BT Talks Ghost Producing, ASAW, Sharks & More (FNT Exclusive)

Posted by on August 27, 2013

BT Profile

BT has become a standard bearer for innovation and excellence in dance music. He is noted as a creative producer of many different styles and sounds, as well as an acclaimed film scorer and programmer: the mind behind the now necessary stutter edit. His 9th artist album “A Song Across Wires” instantly shot up to number one on the iTunes dance charts and has produced such singles like “Must Be The Love”, “Skylarking”, and “Tomahawk”. We had the chance to chat with him last week before his show at Marquee, and of all the people I have had the chance to interview like Hardwell, Arty, Thomas Gold and Andrew Bayer, BT was probably my favorite guy to talk to.

Later that night we got to catch his set at Marquee that featured a heavy dose of ASAW and more danceable tracks from the lengthy BT discography. There were plenty of avid BT fans in attendance, so this was a party he knew how to play, even at a bottle service club like Marquee. Click past the jump to read our discussion on ghost producing, which he had some very interesting things to say about, the album, his passion for sharks and more.


FNT: Why make a festival-styled album now? Why not in 1999 or 2002 or a couple years ago? Why now?

BT: It’s great question. I haven’t been inspired by dance music in my career. It’s not been the thing that informed or drove me, compositionally. I’m a kid that grew up on classical music and classic music culture, on English and new wave, on early breakdancing music. Those are the things that I love. We were just talking about Claude Debussy, Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk, Mantronix, New Order and Depeche Mode. Those are the things I grew up loving. These are the things that inspired me and they still inspire me. At the beginning of my career I was always looking to film stuff and composition, which was very inspiring to me; indie-rock, those kind of things. This is the first time in literally my entire career where my ear has been deeply interested in what my peer group is doing in 3 or 4 years and starting to hear the American spin on bass music. So taking the work of guys like Skream and Benga and some of the English underground guys and percolating in this kind of American, aggressive, big, fucking distorted bass line.

That’s the first time I have gotten excited about dance music ever in my career. Not just, musically, but also stylistically, the amount of detail, the amount of thought put into programming and the attention to detail, the knowledge of the producers making that stuff, very impressive. What the audience that came with that brings too is as interesting as the music itself. Kids who would be into metal, black metal and hip hop, those kind of things. They like trap, dubstep, drumstep and moombahton. Things that are rooted in disco, which are house, trance, progressive and electro. There’s a fundamental sophistication to that, that necessitates an understanding, like you kind of have to go back to get that, with the exception of bottle-service house music. It’s a very different thing to the aggression and energy of dubstep, it’s fucking rage music, it’s like “breaking shit” music. The interesting thing is just going back to how incredible the production work is in the music. For years, and years, and years, I have been taking three years to make an album and working on things on this nano level, on an absolutely molecular level. So to hear the attention to detail really inspired me. So that was really the impetus for the inspiration for this record. Me seeing from people, and finally not people that I would consider my peers, but new people, like literally kids, 16, 17, 18 years old, coming up. Wow, this is something new and inspiring that inspired a lot of the direction of this record.

FNT: You’ve produced with, and for various artists like Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha. Why do think this ghost writing, engineering thing is such a touchy issue in dance music?

BT: I think it should be a touchy issue. I love deadmau5’s tweet the other day. Avicii started some hashtag #TrueReveal and deadmau5 was like “I ghost write all my own shit #TrueReveal“. I don’t agree with everything Joel says, but that was awesome. Honestly, I don’t even need to name any names. I am going to tell you something and then you can just go away and think about this. If you do 250 shows in a year, with travel, you do not have, literally, 5 minutes to yourself. You are done, that is your year. You are living those 250 shows. The amount of people doing between 150 and 250 shows, and putting out an album every year, is not right, you just do the math. It’s not possible. It’s actually not possible. So these guys that you see that are putting out a record every year that are doing 200 shows, it’s bullshit.

I think that is not fair to the fan and especially the aspiring kid producer. Because what is that to look up to? Your hero is some guy who makes these tracks you like and plays them for thousands of people, but it’s actually bullshit, the guy never goes in the studio, can’t even turn on a laptop on his own. From a personal vantage point, I love collaborations, it’s one of my favorite things about making music. I’m not in a band, so I love working with others. I work in isolation so much, especially when I am composing for films, that from the very beginning of my career, when I work with other people, I see to it that their name is featured with mine. I think that a lot of big producers should think more about that. It is not enough to just curate a body of work and then put your name on it. It’s a lie and I really take issue with it. I don’t think it’s right, I really don’t. I certainly think I could expose 50 people, and I wouldn’t do that because they’re my peers. Also the people making some of this music are ridiculously talented, the fan deserves to know that guys name, not the guy who puts his name on it at the end, so I really take issue with it for sure.

FNT: You said back in the day that you wanted to use brainwaves to control your live setup. Are you still trying to do that?

BT: You know, I have done a lot of that. That’s cool, I haven’t been asked about that in a long time. I have a thing called a IBVA (Interactive Brainwave Analyzer). You wear it, it’s a dual hemisphere electroencephalograph, so it takes and maps your brain wave activity. You can take any kind of brain state or brain wave activity and then map it to a midi controller. They are making a new version I really want to get, there is apparently a firewire version, maybe even a Thunderbolt version of it. Mine is antiquated serial port version. It is an incredible device, I spent a lot of time working with it.

I’ve worn it in a live performance in England. The thing I found is there is so much autonomic function occurring when you are in a performance environment, you are not in control of your body to an extent. Your cortisol levels are up, your adrenaline is thundering, your heart is 30 bpms faster than it normally is, and it’s really hard to control. This is the kind of thing you would use in a meditative state, in an isolation chamber. So what I ended up doing a lot with it is noting and studying myself as a case study, how music affects me. So that is how I really ended up using it, and seeing how different sorts of music affects me, how binormal frequencies affect me. I use all of this today still in my music. It was a couple years of study well worth it, but it didn’t pan out necessarily to be Houdini with my brain, but it taught me a lot about what it is that I find chemically moving in music. It taught me a lot about myself.

FNT: Would ever try and use it again?

BT: Yeah I would love to, but it is one of those things that takes a lot of time. I am playing in Hong Kong and then teaching 9th graders math. I have a full schedule (laughs). It would be a desert island vacation week where I would do something like that.

FNT: Can you talk about your DMT training and what you plan to do in the future with that?

BT: I am excited you asked that. First of all, this is important for people to know about. There is a shark finning ban that was repealed in California and I think that’s horrific (Editor’s note: it was not banned, the law is being appealed in Federal Appeals Court now). Anyone who reads this that is politically motivated or lives in California please do something. I would if I lived there. 95% of the world’s shark population is gone (Editor’s note: Certain species are at this critical level, those most used for finning). And every year we kill an ungodly amount of these creatures and they’re the most beautiful predator we have on earth. They’re perfectly designed creatures and to see them, while diving, in the wild in one of the most profound experiences I have ever had.

I just really encourage people read about this and know what’s happening. I am passionate about sharks. I love them because I spend so much time with them. It’s the same thing with bees. I just saw the time magazine cover about bees “A World Without Bees“. We’re really headed in the direction if we don’t do something, in 3-5 years there are not going to be sharks or bees anymore and we are off the grid. We don’t know what is going to happen. These are two very, very important things to the balance of the way the earth works and they are also beautiful, majestic creatures. I spend a lot of time talking about this when I am Southeast Asia to fans. It’s disgraceful. You go into these places that sell sharkfin soup and they kill these creatures and they throw them back in to wildlife preserves in the Galapagos. The soup is primarily chicken stock. It’s barely flavored with a shark, its just horrific. Thank you for asking me about that, appreciate that.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,