[ w/ Phil Manley ]

Eyeshot Interview Transmission to Phil Manley: 

Remember 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.

When you 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 rock outfit.

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 people! 

Please rank the countries Trans Am has traveled to and award certain countries for special merit if necessary.

Austria: 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.

Australia: One of our favorites, great energy and beautiful people. Easy  women.

Belgium: Trans Am's European stronghold.  They're one of the few European  countries that still appreciates funk-metal.

Canada: 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.

Denmark: 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. 

France:  Whatever, good food

Germany: Not my favorite place.  Very uptight and serious.  I've spent maybe too much time in Germany.

Great Britain: Shitty pay and treatment at clubs. Great crowds similar to  American audiences.

Holland: 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 here?"

Japan: Strange and unusual place.  Very professional operation over there. Lighting crew and professional photographers and autographs. Real showbiz.

New Zealand:  Very fun.  Australia jr.  Everyone in New Zealand talks shit on  Australia.

Norway: Skol!  We weren't there long enough to really get a feel for the place.

Spain: Fun to visit.  Went to some really great art museums in Madrid and Bilbao.  Our shows were cancelled.

Sweden: (See Norway)

Switzerland: 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.

The Thrill 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 sake?)

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?

I  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 comparisons?

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.

You're a 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. 

What about 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 to play.

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.

Are you 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.

A friend 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.

Same friend 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. 

You turned down Nike?

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. 

Have you 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.

Trans Am's 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.

What do 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

Is there 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.