Damenek's Guy Manning: "The clock is ticking, humans are wiping themselves out"

A portrait of Damanek's Guy MAnning

As a past member of Parallel Or 90 Degrees and The Tangent among others, and also leader of his own group Manning, singer/multi-instrumentalist Guy Manning sought something different with his new band Damanek, blending references to his co-conspirators – the letters ‘DA’ representing Maschine bassist Dan Mash, ‘MA’ signifying Manning and ‘EK’ for saxophonist Marek Arnold – into their name. It was afterwards that Sean Timms, keyboardist of Southern Empire and Unitopia, joined the project and that Guy learned Damanek is a real place in Kosovo. Regardless, he kept it.

On Track is a thought-provoking set that features a phalanx of guest players, including Maschine’s Luke Machin, Southern Empire’s Brody Thomas Green and Soul Secret’s Antonio Vittozzi.

With personnel arriving from Australia and Germany, Damanek could well have been under-prepared at Summer’s End, but the reaction was great!

Luckily, the pedigree of the band – myself excluded – is remarkably good. Everybody turned up very well-prepared and two days of rehearsal got us through. I was apprehensive because at Summer’s End two years earlier with United Progressive Fraternity we were unprepared, but last year went as well as it could have done.

Prog’s review of the show likened Damanek to “the funkier, jazz-fusion side of Toto”.

Well, that’s okay. Toto are a remarkably good band. If people consider Damanek catchy that pleases me. We’re not Henry Cow. We’re not even really that proggy. It’s more like the progressive side of Tears For Fears.

Quirky-jerky time changes are thin on the ground, certainly.

I put in a few just to keep the brain cells active but they’re not clever-clever, “Here’s a signature in 78.” The idea was to combine melodic songs with a decent set of lyrics.

Those words tackle a variety of ecological and society-based issues. Long Time, Shadow Falls, for instance, paints an evocative picture of a black-maned lion standing on a Kalahari dune. Was that from first-hand experience?

It’s from imagination, though I always do lots of research. With enough of that, you don’t have to drop your guts onto the page – you can use little pieces to tell the story.

With extinction of so many species a real possibility, what would you to do hunters of elephants, rhinos and hippos?

If they had ivory on them I can think of a couple of suggestions, but I’m not a violent man and the only way to stop hunting is a massive policing presence, which is impossible. And of course people who are struggling to live will kill animals to eat. But in 20 years from now the only African elephants we’ll see will be in zoos.

Was it perhaps incongruous to match observations upon civilisation’s decay with a soulful, funky and cheerful backdrop in Believer – Redeemer?

That’s my Marvin Gaye moment, isn’t it? Guy Manning’s What’s Going On? On my TV, I’m bombarded with images of rioting and overturned cars. I’m a past-60-year-old gentleman and my days of protesting are past. But I can write a song that tries to get everyone to realise the clock is ticking. The human race is wiping itself out.

You predict a “tipping point” – how far away are we?

That’s tough to answer. In Skye, there’s a long way to go, but in Brixton or on the streets of America we’re nearly there. There can be a fight over taking someone’s carrier bag in Sainsbury’s. Social media over-amplifies that, and I find it disturbing.

Trump’s election has poured gasoline upon the fire of issues such as global warming, which he doesn’t believe exists. That’s what epic album closer Dark Sun is about, right?

I’ve written about global warming for many years before Donald, but it’s mainly about air pollution – a dystopian vision where the air is so thick with toxins that the sun is no longer visible. The song says that there is a solution, and it’s time. It takes one first step, but having the solution doesn’t mean that people will buy into it. The penny will drop but not until the problems are staring us in the face, by which time it will be too late.

There was some leftover material, and you’re about to fly to Australia to write with Southern Empire’s Sean Timms and Mark Trueack of United Progressive Fraternity. How soon could we hear a second Damanek album?

I wrote enough songs for three albums, but with everyone being so busy I expect to be sitting on [the remainder] for some time.

Will you encourage the others to contribute?

Yes, of course. Just because I have another eight pieces ready for Damanek II, there’s no law that says I must write everything.

Damanek’s site predicts a Southern Empire tour of the UK in the autumn. As Giant Electric Pea label-mates, could some co-headline dates be feasible?

It’s a very interesting idea, but this year has mainly been put aside for Southern Empire, so I don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes. We’d like to tour but I know I’ve got to be patient.

Finally: please get some decent band photographs taken. You almost lost out on being featured in Prog for that very reason!

[Huffily] Oh, for goodness sake. When we played at Summer’s End we didn’t even have a record deal. Had I known the album would be out in May we’d have had some shots taken of us staring into the distance, but I’m afraid I don’t own a crystal ball.

On Track is out now on GEP Records. See www.guymanning.com for more information.

Damanek - On Track album review