Phil Manzanera Owed ‘Six Figures Plus’ for Kanye West and Jay-Z Sample
Only his most hardcore fans would have recognized it, but Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera performed the riff that runs through the opening track on Jay-Z and Kanye West's 2011 Watch the Throne album — and it's changed his life in more ways than one.
Manzanera shared his story in an editorial for the Independent, explaining that the sample that ended up forming a crucial component of the duo's song "No Church in the Wild" is a slowed-down clip from the title track to his 1978 solo LP K-Scope. Initially believing he'd gotten the sample clearance call from his publisher in error ("People always get me mixed up with Ray Manzarek from the Doors"), he headed to YouTube to see if he could figure out "how the hell did they find this riff from this obscure album?"
As Manzanera soon discovered, the sample was brought to Jay-Z and West by a producer named 88-Keys, who found a copy of K-Scope during a bout of crate-digging and ended up giving Manzanera an unexpected late-career highlight: Not only did Watch the Throne go platinum, but "No Church in the Wild" started popping up all over the place — in soundtracks, commercials and even in an episode of the BBC series Silent Witness that he happened to watch while vacationing in Burma.
"I was thinking, crikey, something's going on up in the ether. Whoever you are up there, thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll just keep my head down and keep playing guitar," he writes. "That riff is following me. It's like a little friend following me around."
Manzanera decided to repay the favor by covering "No Church in the Wild" for his new album, The Sound of Blue. "It's a bit cheeky but what the hell," he says. "We took the soul, groovy elements and recorded it live."
Of course, the sample brought Manzanera more than just the ego boost of hearing his riff all over the world; eventually, he stands to earn a tidy sum of money, too. "I'm owed six figures. Six figures plus, which is more than I've made in the past 15 years with Roxy," he explains. "I haven't got paid yet but it really reassured me about all of my beliefs, why I'm doing what I'm doing and the power of music. Things come and go – fame, fortune – I'm not interested in that. I just do what I do because I love music but it felt like someone, somewhere up there in the ether, has said: 'You know what? You've been doing stuff for ages, had ups and downs – you can have that now.'"
All in all, the experience has been "an absolutely wonderful bit of bizarre serendipity" for Manzanera. And as for the producer whose fateful used vinyl purchase set the whole thing in motion? "If I ever meet 88-Keys," he promises, "I'll have to shake his hand and buy him a pint."
Check out Phil Manzanera's "K-Scope" and Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" below.
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