Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 69
Fri. April 5, 2013
If I was looking for a word that best described the career of one Brian Transeau, better known to you and I as the multi-instrumentalist, remixer extraordinaire BT that would be perseverance. Hailing from Washington Conservatory of Music, Transeau’s life change when he discovered Afrika Bambaataa and more specifically electronic music pioneers: Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire; telling Sound on Sound magazine, “I can never forget hearing those records for the first time — hearing Depeche Mode and thinking, “I don’t have to write for strings, woodwind, brass and choir. I thought, “I can come up with sounds that no one’s ever heard in their life!’ I knew that’s what I wanted to do.””
Even with his new found love of electronic rhythms, Transeau thought he still could make a living as a singer/songwriter, BT was finding no luck making it in the City of Angeles. Transeau tells the story that encapsulates his early days trying to breakthrough in L.A. when he said, “When I went around to different labels, I had many doors shut in my face. I finally got an appointment with a well-known A&R guy at Sony who listened to my demo with me in his office. He’d play 10 seconds of each tune and then skip to the next one. Afterward, he looked up and told me I’d never have a career in music. I was devastated and walked around in my bathrobe and slippers for about a month until I figured out that there was a lesson in this for me. I realized that to a degree, I was inauthentic in the songs I’d been writing. The music I was really passionate about was the electronic music I’d been working on. So I left Los Angeles and moved back home to Maryland.”
Instead of giving up BT went back home to try his hand at creating his own brand of electronic dreams to life. Transeau describes what happened next when he told Berklee Today, “Together with two friends, I started Deep Dish Records. We sold our cars and pooled our money. We hired recording engineer Stephen Barkin to come down from New York to work with us for the weekend in the studio. We literally stayed up the entire weekend recording my first record. After it came out, Larry Flick from Billboard magazine wrote a little piece about the record that was very encouraging. He really understood my music. I faxed the article to everyone I knew, including the A&R guy at Sony. To finish that story, I need to skip forward in time. When the movie The Fast and the Furious came out, I went to the premiere since I’d written the score. There was a lot of red carpet stuff with directors introducing me to different people. A guy came up to me and said, “BT, I love your work, it’s so amazing! I’ve followed your music from the beginning.” I recognized him as the A&R guy I’d met at Sony, but he didn’t remember that we’d met before. I never said anything about our meeting.”
But that’s not the most amazing thing. BT came out to Los Angeles with his guitar to try to make it as a star in the early nineties but it was his belief in his chords that gave BT the strength he needed to finally breakthrough as Transeau explained, “I was in the studio with Sasha when Spencer Baldwin, who later became my A&R guy at Warner Bros., came in with Paul Oakenfold to see Sasha. They listened to what we were working on and asked if I had any other songs. I played them some of the tracks that eventually became my first album. They invited me to stop by the Warner Bros. offices the next day. I went with my guitar, figuring they’d want to hear something different than what they’d heard the day before. I played them about eight songs, and then Paul said, “I have no idea what you are doing, but we want to be involved.” Spencer, Paul, and Max Hole signed me to a subsidiary of Warner Bros.” I love the fact that BT had the guts to bring an acoustic guitar to a meeting and to be confident enough to play his songs with two DJ and electronic music legends like Paul Oakenfold and Sasha. And the rest is history.
Brian Transeau once said, “Music is ultimately about communicating with other people. Emotional impact is really important.” It was a lesson that BT learned early on and it was that emotional impact on “Satellite” that seems to resonate with me today. It’s the lyrics of “♫ She smells of the sun, ♫” that sparked a grin while I wondered why a DJ/multi-instrumentalist like Brian Transeau is doing penning such poetic lyrics? What makes “Satellite” more than just another cliché hard rock ballad is BT’s incorporating NASA samples and his electronic backbeats. BT made it sound like “Satellite” was actually being transmitted from space. “Satellite sounds” quiet genius if you ask me. It’s no wonder Transeau has been hired to score motion pictures like Fast & Furious; Transeau has an ear for making emotional connection with his electronic movements.
So what is it about “Satellite” who’s soundtrack memory came back to me.
I had just see BT perform at the House of Blues in New Orleans. It was a new night in my new city and after all that it took to make it there, sitting on the curb, outside of a French Quarter bar, I had a breakdown. As my friends, sat next to me, the only thing that calmed my anxiety attack was BT’s “Satellite.” After a cigarette and staring at the night sky, I sang “Satellite” to myself and somehow BT’s lyrics help eased my worried soul. That night was another instance on how music like “Satellite,” Brian’s song at that moment, saved my life. It was that emotional impact that I connected to with ‘Satellite.” I urge you to take an interstellar trip with Brian Transeau, his transcendent “Satellite” acoustic flavored anthem will make you feel like your floating with stars in space.