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“Vanishing Point.” A Theremin Concept Album

Photograph of Maurizio "ErMan" Mansueti playing a Moog Music Etherwave Pro.
Maurizio “ErMan” Mansueti playing a Moog Music Etherwave Pro. (Photo: Teatro Valle Occupato)

Saggini: In 2020, one of your songs has been selected to be included in the “Theremin 100” compilation by the NY Theremin Society. Tell us about this experience.

Mansueti: The idea was already in the air in 2018 in preparation for the centenary of theremin’s birth. Robert Meyer, a thereminist from Germany, initially spread the idea, and then the NY Theremin Society’s with Dorit Chrysler led the project definitively. Of course, as you may well imagine, there were a lot of adhesions. (It reminds me a lot of the initiative I did in 2009 with “Switched on Bob” dedicated to Bob Moog for Cherry Red Records in London. It was tiring but exciting).

On Theremin100, I was involved with Blindfolded Eyes, a still unpublished song and now included in “Vanishing Point.” I’m proud of it because the compilation has a historical value. It was somehow the beginning of a series of initiatives around the centenary, motivating the whole international scene to “do something” like events, publications, interviews, or new albums. Starting with Peter and Masha Theremin that in 2019 launched “Theremin Star,” a video competition with a real purpose to spread the word, an excellent initiative both to make known among us “thereminists” and to generate new followers.

Saggini: Incidentally, The Transistors producer Gak Sato is, among many things, a thereminist. What did you share in your passion for the theremin?

Mansueti: We are talking about the years between 2000 and 2003. At that time, The Transistors were the leading band of Temposphere, where Gak Sato was the music producer. We released our first single, Mission on Venus (2000), and then the album “Atelier” (2002), and I had just bought the theremin from Big Briar, so I didn’t feel like putting it on the instruments of the first album. However, I played live with my Big Briar theremin during the first official appearance of the Transistors in Rome, after the great Piero Umiliani live act. It was amazing. I have the video-recording, but watching it again today, I would tell you that my playing way was not so properly good. However, at that time, lounge music did good things. It was that somehow gave new life to exotica, to “vintage” or “cinematica” instruments, to the rediscovery of the b-movies of the ’50s, and so the important thing was to do it, was to be in the right place, in the right moment, to create the scene.

Gak Sato, our producer, bought his first theremin from Moog Music at that time, because in the meantime, Bob Moog had regained his “brand.” We never actually played together, but I owe Gak the first meeting with Vincenzo Vasi (in 2004, if I remember well). Vincenzo is a great multi-instrumentalist, a myth of transgression à la Frank Zappa, and a great thereminist. I met Vincenzo with Sabina Meyer (thereminist, soprano, jazz improvisation) to experiment with a trio of theremins for a commercial, and at that moment I realized, that they had a great technique, that I had a long way to go, and that I needed to study more. Also thanks to that short experience, I approached the idea of making a theremin album, but only when I had reached greater technique to play the theremin.

I have to say that you can’t stop studying theremin, the theremin has to be used every day. Never lose practice if you want to play with your eyes closed!

Saggini: Is The Transistors project definitely concluded?

Mansueti: The thought of the three of us, me, Luca Cirillo, and Miss Ari, is that it will never close. We moved away because of personal circumstances, but all three of us have musical projects in progress. And not everyone knows that, after two albums in the first 2000-2010 and many remixes and compilations (about 20!), in 2012, we also recorded a new album to be the soundtrack for a series on YouTube, a real soundtrack. Unfortunately, it remained in the drawer. Sooner or later, we will publish it for the fans! However, I must say that the Transistors were first movers in Space Age, Exotica, and Lounge music in Europe with fans in the USA and especially in Japan. Unfortunately, lounge music after 2005 had a decline with the arrival of “Buddha Bar” and other horrible compilations, which had nothing to do with jazz or exotica or Space Age, so it was not easy for labels to continue to get attention from the media. We are not the only ones to have disappeared. Even our friends Combustible Edison stopped making records around the same time. At that time, we had coined a slogan that introduced our live shows, and it said, “Lounge is dead. Viva lounge!!!”. The voice was by Byron Werner, vinyl anthropologist, who coined the term Space Age Bachelor Pad Music without which I would not have known the music of Esquivel, Les Baxter, Yma Sumac until Samuel Hoffman! We were a cult band, so we will never close! Now Valerio, however, we can turn the page.  🙂 

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