Oct 05, 2011
interview
BT

Brian Transeau is no dummy when it comes to EDM–he’s a singer/songwriter/DJ/producer who also happens to make audio software. BT spoke with us at Electric Zoo about the major cultural shift happening in the music industry, & what he had to say was nothing short of fascinating.

BT feat Kristy Hawkshaw - A Million Stars (Original Mix) [Nettwerk]
LessThan3: How did you enjoy your Laptop Symphony experience at Electric Zoo?
Brian: It was great! With a festival like this you worry how daytime stuff is going to be like. At first we just had a bunch of people in the front and nobody in the back—but then in like five minutes it became packed and I really enjoyed it. It’s such a different dynamic to play live than doing a normal laptop set. It’s a lot of fun to interact with musicians, play the keyboards, and to sing. When I’m not doing a live set, my tune selection really goes all over the place. A lot of the stuff I’ve been listening to recently for the past couple of years is really inspiring to me on a production level. Everything from IDM to indie dance, drumstep, dubstep, and moombahton. I played in Denver recently, funny story, and I went to go pee in the bathroom. There’s a guy next me in the stall complaining “I thought BT was going to play vocal trance. He only played like three of his songs! What the hell dude! He played drumstep at like 170bpm. If he didn’t play a Tiesto song I would have died. Seriously, WTF.” Then he came out of the stall and I said “hey” and he said “oh f*ck.” I’ll play anything, really, and for half an hour I was playing tracks like Aliens by Figure at 184bpm. I really feel that drumstep’s tempo has such an amazing pocket.
LessThan3: How do you feel about the current upswing of “bass music” in America?
Brian: The bass movement is quickly creating this incredible divide because you have your 35 year-olds and up who want a place that has bottle service where people wear nice shoes. Then you have these 18 to 25 year-olds who just don’t give a f*ck. They are going to party and you can play any tempo. You can play anything as long as it has energy. I’m not talking about groups of just 500 people. I’m talking about crowds of 12 to 15 thousand people at a rave in North Carolina in a field going from 184bpm to 90bpm to 102bpm to 108bpm moombahton stuff. It’s really such an exciting time for dance music and mainstream music culture. Ke$ha, Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, it’s dance music. All of it. We won. We conquered America for real. We’ve been saying it for twenty years and it happened. I have a lot of thanks to the guys who are doing it on mainstream radio like David Guetta and in other ways Tiesto and Armin van Buuren.
LessThan3: As someone who’s been a star in the scene for over a decade, did you ever see EDM getting to this level?
Brian: Ever since I was a kid I’ve participated in the electronic dance music community. I can’t answer that I knew my life would turn out like this, but I for sure wanted it to. It’s the only thing that I am passionate about in the way that I’m passionate about it. Being a parent now kind of supercedes everything, but I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love and to do it for—well, I’ve been making music professionally for over twenty years now. I started making music when I was four years old, so I’ve really been doing it my whole life.
LessThan3: If you were a teenager today with a passion for EDM and a desire to get into production, where would you start?
Brian: That’s a terrific question, and if you would have asked me three months ago, I would have answered differently. What I’m realizing now is that you have this entire generation of people right now who are like fourteen to twenty years old that are jut getting into production. It’s a group of people that normally would be playing video games, but instead they’re getting software like Fruityloops and Ableton while working at Subway. A lot of the traditional music education systems have literally been kneecapped over the last few months. You do not need to sit in a classroom and have someone explain to you I, IV, V and II, V, I chord progressions; you can just go to YouTube and watch tutorials all day long. The day a record comes out like that new Wolfgang Gartner track Menage A Trois, the same day there are videos up explaining how to “do that buffer” in a five-minute tutorial. If you are that age and you’re looking to get into production, get Fruityloops or Ableton Live and start watching tutorials on YouTube immediately. I just think about when I was fourteen years old and outboard gear was tens of thousands of dollars in a studio. I only got to touch a compressor or an 1176 EQ when I was working as a sound engineer for someone else. Nowadays there are plugins that emulate them. Of course, there is still a place for that outboard gear hardware and I still use some of that stuff. There is also a lot being lost in the generation coming up now. There are some things being forgotten by the method of learning I just explained. However, as far as making great music quickly, that is the way to go. Eventually when you get to the level when you can do whatever you want to do musically, then I would recommend studying some of the old stuff. It’s a two-fold process.
LessThan3: As a highly respected audio techie, what software do you say is really changing the game right now?
Brian: Ableton Live. When Ableton came out, it literally changed everything about the modulator of plugins, macros, controllers… it changed everything. It is the most important piece of music technology that has happened in the last twenty years.
LessThan3: Have you heard the Jaytech & James Grant remix of Flaming June, and will it ever be released?
Brian: Yes, it’s amazing! It’s going to come out! I did a new version of Flaming June and we’re going to release them together. I used a lot of the old sounds from the classic Paul van Dyk mix but brought them up to date.
LessThan3: The music video for Flaming June is absolutely beautiful. Will there be another for the new version?
Brian: Yes, we’re going to do a new one!
LessThan3: Your track The Emergency made our #1 pick for trance track of 2010. Are you looking to collaborate with Andrew Bayer again?
Brian: Yes, totally. We made an incredible new song for my next album. It’s really good.
LessThan3: Have you heard Andrew Bayer’s album?
Brian: Oh yes; he’s so talented, and he’s a great guy. I really pushed him hard to go to Berklee College of Music, my alma mater. Someone like Andrew is an exception to what I was saying. He’s got an extraordinary amount of natural aptitude. Before he went to Berklee, he wasn’t a guy who needed to watch tutorials you know? He went and he learned the old stuff too. I can’t wait to hear what he’s doing in ten years.
LessThan3: What do you look for when joining a label and what aspects or services are you looking for or finding missing in today’s label based landscape?
Brian: I’m going to go Socratic dialectic that one. What I’m looking for I’m not seeing, honestly. The only point for having a partner right now is if they’re going to be a strong marketing vehicle, work together with you on social media, and understand the new landscape. Right now I can directly reach people that support what I do and have supported me for literally twenty years. I don’t need to do that through a person. It’s kind of like in the early days in the early days of Christianity, they got all the clerics together and said the only way you could communicate with God is if you spoke to the priest inside a church and donated money. I mean like, really? I can go out in the woods and that feels like a religious experience to me. It’s the same thing in regards to record labels. Why do I need you to talk to my audience through a label unless they’re going to reach areas that are hard for artists to reach? I can reach my audience already, who are so supportive it’s crazy. I have fans that have been supporting me for a decade and more. I put something out and they’ll tell a hundred people and that’ll fan out to like 3000 more. It’s remarkable how just a small faction of people who so genuinely support me can spread my music to so many. I’ve even come to know a few of them and become friends. It’s really important that a label is going to spend money on promotion in ways I need help with.
LessThan3: So you’re looking for a vehicle that brings together all the fragmented styles of social networking, marketing, and releasing music to the fans?
Brian: Yeah, and in fact, I don’t think it would be a label anymore. Something new has to happen. It’s part management, part label, part day-to-day stuff with someone in-house that does social media. It has someone that does design, updating logos and visuals–that’s very important. They need to be seeding all the social media sites with photos, they need send someone to events. A vehicle that’s an agent, a manager, a marketing house, a record label—all of that. There is a major divide between people that work in music now. I see people that are in their twenties that have some ideas but are disorganized, and they see people that are in their fifties that are from the old system who worked on Steely Dan records and know the old music industry but don’t understand the new stuff. If you had somebody from that old world come together with a great bunch of young people who know their shit now, that is a win! If there is a new business model that supports the artist and a joint-ventureship that respects the artist and how they want to interact with their fans, that’s how you win.
LessThan3: If the world were ending in LessThan3 minutes, and you had an iPod with every song ever made on it, what would you listen to?
Brian: : I wouldn’t listen to music. I would enjoy the silence.
LessThan3: Describe your sound in LessThan3 words.
Brian: Emotional Electronic Music.
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