object blue is a Chinese-born and currently London-based producer and DJ. She was introduced in the music world in her early ages when she started playing the piano but after many years she gave up discouraged by all its techniques and the mnemonic approach that she had been thought. In 2015 she applied to Guildhall School of Music & Drama (GSMD) and started studying electronic music. Her experimental techno sounds rely on masterfully processed samples blended together in an incredible way evincing her prominent sound design skills making her one of the most exciting new voices in experimental club music. Her new EP “FIGURE BESIDE ME” is out on 16th August, pre-order it here: – https://objectblue.lnk.to/FIGUREBESIDEME.
Hi object blue, thank you for giving us the chance to interview you. We picked a few subjects that, based on your previous statements and your work, hopefully interest you. The first track we’d like to share with you is by French-Ecuadorian producer Nicola Cruz from his 2019 album Siku. The song is called Criançada and features Brazilian singer Castello Branco.
What do you think of this track and have you heard it before?
I haven’t heard this one, but knew I’d probably like it because I spent a lot of time listening to Brazilian songs before I started producing. I love their rhythms, their harmonic/melodic content and how well they complement each other. this particular track actually feels a bit too polished and sweet for my taste, but that’s probably cos I mostly listen to old recordings by artists like Gal Costa and Jorge Ben.
You yourself have a very international background as well, as you were born in Tokyo, later moved to Beijing and currently reside in London. Simultaneously, your music is a dense mixture of a variety of styles. In what way does your background affect your creative process?
More than any physical surrounding, the time I spent on internet forums with music nerds affected me. If my upbringing in Beijing was really as pertinent as people expect it to be — I get this question in almost every interview — I would be working in finance. I had no record shops, clubs or communities, just a middle class upbringing in a suburb with competitive classmates whom I loathed. on the other hand, I’ve always felt like an outsider: at school, in my family home, in any city I lived in — and that probably encouraged my development of liking “weird” or “dark” stuff. it’s not something I do consciously, but when I write a summary tune people tell me it sounds like midwinter. “in the station of the metro” is tropical house to my ears. perhaps it means I have no range?
I often notice how your music sounds incredibly “filled” and at times industrial – something that in my wild imagination sounds “urban”. Is there perhaps a link between your life in some of the busiest cities of the world and the “business” of your music?
That’s nice to hear, I forever think my tracks don’t have enough, that it sounds unfinished.
I can’t deny the “industrial” description, I really love metallic sounds, vast sounds, percussive timbre… just recently I recorded construction noise on my phone. I was on a bus in Hong Kong, then the day after I played the recording as a part of my live set at Sónar. A cute personal touch!
You’re probably right in that my penchant for it comes from these sounds being embedded into my childhood. I do remember playing a game with myself at school when my insomnia was bad and I couldn’t be bothered to socialise, I’d put my head on the desk, shut my eyes and just listen to the noise around me without thinking about what it was, just to purely regard them as timbre. and this being 2000s Beijing, of course there was always the sound of hammers, drills, and concrete breaking.
The (virtual) hyperconnection of our society has changed the music industry. On the one hand, it has led to cultural enrichment, with music from different cultures that were unknown in the West currently gaining a lot of attention, but simultaneously some people fear that (digital) globalization causes a uniform global culture, thereby denying cultural variety between nations but also inside of nations themselves. Examples of this are for example the quick spread of reggaeton and K-Pop – pop genres that now often seem to blend with more “Western” forms of music. What do you think of this? And, in this context, what direction do you think the music will and should take in the future?
Uniform global culture! I think that’s a myth. Imagine if we had to routinely maintain originality and cultural cohesion by only listening to music that was made within your town. What kind of hellscape is that? Effects of globalisation are undeniable but to try to measure it through individual acts of media consumption is barking up the wrong tree.
I mean, if we’re going to discuss permeation of Music Culture A in Cultures A/B/C/D/E etc, isn’t it interesting that the Western musical tonality has been hardwired into every level of sound media in most countries across the world? J-Pop: in a major, minor or rarely Lydian key. Folk: same. Gospel music: same. India has the most microtones in the world but what plays on the radio is mainly uses Westernised tonality even it references raga.
So that’s not a point of discussion, but the spread of K-Pop in the millennia is: why? I think it’s less a musical question and more a reflection of our growing anxiety towards commercialisation.
I think more than ever genre-worshipping is discarded, considered “old”. even now, if a techno DJ drops a grime tune, people go nuts about how groundbreaking it is. personally, I’m excited to see such disregard for categorisation be more and more normalised. people have been mixing genres a long time anyway — it’s just more accepted now.
Globalization has naturally caused widespread migration and increased diversity, but due to the pace in which it happens, it has also caused fear and, in certain ways, a society that perhaps changes too quickly for certain people to keep up with – especially people that are not used to such changes. If one agrees with that statement, that also means that globalization causes both more acceptance of different cultures but also more xenophobia – two trends that naturally clash. What do you think of this?
That keeps me up at night, man. The only comfort is that the earth is dying, which is a shame, but we had it coming.
That’s my answer on a sad day. On a good day I say: direct action.
The second track we’d like to share with you is by one of the most talked about female producers of the moment: Holly Herndon. “Eternal” is taken from her latest album PROTO released on May 10.
What do you think of this song?
You know, I actually hadn’t listened to any PROTO tracks on purpose because Herndon’s one of my biggest inspirations, I can’t describe the admiration I have for her work. and I get intimidated, too overwhelmed, listening to her new music, so I always procrastinate — I have to prioritise listening to/discovering new music for my radio and gigs anyway. so I had to take a deep breath before I clicked on this link. I immediately love it, which comes as no surprise. what always takes my breath away about Holly is, she’s never static. there might be pretty elements, it might even develop for a full minute, but there’s always something brutal or ugly in the corner creeping out, to finally blow it to pieces. I really respect that sort of multidimensional quality in her music. and as cerebral as her music is, it’s just goddamn beautiful and pleasurable to listen to. she really strikes the balance, and that precision is forever punching me in the face, and I love it.
In your interview for Rhinegold you said that you received many comments like “you know a lot about music for a girl”, and other sexist/discriminatory comments based on the stereotype that music production is something only suited for males. Do you think such comments are symptoms of the way society as a whole looks at women or are they more exemplatory of the music industry or perhaps even the electronic community?
Symptoms of the entire society for sure, although I do find that in electronic music it’s particularly grotesque because it fits in the middle of a Venn diagram, where the circles are: Men Are Good At Machines and Male Artist Ego.
I personally notice that the more this world seems to rightfully focus on issues such as sexism and racism, the stronger the countermovement seems to be getting. In my opinion, this is quite similar to the previously-sketched issue of globalization, in which quick changes are hard to deal with for a certain part of society. There is for example a group of people that believe Donald Trump was (partially) elected because of this part of society. What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe such counter-trends are convulsions of a slowly dying culture or do they cause more structural setbacks? (Next question related)
I sure hope it’s the last quivers of a dying beast, but eh, like I said, thank god we are all dying.
To play the devil’s advocate, one could even extend the previous argument and argue that the most effective way towards more equality is therefore not through the promotion/stimulation of the oppressed, but rather through the gradual “deconstructive” (re-)education of the oppressor – an approach that would most likely be slow and unsatisfying in the short term. At the same time this would yet again put the focus on those that have already been focused on for a long time. What do you think of this?
Deconstruction is en vogue, isn’t it?
I mean, why not both? It’s a complex world, why not have complex solutions? More than the pros/cons of different methods, what’s important to me that we break away from individualism and take collective action. it’s the only way to affect a structural change. history proves it so.
In an interview you underlined how fashion is important to you. Nowadays there is a high involvement of fashion brands in underground music events as main sponsors. Last month Vogue Italia and Hugo Boss booked Bill Kouligas for their renowned and exclusive party during the Fashion Week in Milan. Another hint on how fashion brands care about underground electronic music. I’ve selected his release “VXOMEG” for PAN’s compilation Mono No Aware.
What do you think of this track?
One of my lesser loved tracks off the compilation, still a beautiful track though. I just can’t hack the distorted guitar-like motif, it’s too rock for me.
Do you worry that the exclusivity of the electronic avantgarde scene is sometimes used by companies to promote “exclusive” products?
Hmm, I think we often forget how small our scene really is. companies are going to turn so much more profit working with a more mainstream artist. Of course they save costs by hiring an underground producer, and they get the added edge of nicheism, but I don’t think companies’ involvement in our scene is that long-lasting; they get a producer to play a party or soundtrack a fashion show, then they move on to the next one. they’ll probably move onto “world music” producers next.
I don’t think it changes our scene that much, and if the particular artist gets a bigger paycheck than what’s standard in our industry, I think it’s a sound financial decision, as much as we all pretend not to think about money in connection with our art. also, I never wanted our kind of music to be “exclusive”. I would have a much happier life if I could hear Caterina Barbieri playing from supermarket speakers instead of Ed Sheeran. I never went into this kind of music thinking, oh this is really avant garde, I like it. I simply think: oh this is really beautiful, I like it. when people say it’s avant garde or niche, it’s not very relevant to me.
Has your music affected the way you dress or vice versa? Do you think there is a connection between underground electronic music and fashion?
Yes, it definitely does! I could be all dressed in the morning, but if I listen to music, I often end up changing into a new outfit. music is a sensory, cravings-based indulgence for me, as is fashion. I have really strong cravings like: oh today I need to wear all white, or today I need to wear something structured and tailored — which is similar to when I crave music: oh I need to hear triplets, I need to hear this particular bass synth. so music really influences the sartorial cravings I get, and I always think about my outfits when I’m onstage, whether it compliments the music/party.
I do think the history of marginalised people — LGBT, racialised — within dance music have naturally invited lots of fashionable people, who like weird clothes the way they like weird music. you’d get gawked at if you wore a leather harness to a folk concert, no one bats an eye if you’re at a techno party. also, as a little girl I remember thinking that I’d always have to dress as sexually appealing as possible if I ever became a musician. thank God I didn’t have to go down the path of Miley Cyrus, that I found this scene, where I can cover my face in a silk scarf and wear ball gowns with no backlash.
Finally, is there a song you wish to recommend to our audience yourself? If yes, which song and why?
I’m really into this hedonistic tune right now: