Fantastic Twins has been orbiting our radar for a while now. Not all that surprising considering the double-headed alias has been a staple of quality releases on Hippie Dance and Optimo Music. Time to connect, indulge and admire, as we welcome her into our Straight Forward series.

Fantastic Twins – a travel in sound, shuffling through an imaginary stylistic library of personal stories, translated in luminous, beautifully constructed, musical poetry; suspenseful in story-telling and enlarged with particles of dance and club music. As a supernatural phenomenon descending on the unexplored territories of contemporary electronica, Fantastic Twins – formerly known as The Twins – is the double-headed alias of Julienne Dessagne’s artistic personality.

Her genre bending formula of constantly fluctuating sound has found its place in the universe on art house imprints Optimo Music and Hippie Dance. Without sounding to much like a fanboy – editor’s note; we are – it’s easy to understand why these these powerhouses, with an especially strong hallmark on quality control, are more then happy to welcome Fantastic Twins to their catalog after listening to her broad musical output.

Weaponed with a diverse set of influences, ranging from her passion for contemporary dance; an art form she practiced for decades, during which she was exposed to composers like Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Peter Zummo, to Optimo’s events full of post-punk, synth-wave, techno and house, during her time in Glasgow, she has shaped a particularly strong sense of melody and ambience that makes for a delicately fabricated trip into unexplored psychedelic techno territories.

Time to connect, indulge and admire, as we welcome her into our Straight Forward series. For the occasion she gives us a taste of what Fantastic Twins is all about in the form of a hour long, carefully crafted mix. Pure diverse musical poetry. Next to an interview touching base on her friendship with Hippie Dance, Optimo and future plans. With new music coming up, including a remix on Ransome Note, and upcoming live performance at Garage in Paris 12th May, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open!

Welcome Julienne, good having you here! First off the usual icebreaker, how have you been and where do we find you today?

Happy to be your guest! I’m good thanks, sitting in Berlin and watching the trees turn green again through the windows of my studio. Pure romance.

Tell us a little about your Fantastic Twins persona. How did the Twins first met, when did they decide to make music together, and what makes them fantastic?

I guess the Twins were always there somewhere, like still waters running deep! They first came into play when Pachanga Boys asked me to record stories (written by them) on their album “We Are Really Sorry” back in 2013. The boys have always been convinced that several people live in my head and they gave me that nickname. Shortly after, my first EP as The Twins came out and from the private joke to the stage, things moved on pretty naturally, and then supernaturally, they sloughed into fantastic. I find quite relaxing to exist outside of my own self sometimes.

Let’s talk a bit about your formative years as a producer. With your discography being a difficult one to pinpoint, can you shine some light on the musical influences you grew around and what got you into making electronic music?

I grew up under multiple influences. I got introduced to the likes of Philip Glass and Peter Zummo very early when I use to train as a dancer in a company of children (both artists scored for contemporary dance). Also some classical music through my years of learning piano (yawn). Then in the early 00’s I started going to clubs, moved to Glasgow to do my masters and discovered Optimo’s night “Optimo Espacio” which became my main source of joy, inspiration and musical education and a major turning point for me. Twitch and Wilkes’ sets were impossible to pinpoint too. That’s precisely what made them so enjoyable to me. I then worked a couple of years for the nightclub fabric in London, assisting the programmer, Judy Griffith. By then I was bathing into electronic music 7 days/nights a week. I started producing just after I quit my job there and moved to Berlin, that is 8 years ago. I suppose getting out of London relieved me from the financial pressure and I had more time and freedom to play around with machines and learn to make music. First started with a band project called Saschienne who I released an album with until I started working solo – with my imaginary twins – in 2012.

Going down a little bit of a slippery cliche road here, but I’m sincerely interested, so I’ll descend. How would you describe your own sound? A colorful metaphor will do as well.

I really have no idea how to answer this question and I’d prefer not to cause that could mean I’m done exploring beyond “my sound”. Press releases texts with tons of overcomplicated adjectives dissecting every sound in a track usually make me want to flip a table. Let’s just say my music sounds like possessed witches casting spells.

On your records, a big returning theme is spoken word. Where does this fascination with vocal layouts, or should I say, attraction to it come from?

I don’t feel so much of an attraction to spoken word per se but I work a lot around stories. Finding a story – even if the story makes sense only to me or if I end up diverting completely from the original idea – helps me finding a path into creating music. Now, it doesn’t mean that the vocals always come first in the process. Most of the time, the sounds I play dictate the story and the vocal parts unfold from there. I know that vocals are quite central to most of my releases so far but for me they’re just one more tool to play with really, equally as important as any other element in the song.

You’ve primarily been releasing on Hippie Dance and Optimo Music – two of the most forward thinking and influential tastemakers in recent years. How did you guys connect, and what do those record labels mean to you?

Superpitcher and Rebolledo have been two of my closest friends for the past 10 years almost, and our friendship grew through our love for music (mostly our own) (and silliness too). They’ve always been incredibly supportive of my work and always encouraged me to put my music out. As for Optimo, I’ve known Keith (JD Twitch) and Jonnie (Wilkes) for a long time, simply because I used to attend their night every Sunday in Glasgow. We weren’t close friends at that point, but I got to meet them again every now and then when they came down to play at fabric the following years. Then Keith, who runs the label, showed interest in my project from the very beginning and offered to release my second EP, and lately my soundtrack LP “Obakodomo”. I’m thankful to all these amazing people for inviting me on their labels, I feel very lucky.

Tell us a little about your most recent outing on Hippie Dance, “The New You” EP. As the title implies, the EP’s press sheet mentions somewhat of a musical re-exploration on your part. What’s the story there?

The story is mostly imaginary, it arose from the sounds and the pictures and emotions they inspired me. In the end, through my music, I’m just telling the stories of the twins, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me. I released a song called “Holiday” just before “The New You” Ep came out. So after a holiday, you have to come back. The twins came back as Fantastic Twins and had a new agenda. Let’s say, as a whole, the EP revolves around the body, the (confused) mind, the human and the superhuman and a kind of back and forth between all of these things. Quite Ze concept, eh?! ha. I need a break.

It feels like you’re quite picky on your production work. With authenticity always being one of the big themes in music, what are your thoughts on the matter?

I’m only picky on certain things that really matter to me. A lot of people nowadays have a very technical approach to music. Some might get a feeling of achievement once they have a “fat”, “functional” or “hands up in the air” sounding track, I don’t know. But often, this kind of tracks all end up sounding the same, that’s the problem. And then you have the archetype of the analogue fetishist, nostalgic of a sound aesthetics that he/she tries to copy (and often fails badly) instead of creating something innovative with his/her gear. For me, what matters first is that my music creates an atmosphere that takes you to another mind / physical zone and second, that I don’t just apply the same recipe over and over again. If I feel a track doesn’t achieve that, I just won’t release it.

Next to releasing on the label, you’ve been playing a part in the operational side of things for Hippie Dance and it’s sister label You And Your Hippie Friends. Tell us a little about your roll in the Hippie Dance hemisphere.

Originally, Hippie Dance wasn’t designed to bring out other people’s music but Pachanga Boys’ own stuff. I was the first exception to the rule. Throughout the years, it has opened up a bit, You And Your Hippie Friends came along and the family slightly extended. The boys got me closely involved since the early days of the label and it became more intensive in the last year as we had a heavy release schedule that required promo support. It’s a collective project and we’re a small team so it just appeared natural to me to help and make talented upcoming artists feel supported.

You mentioned earlier, that you’re working on a soundtrack project in France. Anything you can tell us about that?

I’m providing a soundtrack for a group of dancers who will take part into the street parade of La Biennale De La Danse of Lyon in September. Usually this type of performance is accompanied by traditional Batucadas, so my challenge is to bring electronic sounds into that context, come up with different rhythmic patterns and sounds without making it too experimental, I just want to create a simple energy. It’s an interesting project because it brings together a lot of people across several classes of age and social backgrounds, amateurs and professionals, all here to enjoy dancing together and doing something creative around that. I will perform the soundtrack live on a moving truck specially designed for it on the day of the event which usually gathers around 30,000 people in the streets so funnily it’ll be my biggest gig so far (!). I just finished the first round of rehearsals with the dancers a couple of weeks ago, it was fun.

Your “Obakodomo” LP, released via Optimo Music, was innately created as soundtrack for a contemporary dance performance. Tell us a little about that record’s creation and what it means to you.

In 2015, a French choreograph I’ve known for years approached me to produce the soundtrack of her new creation called “Au Balcon Du Monde”, a piece of contemporary dance made for an audience of children and interpreted by two dancers. It was based on the imaginary story of two explorers discovering Antartica and behind it a deeper reflexion on human’s relationship to stranger environments. I really enjoyed producing that soundtrack because I could totally break free from the “dictatorship of functionality” I feel in club music sometimes. I never intended to release it on vinyl but when JD Twitch heard it in 2017, he offered to put it out on Optimo Music. I think what seduced him was to show that “music for children” doesn’t have to be “childish”. Again, it’s all about creating atmospheres, dark or spooky ones sometimes, kids love that too. The LP might be a bit of a strange one but I’m proud of it and knowing Optimo Music’s fanbase, I’m confident the project landed in good ears.

On the touring side of things, you’ve been traveling a lot recently, performing your new live set. One of the stops was on the mountain tops of Planpraz, alongside Superpitcher. A rather surreal setting. Tell us a little about that experience?

That was a wild one! The event nearly got canceled because of the bad weather but eventually it took place. It was freezing and my gear, especially the analogue stuff, obviously didn’t get on well with the cold. So I had to adjust to the situation, make some last minute director’s cuts. The wind was blowing so strong in the mic, it was real tough to perform! But the set up designed by Collectif Scale looked cool with the huge snowy mountains surrounding us and the sunset, supernatural and beautiful. And Superpitcher and I had a fondue afterwards so a happy ending.

With that, are there any further bucketlist surroundings you can see a Fantastic Twins performance going down rather well? I’ll inform the promoters.

A bunch of people ready to sweat together in a small club is enough as long as I’m able to take their minds to somewhere wilder. Or a massive stadium, with lots of fire effects on stage will do too.

Selecting artwork for your records is something you put a lot of attention into, and in general is a process you really enjoy. What about that visual component specifically attracts you?

I think what makes this part of the process very enjoyable is because I feel the satisfaction that my record is about to see the daylight. And at that point, the experience becomes less solitary. So far Ive been working with a team of spaced out French boys – called “Uplaod” – always ready to experiment with me, designing special fonts, logos, drawings, watercolours, etc. I like to see how they picture my music and watch it translate into something visual.

What can we expect from Fantastic Twins in the near future – any original material in the pipeline we should be looking out for?

I’ve been working on a lot of new music lately but I haven’t yet found a way to assemble the pieces of the jigsaw. The soundtrack project takes up quite a lot of my time and so does touring and fine-tuning my live set so I’m running against the clock all the time. I have a couple of remixes in the pipeline, one for C.A.R.’s album coming out on Ransom Note Records. And a couple of exciting collaborations with other artists but it’s too early to say more.

Tell us a little about the mix you’ve made for us – where is it recorded, favourite tracks, inspiration, atmosphere, etc.

I recorded it at home. I’m not a DJ so I tend to build podcasts in the same way as I would do for a live set or a track, with the focus on the dramaturgy rather than the mix. It was a bit tough to regroup all these tracks in a one-hour mix as they go in many different directions. But in that sense, it really is a screenshot of where I’m at right now. I discovered great music via Bandcamp lately which is featured here along old classics, some Glasgow favourites and a new Optimo Music release by Sex Judas which would make anyone want to strip off and make love.

Anything else you want to share with us?

I just shared already too much for my own sake 🙂 Twins need a holiday now. Thanks for your time!

Fantastic Twins: Facebook // Soundcloud // Instagram // Bandcamp

Photo by Marco Dos Santos.