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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day 1092 - An Interview with Gustavo Manzur

Morrissey's multi-talented band member, Gustavo Manzur, has given an interview in Spanish to Alejandro Kapacevich for the e-zine, Typical Moz. 

Blue Rose Society member GWO has kindly translated the interview into English. I have not had permission to re-produce this, but hopefully Alejandro (@AleTypicalMe) will not mind. It is an excellent interview.

The man behind the Latino sound of Morrissey

Exclusive interview by Alejandro Kapacevich

Manzur is a really talented musician (he plays stringed instruments, wind instruments, keyboards and percussion), but he is also a remarkable, simple and humble human being. Always well-disposed and excellent humour, he deservedly earned his place in the Morrissey band. But watch out, because his job is not limited to that of multi-instrumentalist, he also composed great songs. Listen to "Neal Cassady Drops Dead", "Earth Is The Loneliest Planet" and "One Of Our Own" and understand that in each of these there are stylistic variety, colour and lots of Latino flavour. Of course, the latter passion is in his blood. South American fans are proud that a part of our culture is represented in the music of a unique and inimitable artist. I forgot to clarify that Gus sings very well and his vocal tone is recognizable with phrases in Spanish in "World Peace Is None Of Your Business" ("Paz mundial, el asunto que no te concierne") and "Kiss Me A Lot"("Bésame mucho, bésame").

Morrissey needed to reinvent himself in his tenth studio album, and boy has he managed to achieve more than satisfactory results. Undoubtedly, Mr. Gustavo Manzur played a key role in this new sound, in this "Latino" stage of the world's most famous Mancunian. And so, for me, it is a huge pleasure to talk to him so that all can know a little more about his origins, his musical training/tastes, his work with Moz on tour and WORLD PEACE IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

Your parents are from Colombia but you were born in the United States and currently live there. Is this true? Tell me a little about your South American roots.

Right. My mom is from Quito, Ecuador and my dad Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I live in Austin, Texas with my family. My parents also live there, so these South American roots follow me wherever I go. It is honestly a blessing because Latino influence is very powerful in terms of music. I grew up surrounded by it. At home, in the car, even in the cradle, because my parents knew the importance of music in my life and that of my sister. My parents are musicians at heart. My sister and I grew up in that musical environment, especially Latino American folk music. My father is self-taught, since he taught himself to play guitar and piano. My mother also plays a little guitar, but my father’s forte is singing. Incredibly, his greatest inspiration is Argentine music and especially tangos and sambas.
I spent summers in Colombia and Ecuador learning the culture and getting to know my roots every time more and more, and I loved everything to do with the Latino culture. The music, the food, because everything...the Latino life, energy, fascinated me. I grew up playing football and ended up playing baseball and football for four years. I inherited the athletic part as well as musical from my parents. So I was a super kid busy with championships and concerts/recitals every weekend. All under one roof full of music, sport and Latino lessons combined with the academic part that was
American. And as I grew up in the middle of the two cultures, Latino and
Anglo, I absorbed the best of both.


Speaking of shows, Morrissey said that South America 2012 was the best tour of his life. What memories do you have of those wonderful and passionate concerts in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia?
Any particular anecdote you want to share?

Viña Del Mar, Chile! That concert was great. The people, the sea, the energy and the environment. It was a great honour to share the stage with other amazing artists from all over South America and the world.
Argentina! My beloved Argentina. Mendoza, Rosario, Córdoba, Buenos Aires. Each concert was a pleasure. The friends that I met and the energy they brought to each of the shows was unique. We did not want to stop playing. I tell you all and I will continue saying that Argentina is - easily - one of the best places in the world!
Peru: Jockey Club in Lima. The screams. Passion. So loyal. The only city where we played "Sheila Take a Bow" by The Smiths and everyone went wild.
Brazil was a completely different energy. As they speak Portuguese, for me it was hard to feel the complete message. However, they were all smiles, hugs, kisses and gifts. Pure energy and vibes enriched with love and respect. We were treated like royalty from the beginning of the Brazilian circuit.
In Sao Paulo something funny happened that I will remember forever. But first I want to preface why Moz asked me to talk every night at the end of our concerts. As I speak Spanish, in the first Mexican concert tour of 2011 in Monterrey, Morrissey casually asked me if I wanted to say something,
whatever, into his microphone before the encore. I just said something like "He said he would return ... and here he is!" And then I asked them to shout for Morrissey; I remember the cries of 8000 people in the audience made our hair raise. Moz never expected that and looked at me with frightened eyes and an open mouth. Well, from then on, and in every Spanish speaking country the microphone is given to me automatically to engage with people on his behalf. Each concert in Mexico or South America ended like that ... with tremendous shouts for the Lord.
Well, then in Sao Paulo, before the encore, the assistant comes running to tell me that Morrissey wanted to talk to me. I ran to his dressing room, entered, and he began dictating to me a list of things he wanted to tell the Brazilian fans. I am a person who tries to help in whatever, but this time I froze, looking scared. He noticed my face, stopped talking and asked me, "What, what's wrong?" I replied, "I can’t!" He looked at me and said, "What do you mean you can’t?" I explained, "M, they 'speak Portuguese here ... " He immediately threw his hands in the air and said, "Oh dammit ... that's RIGHT!!!" To redeem myself, I learned two phrases in Portuguese and at the next concert in Brazil and managed to get screams again.



You joined Morrissey's band for the "SWORDS TOUR" in late 2009. How were you contacted and by whom? Prior to that time, were you an admirer of the work of both The Smiths and Moz as soloist?

As a producer of live events, I'm always working with people who have something to do with all aspects of industry. In my case, I worked with Lloyd Tripp, the guitar technician for fifteen years who retired recently. When he was not touring with Moz, I hired him to help me with my productions. One day, there was a piano where we were working and I sat down and started to play. Lloyd stopped what he was doing; I had all his attention and he said "You are really good ya know?"
I thanked him and the next time we met he wondered if I could possibly be Morrissey’s keyboardist. I laughed but he did not. With his stoic face, I replied "... seriously." Sure I knew and loved Morrissey’s music, I had all The Smiths CDs and several of the solo work. But…wait a moment. I had to talk to my wife who had just had our first daughter, Kaia Helena. I was about to accept the offer but my paternal instincts changed my decision. I could not leave my daughter and my wife ... not even for Morrissey. Not even Jesus Christ himself would be able to persuade me at the time. Well, that was for the YEARS OF REFUSAL tour, but Moz surprised me, I was asked for a second time and offered the position for "SWORDS TOUR". This I accepted. And here I go on with the teacher/master Moz.

When did your interest in being a musician start, and what was the first instrument you learned to play? What are your favourite artists and musical genres?

Music was something that was within me since I was born. After two years my sister and I started piano lessons with Emma Garmendia of Argentina, wife of Efrain Paesky two great composers and pianists. At age six years to continue my studies in piano four years under the direction of a Russian teacher, Gerda Bregman.
Slowly I started to compose and my interest in other instruments, as well as my interest in more intricate compositions started to grow. I grew up listening to vallenato, boleros, rock (indie, hard-rock, metal,punk, etc.) tangos and sambas, are some of my favorite music genres. But don’t stop there. I also love hip hop and R & B.
Having been exposed to all kinds of music helped me open my mind and understand all types of music, with its various styles and sounds are, in a way, a kind of art. Personally, artists such as Carlos Vives, Soda Stereo, Echo And the Bunnymen, Chopin, A Tribe Called Quest and Otis Redding, to name only a few, are the ones you find on my iPod. But one of the most talented and interesting bands - and remains one of my favourites - is Buena Vista Social Club.
Continuing with my musical adventures, I tried my skills with instruments such as the flamenco guitar, electric guitar, accordion, trumpet, bass, various synthesizers, all kinds of percussion, and other instruments that caught my attention. Being a perfectionist, I studied diligently until
I conquered them. But that does not mean that there is not more to learn. With that mindset I have always carried on because one can never think that one is the best. There will always be someone who will exceed in this world. The secret is though, you never know so always think that there is so you never stop improving on what God has given you.

Let me tell you that WORLD PEACE IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS is a great album: nuanced, experimentation, especially with a "Latino" air in every corner. Was it Morrissey’s idea to go for that or was it just something that came naturally?

Thanks Ale. It was amazing to be able to build something like this album. Along with the band and with Morrissey as captain, there was nothing that could sink this ship.
The Latino sound was not necessarily Morrissey’s idea. The Latino style came naturally to the surface once the producer and the rest of the band saw what I could contribute. That gave them more ideas and direction for songs, especially since Morrissey loved the Latino sound. So with approval by the chief/head, we continued in that direction. From then on we did what we do as musicians and WPINOYB has Latino touches everywhere.
Continuing, the album took a more international direction. Several songs
with a lot of Latino flavour ended up in the demos. We added bongos and congas, castanets, Mexican trumpets, accordion, flamenco guitar, Latino rhythms, montunos with organ and various other things that flourish the sound of WPINOYB.

Morrissey spoke highly about you in his Autobiography, and it shows that there is an excellent relationship with all members of the band. What can you tell me about the "normal" everyday Morrissey?

Yes. We are a family. We make music together, rumbeamos (party?) together, we get into trouble together, and we take care of each other as brothers.
Morrissey is a genius. Every email I receive is a poem. I stay reading five or six times until I decipher them and laugh. He has an excellent sense of humour, so funny. The things he says spontaneously make you laugh to the point of crying.

Now that you're an official Morrissey composer, having written the music for 3 songs on the new album ... How does it feel to have worked with one of the best singers and lyricists in the world? Would you send more demos of your songs to be recorded in the future?

It is an honour. I know this is a typical and boring answer but what other words are there to say? For someone like Morrissey to accept you as a friend, musician, composer and now family - as explained in Autobiography - is the ultimate and one of the greatest things you can achieve in this life. There are still times I think, "How would it be if I had decided to take another path?" and yet there are times when I think it is unreal. But those moments pass, and every day I wake up I am thankful that I am breathing and because I have a family that supports me in everything I do; and especially because I have a boss so amazing to share his life with me and gives me such wonderful opportunities. I keep going because there is a point where everything will change and you never know when that point will come. So I will continue without complaints and be grateful.
Morrissey is always receiving my latest compositions. Let's see if he will use them, because you never know until the last moment.


  1. Great translation GWO. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I enjoyed reading this interesting interview.
    Gustavo sounds like a lovely family man and
    he is certainly a talented musician and songwriter.
    We know that Moz has a wonderful sense of humour.

    Many thanks GWO !

  3. Just to clarify – I don’t speak any Spanish (barely speak English some days). This was very much an amateur attempt at translating this interview to share with those that read and enjoy FTM. I tried not to tinker with the translation too much so that the spirit and voice of Gustavo remains.

  4. Great read and what a lovely man! Thanks GWO!

  5. Muchas gracias, GWO, for this fabulous interview. Gusbravo is truly an amazing musician and person and I hope we get to hear more of his songs in the future.

  6. There are no pictures of JB on this blog post. Not even one. WTF.

  7. I fear MW is truly over now. Broken criticised rat for leaving the parody on the front page for less than a day. And now he's done the same again!

    For one so fawning, it's almost as if rat wants to upset broken/OM.


    1. The parody got a second airing within a day of the first. Unprecedented around these parts. Anybody who would have wanted to read it would have. Perhaps it is over.

    2. Is your readership really so huge that under 48 hours gives everyone a chance to read it? You've left some pretty irrelevant posts on the main page for weeks on end, I just feel you could have left it up a bit longer, It was a really hilarious parody piece.

      we might never know whom Moz banned this time.

      I thank you for this excellent blog.


    3. You are right, Luke. This blog was only ever created because of MorrisseysWorld. If people want to read about Gustavo Manzur, they can go to SoLow, although actually Solow hadn't reported it until I published it, and now, unbelievably, they are linking here! I will republish the parody piece straight away, and will only continue writing this blog if Our Mozzer returns. Let's hope for Part B, to see who IS currently banned from Moz concerts.


      Ps If anybody is reading this blog of mine for the first time, having been linked here by SoLow, may I encourage you to read the WHOLE of my blog. You have missed Morrissey being online for THREE YEARS, but it's not too late to catch up. He is still lurking.

  8. Thank you for translating. Alejandro is my friend, he told me about this interview that he is going to make in English, also typical me in PDF. But I'm sure he's pleased with ppl enjoying it.

  9. Great job GWO I told him already to come on & read FTM.

  10. Really enjoyed reading this!
    Thank you for posting Ratster

  11. Thank you GWO for the translation, loved reading the part about not speaking Brazilian portuguese, its a tongue twister of a language even for someone who speaks spanish.

  12. My thanks to GWO for translating such a heartwarming interview.

  13. Thanks GWO for the translation and Ratty for posting it on his blog. It is an interesting read about the inner workings of Morrissey and his band, it appears that they get along well together and share a good sense of humor. Good luck to them on the upcoming tour.


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