Roger Joseph Manning Jr. is an American power pop and electronic rock musician, singer, and songwriter with a prolific career in the industry. Roger’s musical career began as early as 1989, when he started arranging string, brass, wind, and vocal ensembles for Jellyfish, the first band he co-founded.
Roger contributed keyboards, piano, guitar, percussion, and vocals in Jellyfish until the band’s breakup in 1994. The group released two full-length albums together: Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993).
As his time with Jellyfish came to an end, he began his second co-founded band, Imperial Drag. Imperial Drag was together from 1994-1997 and saw overwhelming overseas success, particularly in England and Japan. At the same time, Roger co-founded The Moog Cookbook, which was started solely as a means to have a forum to express his and his partner’s love for the bygone era of vintage synthesizers and exotic keyboards. It was this duo that lead to his longtime relationship with Beck Hansen.
Roger has been working with Beck for around 20 years now. They have toured the world together and Roger has been a part of recording upwards of five critically acclaimed albums as part of the band.
By 1997, Roger’s career as a freelance session keyboardist, songwriter, arranger, and background vocalist was in full swing. Since then, Roger has been involved in the creation of hundreds of pop/rock albums, film and TV soundtracks, commercials, radio spots, tours, and more.
Roger has enjoyed a fantastic solo career since 2006 with the release of his first solo album Solid State Warrior. This album was released in Japan only, but was quickly followed by a release in the US under the title The Land of Pure Imagination, with slightly altered song content. His second album was also only released in Japan initially. This album, Catnip Dynamite, was released in Japan in 2008, and came to the US (along with three bonus tracks) in February 2009. His latest solo release was a 4-song EP called Glamping.
Roger is known for his unique style of playing various analog and digital synthesizers, and his main genres are electronica, power pop, psychedelia, and jazz. He also does session work with a number of artists and some commercial and soundtrack music.
Through work he did with producer Jerry Finn, he was credited as keyboardist on a number of recordings with Blink-182. Roger is also credited with playing keyboards on several works by Morrissey between 2004 and 2009. In 2012, Roger worked as an arranger on Paramore’s double-platinum self-titled album. Most recently, he was featured on “Echoes of You” by Marianas Trench.
Bellybutton was produced by Jack Joseph Puig & Albhy Galuten at Schnee Studio in North Hollywood.
The album was recorded in three studios, with the bulk of it being completed at Schnee Studio in North Hollywood—other recording was done at Studio 55 and Ocean Way. Production was handled by Albhy Galuten (Eric Claption, Saturday Night Fever) and engineer/mixer Jack Joseph Puig (John Mayer, Green Day, No Doubt).
Schnee Studio was originally opened by Bill Schnee in 1981. Schnee is an 11-time GRAMMY-nominated engineer, producer, and musician who’s worked with Steely Dan, Chicago, Ringo Starr, Dire Straits, and many, many others. Schnee Studio still exists at its original location, though it is under new ownership.
One of Puig’s most interesting contributions to the album is the organ heard on the first song we reviewed with Roger. It was an actual church organ that Puig knew about, sneaking the band in after-hours to record it for the album.
Bellybutton was a huge deal for engineers, producers, and musicians.
At the time of its release, every musician, engineer, mixer, and producer was referencing the album and talking about it with peers. Bellybutton was acclaimed by music critics upon its debut in July 1990, but the album failed to reach a massive audience overall, reaching #124 on the Billboard 200.
Despite this, the record was still a hit amongst people “in the know”: fellow musicians and recording professionals, music critics, and the like. Commercial success is not always indicative of incredible music, which this album demonstrates.
Staff writer Michael Miller from The State newspaper in South Carolina gave the album five stars and called Bellybutton “the best pop album of the year.” He went on to write that the album incorporated “the inventive melodies of the Beatles, the vocal harmonies of 10CC and contemporary rhythms of XTC and Crowded House.”
The fourth song on the record, “I Wanna Stay Home,” was covered by Rod Stewart for his box set The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971 – 1998.