Philip Manley of Trans AM
interviewed @ the Pine Street Theater (Portland Oregon) 2000
photo & text: Dan Cohoon
Philip Manley: Is that a tape recorder? How old fashioned.
Dan Cohoon: How old is Trans AM?
PM: Trans AM has existed since 1993. We've only been releasing records since 1995. A seven inch in 95 and full albums since. We played longer than that. I played with Nathan since I was in junior high which would be 1988 and with Sebastion since 1990.
DC: You guys combine electronics with a classic rock kind of feel. What is going to happen to kids today who don't listen to classic rock anymore?
PM: They will listen to Trans AM. That's what we listen to all day long. We derive a lot of influence from that. It would be interesting to see where that is the next mutation . . . It is funny when we meet people in their early 20's--a lot of what we consider the rudiments of rock music people just don't know.
DC: What equipment do you use?
PM: It is pretty basic stuff. We have some old synths that are pretty broken at this point. A lot of our equipment comes from the years between1973-1975. Sebs drum kit is a 74 Ludwig. My reconfigure bass is 73 (4001), Nate's bass is a 74 Precision Bass. My Gibson is a 1974 Les Paul Special. My marshal is a 75 Super Bass 100 watt head; the speaker is from the mid-seventies as well. Nates amp head is an early seventies V- 4. Then we have various knick-knacks and pedals and what-not.
DC: You guys are from the east coast?
PM: Washington D.C.
DC: Do you find that there is different stuff going on in different parts of the country or has it become fairly homogeneous?
PM: I do think there are different things going on. It is becoming more and more homogeneous. I am trying to think of a good example; I think there is something about Texas and the south and they are really heavily influenced by British music, particularly psychedelic music. People down there do a lot of psychedelic drugs. I think that affects the music that comes out of Texas. New York City has a really arty avant garde music community. Chicago has a very Jazz oriented community. The north west has a really indy, K records, Olympia thing going on. D.C. still has a little of the remnants of the Discord punk thing going on. There is always the Metal scene in Florida, which has sort of died, maybe not completely. California is sorta hard to nail down. San Francisco has a very big electronic scene.
DC: Do you think that rock will merge with electronic music?
PM: I don't think that they will merge. Rock Music is American folk music. I think that electronic music has a more European origin. A lot of people feel that what we're doing offends their sensibilities in the sense that there are a lot of people who like electronic music who come and see Trans Am and we bum them out. They say 'you guys are too rock for me,' and vice-versa. That happens more often in Europe. I don't think they will merge. I think rock music will always have its roots. It is so well rooted, especially in the United States. In Europe, it is less appreciated and less understood. I don't think they will cross pollinate that much. I think if they would have, they would have by now. Some of that post rock stuff has become so intellectualized and the critics go so bananas about it there has been a reaction against it. There are more rock bands now than there were three years ago. They've seen too many bands try and do what Tortoise did and it bores them to tears. You see that Sub Pop signed all these rock bands, like Stooges-style rock bands. They are trying to predict the return to rock. I am honestly not that interested in what is going to happen.
DC: It seems that we are in the midst of a period of really bad pop music. Do you think there will be an up swelling against the really glossy high sheen music?
PM: Do you mean like what happened with punk? I don't know. I hope what happens . . . I notice that a lot of modern electronic music has stagnated thing that a lot of the modern electronic artists have forgone is developing a personality. It is kind devoid of personality. One band, I don't really like them, I think is interesting is Alec Empire & Atari Teenage Riot. He is at least a punk electronic musician. His music I could pretty much do with out. It is pretty stupid. I think there is something that he has done that is different that is what a lot of electronic musicians are doing which is faceless art. No art work, white labels, trying to remain anonymous. That has this sort of club that only people who go out to raves would know about.
DC: The whole electronic scene is rather foreign to me.
PM: Literally foreign.