Brian Wayne Transeau (born October 4, 1970), better known by his stage name BT, is an American music producer, composer, technologist, audio technician, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. An artist in the electronica music genre, he is credited as a pioneer of the trance and intelligent dance music styles that paved the way for EDM, and for "stretching electronic music to its technical breaking point." He also creates music within many other styles, such as classical, film composition and bass music.
BT is also known for pioneering the stutter edit. This production technique consists of taking a small fragment of sound and repeating it rhythmically. BT was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for his song "Somnambulist (Simply Being Loved)", recognized as using the largest number of vocal edits in a song (6,178 edits). BT's work with stutter edit techniques led to the formation of software development company Sonik Architects, developer of the sound-processing software plug-ins Stutter Edit and BreakTweaker, and the live audio and visual remix app called Sonifi.
In 2010, BT was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album for These Hopeful Machines. He has produced, remixed, written for, and collaborated with a variety of artists, including Paul van Dyk, Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos, Depeche Mode, NSYNC, Sting, Blake Lewis, The Roots, Guru, Madonna, Britney Spears and Tiësto, and composed original scores for films such as Go, The Fast and the Furious and Monster.
Early life and education
BT was born in Rockville, Maryland on October 4, 1970. His father was an FBI and DEA agent, and his mother a psychiatrist. BT started listening to classical music at the age of 4 and started playing classical piano at an early age, utilizing the Suzuki method. By the age of 8 he was studying composition and theory at the Washington Conservatory of Music. He was introduced to electronic music through the breakdancing culture and the Vangelis score for the film Blade Runner, which led him to discover influential electronic music artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, New Order and Depeche Mode. In high school, he played drums in one band, bass in a ska band and guitar in a punk group. At 15, he was accepted to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he studied jazz and enjoyed experimenting, such as running keyboards through old guitar pedals. BT is a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, guitar, bass, keyboards, synths, sequencers, the glockenspiel, drum machines and instruments he has modified himself. His process for creating songs typically starts with composition on basic instruments, like the piano or an acoustic guitar.
Early career (1989–94)
In 1989, after dropping out of Berklee, BT moved to Los Angeles, where he tried, unsuccessfully, to get signed as a singer-songwriter. Realizing he should focus on the electronic music he was more passionate about, he moved back to Maryland in 1990 and began collaborating with friends Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi of Deep Dish. Together they started Deep Dish Records. Early in his career, BT worked under a variety of musical aliases, including Prana, Elastic Chakra, Elastic Reality, Libra, Dharma, Kaistar and GTB.
In the early years of BT's career, he became a pioneering artist in the trance genre. This despite the fact that he doesn’t consider himself a DJ, since he infrequently spins records and comes from an eclectic music background. He was creating trance music before it was known by that name. When he started out, such common elements as a build, breakdown and drop were unclassified. BT's was a unique interpretation of what electronic music could be. His first trance recordings, "A Moment of Truth" and "Relativity", became hits in dance clubs in the UK. His productions were not yet popular in the US, and he was initially unaware that he had become popular across the Atlantic, where UK DJs like Sasha were regularly spinning his music for crowds. Sasha bought BT a ticket to London, where BT witnessed his own success in the clubs, with several thousand clubbers responding dramatically when Sasha played BT's song. He also met Paul Oakenfold, playing him tracks that would make up his first album. He was quickly signed to Oakenfold's record label, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers.
BT's 1995 debut album Ima, released on Oakenfold's label, was a progressive house effort. The opening track, "Nocturnal Transmission", was featured in The Fast and the Furious. The album also featured a song with Vincent Covello. Blending house beats with sweeping New Age sounds, Ima helped to create the trance sound. "Ima (今)" is the Japanese word for "now". BT has stated that it also means many other things and that the intention of the album is to have a different effect for everyone.
Following the release of Ima, BT began traveling to England regularly. It was during this time that he met Tori Amos. They would collaborate on his song "Blue Skies", which reached the number one spot on Billboard magazine's Dance Club Songs chart in January 1997. This track helped expand BT's notability beyond Europe, into North America. He soon began to produce songs for well-known artists such as Sting, Madonna, Seal, Sarah McLachlan, NSYNC, Britney Spears, Diana Ross and Mike Oldfield.
BT's second album, ESCM (Electric Sky Church Music), released in 1997, features more complex melodies and traditional harmonies along with a heavier use of vocals. The tone of the album is darker and less whimsical than Ima. The album, as a whole, is much more diverse than BT's debut, expanding into drum and bass, breakbeat, hip-hop, rock and vocally-based tracks.
The biggest hit from ESCM was "Flaming June," a modern trance collaboration with German DJ Paul van Dyk. Van Dyk and BT would go on to collaborate on a number of works including "Namistai" (found on the later album Movement in Still Life), as well as van Dyk's remix of BT's "Blue Skies" and "Remember". "Remember" featured Jan Johnston on vocals, and reached #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. BT and Van Dyk also remixed the van Dyk classic "Forbidden Fruit" as well as Dina Carroll's "Run to You", and BT collaborated with Simon Hale on "Firewater" and "Remember."
Movement in Still Life (1999–2002)
In 1999, BT released his third album, Movement in Still Life, and continued his previous experimentation outside of the trance genre. The album features a strong element of nu skool breaks, a genre he helped define with "Hip-Hop Phenomenon" in collaboration with Tsunami One aka Adam Freeland and Kevin Beber. Along with trance collaborations with Paul van Dyk and DJ Rap, Movement includes pop ("Never Gonna Come Back Down" with M. Doughty on vocals), progressive house ("Dreaming" with Kirsty Hawkshaw on vocals) and hip hop-influenced tracks ("Madskill – Mic Chekka", which samples Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message", and "Smartbomb", a mix of funky, heavy riffs from both synthesizers and guitars woven over a hip-hop break). "Shame" and "Satellite" lean toward an alt-rock sound, while "Godspeed" and "Dreaming" fall into classic trance ranks. "Running Down the Way Up", a collaboration with fellow electronic act Hybrid, features sultry vocals and acoustic guitars heavily edited into a progressive breakbeat track.
“Dreaming” and “Godspeed” reached #5 and #10 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, respectively, "Never Gonna Come Back Down" reached #9 the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and #16 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart, and the album reached #166 on the Billboard 200 album charts.
Long interested in branching out into film scoring, BT got the opportunity when director Doug Liman asked him to score Go, a 1999 film about dance music culture. Shortly after creating the score, BT moved to Los Angeles in order to further pursue film scoring. He also began writing music for string quartets to prove his capabilities beyond electronic music. He was then hired to score the film Under Suspicion with a 60-piece string section. For The Fast and the Furious, BT's score featured a 70-piece ensemble, along with polyrhythmic tribal sounds produced by orchestral percussionists banging on car chassis.
In 1999, BT collaborated with Peter Gabriel on the album OVO, the soundtrack to the Millennium Dome Show in London. In 2001, he produced NSYNC's hit single "Pop", which won a 2001 Teen Choice Award for Choice Single, won four MTV Video Music Awards, and reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #9 on the UK Singles chart. In 2002, BT released the compilation album 10 Years in the Life, a two-disc collection of rarities and remixes, including "The Moment of Truth", the first track he ever recorded.
Emotional Technology (2003–05)
BT's fourth studio album, released on August 5, 2003, featured more vocal tracks than his previous fare, including six with vocals by BT himself. Emotional Technology was his most experimental album to date, exploring a range of genres; many consider it the "poppiest" of all his work. Emotional Technology spent 25 weeks on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart, reaching the top spot, and it reached #138 on the Billboard 200 charts. The biggest single from the album, "Somnambulist (Simply Being Loved)", draws heavily from the breakbeats and new wave dance of New Order and Depeche Mode, whom BT has cited as major influences. "Somnambulist" holds the Guinness World Record for the largest number of vocal edits in a single track, with 6,178. It reached #5 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and #98 on the Billboard Hot 100.
BT ventured into television production for Tommy Lee Goes to College for NBC in 2005. It starred Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. He executive-produced the reality television series, the idea for which he developed and sold to NBC.
This Binary Universe (2006–09)
BT's fifth studio album, This Binary Universe, released on August 29, 2006, is his second album released in 5.1 surround sound, the first being the soundtrack to the 2003 film Monster.
The double album highlights a mix of genres, including jazz, breakbeats and classical. Three songs feature a full 110-piece orchestra. Unlike his previous two albums, which featured vocals on almost every track, this album is entirely instrumental. The tracks change genres constantly. For example, "The Antikythera Mechanism" starts off almost lullaby-like, complete with a piano, acoustic guitars and reversed beats; halfway through the track, it explodes with a 110-piece orchestra, followed by a section of breakbeats and ending with the de-construction of the orchestra. Animated videos created by visual effects artist Scott Pagano to accompany each song were included in a DVD packaged along with the CD. This Binary Universe reached #4 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart. BT's company, Sonik Architects, built the drum machine (the first in surround sound) used on the album.
Keyboard magazine said of the album, "In a hundred years, it could well be studied as the first major electronic work of the new millennium." Wired called it an "innovative masterpiece."
In November and December 2006, BT toured the album with Thomas Dolby opening. The concert featured a live slideshow of images from DeviantArt as a backdrop. All the shows were done in 5.1 surround sound, with BT playing piano, bass and other instruments live, and also singing on a cover of "Mad World" by Tears for Fears. Earlier in 2006, BT performed with an orchestra and conductor and visuals for an audience of 11,000 at the Video Games Live concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
These Hopeful Machines (2010–11)
BT's sixth studio album, These Hopeful Machines, was released on February 2, 2010. The double album features dance-pop, trance, house, breaks, soundscapes, orchestral interludes, acoustic guitar and stutter edits. With BT spending several years perfecting the album, mathematically placing edits and loops to create "an album of ultimate depth and movement," each of the songs went through a lengthy recording process. BT has estimated that each song on the album took over 100 sessions to record, adding that "Every Other Way" took 2 months to write and record, working 14 to 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. These Hopeful Machines was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album.
The album features guest appearances from and collaborations with Stewart Copeland of The Police, Kirsty Hawkshaw ("A Million Stars"), JES ("Every Other Way" and "The Light in Things"), Rob Dickinson ("Always" and "The Unbreakable"), Christian Burns ("Suddenly", "Emergency" and "Forget Me") and Andrew Bayer ("The Emergency"). It contains the most singles released from any BT album, with 8 of the 12 tracks released as singles. Official remixes were made by Armin van Buuren and Chicane. It reached #6 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart and #154 on the Billboard 200 album charts. The singles "Emergency" and "Rose of Jericho" reached #3 and #5 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, respectively.
A remix album, titled These Re-Imagined Machines was released in 2011. These Humble Machines, an un-mixed album featuring shorter "radio edit" versions of the tracks (similar to the US version of Movement in Still Life) was also released in 2011.
If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I and Morceau Subrosa (2012)
On June 19, 2012, BT released If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I, along with Morceau Subrosa, his seventh and eighth solo albums. If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I was an about-face from BT's previous album These Hopeful Machines, utilizing minimal beats, ambient soundscapes, and glitch music, as opposed to the electronic music style of These Hopeful Machines. Morceau Subrosa is very different in style compared to most of BT's previous works, favoring ambient soundscapes and minimal beats.
A Song Across Wires and radio shows (2012–2014)
BT's ninth studio album, A Song Across Wires, was released worldwide on August 16, 2013. Blending elements of trance, progressive house and electro, the club music-oriented album reached #5 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart, and features four Beatport No. 1 trance singles: "Tomahawk" (with Adam K), "Must Be the Love" (with Arty and Nadia Ali), "Skylarking" and "Surrounded" (with Au5 and Aqualung). On the album, BT also collaborates with Senadee, Andrew Bayer, Tania Zygar, Emma Hewitt, Fractal, tyDi and K-pop singer Bada.
In 2012, he released the mix collection Laptop Symphony, based on his laptop performances on his Sirius XM radio show, which range from dubstep to drumstep to progressive to trance. In 2013, he started a new Sirius XM radio program, Skylarking, on the Electric Area channel.
Electronic Opus, All Hail the Silence and the untitled tenth album (2015–present)
On November 10, 2014, BT announced a Kickstarter project with Tommy Tallarico to produce Electronic Opus, an electronic symphonic album with re-imagined, orchestral versions of BT's songs. As of December 7, 2014, the project has reached its crowd-funding goal of $200,000. A live orchestra played during Video Games Live on March 29, 2015, while the album was released on October 12, 2015.
On March 7, 2012, it was announced that BT and Christian Burns have collaborated to form a band called All Hail the Silence, with help from Vince Clarke. The band is expected to release their debut album in 2016, having released their first single, "Looking Glass", online in 2012. On July 21, 2014, Transeau and Burns announced that their band would be touring with Erasure in the fall of 2014 for the album The Violet Flame. On August 24, 2016, the band announced that they would release a four-track limited edition colored 12" vinyl collectible extended play with Shopify on September 19, 2016 and on iTunes on December 16, 2016.
On December 14, 2015, BT disclosed news to DJ Mag about a new album to come by early 2016. Similar to This Binary Universe, BT explains that “the entire record is recorded in a way [I’ve] never recorded anything before,” and that the record has a "modular, ambient aesthetic". Track names that were mentioned in the article include "Chromatophore", "Ω", "Indivism" and "582". On August 1, 2016, BT spoke to Mix about the album, which was recently completed. The album has no official title as of yet, nor any specific release date (although the article states it was released in June 2016), and is intended to be named by the listeners. Additional track names that were mentioned in the article include "Artifacture", "Five Hundred and Eighty Two", "7 Ω.m4a" and "Found in Translation". The untitled BT album was released digitally on October 14, 2016 and physically on December 2, 2016 via Black Hole Recordings. Due to the restrictions of most music sites, which forbid blank album titles, BT chose to name the album the underscore character "_". BT has admitted that this title has resulted in complaints from fans about difficulties in finding the track on popular services due to the inability of most search engines to handle the _ character.
Film, TV and video game scores
BT began scoring films in 1999 with Go. Since then he has scored over a dozen films, including The Fast and the Furious, Monster, Gone in 60 Seconds, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Catch and Release. His soundtrack for Stealth featured the song "She Can Do That", with lead vocals from David Bowie. BT produced the score for the 2001 film Zoolander, but had his name removed from the project. His tracks for the film were finished by composer David Arnold. BT also composed music for the Pixar animated short film Partysaurus Rex, released in 2012 alongside the 3D release of Finding Nemo.
He has scored the video games Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas (2000), Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (2002), FIFA Football 2002 (2002), Need for Speed: Underground (2003) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 (2004). He made the official second-long alert tone for the Circa News app. In 2013, he scored Betrayal, a 13-episode drama on ABC. In 2016, he scored the music for Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland. His work has been featured in more than 50 film and video game soundtracks.
During the production of This Binary Universe, Transeau wanted to program drums in surround sound, and found that software tools to accomplish this weren't readily available. He decided to develop his own, forming his own software company, Sonik Architects, to create a line of sound design tools for the studio and another line of tools and plug-ins designed for live performance. The company's first release was the drum machine surround sound sequencer BreakTweaker, a PC plug-in. In 2009, Sonik Architects released Sonifi, a product for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that enables musicians to replicate BT's stutter edit effect live. BT himself has used it during live shows.
In December 2010, Sonik Architects was acquired by software and music production company iZotope, and at the Winter NAMM Show in January 2011, the Stutter Edit plug-in, based on BT's patented technique of real-time manipulation of digital audio, was released by iZotope and BT.
Transeau is a user of digital audio workstation FL Studio and he was included in the Power Users section on Image-Line's site in 2013. In 2014, BT collaborated with Boulanger Labs in creating the Leap Motion app Muse, a device that allows users to compose their own ambient sounds using gestural control. He is also developing an instrument called Phobos for the music software company Spitfire Audio.
BT lives with his daughter in Maryland. He is an avid scuba diver, and supports the preservation of sharks. In February 2014, BT partnered with EDM lifestyle brand Electric Family to produce a collaboration bracelet for which 100% of the proceeds are donated to the Shark Trust. On October 19, 2014, BT was married to Lacy Bean in Charleston, South Carolina.
Awards and nominations
|2000||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #70||Won|
|2001||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #76||Won|
|2003||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #83||Won|
|2004||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #92||Won|
|2005||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #82||Won|
|2006||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #73||Won|
|2007||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #73||Won|
|2010||BT||DJ Magazine Top 100 DJs, #79||Won|
|2011||These Hopeful Machines||Grammy Award for Best Electronic/Dance Album||Nominated|
|2012||"Must Be the Love"||IDMA Award for Best Trance Track||Nominated|
|2013||"Skylarking"||IDMA Award for Best Trance Track||Nominated|
|BT||IDMA Award for Best North American DJ||Nominated|
|2014||A Song Across Wires||Beatport Award for Album of the Year||Nominated|
|BT||Computer Music magazine Innovative Award||Won|
|BT||Computer Music magazine Performance Award||Won|
- Ima (1995)
- ESCM (1997)
- Movement in Still Life (1999)
- Emotional Technology (2003)
- This Binary Universe (2006)
- These Hopeful Machines (2010)
- If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I (2012)
- Morceau Subrosa (2012)
- A Song Across Wires (2013)
- _ (2016)
- Turn Me On EP (1999)
- Extended Movement (2000)
- Movement (2000)
- The Technology EP (2004)
- Human Technology (2005)
- R&R (Rare & Remixed) (2001) – A two disc mix album showcasing BT's remix work, rarities from his early career and previously unreleased tracks, most notably "Sunblind".
- 10 Years in the Life (2002) – A collection of rarities, remixes and edits of BT's songs, including his first recorded track, "The Moment of Truth".
- These Humble Machines (2011) – Radio edits of These Hopeful Machines.
- Laptop Symphony (2012) – A two-disc mix set.
- Still Life in Motion (2001) – A collection of remixes and edits of songs off of Movement in Still Life.
- These Re-Imagined Machines (2011) – A two-disc set containing 17 remixes of These Hopeful Machines. An expanded four-disc box set, personally autographed and serial-numbered by BT, was also released.
- Electronic Opus (2015) – An electronic symphonic album with re-imagined, orchestral versions of some of BT's songs.
with All Hail the Silence
- AHTS-001 (2016)