Reduced By object blue

The soundtrack to a reduced frame of mind and an expanding resource to encourage better self-careExplore the archive.

Students of early hip-hop may be aware of the small print on the back sleeve of LL Cool K’s 1985 album Radio: “Reduced by Rick Rubin”, in homage to his pioneering minimalist arrangement. It’s with Rick’s same approach to musical minimalism that this series emerges: stripping sound back to its most transcendental, restorative and atmospheric textures to block out the noise and aid focus, attunement and relaxation.

Discussions have come a long way in recent years, but there still remains a taboo around not being okay. To accompany each audio presentation, we’ll speak to the creator about their experiences with self-care and, if they’re comfortable sharing, mental health. We’ll unpack personal processes, explore the nuances of self-care across cultures and raise awareness of charities with a personal connection. We hope this will grow into an evolving resource of knowledge and experience to provide solace, inspiration, reassurance and company in difficult times.

For the next instalment in our Reduced series we welcome producer, DJ and live artist object blue. Her rise to notoriety over the last few years has been a real pleasure to watch; she’s captivated audiences with live performances at events like Dekmantel and Atonal; composed music for and performed live at Fashion Week events; and released a flurry of EPs via Let’s Go Swimming, Nervous Horizon (in collaboration with TSVI) and TT (FKA Tobago Tracks), the home of her breakthrough debut and her most recent outing, the melodically rich ‘Grotto‘, which is a musing on the space we exist in as a stage.

Alongside a live improvised set of intricate, meandering melodies, she shares a candid interview about her own relationship with self-care and mental health, paired with YMCA, a charity that support young people through accommodation, training, education and advice. To donate or find out more about their work, visit their website.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

First a nice easy one: what does self-care mean to you?

Eating well, sleeping well, not blaming myself too much when I don’t feel well and don’t get much done. Spending time with my wife, my dog and friends. Reading fiction. Listening to new music or old favourites. Having a lot of alone time.

What does your daily or weekly self-care routine look like? 

I cook and eat with as much attention as I can, always with seasonal produce. It helps me to pay attention to the passing of time and seasons, because mental health troubles usually mean losing footing of physical reality and flying around in your head.

Can you tell us about the self-care spot at home you’ve photographed and how have made it an optimum spot?

I love this dining table, which I got secondhand on eBay last summer. I’ve wanted a drop-leaf table for a while, and now it’s a symbol of my independence and adulthood, being able to purchase a beautiful utilitarian furniture I use every day. Cooking and eating always makes me happy, so laying out the table is my favourite times of day, and sometimes I open the table to its full size to set up my sewing machine. I’m really looking forward to using its full-size to host friends once the pandemic is controlled.

Can you tell us about the outdoor location you’ve photographed where you go to find tranquility.

I don’t get to go enough, but any ocean makes me feel full of awe and peace. Sand slipping away from under my feet is instant bliss.

What benefits has self-care brought you over the years?

Life is fun now!!!!!

Are there any specific techniques you favour or come back to more frequently?

I come back to it sporadically rather than regularly, but Buddhist meditations like Anasanapati and Metta Bhavana are wonderful. I have Metta (compassion) symbols tattooed on my arms. Also staying in Buddhist monasteries helps you learn to really pay attention, instead of having your mind pushed and shoved around. I love that stillness. Observing noble silence where you speak as little as possible is such a lovely experience especially going from our busy modern lives. When I stayed for a few days at Amaravati in Hertfordshire, I got to hear Ajahn Sundarā talk; when asked “how can I maintain Buddhist practice outside the temple walls, when we go back to our secular lives?” she answered with the kindest smile: “the most important practice is to be at peace with despair.” That shot me through the gut. Buddhists are experts in suffering well. Their wisdom always helps me.

Are there any self-care techniques that are native to your community or heritage and how are they viewed in the global context of the self-care movement?

Meditation and mindfulness isn’t exactly native to my native countries — it’s been practiced all over the world throughout history — but it’s been upsetting to see mindfulness being repackaged as a neoliberal tool of “how to work as efficiently as possible during office hours without feeling depressed about capitalism!”

What advice would you have for anyone who is either sceptical about the benefits of self-care, or is new to it and feels intimated by the wealth of options available.

Well, if you are unable to want to take care of yourself, I agree you have a problem far too deep for self-care to solve on its own. You’d need medicine, therapy, a health check for starters.

I do agree the “just take bubble baths!” shifts the societal responsibility onto individuals, it’s an easy way out for governments and capitalists to claim innocence when mental health would absolutely improve with better working conditions, better healthcare, reducing inequality. But on an individual level, getting through the day, being able to have a different perspective on your emotions, having a support network — they are indispensable to making existence less miserable.

What was the idea behind your Reduced set?

I wanted to share my deep gratitude and pride in making it this far in life, which is why I decided to record original material. This is the closest thing I can do now to when I used to improvise for hours at the piano — it made me feel almost inexistent, but in the best way. Like my ego had eroded within the sheer force of music. There is so much in silence and irregular time that can be felt — really liberating to leave the loop grid sometimes.

How would you advise listening to your set?

I hope it accompanies you on a walk, on your chores, or when you want to give it full attention — as long as it gives you something, I’m happy.

What does good mental health mean to you?

Maintaining a level of understanding and preparedness so you don’t let negative thoughts/patterns consume and disturb your life. We all feel sad, angry, hopeless sometimes; for me, the goal is not to never feel this things, but knowing how to survive them, without hurting yourself or others.

Are there any experiences with mental health that you’d like to share to provide comforts or connections with others who are/have suffered? Dark times you’ve left behind you, or difficult moments you still struggle to overcome?

I was hit with depression like a brick when I was 13, and for the next decade I struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts (attempted a few times, all of which I managed to hide from family). I’d go to school drunk, let myself get into abusive relationships, and I always wanted a chance to die. I thought I would always feel this way; but now, at 28, I can finally say that I’m glad to be alive and I would fight for my life if something tried to end it. 

As soon as I went into uni I signed up for counselling, and did therapy for the next six years. I took a year break after my degrees, then did another year. It helped me understand so much: my family relationships laid a very fragile and volatile sense of self-worth; my perfectionism made me hate myself; I stayed in bad relationships because being in a dangerous emotional state was something I was used to; I didn’t have healthy boundaries because I didn’t know what they looked like, and even if I did, did I even deserve it? My therapists, friends, and antidepressants helped me to understand and eventually break out of these cycles. It was really hard work, but I managed to get my life, which is worth everything.

Lifelong depression is less common than incidental or periodic depression, so I’m happy to speak about mine to let others know that it can be OK, despite the deathwish permanently lurking in my head I am alive, fiercely so. I make art that I love, I have a marriage I cherish, I wouldn’t trade my friends for anything. Even when my mind feels helpless, my reality isn’t.

What advice would you give to people who are suffering from poor mental health and either can’t understand why or don’t know where to turn?

Don’t beat yourself up for not immediately understanding why you feel this way. I thought I was the master of self-analysis until I went to therapy and realised things about myself that had completely slipped past me.

I understand professional mental health is often inaccessible, but try to find a compatible therapist when you can, and build a support network that’s beyond just a partner or a friend, because you don’t want to turn that relationship in a nurse-patient dynamic; try to find understanding people that you can alternately turn to. Peer groups like Emotions Anonymous and Codependents Anonymous are free and extremely helpful. There are also therapeutic approaches that focus on immediate effects like hypnotherapy and Wake and Light therapy at The Priory. Reading books by experts are great too.

Based on experiences where others have helped you, what advice would you give to those who are close to someone who’s suffering but doesn’t know how best to support them.

Support yourself first. Trying to support someone who don’t want to help themselves is futile, exhausting and you end up hating that person. You need to know when to draw the line to say, “I can only listen but I don’t seem to be helping, you need someone more skilled than me to actually help; at this rate we will destroy each other.” If they understand and reach out for help from other sources, you can stay friends/lovers/family. If they get upset and try to trample your boundaries, run. It sounds cold, but this comes from personal experience of losing beloved partners and my sanity.

If they are respectful of your boundary, of course you can continue to provide them support. A lot of the time people in pain just want to be heard, and non-judgemental listening is helpful. Also practical things like cooking for them, making sure they eat, sleeping over, organising walks and exercise make a difference. Finally, let them know they’re loved — even when I hated myself with a burning passion, felt humiliated and worthless, remembering that my friends think I’m the coolest girl really helped me.

Do you think being part of the music industries has had any implications for your mental health? If so, what have you done to cope with it?

Revealing your biggest passion to public scrutiny can be nerve-wracking, I was so upset when I handed in my debut EP, I thought it wasn’t good enough. Then I got so much love for it, I was pulled out of my paranoia. But at the end of the day, what matters the most is whether I like it or not — I think it’s helpful to have a god complex as an artist, so you stay true to your own taste and vision. I always get haters whenever my work is picked up by bigger platforms, but I don’t mind; everyone has the right to listen to what they like, it’s only natural that some people dislike my music. And I’ve already gotten a lifetime supply of happiness and approval from people who do listen to my music or come to dance at my shows, which is the most life-giving thing.

Are there any changes you’d like to see to help look after collective and individual mental health in the music industries?

I think substance abuse and loneliness of touring needs better understanding! I was so glad when Courtesy spoke out about the pressure of partying with promoters; not everyone is a party animal just because they play dance music. I go through phases of being very social and needing a lot of alone time, and always feel fortunate and happier when promoters/artists on the lineup are understanding of either.

Are there any initiatives or sources of knowledge doing important work in mental health that have benefited you, that others should check out?

– Boundaries After a Pathological Relationship – Adelyn Birch
– The Dhammapada
– The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder – Katherine A Phillips
What’s So Funny About Mental Illness? – Ruby Wax
– London Buddhist Centre meditation retreats
– Monastic stays at Amaravati temple in Hertfordshire

Can you tell us more about your selected charity, the work it does and why it holds a personal significance?

A very dear friend received great support from YMCA when he fled his abusive home; I believe the accommodation and key worker they provided saved his life. Being young is so hard – you feel so powerless – I would have utilised young people’s services if they had been available to me. This is for you.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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