t pay to buy it” from these demos as we speak. In a perfect world, this is a radio hit. It just has that perfect sunny afternoon late ’70’s, early FM radio feel, if that makes any sense whatsoever..

RM: Oh yes, it does. That is what beats through my musical heart, so to speak, and just rolls out of me. That song was written as Imperial Drag was forming in 1994, and I am as proud of it today.

CH: One last thing, I mentioned that I was listening to your stuff over the weekend. When that song went off, I hit shuffle on my ipod and the next song was “Lord, Is it Mine” off Supertramp’s Breakfast in America….it was like the perfect next choice. It could have been – well , you. And I mean that as a compliment

RM: HA HA. Well, I am flattered. Thank You , that is definitely in my school of composition.

CH: Thank You, and I will see you in Charlotte. Again, I will be the one you tell to get down in front…

RM: HA. Thank you Clay, appreciate it.

Roger Manning will perform his only live solo show of 2009 on September 26,  as part of the Charlotte Pop Fest.
For more info: http://www.charlottepopfest.com

Avril’s Guitarist, Evan Taubenfeld, steps out

With his upcoming solo release, Welcome to the Blacklist Club, Evan Taubenfeld is stepping out from the shadow of his former boss- multi-platinum artist Avril Lavigne. The album is pretty much what you would expect from one of her co-writers- polished, guitar driven pop. The first single is a co-write with Bleu- “Boy meets Girl,” and is a perfect soundtrack to a late summer day.

I had the opportunity to speak with Evan about this upcoming cd, and his appearance at the Fillmore in Charlotte on September 17. Unlike a lot of touring artists- this 25 year old is funny, self-deprecating and very personable…

Evan Taubenfeld

CH: Thanks for taking the time to chat- The tour you are about to embark on- is this your first solo trek?

ET: No, actually this is my second one. I did a similar tour a couple months back with a band called the Academy is. I got the rust out of my system and am now ready to return to rock greatness. Haha. I am sure it is anxiously awaited. Haha

CH: I have heard your single, “Boy Meets Girl” on Sirius XM several times. I was familiar with the Bleu version of this song- yours is very good, congrats on the pre-release radio play…

ET: Bleu McCauley-yeah… we have written together many times. He had this chorus, and this is very presumptuous of me, I said that is too good for you HAHA, I am taking it and fix it up, gonna make a better verse and make it my song.

CH: This single is on your solo debut, Welcome to the Blacklist Club. What is the official release date?

ET: Well, it is funny that you ask that. Originally it was August 4, and then I kept saying in interviews- August 25…cause I liked the ring of that better. HA. But I got something yesterday that said it was September 15, due to me totally procrastinating on approving the album artwork.

CH: I wanted to ask about your influences, as clichéd as that is. On the tracks I have heard, I get a lot of Rick Springfield…

ET: It is funny you say that. I made sure that everyone I worked with on this album, producers and co-writers, listened to “Jesse’s Girl” before we even got together. In terms of writing- the Beatles and the Police, obviously, because they are the best ever. I love pop! Everything from Kellie Clarkson, Avril, Ace of Base, Jordan Sparks, or David Archuletta…. I don’t care who it is, if it is a great song, I love it.

CH: Well, I share that philosophy with you. A great song is a great song no matter the artist. Best of luck with the debut cd, and this tour.

ET: Thanks a lot! Hope to see you there.

Evan Taubenfeld will be appearing at the Fillmore in Charlotte on September 17.

Ace Frehley discusses Les Paul, sobriety and his new cd, Anomaly.


 

photo ©Kevin Britton

photo ©Kevin Britton

 

If you were male, between the ages of 10- 14 and growing up in the late 1970’s, odds are, you were a fan of KISS. If you are a guitarist between the ages of 35- 45 and living in 2009, odds are you picked up the guitar because of Ace Frehley..

Ace Frehley has influenced more guitar players than almost anyone in rock. With his signature riffs pouring forth from his low-slung Les Paul, it is hard to imagine a cooler figure in rock. At a time when disco was taking over the radio, KISS was still delivering “the rock.” In fact, “Love Gun” was my first album, and it is still hard to imagine my mom going out to buy it for me…Ace will be releasing his first solo album in 20 years on September 15, 2009, I had scheduled an interview to chat about this release, however on the day of the interview, the legendary Les Paul passed away. Mr. Frehley, a personal friend of Les Paul, took the time to speak to me about his cd, and his late friend.

CH: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. I know today has been a busy day for you, and I am sorry for your loss of a personal friend, Mr. Les Paul. The Les Paul has always been your instrument of choice, with not one, but two signature models.

Ace: yeah.

CH: Beyond the instrument, his innovation and influence are incalculable.

Ace: I don’t know how many people really understand how instrumental he was in multi-track recording, not just as an innovator in making and designing great guitars, and his playing and records that he did with Mary. He was just a giant

He was a sweetheart of a guy. I was lucky enough to be able to call him a friend, I was lucky enough to jam with him, trade stories,  and listen to a couple of his jokes. He was always a fun guy, who seemed like he loved life, and that is probably why he lived to be in his nineties.

CH: Again, I am sorry for your loss, and his legacy will always be felt in the music world.

I would like to talk about your new cd, Anomaly, out September 15.  This is your first cd since 1989’s “Trouble Walking.” Obviously you have been busy since that release, with the 6-year reunion with KISS. Are some of these songs from that period before the KISS reunion?

Ace: There is one song on the cd that is from prior to that period. The song called, Sister is a song that I actually performed back in ’90-’91, but most of the songs are songs that I have written and produced here in New York. I am happy with the way it turned out, even though it took a long time to put together, but I think for anyone who hears it- it will be worth the wait.

CH: From the clips that I have heard, it sounds great, and definitely has the same feeling as your classic solo debut from 1978, which a friend of mine recently called “the last great KISS record.” I tend to agree with that statement, by the way… and Anomaly is truly a solo release. You wrote, produced and even designed the artwork…

Ace: Yeah, you know it is pretty much my baby. I produced it, except for the one cover song; Fox on the Run, which was done by Marty Frederickson. You know, I came close to having it done in 2008, but I am glad that I didn’t. From the time I was gonna say “that is it”, some songs were written, some things were rewritten, and the process of recording is an ongoing thing with me. The problem with producing is I never know when to stop (laughs), especially with digital recording. You have so many parameters you can edit, change and alter, you basically have to just one day say, “This is done.” (laughs) I finally got to that point a couple of months ago…

CH:I think all your fans will be very pleased with the results.

Ace: You know, I kinda feel like I did after that first solo album when we all went off and did our own things and I madethe record with “New York Groove.” I remember after that was mixed, I was listening in the car, and I had a really good feeling about it…I kind of feel like that about this one.

CH: I also want to congratulate you on another significant aspect of the release date. September 15 will be the three-year anniversary of your sobriety.

Ace: Thanks. I am more focused, I am writing better songs… every aspect of my art has gotten better. But it took a while for me to realize that. Your old thoughts and ways are telling you that you need all that stuff to do great stuff, but once you get out of it, you realize that it is a lie and, you know, you do better work without it.

CH: From what I have heard of Anomaly, that definitely shows. Thanks for taking the time today to talk.

Ace; Clay, it was great talking to you. Hey, One day at a time we get through this crazy life, right?

CH: That is exactly it- thanks!

Ace Frehley’s new cd, Anomaly will be out on September 15,  2009. A fall tour is also in the works.