Like many, I can’t remember the first time I watched Transformers the Movie. Only that the animated bildungsroman-with-robots was pretty much the best movie I’d ever seen. Sure we’ve all gotten up and cheered during some amazing movie moments over the years – Yoda pulling out a light saber in Episode Two, Schwarzenegger telling Bennett to let off some steam at the end of Commando, Rachel McAdams running into Ryan Gosling’s arms in The Notebook. (No, wait…) But seared into most 80s Babies’ souls is the cataclysmic point in Transformers when Optimus Prime heads to his final showdown with Megatron, proclaiming “One shall stand. One shall fall,” cueing one of the best movie moments of all time, to the tune of Stan Bush’s “The Touch”. And since the release of that anthem onto the world in 1986, countless geeks keep it always at the ready, in case any life-or-death challenge raises its hydra-esque head, and they need to light their darkest hour.
Over the past 25 years Stan Bush has continued to churn out soundtracks to every flavor of epic victory, whether they surface in some of the best Van Damage movies, as themes to the Olympics or as Emmy-award-winning songs for TV. Shortly after Popten awarded Stan Bush’s android paean the coveted #1 Geek Anthem spot a few months ago, the two of us were put in touch. I tried to downplay the fact that I’ve probably listened to a couple of his songs at least once a week since 1986. Or that The Touch was what adrenalized us before the premiere of Second Skin. Or that we named my intramural college soccer team Erotimus Prime. Unperturbed by my rampant nerdery, we’d shoot short emails back and forth from time to time.
And then Stan’s music, like a certain battle-hardened robotic warrior thought doomed to the scrap heap, resurfaced. The Touch played in an episode of Chuck. Til All Are One played during the new Transformer video game’s closing credits. Stan’s music was the topic of a slightly-too-snarky io9 article. And I realized I’d neglected to pick up his newest album, In This Life. Seven clicks later, it was mine.
In This Life is the most triumphant album I’ve heard in ages. Checking in on Stan’s oeuvre after all these years, I see that he’s been busy perfecting the soundtrack to an epic life. Listening to the album feels like duking it out in a series of Boss Fights, each more heroic than the last. The guitar soars like Laserbeak. The drums are as seismic as Rumble. And if Soundwave ever played these tunes, he would probably explode.
I have a bit of a mental flow chart I run through when deciding to put Stan’s album on. I ask myself questions like:
Is this trip to Arbys brimming over with enough triumph?
Does my walk to the pharmacy feel enough like Napoleon’s victory lap after Austerlitz?
Is this celebration of my pyrrhic victory in Plants vs Zombies magnanimous enough?
Have I realized that my fate is in the blood, in the will, in the mighty hands of steel?
If the answers to any of those questions is no, Stan’s anthems are soon blaring, transforming (heh) any situation into an epic crusade between the forces of light and darkness – with me eternally cast in the role of Rodimus Prime exploding out of Unicron’s eye. Well, something like that.
I reached out to Stan, to ask him exactly how he never bends, he never breaks, and seems to have just what it takes. With characteristic awesomeness, Stan graciously allowed me to barrage him with questions. And here we are.
You’ve written some of the most triumphant songs about victory this side of Dragonforce. What moment or moments are you channeling when you write these anthems? When have you felt most triumphant?
I’m not sure exactly how I got started writing the ‘go for it’ anthems. It may have been “The Touch” that was the beginning of it all. I’ve always like songs with a positive message. We all need encouragement and to realize our potential.
True that. Speaking of realizing our potential- what’s your favorite part of being a rock musician? Writing the songs, performing them, recording the album, touring…?
I love writing songs because it’s like a puzzle. It’s not always easy, but I know if I keep pushing, something good will eventually come out.
So how do you approach writing lyrics?
I usually come up with title first, then write the rest of the chorus lyrics to reinforce the title. Then, since the verse kind of sets up the chorus, I write the verses last.
Are you cool with being an idol to geeks all over the world? Or do you resent it at times?
I’m honored to have so many fans, and really appreciate the support.
So then what’s it like going to fan conventions like Botcon?
It’s a lot of fun. I meet people from all over the world. I love going to the Botcon conventions. The people are so nice.
So nice and so numerous. What is it about Transformers that makes them so popular that they defined a generation- and how have they endured for over twenty years?
It’s amazing thinking back all those years ago, doing those songs in the original Transformers movie, that it would become such a phenomenon. I’ve had fans tell me that it was the ‘soundtrack for their childhood’. I think the positive message resonated with the fans.
It was doubtlessly the soundtrack to my brother and I’s childhoods. I wonder if it was also the anthem to PT Anderson’s childhood? Possibly the most surreal moment I’ve had watching a movie is seeing Mark Wahlberg sing The Touch on Boogie Nights. What’s the story with that song making it into that movie?
I’m not really sure how the song got into “Boogie Nights”. They probably contacted the publisher. It was really cool seeing Mark Wahlberg singing “The Touch”. It was kind of a spoof on the eighties I think.
Probably. Speaking of decades, the nineties were a tough time for rock musicians. Were you tempted to make a grunge album?
Never! When the whole grunge thing happened, I kept making albums for Europe and Japan. I always tried remain true to who I am and not follow the latest trend.
The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack is still my favorite movie soundtrack of all time, and I know a lot of people who share the sentiment. Why do you think it’s stood the test of time?
Vince Dicola did an awesome job on the score for “Transformers: The Movie”. “The Touch” and “Dare” are both great songs. There was a certain magic there that has remained to this day.
Speaking of great songs- Southern Rain, off your newest album, is gorgeous. What inspired it?
Thanks, Southern Rain is one of my favorite songs too. I grew up in Florida, and in that song, I kind of step back in time. It means a lot to me.
Very cool. I also read that you’ve worked with some rock legends. What was it like working with Paul Stanley and Journey’s Jonathan Caine?
I wrote with a few guys like them including Jim Vallance who wrote all the Bryan Adams hits. While they are very talented songwriters, the main thing I noticed about those guys, is the work ethic. They would work 12 hour days to make the songs come out great.
Sounds taxing. What’s next for you? And can we catch you on tour sometime?
I just finished a brand new album called “Dream the Dream” which will be released August 27th. I’m hoping to do a tour in the fall. Finally I’d like to thank all my fans for their support and they can check out my website Stanbush.com
Thanks very much Stan! Til all are one.