Tune in, turn on… Art School Fantasies present their first ever mix on 1 More Thing and it’s a totally unique introduction to their world, their vibe and their environment.
Part podcast, part radio show, part spoken word, complete musical storytelling, the mix sees UFO and Pale Blue Dot – who are also a couple – showcase a whole wealth of unreleased material plus a few favourites while providing context, perspective and anecdotes around each track.
Set to a soundtrack that flexes from pounding techno to hip-hop and soul, the pair playfully dance around the microphone spinning great yarns and firing out provocative flashes. From their theatrical homage to the ravers who never found the free party, to their exploration of taboos like the kink community, psychedelic drugs and religion, the duo roll out with a flavour that sits somewhere between 60s San Francisco counter culture movement to your new favourite radio station on GTA.
Fundamentally, though, this is a love story. UFO has been involved in US electronic music since the mid 90s and would regularly make trips to the UK for Goldie‘s seminal Metalheadz events Blue Note and to cut dubs at legendary cutting house Music House. Pale Blue Dot, meanwhile, has only just embarked on her journey as a producer. Previously exploring disciplines such as photography and science, her chance encounter with UFO changed both of their lives entirely… As this debut interview with them reveals.
A sexy, cosmic trip that comes with generous helpings of ‘wtf?!’, this ain’t no ordinary mix. You might not know Art School Fantasies yet, but you definitely will after indulging in this mix. Read on, listen in…
The mix! I feel like I know you more. It’s a very personal thing isn’t it? You’ve revealed yourselves on a much deeper level…
Blue: I think a bit of context is helpful for some music, right? Especially the weird experimental ones… It’s nice to have the chance to say, ‘This is what this is about. This is what was in our head when we made it.’
UFO: It’s nice to give a story about some of this music. We wanted to give people a taste of who we are so the music has more of a personality. This is our chance to show the world who were are and reveal our thoughts and emotions and theories and inspirations. Everyone loves a podcast so why not bring that into the mix? It was really easy too. Just like boom.
Blue: I’m into spoken word stuff. The voice is an instrument in itself. I feel like our voices add to the mix in that way.
You do that rhythmically at points. You’re happy to explore things that might be a little taboo or not discussed in a mature way usually…
Blue: Spending a lot of time in a conservative area where things aren’t talked about at all is dangerous. When you hide something away, that’s when it gets very dangerous or negative. Like, ‘No sex before marriage – you’re a sinner if you even think about it.’ That’s very toxic. Like the kink community are very misunderstood, for example. So talk about it. Just because you might not be part of that culture, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge it, talk about it, find out more. It doesn’t hurt to slip it in there and start the conversation.
Same with drugs and psychedelics
Blue: Totally. There’s a movement to decriminalise psychedelics in the US. People see positive aspects of it for therapy. But we’re not going out and saying, ‘Go out and do acid!’
UFO: Yeah we’re not massive LSD heads. We’re not out here whipping each other either. We’re just aware of all these nuances that are happening. We’re open to them and we’ll express our feelings about them and it’s nice to be able to share how these experiences made us grow. For instance acid made me realise I didn’t have to get a normal job and be a garbage collector. I was terrible at school, English was a second language and I was told frequently I wouldn’t amount to anything. LSD made me realise I could explore a creative lifestyle. It opened a door for me.
Blue: We have options. A lot of it is our perspective and there are tools that are available to help you understand life and understand yourself.
UFO: Life is fucked up, we’re going through so much right now, it’s rapid fire. So any solution that you can find to work your way through that – as long as it’s right for you and not harming anyone – should be accepted and not judged.
Blue: Yeah. And we’ve also learnt recently that we have to become used to plans being derailed. I was an event photographer before, but that was stopped when lockdowns happened. The economy, war, Brexit, all that shit has led to a different mindset where we have to adapt.
Didn’t the lockdown kinda throw you together a bit?
Blue: It definitely did. I came down on March 5 to visit. We weren’t sure what was going on between us. We knew it was cool but we were kinda working it out and I was coming down to hang out on our birthday. We both have the same birthday. Then quarantine happened and it was like, ‘Okay I guess I’ll stay here’. Then the George Floyd protests happened and things got very crazy in Seattle. I decided I didn’t want to live in two states any more, Ed suggested moving in, the roommates were cool with it so it was like, ‘Okay I guess I’m moving to San Francisco!’ Then I got Bell’s Palsy and half my face was paralysed
Blue: Yeah! Ed said when he saw my face half melted and still thought I was beautiful he knew he loved me.
UFO: It’s true man…
Blue: We went through so much chaos together. In October it’ll be three years since we met and it hasn’t stopped. He gave me Ableton, I was making music. We’re combining our loves together and reintroducing our favourite genres to each other. Every day, all day we’re working on music. We make videos, we take pictures, we make music… I can’t believe I live this lifestyle. I’d never lived in a city before. It’s such a rare opportunity. The way we live, in a very creative household that encourages this lifestyle.
This is beautiful. So take me back to the day you met. You kinda touch on it on the mix…
Blue: Three years ago I’d moved to Seattle and I met Ed at a show. He asked what music I like and I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m going to tell him, he won’t know’. I said, ‘Venetian Snares.’
UFO: I was like, ‘WHAT?’
Blue: He actually knew! Then I said, ‘Acen.’
UFO: I was like, ‘Wow!’
Blue: So he played a set of music I loved and it was the first time I was at a show where I heard the music I truly loved.
Blue: In many ways, yeah. I was born in 88 so missed out on the best stuff in the 90s plus I was brought up in Utah which had a big trance and electro scene but no diversity. I listened to a lot of 90s rave music and industrial music. I fell in love with dubstep around 2005. The space and depth of it. But it turned into a bunch of angry dudes and I just didn’t enjoy. I would engage with it as an event photographer but I wasn’t into the music.
Ed, how about you? What’s your relationship been like with music?
UFO: So there have been points where I’ve been so in love it and there have been points where I’ve had to take some time out. I switched completely when I first heard Radiohead for example. I was like, ‘Okay I need to learn an instrument!’ I changed everything. My agent told me I was stupid and giving everything up. But I wanted to start from scratch. I didn’t have the attention for electronic music as well as being in a band. I had an edge over the band because I grew up engineering music and sound dynamics.
Would I know the band name? Did you have any releases?
UFO: We played a lot but never fell on any label. We put everything on MySpace and were like, ‘We’re going to play until something awesome happens. Unfortunately I was involved with the singer so when we split the band went south and I realised how self-sufficient I’d been as a producer.
Take me back to your days as a producer. You were involved in US drum & bass and jungle from early doors…
UFO: The earliest. Meeting Goldie was important for me. He helped me understand my own identity. I was a graffiti writer and DJ and artist myself but was a lot more unsure of myself. He came out of the blue like this crazy alien with his manic gold tooth grin. I was like, ‘Wow okay this lifestyle, this culture and pursuit of art that I’m on is valid’. So I kept on that. I mixed everything from artwork to flyers to zines to graffiti. Of course graffiti is about respecting your roots and respecting the OGs. I brought that to everything I’ve done in music. Living in Costa Rica had a similar influence, sometimes living in some very hard up situations. It taught me that you have to be up front, say what’s up and let them know.
That’s how we like it here
UFO: Yeah in the UK it’s all about props and respect and coming correct in general, right? I knew how to approach OGs. Meeting guys like Marc and Dego at Reinforced, seeing Future Sound Of London’s studio, meeting Rob Playford. That seemed like a very natural interaction, now it’s a story I’m very proud of.
Wow what a time!
UFO: Yeah. It was myself, Sage, who was my girlfriend at the time and DJ Abstract. We’d go to Belfast and then come in and out of London. This was the mid–late 90s. Blue Note era. We got to hear Doc Scott break tracks like Piper and Krust’s Future Unknown. I mean, that soundsystem! America always suffered from trashy sound systems because our music was being lumped in the back room. By the time America caught up with good soundsystems, I’d taken a break from music. Dubstep changed everything there. I remember going to see Skream and Benga play and it blew me away. Just seeing these guys tearing it up with dubplates, having lots of fun. Those basslines were so experimental and forward thinking. That reinspired me to get back into music and learn everything again.
Blue: Now you’re a great teacher.
You knew the vibe you wanted, he gave you the technicalities…
Blue: Right at the beginning, I was selecting the sounds. Like, ‘I want a long drawn out 808 Serum note. I want it to linger, I want to feel it.’ We’d sit there and analyse it. Ed would say, ‘What do you visualise?’ I’d be like, ‘This sounds like someone is trudging through a swamp and her fur leg warmers are getting slimy and they’re becoming a petrified bog person.
UFO: Most of the time we’re having lots of fun and laughing away like five year olds playing in the mud.
Blue: That’s why we sampled the religious people on the corner. He called us all sinners. Sometimes he has this conch.
UFO: Yeah! It’s legal to get on a megaphone here and just yell. People who take advantage of this are people who want to spread the word of Jesus and God.
Blue: People can say what they like though. People can play music. You have people going around on big ass scooters playing loud ass music. Out here you can be colourful, loud and expressive. It’s very liberating. For me the creative flow is so strong here. It’s in the air, you can breathe it in. There’s a history of innovation here.
Blue: We come from a lineage of people like Alan Watts, George Lucas, Apple Computers, Philip K Dick, the whole hippie and gay movements here blew up the idea of weirdness and an avant garde lifestyle which I’ve always lived by. I’d have been a lot more successful if I made things commercially but I never wanted to compromise. Now this has all come back round but I have a lot more behind me to understand what I’m doing more and how I can do it better. It’s a good time for us to keep that tradition of west coast pioneering.
Blue: I feel like I belong here. Utah was so conversative but I was very colourful and artistic and would get into trouble for it at school or find it hard to get hired for work. I had this energy but no place to direct it. I was always made to feel like something was wrong with me for so long. When I found myself here it was like, ‘Oh wait, I’ve been okay the whole time, this is totally normal.’
Is it unique to San Francisco?
UFO: I’ve been San Francisco born and bred, then Costa Rica where my parents were from. You go to small town or city or some place and you stand out a tiny bit and it’s like you’re a target. Why is your hair bleached? You must be gay. Why are you red clothes? You must be satanic
Blue: A lot of it is down to people not moving out of the state. People live in their bubbles and get very entitled. You ned to go out and experience diversity, experience not speaking the language. You need to broaden those horizons.
Blue: We’re experimenting even more now I can produce as well. We work on songs and put them in folders then eventually realise we have enough to do a release. The sound is changing the more I’m learning, so who knows how the Art School Fantasies sound will be on the next release?
UFO: Personally I have some UFO things coming out on a Seattle label called Psycho Bummer. That’s where Level Up Bump is coming. They heard it and asked for some. What would be really cool is if I could tour UFO but have the visuals from Art School Fantasies.
Blue: That’s a really exciting concept for the future. We also have our own label Airlock Recordings, which gives us the freedom to release music at our own pace and not worry about having to fit into any specific box. This gives us freedom to experiment, explore and fuse different things. I also have my Pale Blue Dot alias as well.
Actually, before we go, can you tell me a bit about your background in science? In the mix you talk about the sound of pulsars and I’ve watched videos on your IG about data sonification
Blue: I worked in behavioural neurobiology and genetics research for six years at the University of Utah. In 2018 had to step down for medical reasons, but still a scientist in my soul. You can take the girl out of the lab, but you can’t take the lab out of the girl! Music is my new science experiment and the studio is my laboratory and using music to interpret data is so fascinating. I can research black holes and the physics behind them and turn that into sound. How amazing is that? I haven’t felt this exhilarated since I’ve been in the lab.
Maybe by understanding data through sonics we can understand it on a different level? Like if things harmonise they do so for a reason? I’m so excited by this. It means artists and scientists can collaborate in a way I’d only dreamt of.
This whole new chapter of your life seems a bit like that!
Blue: Totally. We’re surprised that Art School Fantasies has had this much interest. We just wanted an outlet to do what we wanted, no compromises or worrying about genres or labels or anything. This is a project for us to do whatever we feel like. But we put out the EP, people were into it and it was like, ‘Okay this is evolving…’
UFO: The process of making all this music was just us sitting in bed being like, ‘How do you like the sound of this?’ Or, ‘Woah, stop there that sound is really cool, do something with that’. I guess we have to recreate that context again to get back into that mindset.
Blue: But now we have intention. And when we put this mix together we realised we have the best part of a release ready.
UFO: Yeah, so thank you for the inspiration. I hope you all like it…
1 More Mix 004: Art School Fantasies
Timmy Thomas – Why Can’t We Live Together (Art School Fantasies Edit) Art School Fantasies – Working Out The Kinks Plastikman – Plastique / Konception ( art school fantasies mega mix ) Art School Fantasies – Ravers Trapped In A Swamp Art School Fantasies – Jezzzus Christ Dome Bass Art School Fantasies – Bitch Coff Tommy Martini – Fresh Game Vol 2 – “shaft “( feat.Lowpocus x sathim ) Jazz Playaz – Nostalgic Vacation – “Dial up” Backround – Bumps N Breaks – “Player select” Backround – Bumps N Breaks – “Nina” Art School Fantasies – Fire On The Hill Art School Fantasies – Mouth Cruncher Cocteau Twins – Lazy Calm (Art School Fantasies Edit) UFO! – New Sick! Pale Blü Dot – Cosmic Lighthouse Art School Fantasies – its just a dam ( Loop ) …. For now …
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