“I wanted it to be a journey from start to finish” – In conversation with Dugong Jr

Last month, the Australian electronic artist Dugong Jr has released his new EP Polite via Moving Castle. The EP is a collection of incredibly versatile tracks, spanning from chilled out tracks to more dance-heavy tracks you’d hear on a night out. About the EP, Dugong Jr said: “This EP is about my experiences growing up in Australia with a Chinese/Malaysian background. I generally felt that a polite demeanour was both expected and tolerated. From a young age, I understood that a way for me to stand out was through my artwork. Without having to be the loudest in the room, It was a polite way for me to not only have my voice heard but have people reflect on themselves. The Polite EP is a journey of strained spiritualism, contemporary surrealism and reclaimed identity. To me, it represents both a maturing of my art and music.. and myself.

KALTBLUT caught up with the Australian artist to chat about his latest EP, growing up in Australia with a Chinese/ Malaysian background, collaborations and NFTs. Read the q&a below.

Credits: @shotcallerstudio

KALTBLUT: Your latest EP Polite is incredibly versatile, with some tracks like “Love Lost” and “Geisha” being very suitable for the dance floor, compared to more mellow tracks like “Ceramic” for example. How would you describe the EP’s theme as a whole?

Dugong Jr: I wanted it to be a journey from start to finish. Thematically it’s centred around ideas of personal identity and how those tie back into relationships and how you perceive the world. It’s a little bit melancholy for electronic music, but that’s how the world has felt for the last 18 months. 

KALTBLUT: You’ve collaborated with loads of different artists, such as Jezzabell Doran or Blush’ko, for your EP. How did those collaborations come about and how does your approach change when there’s someone else contributing to the track?

Dugong Jr: I’ve been so lucky to work alongside so many talented people in my career. I actually met Blush’ko years ago when he reached out to me via my Studio Dugong brand to do some art direction for his project, but obviously I’m also a huge fan of his music so eventually we ended up collaborating across multiple disciplines which was cool. 

Jezzabell Doran I had been a big fan of since her early work with Flume, she has a really delicate way of singing which is really beautiful so I definitely didn’t want to make that track too noisy or busy to detract from that.

When it comes to collaborating, every artist is different. You have to pay attention to the details and treat every project with the respect it deserves.

KALTBLUT: You’ve said that the EP is about your experiences growing up in Australia with a Chinese/Malaysian background. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Dugong Jr: I guess it probably started initially with the inspiration for the sonic palette, which came from old martial arts movies and Chinese cinema. So utilising a lot of traditionally eastern instruments like bamboo flutes, guzhengs, tongue drums and then contrasting them with more contemporary analogue synths. The theme is also continued in the art direction of the EP, and is a main feature throughout my collaborations with digital animator Nickeays, who I worked closely with on this project.

KALTBLUT: The music video for “Ceramic” was released a couple of months ago and it features you and IJALE acting as ceramics. What can you tell me about the artistic thoughts behind your music videos? 

Dugong Jr: The track is more or less a commentary on the fragility of the male ego, so it’s a very literal representation of the metaphor described in the track. More specifically we’re painted as in a Quinghua (Blue flowers) pattern, traditionally used during the 14th century and still today in China as a display of wealth and prosperity.

KALTBLUT: You have created two NFTs. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re selling as an NFT and what it was that sparked your interest in NFTs as an artist?

I’ve been collaborating with my good friend Nickeays for quite a while now on a number of digital animations for both my own project and work we’ve been commissioned to do for other artists. 

This particular collection of NFT’s we’re selling [CERAMIC and JADE] and are centred around exploring the main themes of the Polite EP. Accompanied by original sound design and digital animations, each piece incorporates elements of a different element of the Chinese zodiac, with elements of contemporary surrealism.

What is most interesting to me as an artist about NFTs, are not only the opportunities the technology presents in its capacity to give financial control back to creators, but the way you can engage on a personal level with collectors in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a more traditional sense if it was say sold in a gallery space.

The crypto space is very interesting in terms of the opportunities it presents for a multitude of creative disciplines, and it’s exciting that artists are one of the early adopters in the technology. 

Each piece is sold as a 1 of 3 on Makers Place.

KALTBLUT: Considering the environmental aspect of NFTs, do you think NFTs are the future for artists?

Dugong Jr: There are huge benefits to artists being able to not only sell their art directly to collectors and consumers and engage with them, but in blockchains’ ability to execute things like smart contracts. I don’t know if I could say with certainty NFTs are the future for artists, but it definitely presents an interesting opportunity in its capacity to give control back to artists of their own work.

NFT’s are built on a platform called Ethereum, which (like most other financial platforms) in its current form definitely has a negative environmental impact, however ETH 2.0 is set to launch over the next 12 months which supposedly will make it 99.95% more environmentally friendly. 

Buy or stream Dugong Jr’s Polite here.

Coverphoto by @shotcallerstudio

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