Object Blue is the Tokyo-born, Beijing-Raised, London-based producer that has transcended her newcomer status and flourished into an atypical, multifaceted sound designer and DJ. In 2018, Blue released two highly acclaimed EPs (Do you plan to end a siege? on Tobago Tracks and REX EP on Let’s Go Swimming) and since then has been touring around the world as a live performer and experimental techno DJ.
It’s no secret that while building a career as an artist Blue has dealt with a considerable number of mental health issues, a topic that she chooses to openly discuss in order to remove any remaining associated stigmas and in the hope that others may find solace in learning of her triumphs. For the ‘Sound Mind’ issue of Borshch, Object Blue spoke to Claire Mouchemore before her Berlin Atonal debut in Berlin. Read an extract from their conversation, and find the full interview in the print issue.
Claire Mouchemore: Music can be representative of healing in a number of ways. Do you see music as a restorative practice to remedy moments of inhibition?
Object Blue: Music is my only savior in life. It’s holy. It’s above everything. It’s above my limits as a person, it’s above all my life experiences and how little they are and how uninformed and naive I may be. It’s above all that. It’s funny because we make it, but I definitely think it’s better than us. Music is probably the closest I’ve come to having a religion. I have unconditional faith in it. We as humans are really bad at loving each other in a healthy way, yet music is always the one thing I am sure of, especially it’s healing capabilities. You can try to fall in love, but you never know where it will go — when you listen to music you just have it, for what it is. When you make music there are no words — it’s just sensation and it’s meditative. Honestly, I start to feel bare and incomplete if I don’t make music. I think it’s just such a necessary part of who I am that it then feels like I’m denying myself of something in a way if I don’t go through that process of making music or at least listening to music intensively.
CM: Many people find engaging with the process of producing music to be therapeutic. I read that you found the process of producing the REX EP to be violently honest and cathartic. Is music production a tool for you to process certain experiences and apprehensions?
OB: Up until the material that I’m writing for my next album I’ve never consciously tried to express anything through music. I can only say that music for me is every aspect of my life that surely my life must influence, almost unconsciously and show up somewhere in my sound. But I don’t aim to incorporate certain traumas or allude to specific past experiences. I’m really grateful that people enjoy my music — but really, I don’t make music for anyone other than myself. It’s something I do because it feels good — I guess it’s quite self-indulgent, my process. If people like it, I’m a bit surprised.
CM: As you said, you’re fairly new to the concept of social media, but you’re involved with a lot of different platforms, and are connecting specifically with SIREN who are firm advocates of providing space for those underrepresented in dance music. While it shouldn’t be your or our responsibility to educate people on what’s appropriate and what isn’t, do you see platforms both on and offline being utilized in a way to educate people and make them aware of how to create safe spaces, whether it be on the dancefloor or in the comment section of a mix?
OB: Part of the reason why I speak so loudly about my personal life is because I feel like I owe that back, I used to think before I uploaded my first ever SoundCloud track that I was going to be completely genderless, nameless, ageless and so on — I was never going to show myself in public, I would remain an anonymous user because I didn’t want people to judge me based on my sexuality, gender, race, age. Then I realized that’s impractical. No, I’m not straight and I don’t cater to the male gaze in any way. And I’m really vocal about that, but to be honest I do feel a bit futile.
I actually think the pros outweigh the cons and I think it’s great that we don’t have a centralized system of knowing things now. Anyone can publish anything, that’s also terrible — but through that, I’ve managed to find people who I can relate to and people that feel the same way as me, and I don’t think I would have managed to make those connections if it weren’t for the internet. People have told me that they see my online presence and it encouraged them in some way to take up production, which I’m pleased to hear.
CM: How do you decide who to interact with? Especially if people are approaching you, asking for advice and they haven’t even listened to any of your music before. Their idea of you is constructed through your portrayal on social media, or what they think they know about you. I saw your post about someone asking you to release on their label yet they hadn’t even bothered to listen to your music.
OB: I find that so disappointing. I take the fact that I make music really seriously, I think about it all the time. I, like most people, have imposter syndrome and often think that maybe I don’t deserve to call myself a musician and then I see these people, with no reservation — no shame.
CM: A lot of people deal with imposter syndrome on a daily basis and the feeling of not deserving opportunities, myself included. How have you dealt with that and moved past it?
OB: It was Laurel Halo who said “don’t worry about imposter syndrome, it never goes away.” That was kind of a revelation for me and I thought, it’s time to make peace with my imposter syndrome and stop fighting it. Another way I dealt with it was to realize that the world exists beyond me and my ego, it’s not really about you and how you feel about yourself — think about what you can do for others. We all live with imposter syndrome, we always have, and everything that people want to stay to us in a derogatory manner — we’ve already thought about it. So, go ahead and say it. We’ve had that conflict with ourselves and we’re still here and we’re still smashing dancefloors, everywhere. Follow in our footsteps.
When I handed in Do you plan to end a siege? to Tobago Tracks, I was extremely upset for the entire next day because I thought it sounded terrible, yet they loved it so much. I stepped back and decided that I was just grateful to have the opportunity to produce that record for them and that’s when the imposter syndrome disappeared. Music is a higher power than all of us and I’m just a servant of the mother beat; I don’t get to have any say and that’s quite freeing.
CM: You’re quite open about your mental health on social media. How do you deal with your mental health getting in the way of your music? Obviously if you’re having a bad day that can impact how you play a show later or when you’re trying to produce.
OB: I really have no shame about living with chronic depression. I feel more shame in having mental health problems and not treating them because that’s when it really harms the people around you. I became depressed when I was 13 and I only managed to start therapy when I was 19. Therapy was instrumental to my recovery.
As you grow a bit older you start to realize in music when we are putting our name on something that we’ve made — instead of doing a nameless job — that it’s really easy to spiral and I think that’s why so many musicians have breakdowns and deal with a lot of mental health issues. We have a big ego which has been nurtured since we were young for being artists. I mean I didn’t have that, I was incredibly bad at the piano and had that ego broken down very early and very severely. My parents thought I was a piano prodigy but I actually really sucked, and that kick-started my depression.
I have a better grasp of that now, but people who were told that they were talented all their lives, got into music school and made a career of it — for them it must be harder later on as it all dawns on them and they eventually encounter the slow burn of failure. Then they are facing depression and criticism for the first time at age 30.
It’s really important to take a step back and analyze what you’re feeling with the help of someone that knows you and can give a different perspective in order to identify your patterns and prevent them from occurring.
I talk a lot about music being a higher realm, but we, the instrument of that musical creation are just people — we are not among that higher existence, we’re still ineffective babies. You have to feed that baby and pay attention to it. There’s no magic solution or something you can tap into.