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BT - Mad Skillz BT


DotMusic Interviews BT - Monday, Nov. 22 1999

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It was back in 1994 that American Brian Transeau (BT) first developed his taste for all things British - especially the music. He recalls the night when he first saw his friend and musical collaborator Sasha wow the house at a Babealicious club night in a dusty barn in the middle of nowhere. The night also rates as the best DJ set BT has seen Sasha play - ever. " I'll never forget that night," BT explains. "There were thousands of sweating, screaming kids, and he played 'Embracing The Future'. I watched people go ape shit to a track that I cared so much about and had made in my little bedroom at home in Maryland. The music was unbelievable - he played 'Grace' as the last tune and I was like: 'I'm moving here!"

'Embracing The Future', taken from BT's debut album 'Ima', formed the prototype for the progressive trance sound which is so prevalent at the moment. It was through this shared musical taste that BT and Sasha first forged their long friendship and the start of various collaborations. BT still rates the music that Sasha plays, but believes a lot of the current progressive music has lamed out: "The music was called progressive house music but to me now it's regressive house. The tempo has speeded up and with the all the random noises it can sound like gabba."

With that in mind, BT's latest album 'Movement In Still Life' has a dominant breakbeat feel to it with collaborations from the likes of Hybrid, Adam Freeland, Beber, Sasha, Paul Van Dyk and DJ Rap. The album displays BT's famously honed production skills - he's a classically trained musician - alongside his knack for tapping into the dance zeitgeist. "Hearing stuff from the new-skool breaks scene through going out to nights like Bedrock was the first time I've been inspired by something new since early drum & bass," explains BT.

Although it takes it's main cue from the breakbeat scene, the musical styles are varied enough to make it one of the best dance albums of the year. BT's talent for textured, intricate music with tight arrangements makes for a lush, engaging aural experience. The album also has Brian's debut vocal outing on 'Satellite', and a collaboration with trance maestro Paul Van Dyk on 'Namistai', proving BT is still in touch with the quality end of the trance scene.

BT's latest collaboration with Sasha is a chill out album which they've just finished work on at Peter Gabriel's studio in Bath. Fans will probably be surprised at this change of direction for a Sasha/BT album, but Brian reckons it was a natural step: "For our own records, we do dance music, but if we did it all the time you'd get really bored of it. It's an natural extension being interested in music to branch out and try other stuff."

The as yet untitled album is out in spring on the Reel World label and even features one track with Peter Gabriel singing. "It's totally a listening album," says BT. "Total chill - if anything it has a dub influence, with a couple of slow breakbeat tracks and lots of ethnic percussion. There's African and Moroccan sounds and amazing singers including Hookwave form Tanzania."

It was through Peter Gabriel that BT was recommended for soundtrack work for the new Morgan Freeman/Gene Hackman film 'Under Suspicion'. Having already done the soundtrack to the follow up to 'Swingers', Doug Liman's US club film 'Go', BT was approached by British director Steven Hopkins. "Doing soundtracks is completely different to making dance music," explains BT. "Your whole job is to emotionally counterpoint what is happening visually. It's difficult and challenging."

Thankfully BT is not fully turning his back on dance music. He still gets a buzz from playing live at events in LA and has some dates penciled in for Cream and Gatecrasher with Sasha early next year. He also revealed that Sasha is writing for Madonna on her new album :"She is making an entire progressive house album right now - Madonna's great as in America she's really created an awareness to dance music."

So there you go. A classically trained musician with his fingers in various musical pies. Chill out albums with Sasha, movie soundtracks for Gene Hackman and his current boundary bending breakbeat album. Six years ago BT's vision foresaw the contemporary fixation for all things trancey. 'Movement In Still Life' may well have the same prophetic outlook for the new skool breakbeat scene.

Andy Strickland

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