Sisters Of Transistors - The Interview
Nerdy Frames

Nerdy Frames
30 September 2008


From 808 State to his fascination with ladies' organ quartets, Graham Massey has a Moog shaped monkey on his back!

Nerdy Frames

Deep in the heart of the South Manchester Museum of Keyboard technology basement lies a deep rooted sisterhood entrenched inbetween valves, wires, keys and alot of unfamiliar wattages.

Nerdy Frames

The Sisters of Transistors are graduates of the fine Institute in Manchester where they get to sample vintage transistor organs from various parts of the world, as well as singing the most beautiful but yet haunting melodies to subdue any person into their spell!

We got to chat to head conductor, Graham Massey (of 808 state) about Organs, Kraftwerk comparisons, surf music and everyday operations of S.M.M.O.K.T.(South Manchester Museum of Keyboard technology).

So tell us about your new project, Sisters of Transistors?

Nerdy Frames

Well its a group of Lady Organists ,see you already have a picture in your mind , Organs have a lot of cultural baggage but let that go, A Girl group ,Girl groups have a lot of cultural baggage too ,but let that go Some techno producer..rethink that , rethink everything We are the Sisterhood.

I’ve read on the press release (thanks Bang on PR) that you conceived the project from various purchasing of vintage Italian Organs from Ebay. Care to share some stories on your most expensive purchase from Ebay?

Nerdy Frames

One thing with buying organs from Abroad is you’ve got to remember the weight and subsequent postage costs ,been burnt a few times on that one, also Ive had a few wrecked ones ,A lovely Soviet one from the 70s that looks like Yuri Gagarins sideboard,but unfortunately held together with panel pins , I think some bagage handler had dropped it out of a cargo plane.Lucky for me one of the labtech guys at S.M.M.O.K.T. lovingly restored it with some army surplus parts from Prague.

We been given a lot of organs as some people have kept them for years and appreciate any one using them in something other than Light My F******** Fire.
We have an organ that belonged to Dave Formula of the Manchester group Magazine,of which we our very proud!

Tell us about the mysterious South Manchester Museum of Keyboard technology,(S.M.M.O.K.T)?

SMMOKT..has been running since 1987 on a bursary from U.M.I.S>T ,(birthplace of the computer and the bouncing bomb)..based in a concrete bunker (an ex sub station) on the banks of the River Mersey in MCR(Yes The Mersey runs from St Ockport through Manchester until Liverpool claims it at the entrance to the Irish Sea and sing a lot of songs about it.)

Nerdy Frames

The Museum has a number of rooms dedicated to synths or earlier keyboards – and some projects that recontruct some classic keyboard rigs- The Emerson Suite , The Edgar Froese Suite, Richard Harveys Gryphon Room,Dave Stewarts memorial broom cupboard and The 1973 Wakeman Rig (The Two Mellotrons/ Mini Moog with the RMI Electra, Hammond C3 and a stienway reproduction with no strings where we keep the capes)

Would it be fair of me to say that the Sisters of Transistors are like a female version of Kraftwerk except with hooded shrouds,vintage organs and a male drummer?

Nerdy Frames

Well a female version of Kraftwerk if they were Pregnant Icelandic Mancunian Hockey players with no manners and a thirst for blood, with a reverse Karen Carpenter /John Carpenter hybrid drummer fixation ,you could say that.

I love “The Don”, your new single and accompanying video, very macabre I must say. Was there a concept behind the video, set or otherwise?

Its filmed in the Basement at SMMOKT using our extensive surveillance equipment that can differentiate between Mersey wild life on the water park and wild life from the Mersey estate,Using stereo cameras.

By simply changing one of the infrared lenses for a green filter we were able to make the worlds 1 st 3D pop video,(Well you could count the Micheal Jackson one at EPCOT,but thats more like a mini film)The themes of the Video relate to the invocation in the Lyrics ,Pressurized tanks of Horse breath,Major and Minor 6 chords sixty, Red coarse major and minor franchise etc. Pre Invocation Images and transformation.

Speaking of “The Don”, your other tune “Tiger Ghee” I can hear trace elements of surf music………something that we should look forward to?

Surf Music is an overlooked garage music that we endorse , Garage will now take on a 4th meaning in music -proto catalogue instruments in instrumental basics, House with Pianos and Vocals, Nu Urban swing, Surf Key Symphonia, Have you ever seen the Vox Mobile?

It was made by George Barris who also did the Munsters Car and the 60s adam west batmobile.The Vox Mobile has a Vox Continental Organ built into the back -The Vocx Continental is one of our front line attack instruments.. and has a long lineage back to surf music.

You’ve dubbed the S.O.T. sound as “baroque disco prog”. Are you still standing by that statement because I love it!

The Baroque aspect come quite naturally when writing for 4 keyboards or 8 hands 8x 8 fingers – 64 ..4-8-8-64-paisley fractal formula. To do it with meaning in the lines is a challenge that I think we sometimes achieve in tracks like Pendulum.

The Disco Aspect comes naturally through the limited abilities of the rhythm section and The Prog aspect come via the frustration of the limited abilities of the previous and the ambition to transcend them when we get good at it we will have to change the music as the only interest is the journey to perfection and not the attainment of the state.

Simian Mobile Disco (SMD) has added The Don/Pendulum into their Fabric Live compilation, so does this mean that we should be getting some SMD remixes as well over the coming months?

Its uncertain ,many people were kind enough to contribute a mix and some mixes were exchanged in kind.Our primary goal is to explore our nature as an organ quartet,its self imposed rules and the breaking of those rules gradually over the coarse of the Trilogy of albums.

Now I’m not sure if its completely out of line for me to ask, but what is the situation behind 808 state? Are you guys still together, broken up or on indefinite hiatus?

Yes all 3 of those ..We have had some activity this year as a live band in support of an active back catalogue reissue program,both on ZTT and Rephlex. We’ve enjoyed doing that,probably because of a long break. We were rather driven into a brick wall by the record company who released OUTPOST TRANSMISIONS in 2002- its hardly ever mentioned as a release but its quite out there,it has a collaboration with Simian when they were 1st going, .and Guy Garvey of Elbow on it..That album took about 3 years in the making…There was some talk of doing a live album ,as it is a totaly different beast live.

Is it also wrong for me to say that after all these years (from the Factory records era to the acid house era) Manchester is still kicking arse musically, despite having 2 of their disappointments Mick Huchnell and Oasis both originating from there?

Well thats a matter of opinion , I certainly have a long perspective on MCR as a music town -for instance I can remember a lot of members of Simply Red being in a well good Pscyche outfit called The Mothmen, and I also remember Noel Gallager as the Inspiral Carpets organ roadie – Organ Roadies we could shure use one !.. My Music mates are always up to stuff. see here

Whats on the cards for Sisters of Transistors? I know you have a new album coming out very soon and I’ve seen youtube footage of S.O.T. playing at a Last FM listing party. Any world tours, Festivals, gigs coming up?

Yes we are in the process of recording an album and hope to have it ready for release early next year.. No world tours as yet but we are gathering a number of organ depots around the globe in anticipation as we wont be taking our s*** We have German depot in Berlin, A French Depot in Paris, one in Texas, one in LA and one in Tokyo so far..They are a group of enthusiasts who will provide us with 4 working Transistor organs and dry cleaning for the capes..we might drop the capes next season ,in favor of a more trouser suite look ,think shoulder pads .We also are planning our yearly Halloween Ball at the moment at the Massonix Lodge somewhere in MCR.

Got anything nice to say to our New Zealander readers?

Nerdy Frames

Yes You should have a national organ quartet ,we can provide instruction and sheet music , Once you have completed the one year induction we can have a yearly festival in which we will travel to the South Island 1st and then the North Island for the purpose of a competitive concert , the best OQ winning the Philcordia Ashes (which we will provide by burning an old broken one we have), We will do this every year and bond because we are the squiggled weird islands at the top and bottom of the world.

And with that we thank you S.O.T!

Just to recap here. The Sisters of Transistors are Sister Wigby Elka Whippany-elka organ,promars Sister Ragna Teisco Dottir-vox organs,elka panther Sister Naomi Doric Pencrest- elka capri jnr,wem teisco organs Sister Henrietta Vox Humana-yamaha yc45 d organ,pntm 1 Prof Vernon World- drums.

Their single “The Don” is now available to purchase. Plus if you order the vinyl, you can watch “The Don” video in 3D.

Nerdy Frames