Brian Transeau (BT) is a groundbreaking artist/producer who has helped to lead the electronic music world. As a long time user of Logic and MACs, when I read that BT was starting to work with PCs/AMDs, it piqued my interest. Doing some searching in the AMD world, I came across Charlie Boswell – who is equal parts marketing/PR and philosopher/teacher. Talking to him about the perceptions of technology and his own terminology – "Global Nerding" made for a very interesting conversation. If you are interested in the technology behind the electronic dance music love, read this thought-provoking interview.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: So you work with AMD, a processor company?
Charlie Boswell: Yes, AMD is a global provider of microprocessor technology. We have the world's leading sixty-four bit architecture. We're also a graphics company now. We teamed with our brethren in Canada at ATI and we have cool, multi CPU, multi GPU architectures now.
RS: How is this architecture affecting the music industry? How do
musicians use this technology?
Charlie Boswell: That's a very good question. I dropped out of music school and became an electrical engineer – don't ask me why. My father was an engineer so I think he was probably whipping some psychology on me or something. But anyway, I've done engineering for a long time and I began with AMD in 1995. I was doing operating systems research for Microsoft on what's called host-based signal processing. Your listeners and your readers will know what that is. It's really the whole virtual instrument revolution and the operating system has to have great performance. With AMD's processor technology it sort of renders off in that area. But anyway, to make a long story even longer, I did a film score for a low budget movie here in Austin in 2000 and it got me noticed by our new CEO, Hector Ruiz, who thereby asked me to represent AMD to the entertainment industry, both movie makers and musicians, and to evangelize our technology.
Working with Artists
RS: Who are some of the artists that you have worked with, personally?
Charlie Boswell: Since the year 2000, I've been working with lots of different artists, including guys like Dweezil Zappa, Brian Transeau, professionally known as BT. We've done audio for Eric Clapton and Warner Brothers. We did both the CrossRoads concerts. We recorded Mark Knopfler doing his entire live concert, as well as Matisyahu Live at Stubbs.
RS: How do you and AMD actually work with these artists?
Charlie Boswell: We do it by working directly with them to make sure the technology does not get in their way. Without the technology to back it up it is all gratuitous marketing. But in our case, we're the first ones to come out with the integrated memory controller or what's called really simply for musicians, the direct connect architecture and that's very easy to understand. Processors directly connect to memory, processors directly connect to IO and processor cores directly connect to other processor cords. What this means to the musician and the DJ, the guy who's doing real time performance on computers like BT, it means the lowest latency architecture in the world. As a professional DJ, you can't apologize to your audience and say, 'Oh wait a minute, I have to reboot my machine' or 'Oh I'm getting pops and clicks, please ignore those, it's just the computer.' That doesn't work. The direct connect architecture with low latency and our scalable multi-core architecture allows the musician to have full confidence in his performance without things crashing midstream. That's why Eric Clapton's engineer Elliot Scheiner asked us to not only do this first Crossroads but the second one, because we capture HD audio and we never have to say 'Hey Eric, that was an awesome take on Layla; could you give us fifteen minutes while we reboot the machine?' You know, in front of forty thousand of his best friends, that doesn't work.
RS: What is AMD Live?
Charlie Boswell: My team and I created what's called AMD Live and that concept is based on the AMD Direct Connect Architecture which allows the musician's creative mind to be spontaneous with the technology, not worrying, not waiting, and being able to do things like running lots of instances of virtual instruments, the popular programs, whatever lab your mixing your video. That direct connect architecture is what helps us do that. I'm the only guy inside AMD who refuses to hire engineers. I must hire only musicians and performers. A couple of my guys are engineers and we have to understand the technology, but for the most part my team is made up of musicians and film composers.
Working of BT
RS: What specifically did you work on with BT?
Charlie Boswell: We worked on This Binary Universe. He uses our laptops, which have our direct connect architecture, for his real-time concerts where he performs. He uses our laptop, our mobile technology, as well as some of our technology around orchestral samples, like Giga Studio and Contact.