RS: So how did you make the jump from opera to dance music?
Barton: Well I never really liked doing opera, I wanted to study voice so that I understood it. I like to understand things, so I have a degree in computer science but that doesn't mean that I love to program. I really got very frustrated with not understanding how certain things worked and so I went and got a degree in it. It was kind of the same thing with music and my voice, I wanted to understand what I could do with my voice, so my original training was operatic. I realized 'well, I don't want to sing opera, I just wanted to get in touch with my voice,' so then I stopped doing that. At the time I worked for Apple computers and I was sent out to someone's house to give them a computer because they had helped with an ad campaign. It was Stephen Sondheim - I had seen West Side Story but I didn't know who he was or anything. When we met, he asked if I made music and I said yes and we kind of hit it off. He lived in Connecticut at the time and so I used to go and visit him for weekends and he would teach me about lyrical construction. So what I've tried to do is take the things that I've learned from the teachers and take those skills and apply them to the style of music that is more inspiring to me. It's like cooking, you read a cookbook and if you know how to cook, you don't have to follow the recipe - you can kind of take what the recipe gives you and then kind of make it your own. That's what I'm trying to do with the music.
RS: It's really odd that a gay guy wouldn't know who Stephen Sondheim is.
Barton: Yes, I don't have any good answer for that with you. I had this kind of tunnel vision, the things that I'm focusing on I learn and I know really well, but for whatever reason I didn't really know who he was.
It was exciting because in discovering him as a person first and kind of realizing what was important to him musically. I think at the time he had just done the work with Madonna and Dick Tracy and Barbra Streisand, she had just done a Broadway album that did a lot of his material. So he shared with me his sentiments about he way people interpreted his work, about when The Pet Shop Boys did his song and what he liked and what he didn't like. It really got me to think about writing songs and when people interpret them, what is it that's important to you. So I started to think about what was important to me as opposed to just doing what Stephen Sondheim said was important.
RS: Now in addition to this you also, as part of a project, you had Alex Santer and Josh Harris make other interpretations. How did
you choose these two guys?
Barton: Having worked very closely with Sergio Goncalves, who is an angel, and I don't think anything would be happening with our career if we hadn't met Sergio. Sergio works with us to try to identify remixers that we think might kind of broaden our audience. If you write a good song, you can dress it up in lots of different ways and it's very important to me to be able to do that because I think that's really the key to helping what's inside of our music reach as many people as possible.
When we work with remixers, we like to work very collaboratively with them because that's what's worked for us internally. So when a DJ remixes a track for us, they'll send us back stuff and then we'll try to do different vocals or add some instrumentation that we think might be interesting. So it isn't just like we give the track to them and they go do it and it's theirs, with both Alex and Josh it was much more collaborative than that. Particularly with Josh, because Josh is in the States and we were able to use technology in ways that I've never used to make a song before. So we'd send the vocal tracks by iChat to Josh and then Josh would send us pieces back that we were able to use. Then we recorded additional vocals for Josh's mix and kind of the same thing for Alex.