By Phil Manzanera’s calculations, Kanye West and Jay-Z owe him six figures.
That’s the rough estimate of the royalties coming to the Roxy Music guitarist from their sampling of his music for the duo’s hit album, Watch the Throne.
In 2011, West and Jay-Z used a sample of Manzanera’s guitar riff from his 1978 solo track “K-Scope,” from the album of the same name. The sample ended up in “No Church in the Wild,” the lead-off track from Watch the Throne.
Listen to Phil Manzanera's "K-Scope"
As Manzanera recounts, Roc-A-Fella Records, the label that released the album, called him prior to the album’s release to say his song was being sampled.
Manzanera, who driving at the time, thought the caller had the wrong person. “People always get me mixed up with Ray Manzarek from the Doors,” he says. (Manzarek died in 2013.) But the label representative played the riff for him over the phone and Manzanera confirmed it was his music.
“Even I had completely forgotten about that track,” he says, “so I wondered how the hell did they find this riff from this obscure album?”
Most likely, he believes, the album was among the finds gathered by 88-Keys, a friend of West’s who goes hunting for undiscovered treasures among bargain bins.
“The genius thing is, they slowed it down,” Manzanera notes. “What nobody knows is that it’s not just a guitar playing. I've got this huge harmonica: it’s about a foot long and you blow this one note along with the first beat of every bar and it creates this weird sort of slightly sinister riff. When it’s slowed down, that combined with that guitar low note creates this very special sound.”
Given that the sample appears in a song on a hit album by two of music’s biggest stars, it’s no surprise Manzanera has a huge payday coming his way. While he hasn’t been paid yet, and although he doesn’t say exactly how much he’s going to receive, he says the amount “is more than I'’ve made in the past 15 years with Roxy.”
In addition to his work with Roxy Music and his solo efforts, Manzanera has of late worked with David Gilmour, coproducing his 2006 album, On an Island, and performing with him onstage. He has also been at work on Gilmour’s next solo album, expected to be released in autumn 2015.
Listen to Kanye West and Jay-Z's "No Church in the Wild"