BT Brian Transeau
  1. Progressive-Sounds: Tell us about what you did on 'This Binary Universe.' The hype is on, the reviews say this is one of the greatest works of electronic music ever. There's nobody that will understand exactly what you've done here unless they have a hell of a musical inspiration or education. Tell us what you did and what excited you most about it.
    BT: This record really is like, three rivers that I love very much, it's the body of water that they all flow into and I had to go and find them. One being classical music. There's three pieces that have a 110-piece orchestra, a lot of intense, beautiful classical harmonies. And then glitchy, very sort of modernist, clicky kind of electronic stuff in the vein of IDM. I spent all summer writing thousands of lines of code to create BreakTweaker, which is responsible for all the splining micro-note values and granular surround sound. The third being asymmetrical meter isorhythms derived from jazz. A lot of the pieces have an incredible density and severity of meter changes.

    You know honestly, more than anything, the most important thing for me to say about this record is that this is my first record that I've made since I became a father. And more than anything, this record is seven lullabies that I wrote with my daughter laying and sleeping in my lap. And I think, more than anything this humanist quality of this record and the kind of lullaby-esque quality to it has everything to do with that. These are the first seven pieces of music that I wrote that my daughter's ever heard of mine. I think that had an extraordinary influence on the sound of this record. It's such cliché too, because you hear about people becoming parents and what a profound impact it has in their lives, but it's had an extraordinary impact on who I am as a human being and on my music.

    It's also freed me so much. I watch Kaia work with objects in a way that's just, so hyper-creative and playful. She works with concepts and objects in such creative ways and it just made me say, what the hell is a computer and what the hell is a Speak & Spell, what the hell is violin, viola and cello and contrabass? What are these things? More than anything, they're conceptual objects that are so rooted into this rudimentary kind of way of thinking and being. Watching her grow and her cognitive abilities develop and watching her command of language develop, things like that. Having her sign to me at the zoo -- I've been signing with her since she was six months old, she signs and speaks English very well, and she's speaking Spanish really good too! But she didn't have a sign for "seal" and so she signs me "swimming puppy fish." And I'm like; yeah I need to take some of that into what I do. It really profoundly influence my work, especially watching Kaia grow.

    'As the music all came together and all these beautiful, conceptual ideas became a reality that I saw functioning as a body of music. It struck me that it'd be beautiful to have it accompanied by visual counterpoint.'

    As the music all came together and all these beautiful, conceptual ideas became a reality that I saw functioning as a body of music. It struck me that it'd be beautiful to have it accompanied by visual counterpoint. That's when I literally posted messages all over anything like Craigslist, asking my friends that were directors, and animators and filmmakers all over the world, to hanging flyers at CalArts. After literally thousands of emails with potential collaborators, we got it together and made it happen. The exciting thing about this is that from the beginning, I was told it couldn't exist. Like it wouldn't happen. I had business people saying, "Oh, well, you want to animate a 14 minute piece?" Like, "Are you kidding?" That for real good animation it's going cost a million dollars. And I just didn't listen to them. If I had listened to them it wouldn't exist. And literally this was made so hip hop and ghetto it could be funny. Like, I was taking back-end payments from my gigs in cash and paying animators. I feel like Jay-Z, I swear to God! But it was something new, and if nobody ever listens to it I will always feel like it was worth it. It was a really beautiful process making this record and touring it is going to be exceptional man. I just can't wait. We're going to do something really, really special, and something people I think will be really excited about.

  2. Progressive-Sounds: Talk to me about your tour plans for the album. The first seven dates are exclusive showings of 'This Binary Universe' in seven cities that give you exclusive time with the fans. What do you have in store after that?
    BT: Through October, starting I think on my birthday October 4th, in Mexico, we're going to take this through about 25 dates. I'm going to do it like my old one guy live show. So it's going to be me with a barrage of synthesizers and drum machines and like, some sick-ass Pink Floyd style lighting. And the show will features four or five songs from 'This Binary Universe' and then I'm going to play a ton of my old songs that people are asking to hear a lot. So that's going to be a hybrid 'This Binary Universe' and my old live set tour in October.

    Then in mid-to-late November and December we're going to go out and perform just 'This Binary Universe' with projection and surround sound and just a ton of circuit-bent and found-sound instruments, sitting on an oriental rug with candles lit. Some nights we'll improvise for up to an hour on a single piece. I mean God knows how long some of these shows will go. It's going to be myself, Brian Trifon that works at my studio -- he's going to be playing a ton of different string instruments -- and Ben Grossman -- who played the vielle à roue on Monster -- he's going to be playing the hurdy gurdy, hammered dulcimer, live percussion and drums. All of us are just going to be playing a myriad of instruments depending on the track.

    I'm really excited to get out there and do this, I think we're going to get out and do something really, really special. That's really what's happening. This whole thing starts this in Seattle, and then this will go through Christmas for me.

  3. Progressive-Sounds: What other projects do you have in the pipeline? You've been working on film scores, collaborations and multiple album projects, when will we see the fruition of those efforts?

    'I have two films coming out, "Surveillance" which is now called "Look" comes out November, and "Catch and Release" -- the movie I did for Sony --.'

    I've got a ton of other stuff going on that I've worked on earlier in the year. I have two films coming out, "Surveillance" which is now called "Look" comes out November, and "Catch and Release" -- the movie I did for Sony -- is probably going to come out just after Christmas. I produced a bunch of sounds for Tiesto's album and sang on one called "Break My Fall" that I'm gagging to play out at my live sets but I can't because I want to be respectful! But it's a monster, man, it's really killer. And I've been working on my follow-up to Emotional Technology too; I'd say I'm a good 80-85% of the way through that.

    I've also got the indie record I'm doing with Tommy Stinson from The Replacements, he plays for Guns n' Roses now. That album is called "By Golden Means," and God only knows when or where we're going to put that out. But actually two of the songs that we wrote as a band are in "Surveillance" so that's where you can hear them to start with. But that album is just really beautiful. I found myself in my living room drinking beer and playing an accordion. It's mental, man. Playing according, glockenspiel, hammered dulcimer and ukulele, live drums in my living room, a lot of bass, and just total weirdness. It's beautiful, melodic, lo-fi, crappy sound recording indie stuff, but a beautiful, really cool record, and a lot of fun to do.

    There's just so much music that I'm excited about. My software is going to come out next year and just trying to keep up with myself, really.

  4. Progressive-Sounds: So you've got BreakTweaker coming out soon. Now is that the only plugin you've got going on or do you have others in development as well? With the kind of stuff you're doing, you're right, your limitation is the hardware and software, and you have to come up with your own at that point.
    BT: No, exactly. There will be two first releases for my company Sonic Architecture. There's going to be two lines: A line of studio tools. BreakTweaker is the first and there'll be another one soon after. Those are for the sound design realm, designed primarily for the studio. Then there's going to be a whole line of tools and plugins that are designed primarily for live performance, first of which is going to be the stutter-edit. That thing is just fuckin' retarded, dude, it's ridiculous. It'll be coming out at the same time.

  5. Progressive-Sounds: So start from the top on This Binary Universe. How did the inspiration start? You'd just finished ET, what made you sit down and say, "I want to make a record that's just totally off," that just totally changes focus and direction?
    BT: The first piece that I wrote was 'Dynamic Symmetry'. It was very organic. It was like, suddenly congealed into a piece of music. I write constantly, and when I finished that piece I played it for my friend Patty Jenkins that directed 'Monster.' She listened to it and said, "Honey, this is a whole album. You need to make an album like that." And literally Patty was the person that said that to me. I said, "I think this is music for crazy people, I don't know that this makes any sense." She was like, "No no no, you need to make an album." So, I sat down and sketched up a couple things, 'The Antikythera Mechanism' and '1.618', and instantly it was like, "Oh my God this really is an album." And so, it was written really quickly, honestly, but the things that took a long time were the rhythmic figures that we had to design BreakTweaker to accomplish. You couldn't do them by hand. It would've literally taken me five or six years to do those rhythmic figures by hand. Looking at some of them is a billion times more impressive than listening to them. But there's some really cool stuff going on rhythmically on this record, and I think harmonically and melodically too. But literally, the catalyst for doing it was that one piece of music.

    To me 'This Binary Universe' has an extreme sort of hopefulness to it, and it also has this underlined sadness or nostalgia that's all wrapped in this feeling of hope. And my favorite music is what that feels like to me. This kind of sad hopefulness. '

    I'm finding that more and more, I think if there's a flaw on a record like Emotional Technology -- and Movement In Still Life to a degree as well -- is that they pull me in a lot of different directions emotionally. I think I just sorta had this epiphany like; I want to make records that have like, a range of feeling. So you're kind of in the same place the whole time. To me 'This Binary Universe' has an extreme sort of hopefulness to it, and it also has this underlined sadness or nostalgia that's all wrapped in this feeling of hope. And my favorite music is what that feels like to me. This kind of sad hopefulness. So I really wanted that to be the feeling of the whole album, whereas my next album is more of a follow-up to Emotional Technology. That's more like, this kinda Death Cab For Cutie kind of, put the top down on your car and drive with music blaring really loud, but then... with sad lyrics. It pulls you in two directions. So you're like, "Yeah, this is happy music!" and listen to some of the lyrics and you're like, "Fuck me this is heavy shit!"

    So I don't know. Everything is splitting off into its own projects instead of pulling people into fifty different directions on one body of work. I'm excited to do that, to just put out more music, but I want the records that I make at this part of my life to have a feeling to them or a realm of feeling. When you put on My Bloody Valentine record, you get a feeling. When you put on The Blue Nile, it's a feeling. When you put on a Depeche Mode album, for the most part it's a feeling. At this point in my life, I want to make records that sound like that. I may go back to not wanting to do that, but right now that is something I very much want to do.


Recent Interview

SOSChris FortierDale AndersonSpookyJimmy Van MJames TalkBTJohn DigweedSander KleinenbergDark GlobeTerry GrantLostepAndrew KellyMomuSashaSteve LawlerFormulateKirsty HawkshawChris SaltNick Warren