“I Will Never Do Another Record in Stereo”

Earlier this year, DTS Entertainment released a two-disc set of BT’s original music from and inspired by the critically acclaimed motion picture Monster. Conceived, recorded, and mixed in the 5.1 format, the DVD has earned BT the 2004 Surround Maverick Award at this year’s SMAs.

Not bad for something that started purely on a whim. “I’d had five matching speakers sitting around for a while,” BT explains. “Not knowing what to do with stuff like the center channel really put me off from setting it up.”

Setting his Logic system up for the format and giving himself a crash course in surround sound, BT was instantly hooked. “I just couldn’t believe what it’s like to be able to position sound in three-dimensional space.”

Well known as a pioneer of trance music, a producer (*NSYNC, Britney Spears), remixer (Madonna, Lenny Kravitz), and collaborator (Sting, Peter Gabriel), BT has also put his Berklee College of Music education to good use on film scores for The Fast and The Furious, Under Suspicion, Go, and Driven. Last year’s Emotional Technology, his fourth full-length release, spawned the radio hit “Simply Being Loved (Somnambulist).”

Yet despite such an extensive body of work, BT entered the studio with no preconceptions regarding the surround format. “I think this project is very special because of that,” he says, adding, “I’m always drawn towards things where the rules are not clearly delineated yet.”

The writing and production processes became interactive, he says. “It became about writing the thing that was working–that sound is there and it’s working, so I’m going to write and augment that sound. A lot of things ended up happening that way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

The rulebook went out the window when it came to surround placement on this project, which draws on Americana music and includes non-traditional instrumentation such as the hurdy-gurdy. “I got an idea of where things felt they ought to be,” BT explains.
“The kick drum, for example–anything above 100-150, I sent only to the rear channels; anything below that I sent to the sub. The snare [top mic] I sent to the left channel, the snare [bottom mic] I put in the right channel. I put the hi-hat in the center channel. I put my overheads to the sides, so they’re between the front and rears. Then, the tom mics I put surrounding me in a circle.

“It sounded incredible, to be in the middle, yet it’s not physically possible. It defies the rules of physics, but it’s exciting as hell to listen to.”

Thus far, a relatively small group of engineers and producers are setting the guidelines for what is considered acceptable in the 5.1 format, but that’s going to change, BT believes. “I think that pretty soon more and more people are going to use it and you’re going to see a lot more of the DIY, punk rock aesthetic coming into it. That’s great, because those guys that were trying to say that you should put ambience in the rear channels, and arguing about phase alignment, and whether speakers should be 130 degrees or 132, are realizing that that there’s a bunch of new and exciting people stepping up and breaking any rules or preconceived notions that they have about the medium.”

According to BT, his experience with Monster finally allowed him to re-create the sounds that he has long been hearing in his head. “I’ve been an avid user and fan of all the phase algorithms, trying to put sounds out of phase and making them sound like they’re behind you. Now there are speakers behind you. I will never do another record in stereo.”

Surround Professional Magazine