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original contains 6,178 edits.
For the past decade, Brian Transeau,
better known to the dance music world
as BT, has been responsible for many wonderful
and amazing tracks, including "Blue
Skies," "Flaming June,"
and "Embrace The Future" plus
a list of numerous others. In the beginning,
BT embraced classical composers such as
Debussy, Chopin, and Bach, as his heroes
and has molded himself into their modern
day equivalent. Although the tools of
the trade may have advanced, the desire
to create a piece of art remains. And
for this gifted musician, the dream continues
to the amazement of few and gratitude
From his studio while preparing for
an upcoming tour to support the release
of his latest album Emotional Technology,
Brian Transeau, better known as BT, took
a few moments to discuss the album, his
philosophies on music and production,
and what has driven him to maintain a
long career in the dance music culture.
Shawn: What first drew you
to dance music since you were mainly into
classical music when you were younger?
BT: Really the first thing, the
very first thing, was early breakdancing
music and culture. I'll never forget seeing
and hearing early breakdancing music and
breakdancing itself. And just realizing
that, you know, that it represented this
sort of infinite tonal palette from which
my heroes that were composers as a child
would have loved to have drawn from. And
it just really drew me into it. I never
forget listening to Kraftwerk and reading
about them and realizing that they built
half of the instruments that were making
these mad bleeps and bloops. So I was
like, "God, I so wanna do that, man."
With Emotional Technology, where
did you get the title from?
The title actually came from a fan. It's the first time I've ever done anything
like that. The ironic thing is that in
making a list of titles, I had titles
that had both of those words in it, but
never together. I always make a list of
like ten titles and we had a t-shirt design
contest and one of the people that designed
a t-shirt wrote Emotional Technology on
it. And I was like, "Oh my god, that's
it." It was those two words.
Up to Emotional Technology, how would you describe the progression of your sound from Ima and ECSM to now? How do you think it has changed or grown?
I think my productions have gotten more
creative. I think that I've grown in a
more song-orientated direction. And actually
something that I've really missed, but
it wasn't until... I needed to make this
album that I made. And it wasn't until
being done with this record that I realized
that I really want to do some tracks.
And I haven't dome that for a long time.
But I think my projects have grown very
much in a song-orientated and detailed
production-orientated direction. And I'd
like to think that all of the music I've
done has a lot of integrity and it's really
important music to me. It's awesome, you
know, it's like keeping journals. It's
so, when you think about it... I was nineteen
years old when I made most of the music
on Ima. And I did it in my bedroom with
four pieces of equipment and without a
record deal. And I didn't think anybody
would give a shit, and it runs out I was
wrong. I feel really blessed that I've
been able to do this for a living, you
know what I mean? It's awesome to be able
to look at the records in that way and
realize that. And the funny thing too...
this is a cool conversation. That being
limited at the time when I did, you know,
a record like Ima, it allowed me a certain
degree of possibilities that only having
limitations with the equipment you work
with allowed. And it's so funny, because
now I meet people at shows or around and
they'll say, "Dude, I'm trying to
get gear," and, "I'm trying
to make tracks," and, "I've
got a copy of Reason" and, "I
wanna buy some keyboards and stuff."
And it's like, "Hang on a second
man." It's like so... (laughs) you
get to being really philosophical. Because,
not just making music, but living is still
about being content with where you're
at, you know. I think so many people race
through their lives thinking, "When
I get this," "When I get to
this point," When I get this girl"
and I've had this happen in my career,
"When this happens and I'm going
to be happy." And you realize that
living, as making music is, it's really
about the process. There's never a moment
of arrival. So, I encourage people that
read this that are out there going, "Fuck,
I've only got a copy of Reason and a USB
keyboard" to know that people have
made significant art with limited things,
and that's a good thing.
Following the break-in at your studio
that occurred while you were working on
tracks for this album, has anything been
No, it hasn't. And it's funny, I kind
of vacillate between thinking one of two
things... that either the people who stole
the stuff didn't know what they were taking
and they just took it and formatted my
hard drives and sold the computers. Or
that, because, if they knew hat they were
taking, that stuff will definitely surface
at some point. You know, whether it's
on P2P stuff or file-sharing servers or
whatever. That stuff will show up at some
point if people knew what they were taking.
You know, when someone kicks you in the
balls, you can either bend over... (laughs)
or you can rub your balls and hope they
feel better later. (laughs) I chose to
do the latter, you know what I mean? That
was a really tough thing man, but it was
also, it was necessary at the time for
where I was at. And it would have been
a very record. And stuff happens for reasons.
Was any of what ended up on the record from around that period? Did you
have any of these tracks already?
Absolutely man, and I had to redo them.
And the ones that survived that transition
like... I fought for a lot of those tracks
to exist. Like "Dark Heart Dawning,"
which is one of my favorite pieces of
music I've ever done. Especially on a
lyrical level, I'm so proud for finally
saying. You know, because it's about things
that you're not really supposed to talk
about. And to crystallize it into something
like that, and for my friends to be so
moved by it saying, "I can't believe
you're writing about your childhood like...
honestly.” So there's things like that
song and "Animals”, where "the
only constant is change." "Somnambulist"
was on there.
Do you find it hard writing lyrics?
For instance, the word "cyclical"
stuck out when I was listening to the
track "Circles." That word is
hard enough to say and you used it in
(laughs) That's funny, because my friend
Shawn was like... he said the same thing,
except he said it about "convolving"
in "Circles." He said, "I
can't believe you found a way to use convolving
in a song." I don't know. Honestly,
it's kind of from reading too much. I'm
always looking for ways to, because a
lot of the poetry that I like is very
wordy, sort of loquacious-type stuff.
And I love when poets or songwriters are
able to work a word into a song. Not for
the sake of using the word, but because
it's the appropriate word to use and they
put their finger right on the very word.
The guys I really look up to, you know,
are able to... the English language is
such a beautiful and powerful language
and I'm always so impressed with people
that real command of it. Not just in terms
of being articulate and outspoken, but
in terms of actual vocabulary. I think
it's like being a musician and having
studied a lot and being able to pull out
from your sort of bag of tricks when appropriate
the right thing at the right time.
Another thing I wanted to ask you
about was Bill Hamel (Sunkissed/Teknology).
I know he worked with you on this album.
Bill's a badass!
How has it been helping others? Since I know you have always been one to
reach out and help other people that are
on their way up with touring and talking
to people about dance music and dance
culture. Do you ever feel overwhelmed,
like there are so many people wanting
to pick your brain?
Yeah, I do feel overwhelmed a lot. Yeah
I do... absolutely. But the upside of
that is... you know, what I find really
weird is like, I'll get the strangest
messages sometimes. And it's so funny
too, because everybody always talks about,
you know, like harping upon one person
saying a negative thing. I get probably
two or three thousand instant messages
a day being like, "Dude, your record's
the shit!" or, "I saw this show,
it was the shit!" But once in a while,
I'll get a guy that will instant message
me and be like, "You're a punk dude.
You're a sellout." You know, "You
worked with N'Sync... blah, blah, blah."
And then I'll say, "Hey listen man,"
taking the N'Sync thing as an example
since this happened a couple of days ago.
I said, "Hey, working with those
guys, Justin and J.C., who have become
really good friends of mine, was a great
lesson in judgment for me and you ought
to take a lesson from that too. Because
I thought the exact same thing that you
thought. In that, here are two cheesy,
homogenized, corporate, boy band fodder,
blah blah blah, call it what you will,
wank, right? And I meet these guys and
I realize, wow, these are two really talented
guys and they're trapped in this cheesy,
homogenized, corporate structure. And
they want to break of that. Fuck, I'm
all for the punk rock, let's break out
of the mold sort of shit! And that's why
I worked with them, you know?” And then
the guy will be like, "Uh, what kind
of drum machine do you use?" (laughs)
It's like, if you hate me so much, why
are you asking me production tips?
Yeah, he didn't really care, he just
wanted some help.
Yeah, it's like they want to kick you
in the balls and then pick your brain!
And I'm like... it cracks me up actually.
All of that stuff aside, and which is
a very small part of the people that contact
me, I'm so lucky to give opportunities
to a bunch of people, you know, that I
may not have gotten.
Well let's talk about movies. You've done a few scores now, composed for
a few films, is any of Emotional Technology
going to find its way into a film?
I'd like to think yes man. I mean, I'd
love to see a song like, you know, "Animals"
or "Dark Heart Dawning" end
up in a film where the only constant is
change, you know? Something like really
moving and epic would mean a lot to me
if it showed up in a cool film. Yeah,
I'd love that.
Have you finished any films recently?
I'm working on one right now, I'm working on a movie with Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci called The Monster. It's a really dark film. It's a really, really amazing film. But it's very dark and it makes it really hard to work on, honestly. Because I'm so identified with the subject matter of this movie. When you identify with the protagonist of the film, it makes it really difficult to participate in.
Next is getting ready for this tour
man! And getting geared up to... I've
been working on some plug-ins over the
last year with a friend that we've coded
for the Mac. And I've actually developed
a plug-in so that I can do live, sample
accurate, stutter edits. So I'm going
to take this plug-in out on tour and it's
going to be pretty fucking crazy! I'll
be able to sing into my laptop on stage
and capture lines and do live stutter
edits to them using my hands. I'm going
to use these things that are kind of like
d-beam controllers and it's going to look
like gestural dancing. I'm going to be
able to control the stutters with my hands.
For someone who is starting out, say with two turntables, a mixer, and
a couple of records, what should be their
The first thing you've got to learn is to beat-mix. But I really encourage
people to start looking at some of the
programs you can use as a means of DJ'ing.
Because you can do so much cooler stuff
off of a laptop. So I would encourage
people that are on two turntables and
a mixer to check out things like Live
and Tracker, because they are really exciting.
But that kind of would be my advice, you
know. A great thing to know how to do
is beat-mix. If you're going to DJ, you're
going to need to know how to beat-mix
and just practice your beat-mixes. Then
it's a matter of putting together some
good tapes and getting someone to give
you a chance. Something that really impresses
me personally, but this so not essential
to do if you're a house DJ or play breaks
or whatever, but I think it is the coolest
damn thing in the world when someone that
doesn't play hip hop can scratch. I just
think it's so badass. That's what I think
is really, really dope about what Bad
Boy Bill does. And really clever too with
the printing the records at the same speed
so he can do hip hop tricks and stuff.
He's a badass man! I think it's really
about finding your own niche more so than
anything. And that can mean a million
different things. Just think outside the
box, think about what's been done before
with two turntables and a mixer, and try
to do something new.
All right man, I appreciate your
Cool, take care of yourself!
-- interview by Shawn Wallace
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