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An Interview Across Wires With Dance Music Scientist BT

If you're even vaguely familiar with electronic music, you'll know of BT. His inventive and biological approach to programming the soundwaves of Trance and Progressive is what first put him on the map in the early 1990s and what's kept his variety of emotional electronic music in a perpetual clash with the often colorless sound of popular dance music. His latest foray into the realms of electronic albums with A Song Across Wires is both gripping and enduring, extending all the way back to 2011 with "Tomahawk" and forward to 2013 with "Skylarking." I sat down with Brian before his smash of a premiere party at Marquee NYC to see if I could somehow get a glimpse into what drives his zeal for such emotional programming.

So BT, you are a jack-of-all-trades. You have so many experiences whether it's scoring movies, performing as a DJ, being a tech guru, or in music production. Out of all these, which would you say you value the most? 

You know, it's funny because they’re all so interrelated. I'll answer that question with a story. As a kid, all of theses things didn't make sense. I was always just talking about it, just being inspired by sound. I was fascinated with sound, just playing with things in the kitchen, and recording things in the garage, in the basement, and sticking recorders in the air conditioning, just crazy stuff. And then music, music just organized all of it. The piano, the drums, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and all of the earlier composers that I studied, later led to finding out about tonal music that was more focused on the noise. Then came in my love for computers and technology. From an early age, I’ve been building things with Radioshack project kits, and making little AM radios - these three things, I’ve loved my entire life. Actually, mathematics, too. Those are really my loves. But those things didn’t make sense together; no one knew what I was going to do as a career.

That’s so impressive. I mean, I was building Legos, and like, stick houses!

Well if it makes you feel any better, I didn't have any friends until like 16. So those things were my only driving force as a boy. Still even to this day. Especially when I found that point of intersection where they all converged, that happened when I found synthesizers. Then eventually I found computer music languages, and I was able to build instruments that I loved to work with. My love of mathematics, my love of sound, and it wasn’t even until my career started that these things began to make sense. It was during my second album when I realized I wanted to develop my own software. Since I studied classical music, I could write music for an orchestra, I could do stuff for films. My mom was seriously worried about me until my late twenties, like "Oh my god, he’s going to starve to death!”

So who would be your favorite classical composer?

I’ve thought about this a lot. There is a difference between whom I like and who inspires me. But I pick this person because I’ve loved every single piece of their work and that person is Claude Debussy. If I ever write even one thing in my life as half as beautiful as the first movement of the Sunken Cathedral, then I’m done. And then I listen to dance music now, and I’m like pshh, are you joking me?!

Let’s talk hypothetical. In the crazy, earth-shattering alternate reality where you didn’t go in to music, where do you think you would be working?

Definitely something in science. It involves a lot of the same ideas I use now. I spoke at this thing called Aspen Ideas Institute several years ago, and I listened to scientists talking about noting neurons and I was like ”Oh my god! This is way more interesting than what I’m doing!" Science is the only other field where you’re playing with gadgets, using math, and creating inspiration. I love reading Scientific American, it inspires me. If you were to ask me where is the place that I want to go most in the world, it’s not going to be Bora Bora; I wan to go to Cern in Switzerland. To go there and study particle accelerators, that would be my version of Christmas times a billion.

You are actually brilliantly nerdy.

Oh yeah, like scary nerdy.

What is the beauty of trance music to you?

Trance to me represents a very high art form within electronic dance music. So many type of dance music now resemble a pedal tone, very monotonous. They’re situated around the root, and it stays there. Especially in electro, you never leave that. You’re in this one tonal area, and there’s not a lot of variance in sound. What I love about trance, and it can almost get too much, is the musical balance. There’s melodic structures, harmony, it’s actually music! I really hope this doesn’t upset people, but when you hear too much electro, you could hear a B-flat note for a whole 5 minutes and that’s the whole song!

Last question, where did you get this signature BT hairstyle?

I don’t even know. The same girl has cut my hair for years, and every once in a while she’ll be in the mood to do something new, so it could actually change at any minute now.

A Song Across Wires - Out now on iTunes!

By Anne Chang

Follow me on Twitter: @Ann3c5

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