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Interview: Brian Transeau – Singer, Songwriter and Producer

Brian Transeau is one of the most under-rated producers in the contemporary music landscape. With a discography that includes musical veterans, like Sting and Tori Amos, in addition to “Pop,” his radio-friendly collaboration with N*SYNC, there is no denying the range and eclecticism of Transeau’s songwriting and production talents.

As an audio technician, Brian Transeau is highly-regarded as a pioneer in electronic music and widely-credited for his development and use of the stutter edit, granular synthesis, and nano-correcting. In 2009, “BT” would channel fifteen years of professional expertise into the launch of Sonik Architects, a software company.

To date, Brian Transeau’s work has been featured in more than 40 film and video game soundtracks. And outside of his work for others, he has six studio albums to his credit: Ima (1995), ESCM (1997), Movement in Still Life (1999), Emotional Technology (2003), This Binary Universe (2006), and These Hopeful Machines (2010).

In the midst of a promotional campaign for These Hopeful Machines, “BT” managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on the science behind his music, the influence of Dr. Richard Boulanger, and the global appreciation of electronic music.

As you celebrate your fifteenth year in the music business, what immediate reflections do you have on the dominance – and continued relevance – of electronic music?

I think it’s pretty amazing that it’s come to pass – this thing that a small bunch of us prophesized in the early nineties — that electronic music would actually become a dominant force in mainstream music culture. And we’ve watched it kind of blossom from the mid to late nineties; especially as far as films and other forms of visual media, video games and those kind of things. And no one will call it this, but electronic music has taken over mainstream music in general, from Indie rock to hip-hop, and that really excites me – especially since this is something I’ve long participated in since I was a kid. So to see it get the kind of critical accolades it’s finally getting is really exciting.

In 1995, when your debut album, Ima, received a proper release, the music industry’s most-expensive music video of all-time hit MTV’s airwaves. When you think about the historical legacy of “Scream” by Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, along with the rise of YouTube, what challenges do you think electronic musicians have in enticing younger members of the visual music age?

I think it’s really a natural fit for electronic music, because of course there’s a plethora of different sorts of electronic music. Things that are really kind of pushing the edge with currently available technologies, I think, that it’s a really natural fit for people to be experimenting with the visual domain.

I actually think in live performance we’re going to see more of an element of actual live performance that incorporates a visual esthetic where the performer is going to incorporate both the visuals and the music. And there have been some tools that have cropped up that have kind of aid that process. But I actually think it’s a really natural fit, because if you think about music and sort of the audio spectrum and then light as a visual spectrum, it’s very similar things; and I think people that are good at working with one are often good at working with the other.

In the liner notes of This Binary Universe, you pay respect to Dr. Boulanger, who you credit for “introducing [you] to cSound.” You also state that “all [your] work to follow would not be possible without it.” What details can you share about your professional relationship? And in what ways does his influence shine through on your most recent effort, These Hopeful Machines?

About Clayton Perry