object blue: “I was really afraid of music”
Born in Tokyo, raised in Beijing and now resident in London, object blue is one of the most exciting new voices in experimental club music, her limber live sets blending techno and sound design in a way that’s both cerebral and body-moving. In 2018, she released her debut EP Do you plan to end a siege? via TT, followed by REX on Let’s Go Swimming, and the self-released FIGURE BESIDE ME in 2019. Her mix, commissioned as part of a SHAPE x Unsound collaboration, will air on Radio Kapital on 28 October.
How have you been doing in the last few months? Were you able to be creative?
In short, no! I’ve been in an unprecedented writer’s block since November, and the lockdown certainly didn’t help. Seeing live music is the most inspiring thing for me, and I haven’t seen one in six months. I’ve just been cooking a lot, which is a creative endeavour, and something I really enjoy. I really want to break out of my writer’s block ASAP but not sure if it’s happening….
You said in an interview that you felt music was an existential need, and not a hobby; “the closest I’ve come to having a religion.” Can you talk about your relationship to music and its development?
Music was always there since I was a young child, sounds fascinated me and at first it felt like a playmate. I went on to take piano lessons but I wasn’t trained on technicality well, became disappointed in how bad I sounded, and quit feeling like a failed child prodigy. That really hurt my ego. Up until my mid-twenties, though I was obsessively listening to music, I kept pushing away my longing to make music… until I exploded and downloaded Ableton. I was really afraid of music, my incompetence at it, but I was in love with it, too. Not many things in my life have haunted me and enamoured me half as much as music does. I’m a lot less scared of it now, which is nice!
You also mentioned that you never thought you could make music as good as you wanted it to be. Did you have an idea of the ideal music you’d want to make? Another side to this question is the fact that women in music often have lower self-confidence than men.
When I started producing in 2014, I was just getting glimpses of the music I wanted to make. I couldn’t focus on it, it was fluttering away in the periphery of my vision. Over the last few years I’ve been able to see it clearer, a bigger picture. And you’re right women don’t get positive affirmations as much as men do, especially when it comes to making music — women belong behind the piano or the mic, performing music men wrote. And I see it manifest in the disparity of demos men send me vs women send me — women tend to think we’re not good enough yet, if ever.
Do you feel you are now expressing yourself the way you’ve always wanted through the tools that you feel are best for this purpose?
Yes, pretty much! I still want to go into a recording session with some strings, brass, percussion ensemble, etc. I’ll get to it one day, for now I’m happy with my Ableton.
Apparently you decided to make music after seeing a Björk gig. Can you recollect this moment that led you to actively make music yourself? You also reference M.E.S.H. etc. Are other musicians important to you as an artist? Do you feel part of a continuum in this way?
I’ve been a huge Björk fan since aged 16, and to experience her music live (with the most amazing ensemble at Alexandra Palace — she did ‘Possibly Maybe’, one of my favourites, with Tesla coils and I thought I’d die of joy) was one of the most earth-shattering, transcendental experience for me. I cried and danced all night. There was no turning back after that; I had to face it, there is nothing in the world that moves me like music does, so I have to try my hands at it, even if at the end of it turns out that I suck at it. Glad to discover I don’t suck at it.
If I can be considered as a part of the continuum M.E.S.H is in, I’m very touched. He’s one of my all-time favourite musicians for sure. People do seem to see us on the same continuum given that we both make weird club music. I still have so much to learn from his music though.
object blue is an abstract, genderless name (perhaps also in order not to be objectified?). Gradually you came to the forefront and didn’t hide your identity. Last year, you released an album FIGURE BESIDE ME that is inspired by your personal life. Can you talk about this transition from anonymity to the public realm?
Yes, I chose that name precisely to avoid gendered or racialised preconceptions about my music. Remaining nameless and faceless proved impossible the more I played gigs, and at one point I just said, what the hell, I’ll just wear what I want to at gigs, even if that’s a full length feminine dress, if people hear my music different because of how I look, those listeners aren’t worth much to my pride. The intimacy of FIGURE BESIDE ME is a different matter, rather than a continuation of my owning my identity. FBM was more incidental — I wasn’t thinking “OK, after these two EPs I’m going to really reveal my inner world.” I just happened to fall in love, and that love happened to manifest in music, that’s it. If I hadn’t met my wife FBM (or any personal music) wouldn’t have been written.
Artists, including in electronic music, are often asked to comment on various social and political topics, especially these days. What do you think about this?
I think everyone — artists, bankers, builders, sales staff, everyone — should be conscious of our individual and collective moral responsibility. We live in a society, after all. Putting the spotlight on someone because they’re an artist seems dangerous/misguided to me. Of course I want culture to be made by people who are thoughtful and compassionate. But just because somebody is amazing in the studio it doesn’t mean they’ve put in the effort to think and learn about the staggering injustices of the world, that they can responsibly influence public opinion.
What are you working on right now?
Hoping to put out in EP in November, a bit scary given my writer’s block but I’m trying! As always I’m having a great time programming my Rinse residency. And a collab EP with the amazing TSVI is coming out in September!
Interview: Lucia Udvardyova
Photo: Natalia Podgórska