Which old album do you think Liberation compares to the most?
Philip Manley: Maybe The Surveillance–it’s paranoid and kind of rockin’.
Did you guys get a lot of flack for going with more vocals on the newer albums, compared to the early ones that were primarily instrumental?
No, not really. People were curious about why we started singing, though. We just wanted to add another instrument. We’ve always been tempted to use vocals in the past. Initially, we started without them (vocals), ’cause we really like the super stripped-down sound. Actually, on this album, we wanted to do less vocals than we have on the past couple records just ’cause we wanted to go back to that more stripped-down sound.
Who’s singing on the new album?
Seb (Sebastian Thomson) sings on “Ideamachine,” and Nate sings on “Music For Dogs.” And I sing backup on “Music For Dogs.”
Did you sing on TA or Redline at all?
Yeah, I sing on all of ’em. Well, except for Futureworld. Nate did all the vocoder stuff. He always does the vocoder.
What was your favorite album to record?
I think maybe Redline was, because it was such an experimental project. It was like, “Anything is possible.” That was the whole point of that record–to do whatever we wanted to do. But I really liked recording the new one, too. I liked recording all of them, but Redline was a real pleasure because of the completely open nature of the recording.
Was there any album that was a thorn in your side to make?
Well, Redline took a really long to time to make just ’cause it’s such a long album. It’s 73 minutes. It wasn’t like it was taking too long, it was just the record, in the end, might’ve been too long. But that’s the way we wanted it–we were maxing out the CD format. Generally speaking, we work pretty fast. This record (Liberation) was interesting because we wrote all the songs in the studio while we were recording it.
How often does Trans Am tour?
We used to tour all the f–king time, but now we’re trying to do it less and less. You know, try not to burn out on it.
What are some of your personal favorite leisurely activities?
Interesting question. I like to go hiking and camping–go backpacking. That kind of stuff. I also like to do a lot of recording engineering, which to me, is like work, but it’s my main passion.
Are you producing other bands’ stuff?
Oh yeah, I have been for a long time. I just recorded a band in San Francisco called Tussle. That should be coming out sometime soon. I also recorded a couple bands on the East Coast. This band Weird War, and some Dischord band called Antelope. Just small bands mostly, but I get really into it.
Are you still in the band Golden?
Well, as much as anyone is still in Golden. It’s weird–John Theodore, the drummer, is now playing with that band The Mars Volta, so that’s been taking up his whole life.
Is there a new Golden record in the works?
There’re a lot of new Golden songs–we just have to find a minute for all of us to get together and actually do them.
What’s your favorite metal album of all time?
Well, I was a big Metallica fan, and I really like And Justice For All. I’d have to say that’s my favorite. But I really also like The F–king Champs III album.
Favorite new-wave album of all time?
I think my favorite new-wave album would probably be Gary Neuman’s Pleasure Priniciple. I also really like Red Exposure by the band Chrome. They’re kind of one of those bandds we secretly steal from. They’re from the same time period as Devo–they’re total Devo contemporary, but they’re from the Bay Area. And they’re really drug-damaged.
Favorite new group?
I really like this band from New York City called Oneida.
Favorite Arnold Schwarzenegger action/adventure movie?
Kindergarten Cop. It’s a really weird movie. Have you ever heard the Arnold Schwarzenegger prank call? It’s the best.
Liberation seems like the most political of all Trans Am’s albums. You guys should send a copy of “Uninvited Guest” to George Bush’s campaign office.
I know. We’re trying to do something with this company moveon.org. They’re organizing all these sort of commercials that were supposed to be played on TV that are anti-Bush.
How do you think things will turn out this November?
Shit, I don’t know. I’m kind of a real pessimist when it comes to politics, and I think it’s from living in D.C. for so long. But at the end of the day, (John) Kerry really isn’t all that much better than Bush. I mean, some people would argue with me on that point, but they were both members of that secret society, Skull And Bones, at Yale. As far as I’m concerned, they’re in the same boat. They answer to the same money, although Bush answers to a lot more money, and that’s probably why he’ll get reelected. He has ten times the fundraising as Kerry. But you can definitely tell there’s a weird wind of change or something in the air.
Cat Stevens or Bob Dylan?
Darth Vader or Darth Maul?
Biggie or Tupac?
Iron Maiden or Judas Priest?
The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth?
I’ll say Labyrinth ’cause that’s the day I met Sebastian.
I thought you were gonna say it was because David Bowie was in it.
That’s maybe part of why we went to see it.
Napalm Death or Bolt Thrower?
Mad Magazine or Cracked Magazine?
The Cars or Rush?
Fun Dip candy or Big League Chew?
Big League Chew.
N.W.A. or the Geto Boys?
Washington D.C. or Washington State?
Bad 70s music or bad 80s music?
Bad 80s music.
Bob Marley or Peter Tosh?
The son of George Senior or the son of Satan?
(Laughs) Aren’t they one and the same?
Journey or REO Speedwagon?
’77 Trans Am or an ’82 Firebird?
Oh, that’s easy, the Trans Am.