December 02, 2006
BEATBOX: WEIRD SCIENCE
BT And Thomas Dolby Take Their Experiments On The Road
BY KERRI MASON
When BTâ€”aka Brian Transeau, electronic music’s resident renaissance manâ€”was but a Maryland teenager, he watched Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder and Thomas Dolby perform at the 1985 Grammy Awards. With an Amadeus-wigged Dolby conducting, the crew played a medley of their current hits completely on synthesizersâ€”keyboards, samplers and other plastic boxes that defined the sound of the ’80s. “I thought, ‘I have to do that someday,’ ” BT says, without irony.
A few years and a series of auspicious coincidences laterâ€”BT’s manager Richard Bishop was the landlord of Dolby’s first studio in the ’70s, for instanceâ€”the two met during Dolby’s April gig at the House of Blues. “We did what my girlfriend calls ‘clearing the dressing room,’ ” BT says. “There were guys and girls hanging out, and we just sat down together and disappeared down the Firewire virtual instrument wormhole.”
The pair found a good deal of common ground. Electronic musician Dolby, best-known, to his chagrin, for ubiquitous ’80s single “She Blinded Me With Science,” is also the founder of Beatnik, which created the polyphonic ringtone software currently used in more than 100 million mobile phones worldwide. BT has done some programming, too. He created BreakTweaker and StutterEdit software for music production, both slated for release in 2007.
They also shared ideas about technology, the business and the live performance of electronic music and decided to explore them together. They embark on an 18-date U.S. club tour Nov. 28, which will include kooky instruments and strong visual components, as well as the requisite synthesizers.
Among BT’s custom-made arsenal is his young daughter’s toy megaphone, altered for maximum noisiness, and a “tricello,” a resaddled, three-string hammer dulcimer. Dolby has vintage film equipment with “enormous brass levers” jacked into synths, creating what he calls a “Cold War vibe.” For visuals, BT’s got a dedicated VJ working a “mini-Pixar workstation” to generate content on the fly; Dolby will build audio tracks from scratch with Logic software and show the audience his progress via a camera strapped to his head.
Not coincidentally, both are also promoting audiovisual releases: Dolby’s “The Sole Inhabitant,” a DVD live collection from his recent solo tour, comes out Nov. 21, and BT’s “This Binary Universe,” a surround sound electronic symphony release earlier this year, included a DVD component.
Â© Billboard 2006.
(Reproduced with thanks.)