Show Off Your Studio: BT’s multi-rig synth utopia
Electronic-music journeyman Brian Transeau is a trance pioneer, software designer and has written for film, TV and games. We visit his private studio with separate zones to keep the creative juices flowing.
- Fairlight CMI III
- Roland Jupiter-8
- Yamaha CS-80
- Eurorack and vintage modular rig
- VEPro PC Audio Labs PC with 500GB RAM, 38-core, 3,500 Kontakt Instrument autoload with audio via IP to the main computer
- ATC soffit-mounted speakers
Tell us about your studio, BT.
We’ve been building this studio for four years and it’s my absolute dream room. I’ve worked most of my life in closets, basements and attics, and never in a treated room. We designed the room with Wes Lachot, who is an absolute genius, and it’s my first room with soffit-mounted speakers and acoustic treatment. It’s also got some of my favourite synthesisers and modular gear in it and is an absolute dream to work in. We went through three designers and four contractors, so it was a nightmare to make but once we met Wes, it was smooth sailing. It’s thrilling to work in. I count my blessings every day.
How do you use your studio?
It’s a personal recording room. I record live instruments in-house like guitars, bass, acoustic instruments and drums. We don’t have a live room, just a mixing room. It’s not a public studio, and I use it for composing, mixing and scoring to picture.
Which DAW do you use?
I use Cubase for scoring and Logic Pro for stem mixing and electronic music production. But I use Ableton Live just for fun. I also use FL studio for neuro bass sound design and REAPER for CDP and its other surround-processing sound-design attributes. I use Reason for its incredible patchability and excellent virtual instruments, and Bitwig also gets a work out for some of my MPE instruments. As you can tell, I’m entirely agnostic when it comes to DAWs. But I use Cubase, Logic and Live daily.
You have a ton of synthesisers and gear. How do you avoid choice paralysis? Do you have a specific workflow?
The room is sectioned into three areas: the main mix position, the Eurorack and drum-machine area, which is completely disconnected from mix position), and the rear corner of the room, which is my IMA, ESCM, Movement in Still Life 1990s setup.
All the areas are disconnected from each other. I know all the gear inside and out, and have been using every piece of equipment in there for many years. If I need a synth
part, I know exactly what outboard, synth (sometimes stack) and plug-ins to go for
to try and achieve a sound quickly. The most important things in my room are my autoloads. I have one for each type of production work I do in my three main
DAWs, and it really speeds up the workflow immeasurably.
Is there one synth or effect that can be heard more frequently than others
on The Lost Art of Longing?
Not really. There’s every DAW I mentioned, Csound, Kyma, CDP, Max and every esoteric sound design application, as well as loads of hand-played instruments and live orchestra on this album.
What’s your favourite piece of sound design on the album?
There are loads: one favourite is the neuro bass design on No Warning Lights. It’s Harmor in FL Studio, with a lot of different types of spectral blurring procedures in Csound and CDP applied. It took a full day.
What’s been the biggest investment in your studio?
The time it took to make all the autoloads. My VEPro/Cubase autoload has been seven years in the making, and I update it weekly. I’m currently on v798 and yes, it was totally worth it. I can do orchestral writing and mock-ups in minutes and stem them just
How does the studio environment help you with your creativity?
It’s quiet and in this studio. I can finally hear what’s happening without any nodes or colouration from the room. It makes mixing fun. It was one of my biggest pain points my whole life. I have PTSD from key drives and burning CDs to listen to on headphones, in the car and everywhere else. It’s an amazing process, with less second-guessing and more instinctive movement.
How did get the acoustics right?
Wes designed every part of the room: no parallel walls, three layers of stagger-seam drywall, front wall leaning at 27 degrees with a 14-degree leaning trapezoid, hand-made diffusion panel with prime numbers. It’s like a piece of art. He’s a genius.
Tell us about your monitors.
I use M-Audio BX5 speakers with a PreSonus sub for my nearfields and surround monitors. The ATCs get used sparingly. Those are for critical listening only and not day-to-day mixing.
What is your favourite piece of gear?
Does my brain count? I don’t need gear to write music. I’m comfortable sitting with sheet music and a pencil.
What’s next on your shopping list?
My MemoryMoog is on her way home. She’s been in service for almost two years. I miss that synth terribly.
What is your dream piece of gear?
The CMI Fairlight. I’ve wanted one since I was a kid and it’s even better than I thought it could be.
What’s your best production advice?
You can learn from anyone, and studying and understanding music means music theory too.
What advice would you give to someone building a studio?
Focus on the quality of your audio interface, your speaker placement and your room treatment above everything else – and go for some nice vibey lights too.
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