Fantastic Twins interview – “you’re never alone with a twin”
Julienne Dessange on her second album Two Is Not A Number
Fantastic Twins AKA Julienne Dessagne established herself as a master of lysergic, off-kilter dance music as far back as 2017’s ‘The New You’ EP, spanning the gamut from nervous post-punk to industrial techno.
Descreibed as a “force of nature” as a live act – the late Andrew Weatherall invited her to play his Convenanza Festival and she was included on the BICEP-curated ‘Live & Friends’ at Plissken Festival in Greece – the Berlin-based artist has just released the second Fantastic Twins album Two Is Not A Number, released on her new label House Of Slessor.
So we decided to track down Dessange herself and find out more…
First things first – where are you as you type this? How has your day been so far? Been up to anything good/fun/awful so far, or anything planned for later?
I’m in a taxi heading to St Thomas Church in Berlin, for the live premiere of Moritz Von Oswald’s new album. I’ve had another very busy day, it’s been a bit of a marathon lately with the release of my album. I’ve spent the day launching some merch items into production, continuing my collaboration with Fons Hickmann who designed the vinyl cover of the album. There will be a very limited edition of Tees for Twins lovers, which should be available just in time for Xmas.
Fantastic Twins – where did the name come from?
In the beginning it sort of came from stacking up vocal layers and messing around with timing and delays, basically multiplying myself so to speak. From these imaginary new-born twins I was inspired to create a whole fictional world, essentially a dialogue between two halves of my brain happening in the music. ‘Fantastic’ as in unreal, the twins are a fantasy, a hallucinatory vision. Twins are basically my brainchildren and my muses and they’re constantly morphing along my musical experiments.
And tell us about your musical journey so far – what music did family play you, what were your first musical loves? What about early bands/projects?
When I was a kid, we had an Atari ST at home with lots of computer games which I played with my brother and my dad. The soundtracks of those games – chiptune/8-bit music – made a big impression on me and definitely account for a fair part of my attraction towards electronic sounds. Beside video games, I dedicated a huge part of my childhood to contemporary ballet, which I practiced intensively till my mid-twenties. Very often during the classes, we’d hear music from Steve Reich and Philip Glass. So around the age of six, the first two CDs I asked my parents to buy for me were Songs For Liquid Days and Glassworks by Philip Glass, so that I could listen to them and rehearse at home. I have a sort of Proustian bond with these pieces of music. At home, my parents played mostly classical music, jazz, blues, African music, some odd vocal choirs, etc. As a teenager, my brother initiated me to techno and house music, the sound of Detroit, Japanese ambient, etc. Before my solo project I was in a duo named Saschienne with Sascha Funke, we released an LP on Kompakt Records and subsequently toured worldwide with a live set for about four years.
And what have you released as Fantastic Twins before this album?
I first released a couple of EPs under the name The Twins around 2013-14 and then more EPs as Fantastic Twins, some on Hippie Dance (label founded by Superpitcher and Rebolledo) and the majority on Optimo Music. In 2017 I released an LP called Obakodomo, which was a soundtrack I originally composed for a piece of contemporary dance. I contributed to a myriad of compilations like Weaponise Your Sound – a project focused on female producers – Velvet Desert curated by Jörg Burger, etc. Also did a fair amount of vocal featuring and collaborative work with artists such as Superpitcher, Cosmo Vitelli, JD Twitch, etc, more recently again with Red Axes or Andrei Rusu from Khidja. For a couple of years I curated a V/A compilation series called Microdosing, releasing music from artists such as Oceanic, Naum Gabo, Autarkic, Joakim, Borusiade and more. Last summer I launched my new imprint House of Slessor, the new home for my solo work, starting last June with an EP of material I’d been playing in my live sets. And now my new album Two Is Not A Number.
You’ve said you’re less influenced by pop and more by underground artists… Who are we talking about?
It’s only just that pop music wasn’t a major part of my musical education, maybe I was a bit hermetic to it, not intentionally though. But I didn’t exactly say that I was influenced by underground artists, ‘underground’ is a bit of a tricky definition in my opinion. As I mentioned earlier, my first musical loves mainly came from the contemporary music/minimalist scene and they still are an inspiration to me. Likewise video games soundtracks were a big influence, Detroit techno, industrial and noise music, and artists/bands like Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Pan Sonic, Basic Channel, Alice Coltrane, Nina Simone,… too many to name them all.
Is there any pop you’ve developed a soft spot for in the meantime?
Sophie was probably the one who caught my attention the most in the last years. I like pop music when it goes beyond the genre’s boundaries and formulas, when artists come up with their own definition of pop, like Chris & Cosey did for example. But I don’t approach music in terms of genre to be honest. I have no restrictions as long as it’s good music, and that there’s an edge to the production as opposed to just loud and over-compressed stuff.
Is it co-incidence that you, Aphex Twin and Gazelle Twin are all solo acts?
There’s a great album by Sun City Girls called ‘You’re Never Alone With A Cigarette’. Well, you’re never alone with a twin either. Maybe we’re all part of what Sun Ra called the Twin Road Heraldry… I don’t know!
Is there a connection between the Twins theme and the album title ‘Two Is Not A Number’? It was inspired by a quote from David Lynch’s ‘What Did Jack Do?’, we read – tell us more …
There is a connection, yes. The album is an exploration of the twins’ imaginary lives, it’s a sonic world where everything, for better and for worse, is multiplied and magnified. In Lynch’s short film, there’s this line “this thing is bigger than the both of us” which resonated with my own twin dimension and inspired me. There are separate entities with their beliefs and systems, sometimes conflicting, yet also somewhere the faith that there is something that can unite and transcend. Lynch’s inspiration is also palpable in that Two Is Not A Number is an invitation to imagine, to feel, to see things that may or may not exist, to embrace the absurd and let it take us to places. A sort of manifest against the tyranny of the obvious.
And finally, what’s next for Fantastic Twins?
I’m about to start working on a new live set, and new music in general. The release and promotion of my album have kept me away from the studio lately so I’m really looking forward to switching on the machines again!