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For techno musician Brian Transeau, the Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield fight was more than a boxing match. “It was like this good-vs.-evil thing, man. It was intense, dude. It was like spiritual warfare brawling. Serious, man.”
The hyperanimated Transeau, or BT as he’s known on record, is ready to jump out of his seat, just as he did on fight night.
“It was not even funny. I lost it completely. It was just a really wonderful moment,” he says excitedly. “I watched it with my girlfriend and her father. We had a real moment. It was frightening: I high-fived my girlfriend’s father! We were both so nuts! It was a scary moment! But it was the best match I’ve ever seen in my whole life. I’ve never freaked that hard over one. [Holyfield]’s just my favorite fighter…and he just beat [Tyson’s] ass, dude!”
But it wasn’t just the pious Holyfield flattening the “convicted rapist” (as Transeau refers to Tyson) that attracted the 26-year-old Boyds, Md., resident to the underdog. As anthemic songs like “Embracing the Future,” and “Loving You More” from Ima, BT’s debut album, illustrate, Transeau is all about positive vibes.
“Absolutely, man. I gravitate toward a lot of people like [Holyfield] in a lot of different kinds of fields and idioms and professions. Just good people that are doing something for the right reasons. That’s why I love what Evander Holyfield does. Mike Tyson goes and sits in his fucking palace and Evander’s out talking to kids and shit….I just respect him as a person.”
Respect is something Transeau himself inspires—if not stateside, where he’s virtually unknown, then in England, where last year Ima won numerous accolades, including topping the readers’ poll in Muzik, the U.K.’s leading dance magazine. The 37 British stamps he has accumulated in his passport over the past year-and-a-half are proof of his popularity.
After working with fellow famed technocrats Deep Dish a few years ago, Transeau began to work on the tracks that garnered him all the attention last year. The domestic version of Ima—recently released here more than a year after appearing in Britain—includes the full album plus extra mixes for two full CDs of BT’s uplifting, new-age trance/dance grooves. It also features the new song “Blue Skies,” with Tori Amos on vocals.
“She’s just the bomb!” Transeau exclaims of the glossy-lipped diva. In addition to liking her music, Transeau says, “we have a lot of similar mannerisms and similar views, and our friends were, like, ‘You guys have got to get together.’ And when we did, it was frightening.”
Two hyper-Liberaces playing piano duets?
“Oh dude, forget about it! It’s out of control!”
The twosome’s life trajectories have followed similar paths. Amos is from this area, and she and Transeau went to rival high schools. Both of their mothers are from Chattanooga, Tenn. Both moved to L.A. at 18 for five years of unsuccessfully trying to get record deals. Both signed with the same man at the same label in England. And, most significantly, both have tornado fetishes.
“The day that Tori and I met, she had never been on the Internet before. I was like, ‘I’ve got to show you some stuff…’ There’s this [web] page about this guy who lost two of his limbs in a tornado, and he says all this crazy stuff about how it’s the only way he can feel that close to God is to feel that close to death. She was freaking out! She was, like, ‘Waiter, waiter get me a pen!’ She’s got a napkin, and she starts singing at the table and writing lyrics. In a fucking restaurant! I was, like, ‘What is going on here?’”
Wound up by the twister page, the duo “went into the
studio in the middle of the night, and we recorded [those] new lyrics. I put down some beats, some guitar parts for
what became this second version of ‘Tallulah.’ We got a phone call a week after that from the people from Amblin Entertainment, the people who did Twister. We had never heard a thing about this film. And they go, ‘We’re looking
for a song. We’re doing this movie about people who chase tornadoes.’ I thought Tori had told someone; I thought it was a joke. I was like, ‘Fuck off!’ I thought it was a piss take! I couldn’t believe it!”
“Ima” is a word that has different meanings in 12 languages, as Transeau learned from another hero: Deepak Chopra.
“I love the writings of Deepak Chopra. I’m really, really into his stuff. He’s got this series of tapes about paleo-linguistic anthropology—the study or the origins of language and the Tower of Babel. Where the roots and prefixes and suffixes of words come from. There are a lot of words like [ima] that mean something in many different languages. It’s a very beautiful word and reflective of what I’m trying to say musically.”
Evander Holyfield—OK. Tori Amos—well, all right. But guru to the stars Deepak Chopra?
“Oh dude, he rules. He’s it, man. There’s backlashes on everybody. You take that with a grain of salt.
“Dude, he called me! He called me up and said his favorite song on my record is ‘Divinity,’” which happens to be Transeau’s own.
“I said, ‘You don’t understand how strange that is, because ‘Divinity’ was originally named ‘The Yoga of Divine Action,”” and that’s from a writing of his. “I was, like, ‘Can you believe that! That’s such a coincidence!’
“And he’s, like, ‘There are no coincidences, Brian!’” Transeau drawls in a right-on Chopra imitation.
“I was freakin’ out. It was wicked. He loves the album! This was the highlight of my life.”
That, and the Holyfield fight?
“Yeah, exactly dude!”
One of the highlights of Ima is “Sasha’s Voyage of Ima,” a 42:52 continuous mix of songs from the first disc by British DJ Sasha. The epic scale of the piece is directly related to Transeau’s interest in reciprocity. And his love of Chopra.
“[Chopra] acknowledges the interaction between everything. It’s something I so believe in. Not just on a musical level but…the massive interconnectivity of everything. It relates so much to what I do musically, because I feel like it’s so important to be infusing very positive things into what you’re doing musically, because you’re reaching people on levels that you don’t even know you’re reaching them on,” Transeau explains.
“The group experience of listening to music goes back to religious rites and ceremonies and stuff. I mean, these people are entering common brain states—it’s amazing. You realize that some of the things that are happening in clubs are very modern versions of a similar experience. The light stimulation, the sound stimulation. They have names for them. They’re called photic and auditory driving. They can cause seizures in some people. What happens is your brain synchronizes with a wave state when it’s constantly bombarded with the same frequency of anything—whether it’s visual, a light flashing at 6 wave cycles per second, which is a theta brain state—or whether it’s a pulsating sound. There’s powerful shit going on in these clubs.”
When I ask Transeau what he thinks of the Ouija board, he shudders and knocks on wood.
“It’s important that people are using this stuff for positive things, because it’s not something you want to mess around with. I get really upset when I get people making shit that’s negative just for the sense of being negative,” Transeau says.
“It’s like Marilyn Manson. It’s, like, ‘Dude, what are you guys doing? What’s that shit all about?’ What it comes down to is you can tell those guys are real posers. You get the feeling they got their ass kicked a lot in high school. It doesn’t seem like a real thing.”
“I think [with] intelligent electronic music, just powerful music in general, you have the ability to import something good into people’s lives, something positive. Be it communal experience at a club where people walk away from that kind of experience remembering it, a feeling, or if it’s a group of friends who sit over dinner and have a nice bottle of Chianti and listen to the record—[it] means something to them.”
Ima is out now on Perfecto/Kinetic/Reprise. Transeau is currently at work on a new album to be released next spring. He says it will feature “everything from drum ‘n’ bass with a 60-year-old Sufi singing on it who can sing harmony with himself—he can overtone chant—to things that make Nine Inch Nails sound like they should go home and make some chamomile tea.”