CENTURY OF MOONLIGHT – The F/V Moonlight leaves ANB Harbor on the last day of 2009, under the last moon of the year. It was the second full moon in December, making it a blue moon. The boat was built in Sitka 100 years ago, in 1918. A story on boat building in Sitka is published in today's Sitka Sentinel. (Sentinel File Photo by James Poulson)

BT TALKS TO SENTINEL IN LAS VEGAS: Famed DJ Finds Right Mix at DEF CON

By Daniel Olbrych / @idontdrivecars
Special to the Sentinel
     It’s 1986 and Brian Transeau is 15. A soldering pen in hand keeps him occupied on a Friday night while he meddles with a variety of circuit boards.
     Socially speaking, he is an outcast. And understandably so: Brian is one of the youngest students enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
     Fast forward to 2013, another Friday night and Brian, now more commonly known as BT, is walking offstage to the thunderous applause of a convention hall full of people who know exactly who he is. 
You can still hear the crowd even as the stage doors close. The cacophony of hackers, phreakers and tinkerers attending DEF CON 21 is ear-splitting.
     DEF CON is the world’s biggest hacker conference, and it has been held in Las Vegas every summer since 1993.
BT is clearly in his element here. On stage for his performance, surrounded by an array of digital playback gear, samplers and keyboards that he uses to make and mix music on the fly, he started the show with a proclamation about being a nerd. Funny how so few of his listeners are actually aware of Brian’s honesty, but his enthusiasm is righteous. 
     Even at 1 a.m. the conference halls are pulsing with life. Rather than sit in a green room, I opt to explore the casino conference venue with Brian. When I first heard that he would be here I contacted him and asked if I could tag along with him for a story, and he agreed.
     Now, as we meander through the crowd and take in the sounds, we’re occasionally interrupted by a fan asking Brian if it’s okay for a photo. “Of course,” he always says. Time is seemingly unimportant. Brian is just excited to be here.
We step over some cables and end up behind one of the many DJ booths. Brian is friends with the house DJ, Austin (a/k/a Au5), who is currently spinning. He watches Au5 go to work, bending and twisting sounds, his creativity is inspiring. And you can tell Brian loves this.
     BT is at the forefront of the tech head musicians who are transforming the way music is created and played back in live performances, in the studio and, in BT’s case, film scores.
     BT’s first two albums more resemble the sounds currently filling the room we’re in and are unequivocally trance. But with his third effort, “Movement in Still Life” (1999), Brian began to break the restraints of his DJ title. Two versions of the album were released, an American version and another for everywhere else. He explains how the business side of things can sometimes get in the way of artistic vision. His preferred version, an unreleased third incarnation of the album, is a sort of combination of the two.
     The change in sound happened organically, and with a fan base it became easier for BT to explore these different musical avenues. His classical training put to use on a grand scale, no longer just trance, “Still Life” encapsulates everything from rock music to rap and even features tracks where Brian sings with acoustic guitar accompaniment. This exploratory trend continued to evolve with every album, and in 2011 earned BT a Grammy nomination for his opus “These Hopeful Machines.”
      I ask him if it’s ever frustrating being a DJ, considering his classical training. “I’m gonna answer that from the vantage point of my mother, who is psychiatrist,” he said. “If I was wrapped up in perception of me, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. If your identity is wrapped up in people’s perception of you, there’s no forward motion in that.”
     Brian composed scores for “The Fast and the Furious” and “Monster,” and has worked with Pixar on multiple occasions. He recently scored the new ABC drama “Betrayal,” which will air next September. Brian enjoys working with an orchestra, but says the downside is how time consuming it is.
      I ask Brian what happened to his “Zoolander” score and he laughs. His off-the-record response furthers the impression that he’s just a regular guy. His career not nearly as important to him as his daughter. More than anything, it’s important that he can be a good father. He adds, “I like being there to pick her up from school.”
     Our expansive conversation intrigues Brian. Not homed in on the glaringly obvious subject of his new album, “A Song Across Wires,” which is set to be released today. We’re just talking. He’s a guy with a million ideas in his head, so talking it out suits him.
     Not only does he program DJ software, but his new ideas are borderline science fiction. Brian currently is working on live orchestral augmentation. For starters, that’s using a computer to alter, in real time, a performing quartet. It’s an imaginative idea that I don’t doubt he will bring to fruition.
     Brian is completely devoted to furthering the technical growth for music production and manipulation, whether to be specifically applied to DJing or not. “Music is powerful, the universal language.” he remarks. But ultimately, he wants to reach people emotionally.
     “If you put even a little bit of joy, if they feel even a little bit better because of your music, you’ve done something of value ... it’s like the Lorenz theory ....” Brian adds. The Lorenz theory suggests that in randomness there is order, a ripple effect, where the smallest of moments will eventually make a larger impact.
     Despite his success Brian seems less interested in being famous than in being a humanist. His love of music and daughter are apparent. After an hour we make our way to the casino floor, zigzag through the maze of slot machines and roulette tables, and part ways.
     It’s loud on a casino floor and I wonder what Brian hears through the chaotic harmony. The gears in his head constantly turning, his art constantly evolving.
     Despite Brian’s complexities, there lies such a simple reason for his actions. “With music you can speak to people, despite your native tongue, through cultural differences. It’s astonishing, it’s why I started doing this and why I’m still doing it today.”

 Sponsored links

Login Form

Facebook

calendar