So far in BT’s remarkable six-year career, he’s spearheaded the popular genre known as trance, revolutionized film scores and brought Tori Amos into clubs. But he will probably forever be remembered as the inventor of “dirty pop.”
Over the past few months, Maryland-bred Brian Transeau has brought gritty beats and broken vocals into the glossy worlds of ‘NSYNC and Britney Spears. BT produced the Orlando, Florida, fivesome’s latest hit single, “Pop,” and recorded two tracks for the pop princess’ upcoming album — one of which he described as “insane.”
How did this happen? Let’s just say it wasn’t an idea some record company executive had in a boardroom one day.
“Believe me, I thought about ‘NSYNC what a lot of people that aren’t 14 years old and female think about ‘NSYNC,” BT explained. “Not that I hated them, it was ambivalence. I just didn’t care.”
Then ‘NSYNC’s JC Chasez started popping up at BT’s shows last fall. Soon the two were talking and eventually hanging out with each other’s friends and girlfriends, including Justin Timberlake and Spears.
“They’re so cool and levelheaded,” BT said. “I know people that are extras in films that have more attitude than them.”
Then he heard his new friends sing.
“I thought, ‘Hang on a second. These guys may be a groomed, commercialized thing, but they are really talented,'” BT explained.
Still, he was hesitant.
“JC was saying we should do a track. I said, ‘I like you guys a lot, but it’s probably not right for either one of us.’ I thought it would freak out everybody. One night, Justin called me up and said, ‘Dude, you’ve said no to this sh– a bunch of times, but I want to do a track with you like ‘Hip Hop Phenomenon,’ which is on the U.K. version of my record. It’s a crazy underground new-school breakbeat track. [He said,] ‘You can do whatever the hell you want to our vocals. Anything.'”
So, BT took him up on the offer, and he did whatever the hell he wanted. He spent two weeks working on their vocals, trying 40 different treatments, using special equipment usually reserved for movie sound effects.
The result is the dirtiest pop this side of the Dirty South. BT took Timberlake’s vocals to hell and back and still found a finished product the kids can groove to. “Pop” is “Beat It” on ecstasy, and that wasn’t an accident.
“I was totally going for the Michael Jackson,” BT said. “When Justin was singing in the studio, I kept shouting, ‘Michael!’ at him.”
Timberlake’s girlfriend was so moved by the 29-year-old classically trained producer’s work, she had to have a taste for herself. She spent a few days in BT’s home studio last week recording two tracks, an untitled dance number and the groundbreaking “Before the Goodbye.”
“It goes back and forth from sounding like new-school R&B, Timbaland-style beats, to progressive house,” BT said of the tune. “Everyone we’ve played it for is like, ‘This is so crazy that it might just be amazing.'”
BT, who released his first single on Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto label in 1995, has ventured into the pop world in the past only as a remixer, taking on tracks by Madonna, Sarah McLachlan and Seal. His remix of Amos’ “Blue Skies” in 1996 was a worldwide club smash.
He’s also scored movies, first with “Go” in 1999, followed by “Under Suspicion,” “Driven” and “The Fast and the Furious,” which opens Friday (June 22).
Movement in Still Life, BT’s third album, was released a year ago and melds together a smorgasbord of genres with appearances by former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty, Sasha, Paul van Dyk and DJ Rap.