Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

POP MUSIC

He's Breaking the Spell of Trance Music

BT pioneered the dance sound he's leaving behind. For starters, there's the rock band he's taking on tour.

August 20, 2000|GEOFF BOUCHER | Geoff Boucher is a Times staff writer

It's past midnight at a Hollywood nightclub called Giant, and the thick stage smoke cascading to the dance floor fades away under the stomping feet of the capacity crowd. The entire place is alive with the galloping pulse of progressive house music, and no one is dancing harder than the man up in the spotlight, the musician known simply as BT.

As fans chant his name, the 29-year-old pioneer of trance music bounces in place, and thrusts one finger in the air while his other hand pounds at a keyboard--a pose that suggests the Statue of Liberty on a pogo stick. Through it all, BT wears a blissful smile and seems completely liberated.

But, in fact, the opposite is the case.

You see, BT (short for Brian Transeau) is in search of escape from this music world he helped define. Hoping to present his true musical voice, literally and figuratively, he is moving away from a genre in which performers usually don't have microphones. His acclaimed new album, "Movement in Still Life," strays far from the trance genre by mixing a variety of sounds and even vocals, and next month he launches a new tour with--gasp--a rock band in tow.

This is shocking news from a rave culture hero.

"The dance music publications like to stir the pot--'Trance Defector' headlines, stuff like that," BT says. "I have friends making careers out of regurgitating the same idea a thousand times. I'd rather fail at experimentation than prostitute something that I love so much. I'm trying to bring myself out of this box I've been framed in, which is 'the dance music guy.'

"I mean, I love dance music; it'd be a lie to say I didn't. But it's a facet, a subset, just part of who I am."

While it doesn't compare to, say, the furor of folkie Bob Dylan going electric in 1965, there is some angst involved in a founding father of trance turning to the totems of pop music.

"On the new album, if you listen to it, trance is hardly there at all, says Raymond Roker, publisher of Urb magazine, which covers underground music. "He's being artistic. It would be very easy for him to be the trance machine."

The electronic music revolution predicted a decade ago never arrived in full, but the success of Moby, the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim has created avenues of access to the mainstream--and music for film is most decidedly one of them. Moby licensed every song on his 1999 album, "Play," for use in movies, television and ads to tap audiences that typically would not hear electronic music.

"My big plan," BT says, "is to put one foot in the world of electronic music and one in film."

But BT treads into more than those two realms.

His music provided electronic swoon and rush to the Doug Liman film "Go," but it also accompanies virtual gunfire on a popular video game based on the "Die Hard" movies. His dance music credentials won him those projects, but it was his classical training that came into play when he worked with a 60-piece orchestra to score the upcoming film "Under Suspicion" and when he and Peter Gabriel created the music for Britain's Millennium Dome celebration to usher in 2000. Gabriel says BT mounts "mesmerizing journeys" with his compositions. "He is not only a virtuoso programmer," Gabriel says, "but an extremely gifted musician."

BT will reteam with Gabriel for the singer's next album, but his first focus will be more films. BT, who sports a boyish smile and a fluffy mop of blond-streaked locks, says it was film scores and classical compositions that wired his creative circuitry, and he is giddy now at the prospect that Hollywood is embracing electronic artists.

"Hollywood has been trying to approximate what we do in the dance community for years instead of getting dance music people involved," he says. "Sort of faking the funk, if you will. And it's cool that now they're giving people like me a chance to actually do stuff."

He will contribute electronic music (and cameo appearances) to two upcoming films, a remake of "Rollerball," and "Red Line," a look at underground car racing. He is most enthusiastic, however, about the "Under Suspicion" score, where he fuses break-beats with romantic strings for the Gene Hackman-Morgan Freeman vehicle scheduled for an October release. "They were, uh, reluctant. They were like: 'You have a punk rock haircut, you definitely can't do strings.' "

*

His Hollywood pursuits prompted BT , who grew up in a small Maryland community, to move last year to a leafy, hillside home in Studio City. While his creative life has seemingly been in perfect tune since then, he says, he has struggled with L.A.'s vast, often impersonal spaces. Raised a Christian and later a student of Buddhism and Taoism, BT exudes a spiritual centeredness. His hardwood floors and white walls are nearly bare to keep the space clear for his meditation, and the bucolic setting of his childhood makes him yearn for a simple life in nature.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|