Object Blue talks Shakespeare, Techno and Growing Up in China

By Bryan Grogan, April 6, 2019

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It’s 9.30pm on a Friday evening and I’m still in the office chatting to object blue (lowercase please) about literature, of all things. We’re delving into the Shakespearian influences that went into the making of REX, her 2018 release on London-label Let’s Go Swimming. 

“Part of the reason that I use literary themes and liner notes is that it’s very hard to convey something through my music," she points out, while also noting her fondness for the original King Lear, and also Edward Bond’s modern remake of the classic play. “I wrote the second track (on the album) in 2014 or 2015, and the other three tracks in the months leading up to the release. They’re all so different and they make no sense together. I was so afraid that people would be like, ‘oh this is such a messy album, what the hell?’ So it helped me to have a literary narrative.”

Over the past year or two, object blue has become one of the most sought-after artists on the London techno scene. In the space of 12 months, she has notched up two fantastic EP releases, a gorgeously dark remix of Yaeji’s ‘One More’ while also becoming a resident DJ on East London community radio station Rinse FM. 

While she’s currently making her mark in a big way on the experimental techno scene in Europe, she initially had plans to be involved in literature, whether that was as a publisher, an editor or as a poet. Add to that the fact that the half Japanese, half Chinese artist was raised in the midst of a punk-heavy period of Beijing’s musical history and her ascension seems rather unlikely. 

“My parents were very strict and they wouldn’t let me go to clubs, so I did all of my music searching on the internet,” she tells me, although she does note that she was occasionally able to catch gigs by the likes of Carsick Cars in Mao Livehouse. “People always ask how my background influences my music. Out of all the things in my life, my Chinese and Japanese background is the thing that influences my music the least.”

blue grew up within a tight-knit international school community. At home she spoke Japanese, she held a Japanese passport and her name is Japanese, something that conflicted with her Chinese heritage. “In international school in China, if you’re Chinese, you’re not interesting, but if you’re from Japan, you’re cool, you’re exotic. I still experience this, when I tell people I’m from Japan and China, everyone loves to talk my ear off about how amazing Japan is, but they never say anything about China.”

In contrast to that attitude of Japanese fetishism that still exists in China today, blue also experienced anti-Japanese resentment, which, earlier in her life, made her tell people that she was Chinese-American. It makes sense, then, that she was only able to truly find herself outside of Asia. 

Image via object blue/Facebook

When she moved to London in 2011, blue began studying English literature, and got into poetry in a big way. “After three years of pretending that I could make that my full time thing, I just exploded and admitted that I can’t really do this,” she says, telling me about how she first felt the impetus to move into music. “My brain was fried from all the intellectualism and analysis and the words, and I just wanted to do something that was the opposite of that.” 

Although her music is still informed by certain aspects of her interest in poetry and drama, she also references artists like Cardi B, on ‘Act Like It Then,’ from Do you plan to end a siege? and Aaliyah on ‘(time to) WORK’ from Rex. “For me music is not language, it’s not a vehicle to compare an idea, it’s a very experience-based medium, I hear music, I feel it, I don’t think about it, I don’t think about what it says. I think this is especially true for dance music, it’s not ivory tower music, it’s very functional and it’s there to make people dance.” 

And make people dance it does. Through her spot on Rinse FM, she has linked up with a number of vital artists from around the world. She has also, via trips home to Beijing to see her parents, hooked up with recently-formed Beijing label S!LK, as well as Shanghai’s Genome 6.66Mbp

Image via @GenomeShanghai/Weibo

“I asked my agent if there were any places I could play while I was back in China visiting my parents and they said most of the things were booked up, except Dada has a Thursday night where they can fit you in,” she says, while excitedly talking about Puzzy Stack and others who were appearing in Dada that night. “Later Puzzy asked me, ‘Oh, is it ok if I give your contact to the guys at Genome, because they would love to invite you over to Shanghai for a day and they’ll pay for your train ticket,’ and I was like, ‘well yeah, duhh, of course you can!’”

Now, on this current Asian tour, object blue has already taken in the delights of Hangzhou’s lauded Loopy club, while also playing in Seoul, and in Japan for the first time. She makes her way to South China next weekend, where she will hook up with Batu and Ploy for a gig in Shenzhen’s Oil, before heading down to Hong Kong to join a fantastic line-up at Sonar HK. 

Shenzhen: Fri Apr 12, 10pm; RMB100 presale, RMB150 at the door. Oil. See event listing. Tickets

Hong Kong: Sat Apr 13, 12pm-3am; RMB610-780. Hong Kong Science Park. Tickets

[Cover image via object blue/Facebook]

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