Eyeshot Interview Transmission
to Phil Manley:
Trans Am playing in House of Lies' basement when you unleashed the Casio
and Dazed and Confused riffs and a few members of the audience were
teary eyed with admiration. I remember thinking, "This is future music."
Were you thinking anything? Was your future revealed?
I was probably thinking about beer,
sex, or rock. Actually, I probably wasn't thinking at all.
When we're playing a show, I try not to think. We were certainly
searching for new sounds. Back then especially, were not afraid to
experiment with really fucked up sounding shit, man. We don't use
those Casios any more. We're less adventurous these days.
played in your college basement you all had little mustaches: word
was you were all planing to dye your hair blond for that Police effect.
Please discuss the image presentation of your internationally touring
Trans Am suffers from a real lack
of image. Our album art keeps our image a secret. As a live band
we are very casual on stage. Seb usually takesoff his shirt and Nate
wears a sweat suit. I normally wear a t-shirt and jeans. Our
stage presence can be somewhat austere (like our music and our album art)
and jovial at the same time. This depends on what sort of drugs we're
on. Pot works against good live shows I've found. We usually wind
up being too self conscious when we're stoned. We usually have a
few beers to calm our nerves after a long van ride. Sometimes we
mess with ephedrine and the results are varied but usually involves a really
loud and fast set with clenched jaws and maybe some vomitting. We
try to encourage the audience to get riled up. Sometimes it works, sometimes
it doesn't. Seb once spit water on a particularly quiet audience
in Grongingen, Holland. I don't think they thought it was funny.
Some girl told me after the show "you are so cynic." Stupid Dutch
the countries Trans Am has traveled to and award certain countries for
special merit if necessary.
Old Europe flavor, many prostitutes near our hotel. We had the best
show of our European tour in Wien last year. Fairly conservative
and boring otherwise.
One of our favorites, great energy and beautiful people. Easy women.
Trans Am's European stronghold. They're one of the few European
countries that still appreciates funk-metal.
USA jr. We always have a great time in Montreal and Toronto.
London, Ont. and Ottowa are whack. We also once played in Halifax
which was pretty weird. We stayed in the hotel with all the family
members of the victims of the Swiss Air plane crash.
Beautiful women everywhere. Everyone is tall and bland. Somewhat
overwhelming in that respect. Easy to buy pot in Chritiania, a
lawless artist commune on an old army base in Copenhagen.
Whatever, good food
Not my favorite place. Very uptight and serious. I've spent
maybe too much time in Germany.
Shitty pay and treatment at clubs. Great crowds similar to American
Very quiet and reserved crowds. Either they're all too stoned to
applaud or they just don't like Trans Am. It's weird, though,
we'll play a great show (in my eyes, anyway) and no one will clap.
Or it will seem really quiet and we're always like "what are we doing wrong
Strange and unusual place. Very professional operation over there.
Lighting crew and professional photographers and autographs. Real showbiz.
Very fun. Australia jr. Everyone in New Zealand talks shit
Skol! We weren't there long enough to really get a feel for the place.
Fun to visit. Went to some really great art museums in Madrid and
Bilbao. Our shows were cancelled.
Usually really fun. We've played in some funny places there. Coffee
shops, squats, community centers. We played a show in St.Galen, CH
that was booked by a guy named Sam Tran. He was Swiss/Vietnamese and an
expert marajuana grower.
Jockey catalogue mentions "lawful evil" beats. Extremes. Retro GTR rock
and future sound, two basses and drum machines and a drummer. How
conscious are you of the sound you create? How much of it gets churned
up naturally? How much is contrived? (There is no intended negative slant
on the word contrived; I mean: purposefully composed to correspond with
what you perceive as Trans Am. Are there choices chosen for continuity's
We try to compose when we feel the
composition is coming natuarally. When it starts seeming contrived is usually
when we put it down and pick it up later when it's fresh and not labored.
We are very much into live composition. Arranging is another tricky thing.
Keeping the arrangement as true to the original composition--like it was
when we first played the song--is a surprisingly difficult task.
We like to record our rehearsals and jams so we can keep track of how songs
evolve. As far as the contrived thing I think we rip ourselves off.
Sometimes, without realizing it, we'll steal a melody from another Trans
Am song. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. We're also not afraid
to steal from other people. Mostly very famous people like Led Zeppelin.
I don't think it's bad to steal from someone when they are so rich.
You know what I'm saying?
remember seeing a tag in the Village Voice calling you "the poorman's Kraftwerk."
But that¹s bogus. You use the vocoder a la "Trans-Europe Express"
on "Future World" but Trans Am is much more paranoid and prowling than
anything that could be termed an inspiration . . . How do you feel about
I don't mind being compared to Kraftwerk.
I kind of like that description "poor man's Kraftwerk." We are, in
a way. They are a model of pop music, like the Beatles or as AC/DC
is to rock. They are the lowest common denominator of electronic
pop music. Most modern electronic music is devoid of the human element
so it wouldn't be appropriate to compare it to Kraftwerk. Our synthesizer
music is very human and live and could therefore be correctly compared
to Kraftwerk. A lot of Kraftwerk stuff was played in real time, not
on sequencers. It makes all the difference when it's played live.
precise musician. You play each part as if it were a moving part that you
make mesh with the rest. Everything Trans Am or Golden does is structured
pretty tight. What's your take on precision? What about improvisation?
We are basically a struggling high
school band. The idea is to be as tight as we can be. Actually,
we are trying to play things looser nowadays. We know our songs too
well, which allows us to fuck with the form more. I love to improvise
in Trans Am (sometimes to Nate and Seb's dismay). In Golden I like
to lay back and let Ian and Alex do their things. Jon [the drummer]
is a free spirit. He would have Golden be a free jazz band if he had his
druthers. He is the opposite of Seb who really likes to have a solid form
for every song.
bluegrass? Any plans to revive Rufus Crisp? Any plans to incorporate
the banjo into Trans Am's upcoming homestyle recording?
No banjo. It takes tons of
practice to do that instrument justice and I certainly don't have the time
I know you
were into Richard Strauss and 20th C. composers as much as Black
Sabbath or Indy Rock All-Star Band et al. How have all these influences
impacted Phillip Manley, the man and the musician? Huh?
I haven't listened to enough classical
music lately. I listen to old hip hop and rock steady reggae in my
car. I'm not sure how they've impacted me like the scappy, live aspect
of the early hip hop stuff. It also has a positive message that a
lot of new hip hop doesn't have. Some music that's really moved me
recently is the first two P.I.L. albums and the Stooges. Stuff that
packs a lot of attitude.
able to support yourself through touring and record sales? What sort of
work have you taken otherwise? Do you ever feel like taking some time off
to become a genital hygenist or anything other than creator of
innovative rock music?
I'm pretty sure I'm not qualified
to be a genital hygenist (although, I might need to visit one). We
support ourselves with record royalties and touring. We do alright for
ourselves. We've built a pretty nice recording studio with the money
we've earned--no loans, no advances, no TV commercials. Although,
right now we are broke and living on credit. We get paid twice a
year and things get pretty lean before those royalty checks come around.
sent me an email that described an mp3 site with thousands of worthwhile
recordings. "Five years: major record companies bye bye" he wrote. What
do you think?
They'll just find a way to charge
people for it. If there is money to be made, they will find a way
to make it.
mentioned he saw Future World available on mp3. He was thinking about downloading
it, burning it to disc, scanning my copy¹s cover art, and then
dancing around to his almost free copy. I objected. I said "Phil's gotta
eat." I said: "Wouldn¹t you prefer the warmer vinyl sound?"
He said, what's Trans Am's main concern: having their music heard
or making money?
I think that the main problem with
downloading music off the Internet is that the sound is digitally degraded.
By the time it is burned on to a CD it has gone through so many conversions
from A to D from 24 bit dithered to 16 blah, blah. Basically, it
won't sound as good. In all honestly, I think the CD of "Future World"
sounds better than the vinyl. It is a little bit long for a single LP so
we had to reduce the bass towards the inside of the record. This
is a major drawback to vinyl. You can't make a record as long as
a CD and they have limited dynamic rage and frequency response. I
like records for the artwork and it's the sound I'm used to. CD's are also
really annoying when they skip, much worse than when a record skips.
And Sony, NBC, and Levis. I
can't stand hearing Sly and the FamilyStone on Toyota commercials or David
Bowie or the Buzzcocks or the Sea and Cake or Tortoise or Oval , etc.........I
guess it doesn't bother people the way it bothers me. I'm young and
idealistic because I can be. I don't have a family to feed.
Although, I don't think that anyone in Tortoise has a family.
heard that song "Summer Girls" by EFO or some shit that's a softy-style
hip-hip with a chorus about liking girls that wear "Abercrombie & Fitch?"
Surf songs hailed the Thunderbird and GTO (not to mention Taj Mahal's
Chevrolet) but what do you think about "cross-marketed" commericalistic
commercial pop? I think you guys could pull-off the Warholian feat of a
collection of commercials for products, cars, perfume, running shoes,
etc . . . the equivalent to the Autobahn in the U.S of A. is not Route
80 but mainstream commercialism. Sing the new hymns. What you think?
Commercial psychology drives me insane.
I just pulled an enormous ball of earwax out of my left ear. Gross.
cool-factor is partially its irony. Song titles like "Cocaine Computer"
and "Sad and Young." What about Golden? That's a more honest group.
No drum machines. Just Kid Thunder. Say a few words about "Songhai Surprise?"
It's one of the best songs I've heard in a long time. I've heard
it four times in the last week on the college radio. Each time it
starts at 33 rpm and then kicks into 45 rpm afterawhile. It seems the DJ's
will soon learn.
Golden has more of a prep school
boys' locker room sort of sense of humor. Trans Am's sense of humor is
more obvious but often more misunderstood. People take our song titles
to mean more than they do, which is usually just a silly joke we use to
tag a song.
you think about the Internet and all this technology crap.This interview
will appear online. What can you suggest? Any links to the online coordinates
of anything worthy?
I'm a big fan of www.bigbreastlovers.com.
hope for future boys and girls in the future world? One Jewish/Prague writer
who wrote in German before WWII wrote, "There is hope, but not for
us." Agree, disagree, or other.
The end is
nigh. I don't know what's going to happen to Trans Am. We are trying
to write chord progressions nowadays, which is very exciting for us.