The ROGER JOSEPH MANNING JR. Variety Show! (Part Two of Three)

Posted: May 11, 2016 by Soda in Interview, Jellyfish, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., The Lickerish Quartet

AND NOW…PART TWO, DIG IN! (no intro necessary…)


Roger J. Manning Jr.


MSG – And now, I’d love to really spend some time with you in a certain world known as Jellyfish. I’d ask you if you ever got sick of talking about it, however, the last few years I personally think Jellyfish has never been bigger. What do you think about all the love and praise your old band receives nowadays?

RJMJ – Well, certainly people continue to talk about it. It means the world to me that to this day those records (Bellybutton and Spilt Milk) continue to affect people and continue to gain new fans here and there. It’s been so flattering and fills me with such joy, cause that’s what you want. You just don’t want those records to affect people the first few years they come out…The whole point of what Andy and I were trying to do, and I think what we did do was continue in the tradition of our influences, we wanted to make classic rock/pop music. It didn’t matter that it was coming out in the early 90’s; we wanted it to carry on in that tradition. We wanted the hooks, lyrics, everything to be timeless about it. That’s why we didn’t follow any trends of the day. And, so far so good, it looks like that’s kinda what’s happened. So, you know, that’s a joy in my life to see that.

MSG – I’m trying to think up some original questions here, I mean there IS a Jellyfish book coming out, that’s so awesome and nuts. How do you feel about that? Was that a shock?

RJMJ – No, we’ve all been involved with it, and in fact, I’m giving my comments to the author for several chapters as we speak. It will be good for the fans; I think the author is doing a good job on the book.

%22Brighter Day-A Jellyfish Story%22 (cover)

“Brighter Day:A Jellyfish Story” (book cover)

There’s a lot of wonderful and interesting behind the scenes trivia in there. But you know…for all the joy, it’s quite a sad story in that as musicians we made some incredible art together, in my humble opinion of course but as people, we had a lot to learn about getting along, compromising and doing all those things that keep a band family together. We were very young and immature and all of us could have had better people skills and group working skills. And I think anybody who picks up the book will see that there really isn’t any great mystery as to why the band dissolved, it would have happened anyway because we had a lot to learn as four people in a relationship. You know, the joke is always a band is not two people married, but four people married or more and there was no handbook for that, there wasn’t a band council per se. So we lived and learned but the challenges of holding our relationships together was what was the demise of the band. And of course there were some musical issues to…so, that stuff is talked about. It’s been joyful and challenging to relive some of those experiences because they were so long ago.

MSG – I have no idea what content that book holds, I really can’t wait to read it. And I know there are so many things people would like to know. Like, was there a third Jellyfish record ever being planned?

RJMJ – No, we didn’t have the material. It never got that far. We didn’t stay together long enough to start working on it. We broke up pretty much after Spilt Milk touring had finished.

MSG – I know some years ago you had communicated with Andy via email after many years of silence. Was that the start of something or was that the big period you waited for on a really long sentence for such a long time?

RJMJ – I would say it’s more of a period. That email and a past few emails have been sprinkled with communication between he and I. But it’s mainly related to business issues that needed to be taken care of. Random stuff that came up, the Jellyfish catalogue we needed to talk about…I’m just happy that Andy and I for all intensive purposes have made amends and that’s a good feeling. I think both of us know that if we wanted to reach out any further via email we’re free to do that. There’s no apprehension. But as far as any desire to pursue any more Jellyfish music that just simply hasn’t been talked about. I just think everybody is going 100 miles per hour in their respective careers. From what I understand Andy has been very successful scoring children’s shows for the Disney networks and other things I’m not aware of and so it just hasn’t come up in conversation.

Andy & Roger 1993

Andy & Roger 1993

MSG – Do you have any sort of relationship with him now? I mean you guys were best friends and business partners, collaborators, etc. for a long time starting the ball really rolling with Beatnik Beatch, your project that lead you guys to Jellyfish.

RJMJ – I’d known Andy since highschool. The upcoming book gives a colorful history.

MSG – When Jellyfish came to an end, how did you feel? Were you upset or were you somewhat happy to start a new chapter?

RJMJ – A little bit of both. I mean, I definitely needed some space from everything with Jellyfish and that space turned into a logical decision with everyone to kinda just end things there. So, of course it was sad, any relationship that breaks up, even if it’s healthy for that relationship and people to move on. You know, like divorced couples that are better off having moved on…there is so much of a deep connection and emotional ties with these people and sharing so many important moments in your lives together that yeah, there is a sadness and sentimental sorrow around the whole thing of course. That’s the best way to describe it. You can always say, what if you did it differently. What if the band had gone to counseling, tried to make a third record or, what if Jason didn’t want to pursue a solo career or whatever it may be then, we’d be taking about that right now. We’ve all chose a different path and they’ve been filled with all different stuff that has been fulfilling and exciting. So it’s not a right or wrong and you know it’s all learning. I’ve learned so much from whom I was in Jellyfish. I own, and you’ll see from the book, that I own all of my choices that didn’t serve the band very well, mistakes if you will. Actually I don’t believe in mistakes, I just believe, well, that didn’t serve me or the guys so next time I’m going to choose something different. You keep trying to make better choices for yourself with your significant other or rather, your four significant others in a band or your co-workers. We’re always in relationships. A band is a relationship like anything else. I learned many things from the choices that I made in that group. And guess what? I don’t make them anymore. I make better ones that have better results with greater good for everybody concerned and that can only happen from living life.

MSG – Based on all the Jellyfish stuff that has been released since the break up, is there anything left that we have not heard, any secret hidden nugget anywhere?

RJMJ – No, gosh…not that I know of. The last trickle from the faucet was the Harry Nilsson tribute, which was just Andy and I covering “Think About Your Troubles”.

MSG – Since Jellyfish, you’ve worked with all the guys in some way, shape or form except for Andy. And you know I gotta ask…and you don’t even have to answer. May that ever be a possibility again?

RJMJ – I’m never gonna say never. Certainly people have approached us. But I think what your talking about has to be a unanimous decision. So you can’t have two of the four people going, wow, I really want to do this. Four people have to wake up one day and say this would be a cool, healthy and fulfilling thing and we all talk about it, have discussions and it happens. Again, everyone is just full speed ahead in their own work and lives. Certainly everybody’s probably thought about it at one time or another but no one has acted on it because we’ve just been doing other things.

MSG – Out of all your projects, could you pick a top three?

RJMJ – Well, fortunately I don’t have any regrets with any of them. Every project I’ve ever been involved with, Jellyfish related or not…session work or other, you either commit and put your heart and all of your skills that you have at that point in your life into it or you don’t. Because whatever the product yields is not gonna be worth a damn if you haven’t committed and poured your heart into it. After you’ve done that you can walk away from it and go, I did my best, I gave the world and this project specifically everything I was capable of giving and now it’s up to the fans. And so even to this day I don’t look back on anything I did with Jellyfish, Imperial Drag, The Moog Cookbook…and say well, I wish I left that song off the record or would have rewritten something. Sure there are little tidbits here and there with a, what if we would have done that what would it sound like. But, I have no regrets. Music was something we had experience with and were skilled at, but making a video wasn’t or doing a photoshoot or touring. That whole world was very new. Lots of first timers for me and my band mates in the Jellyfish days of course, in particular. And so you live and learn. There are certainly things I would have done differently with photo shoots or videos, but I think it was all fun, we were just going for it and really tried to make a difference in a world that, to this day I think is very predictable, very prefab…very calculated and geared toward the lowest common denominator and we wanted to do something that few artists had success with, which was venture into the pop arena and have success on our own terms and interestingly enough I have the privilege of supporting one of the few artists that in the last 40 years who’s done that for so long to such a degree which is, Beck. Somehow he has surfed the pop, rock, hip-hop world and done pretty well for himself. He’s got a large following, sold quite a few albums, has toured the world extensively and it’s completely done on his own terms. You can’t say he’s influenced by anybody or sounds like anybody. So it’s not a surprise I was attracted to him and his world and fortunately he enjoys my contributions. So, it’s been really great, all the projects I’ve done. It’s like, we’re gonna give you sing along hooks and quality production and what you guys decide to do with it is your call, this is what we know how to do and I think we do it as good as anybody, check it out. And I’ve been very blessed by record companies and different artists who have given me and my band mates a forum to do that and I’ve been able to provide a living for myself through music. Do I live in a mansion in the Hollywood hills with a private recording studio and a pool? No. But that stuff’s not important to me. The only reason I wish any of my projects would have sold more is because that would have meant more people heard them. You know, in any of these projects I feel we are throwing a very special, unique, fun party and it’s not for everybody but we think a lot of you are going to like it and I wish more people had either been exposed to that party or taken a liking to it, but that’s not the case…We started this conversation talking about the Jellyfish legacy and how it still has impact for a certain community in 2016 and that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing that I don’t take for granted.

MSG – How about albums?

RJMJ – Gosh, if you want three, it’d probably be Catnip Dynamite, Spilt Milk and then probably the TV Eyes record. I really liked what happened on that album. I think the writing on that record is so strong and I’m happy to say it was a pretty collaborative process between me and the guys and I just think we turned out some 3 and 4 minute 80’s pop hits in a modern production setting. I think these three records also really just kinda show my scope of what I’ve tried to offer so far.

MSG- Okay, let’s circle back to the beginning. Your new solo record…title, release date, any first time insider info you’d like to share here?

RJMJ – No title yet. I mean, I’ve got a ways to go. At this point all the guests have pretty much made their appearances. I’m fleshing out all the vocals which will take me a very long time to do and then there is instrument detail. I haven’t even thought about the fun things, like album art, title…all that stuff. And you know, nobody is more bummed about that then me. Every time I open up the computer to start working away on it, actually it’s been about three weeks since I’ve worked on it, but I go, ahh, I can hear the finish line. I get very hopeful but all I need is time and I’ll figure it out. It might be six months or more out of the way. Beck’s getting geared up for some Summer Touring which really means I don’t get to work on the record at all and that’s fine I love touring with him.

MSG – Will there be any shows supporting it and what would the band line-up be?

RJMJ – Oh yea…I don’t even know if I’m going to have the time or desire to play live shows for the new record. I really only ever did in Japan anyway, and I currently don’t have a Japanese album. Just gotta see. I’m very excited about putting it out fan funded though.

MSG – I know you’re also a gear guy and have tons of trinkets. Is there a favorite piece of gear you have?

RJMJ – Wow…well, they all do a little something special, right? The most fun to play is the Hohner Clavinet. I recently acquired a rare model to precede the D6, which is the common brown one you see everybody playing. I acquired a C5, which is a red and white model and it sounds a little different from the common D6. It’s just fantastic sounding. I’ve got it on the new solo record and hoping to use it even more. It’s an instrument I feel a kinship with. It’s the closest I get to be to a guitar player, you can put it through amplifiers; processors and effects like guitar players and really turn it up. I mean, I did that a lot with Imperial Drag.

MSG – Your studio, cleverly named Stu-Stu-Studio. Is it a place constantly changing or do you try and find something that works and really try to take that and use it to the fullest extent?

RJMJ – No. I lived in that house for 11 years and my partner and I ended our relationship and I moved on which meant moving out of the house as well. I now live in a lovely new home with my fiancé, Laurel. We are going to be married sometime in the immediate future. I’m very excited about that. This house does not have room for all of the gear. It’s pretty much me and my computer and the occasional piece or two. Most of my stuff is unfortunately in storage right now and I go pull things out for sessions and different projects. But I was definitely spoiled at the last place where I had most of it out on display, plugged in and ready to use.

MSG – Currently, what’s a day in the life of Roger Joseph Manning Jr. like?

RJMJ – Everyday is about making music or growing as a human being. What I mean by that is music has always been a connection to spirituality. I’m not a church goer in a traditional sense but I do believe that we are all something greater than these bodies, that we are an eternal, spiritual, loving force and I know that’s real because music is real. We’ve all been affected equally by certain music and certain artists and then not so much by others. I’ve been exploring as much my musical life and that continues to grow, and my personal spiritual life, what I mean by that is I’m doing a lot more reading, listening to lectures…for the goal of creating more peace in my life. More tranquility, more love. And, it filters right back into my music. In fact, Catnip Dynamite has a lot of lyrical writing about my explorations in that area, which is not what I set out to do, it just kind of flew out of me when I started putting pencil to paper. And I work on projects local and abroad with file transfers and stuff. So, tell your friends! Recently I’ve been doing a lot more arranging for peoples records like strings and orchestral arrangements. I’m on a lot of records recently, Young The Giant, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, Haim…It’s a variety of things in which I get to just be an arranger. I’ve been enjoying creating more and more of that work. In fact, I have a website for that which is called – We are always looking for fun projects to be involved with. Solo album between those cracks and Beck, which is really a part time job because he doesn’t tour or record all year around and just loving the variety of work I get to do, it’s really fulfilling.

MSG – Well, I thank you Roger, I hope you enjoyed the interview; I tried to touch on a bit of everything. Anything else you’d like to leave us with?

RJMJ – Haha, loved the interview, you know I have no problem talking about myself for 45 minutes, haha. And just a big thank you to everybody that will listen and continue to support and take an interest in me and what my former bandmates continue to do. That’s what keeps it all going around. I can’t tell you how many Beck shows I’ve played where some really great fans come up to me afterwards and have reminded me how much those earlier records have influenced them and are still listening to them, that just never gets old. One compliment a month is really all I need for the rest of my life. Thank you again for this opportunity. Great interview, thanks Soda.

MSG – And thank you Roger.

***Although this is the end of the transcribed interview, there will be a very special Part Three! So come back next Wednesday 05/18 to see what that might be!***

Roger & Soda

Roger and I in NYC years back at a Moog Cookbook show. Wasn’t old enough to get in, had to sneak it. Was a blast!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s