Kool Kats feat. Phil Manley (Trans Am)
I’m thoroughly convinced Trans Am is a band consisting of future time travelers studying every genre of rock in order to save the future from certain doom by corporate pop enslavement
Guitar maestro, studio engineer, and producer, just a few of the many roles Phil Manley plays. He’s been a part of some of the coolest bands of the last decade (the Fucking Champs, Lifecoach, and Golden) to name a few.
When he’s not making music he’s running his own studio (El Studio) in the Bay Area. We got to pick his brain and he shared a wicked playlist that’s sure you take you out of this twisted world for a while.
Fresh Pots!: My goodness, so many cool projects and bands you’ve been involved with it’s tough to know where to begin! Trans Am, what’s the story behind that band?
Phil Manley: The three of us started playing together in the 80's. We all went to the same junior high school and played in the school band together. Or, I should say, Nate and Seb played in the orchestra and I played in the band. The orchestra and band did, on occasion, play together. Nate played cello, Seb played violin and I played alto saxophone. Seb went to high school in Argentina. Nate and I played in bands together through high school. We met up with Seb once he returned from Argentina and he joined our band playing drums. I believe that was in 1989. We've been playing together ever since.
FP: Most people don’t know you’ve also worked with Jon Theodore from Golden (whom Cedric Bixler said sounds like African Thin Lizzy) to the more recent Life Coach. Are there any other cool projects you guys are working on? Life Coach's last album was amazing by the way.
PM: Thanks! Glad you dig that album. Jon and I met in college in the early 90's. That's where Golden formed. Jon and I haven't played together for a while now. Jon joined Queens of the Stone Age right around the time that the Life Coach album was released. Also, Jon and his wife recently had their first baby and my wife and I had our 2nd, so we're neck deep in dirty diapers at the moment. We'll get back together when the timing is right. I expect once the Queens of the Stone Age touring cycle winds down. We have hours and hours of jams recorded. I might start sifting through them to see if there are any gems.
FP: Aside from guitar shredding you’re also quite the studio wizard, owning your own studio and all. Are there any projects you’ve recorded or produced that you’re particularly proud of?
PM: I'm especially proud of the latest Mammatus record, 'Sparkling Waters'. I wanted to include it on my Spotify playlist, but I notice it's not on Spotify :/ Also, the Carlton Melton albums. Those were especially fun albums to make. I recently recorded a band called the Tunnel. That came out really well. The Feral Ohms album also came out great, although I didn't mix that album. I just did the basic tracking. The finished LP sounds fantastic.
FP: Trans Am has gotten to tour with Tool. Their fans are known for being quite interesting, what was that like?
PM: We were worried going into that tour that we'd be eaten alive by their fans. We designed our set to have only one break at which point Seb would ask the audience: "Who's ready for TOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Everyone would go bananas. It was fucking hilarious. We did get heckled on occasion, but who cares? It was a great experience and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Those Tool guys and their crew are big music fans and very nice people. They took good care of us.
FP: Tell us a bit about the songs you’ve chosen to feature, I feel like there’s always a good story behind why people choose certain bands.
PM: Circle - 'Nopeuskunigas' Big fan of this band from Finland. One of the best live concerts I've ever seen.
Flipper - 'Ever' Generic is one of my favorite albums. San Francisco's finest!
High Rise - 'Turn You Cry' Only recently started getting into this band. INSANE!
Pissed Jeans - 'Ignorecam' In a sea of mellow mediocrity, thank god there's new music that sounds like this.
Feral Ohms - 'Superape' (see above)
Creedance Clearwater Revival - 'Commotion' I recently discovered CCR used to rehearse 2 blocks from my house! I've been a big fan of theirs since I was a kid. When I record any band, I basically try to make it sound like CCR.
Rocket from the Tombs - 'What Love Is' Proto Pere Ubu/Dead Boys. Cleveland's answer to the Stooges. Raging full on.
Lungfish - 'Shapes in Space' Baltimore's finest!
Queen - 'Sheer Heart Attack' Burner
Laddio Bolocko - 'Goat Lips' Old friends from touring with Trans Am way back when. Drew (guitar) and Ben (bass) went on to form The Psychic Paramount who are equally intense and awesome.
Steve Moore - 'Fever Dream' Steve also plays in a band called Zombi with whom Trans Am has done a lot of touring. I'm a HUGE fan of Steve's solo work as well as all the Zombi stuff. Such an amazing musician. Steve even got to tour playing keyboards in Goblin!!!
Meat Puppets - 'Aurora Borealis' Just a groovy little acid fried desert rock song.
The Move - 'Omnibus' I love the lyrics in this song.
Carlton Melton - 'Electrified Sky' In a world of imposter psych rock, these guys are the real deal. As recorded at El Studio;)
Oneida - 'Sheets of Easter' More old touring buddies. What can one say about this song?
FP: Lastly, being the modern Renaissance man you are, how do you take your coffee?
PM: 100% full disclosure: I quit drinking coffee last weekend. Went through some pretty serious withdrawl - splitting headache, irritability, low energy, aches, cold sweats, flu-like symptoms. Feeling so much better now. I'm sure I'll come around and start drinking coffee again one day. When I do, I like dark roasts which I do as a pour over in a Chemex pot.