by Acacia Carr / February 1st, 2022
An Interview with Nae & Blizz
From the Blog / February 2022 - Issue 1 of 2
NAE and Blizz
rockin’ tunes from out of this world
I had the chance to introduce you to NÆ (JaNae Contag) and Blizz (Ryan Black) in September of 2021 as one of my first Mythic Rhythmic Blog guests. They have since had the Season 2 and Series finale of their YouTube series Saturnae: Orbital Ice Cream (October 30th, 2021) whiinaterch I wanted to highlight and also to let you know about their upcoming album, Isolazen.
Saturnae: Orbital Ice Cream Season Finale
For the Season Finale of Saturnae, NÆ and Blizz created an hour of original music, improvisation, and interaction for this sci-fi intergalactic adventure, “Glyphs & Glimmers”. As always, the show was hosted Live on YouTube from NÆ and Blizz’s Music-Powered Spaceship the MPS-88. Their Role: Ice Cream Ambassadors. Their Mission: To exchange Earthly science and culture for recipes and access to each planet’s coveted ice cream vault.
In this episode, NÆ and Blizz have spent some time glamping on the planet of Meliorum since their last mission. Upon receiving a strange message from the International Ice Cream Consortium (IICC), they descend into the caves of Meliorum to help what they discover to be a dying species.
The Featured Guest Expert for this episode of Saturnae is H. Peter Steeves, Philosopher, Artist, and Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago. Peter Steeves’s ninth book—Being and Showtime—is an interactive experience that “[invites] the reader to perform the text, thus becoming an active contributor in an artistic collaboration, the work asks nothing less than that we liberate scholarship from its dry, tragic ethos and rediscover what it truly means to find joy in thinking… topics such as the nature of time, the origin of life…the problems with sustainable energy initiatives, the moral status of plants and rocks, the construction of reality” (from www.beingandshowtime.com) and the very nature of the Cosmos.
In addition to Professor Steeves, NÆ and Blizz had several guest artists perform the voices of these ancient space creatures. Featured vocal artists included some of our previous Blog artists including Agent Johnny Red, Adri Vinchira, Jordana (Moon) and Tom (Aries) of Moon & Aries, as well as Ryan Flynn and me, Acacia Carr.
This type of artistic community involvement is part and parcel of what NÆ and Blizz do. Through their audio visual performance creations, they help build community through their work with other artists and by their close and genuine connections with their fanbase.
Behind the Scenes of Saturnae
The fabulous cave of Melorium was handmade and constructed inside of NÆ and Blizz’s home studio. NÆ and Blizz relied on theatrical prop making skills shared between the two to create this splendid sci-fi environment for their shows.
for the slow-motion tracking shots of the two explorers traveling through the cave
An Interview with NAE and Blizz
I had the chance to chat with both NÆ and Blizz recently about their visions and goals moving forward.
There was clearly a gargantuan amount of work that was involved in creating the series for Saturnae. How did you two decide to team up and create this series? Would you say it was a product of the pandemic in some ways?
NÆ: I think that’s a really great question and a lot of what our most recent viewers have seen was the past season of Saturnae: Orbital Ice Cream, a nine part series wherein we traveled to space. But Saturnae actually started as a concept, and as an idea.
You’re exactly right that it was during the pandemic when things started shutting down and Ryan and I were a couple of the first people to have Covid in the Chicago area. That was back in March 2020.
At that time there was limited guidance as far as how long to quarantine or what to do, or even where to get tested, so we got tested at an emergency center, but had to do a whole doctor’s visit as a part of it. We had to quarantine for almost 42 days during which time we didn’t leave our property. We had groceries delivered to us, and I was keeping a log in a journal about it the whole time in order to manage my anxiety and also to just track this very odd historical experience and time in our lives.
We did a lot of different things to manage that anxiety and to manage that stress. We were sick for 3 weeks. So during that time, a really big part of the anxiety management was making music and talking about future big projects and also sort of trying to be positive about the possibilities of a world where no one can leave their home.
What does that look like in a positive sense? What can we contribute to the dialogue, what can we contribute culturally and also exercise my interest in performance art and creating these interactive experiences.
We also explored Ryan’s interest in pushing the boundaries of technology and for both of us to expand what we understand or what we know about performance theater and technology in general. So we used this approach as a huge distraction from the massive anxiety we were experiencing. We also wanted to get really serious about how do we put on a show because that’s something that we had just done for the first time in March before the pandemic came to the US.
We decided then and there to do something, so that’s where we started. We were collecting a lot of odds and ends around the house like cardboard and from that we started working on building the sets for the first four episodes of Saturday that happened in 2020.
Then we started thinking about what a live stream series could look like that was totally different than anything else we’d seen over the course of the pandemic.
Wow! What a journey you just described there. I mean certainly a historical one, to say the least. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic in many ways, but you certainly were affected by it in a very intimate way in your life, especially with it being at the outset, when so little information was known. I can’t imagine the anxiety of that experience, when the world was full of anxiety already, that had to hit home.
So being able to take something like that and turn it into a positive, especially considering that we didn’t really know you know what the trajectory of the pandemic would be at that time is both impressive and inspiring.
We still don’t yet ultimately know how this pandemic will play out, but I think what you have shown with your work on Saturnae is that though we are living in uncertain times, that does not mean that all hope is lost. I think there’s since been a little bit of a renaissance in creativity during these dark times, especially when it comes to the techspressionism movement.
NÆ: I really like that term as well.
And I don’t think it’s just empty lingo you know I really think that people are motivated to make the most of this really important moment in time, that we’re at right now, because it’s a juncture of extreme suffering and loss, hardship, economic stress, and I think a lot of isolation for a lot of people in general and for artists, in particular, who are just starting out on their careers, it’s a hard time.
So how many guests did you speak to over the course of the series?
NÆ: As far as experts were concerned, that was not the initial way the show was set up… it sort of evolved into that in the second season. As we progressed, we realized we wanted an educational component that would expand the general interest in the show but also make the show more interesting for us to build. This gave us a platform on which to build our scenarios and explorations as Blizz and NÆ on a spaceship powered by music.
The idea was that it would lead us to new worlds and new ideas that we might not think of otherwise, so it was a pretty conscious effort to reach out and a huge amount of work!
Ultimately, I think we had seven experts total plus an episode (Episode 2) in which Blizz was the expert to talk about how sound waves travel through different spaces. It was difficult to get Professors on board for a YouTube series of this fun nature, so we had a lot of rejections. As it turns out, the people who did come on the show were super into it.
Part of what we wanted to say on the show is that art is research, science is research, art is science, science is art, technology, art, science…they are all interconnected.
We wanted to give a voice to that concept and have people actually speak about their areas of interest but without without being specific to the point where there would be conflicts or sort of larger emotional discussions. For us, that wasn’t the point. We just wanted to show how these concepts are interconnected, and that we can all move forward and the show hopefully.
BLIZZ: We wanted people to see the process in the show, even if they were lost in the story.
So I loved having arts and crafts, where you would see our hands, I like switching to a wide camera shot in almost every show, I think I do this at some point where I switched to a live camera shot that kind of shows the insanity that is the studio…that we’re doing this out of a very conscious intent to show people how much effort and work goes into these small things that hopefully bring some joy to their living room from ours during this time of isolation.
Yeah, I think that’s great. I mean we consume so much digital media these days and there is a lot of work that goes into it, but unless you’re a content creator—and I don’t like to use that term typically because it just reduces you to kind of like a human version of a Bot—you likely do not have an awareness of just how much work truly goes into making these kinds of productions happen. For you and Blizz to show the time and the skill and the labor that goes into making these environments and scenarios is, I think, a really encouraging positive.
To me, there is really no clear delineation between art and science. If you look at somebody like Leonardo da Vinci, I mean where’s the line there? You’re not going to find it because it was all intertwined in everything that he was doing. That’s the way I try to approach my own work as well.
Presenting science and art and all that lies in between, all the places where those concepts overlap in a way that simply says I am here and I am open to being experienced. I can’t tell people how to experience life or interpret their findings. That’s a personal journey based on life experiences.
What you’ve done with Saturnae is to present interesting information in an engaging way, whereas some might hear the word “science” and begin to tune out because of the perception that science is dry, boring or not meaningful in our everyday lives.
I think it’s cool that you didn’t have every single detail planned out at the start because it lends a much more interesting, organic approach to the series. Your production journey is analogous to your travels in the exploratory craft. In both cases, you’re making discoveries along the way.
NÆ: I was in a fortunate position to keep most of my teaching work, which went online, but all of Ryan’s production work evaporated and he was in a position to put in time into the production of the streaming studio AKA the MPS-88. We had massive handwritten lists on the wall from NÆ as well as spreadsheets on the computer from Ryan for scheduling, script writing, and other time sensitive tasks.
So much went into the show including songwriting, voice-over work, prop creation, reaching out to guests and collaborators, rehearsals, packaging, sound effect creations, camera setups, lighting, programming sounds, etc. This was in addition to my teaching obligations at DePaul and Ryan’s job as well. We certainly put in over 100 hours per episode. It was fun and it pushed us as far as we could with our skill sets and resources while still making something that is both accessible and fun. We did our own camera work which required a lot of planning to be able to do while we were also playing our instruments and performing.
We wanted to create something inspirational for people who watched it and to make them wonder just how we put it all together. And since we did turn down some work to produce the series, we had to make it feel really worthwhile as to what we produced.
Well I think it’s safe to say that your efforts paid off in a cool and very well produced experience for your audience watching at home. Is it too soon to ask what’s next for NÆ and Blizz? Now that the Melorium cave has been returned to it’s status of home studio, I am curious what you two have in store for 2022.
NÆ: I think there are two big projects that we’re basically about ready to release!
We just have to finish some of the visual assets and information, and send one thing off to mastering, one thing off to distribution once we have those other assets done.
But we have some big goals for this year!
In March and April of 2020, we started work on a new album called Isolazen. It’s an ambient synth focused album that’s very different and it’s somewhat dark because we wrote it on synthesizers in the thick of being very sick with the virus. It took a year and a half for me to open that project back up and even listen to it because it signified so much. We had recorded the synths in March and April of 2020, Ryan produced the music in October 2020, and now I’m recording vocals in 2022.
It was a bit traumatic to kind of revisit what I was writing and what Ryan was writing during that time, so I’m adding some vocal parts to those tracks right now, just very spacey some poems. It’s definitely different than the very pop-centric Push Button Future album (2021).
We also wrote a dark synth pop track called “Flood my Body” which is also mastered and ready to go out. I’m just working on editing some of the visual assets and photography for that.
Then we are starting production on an actual Saturnae album where we’re gonna produce this very groovy space funk-a-licious album with a lot of the songs that we wrote for the show over the past year, which has previously only existed in the Saturnae format because they’ve only been played live on the show so far.
And then to be very ambitious, on top of that we’re putting together a mobile touring rig and hoping to take June to bring our huge inflatable unicorn and put on some shows.
That’s awesome! Hopefully we can meet up and do a show together while we are both on tour. Do you know what cities you’ll be playing yet?
NÆ: We’ll probably be starting in Chicago and then going South through St Louis, then all the way down to Austin or San Antonio, Texas. Then we will head East towards North Carolina and hopefully meet up with our friends Alex and Bethany from Waking April to play a couple of shows with them before heading to New York and then back to Chicago.
Where can Mythic Rhythmic readers learn more about your upcoming tour and stay in the loop with you?
You can visit my website and sign up to receive my Newsletter there.
So in this case, all the glitter and glitz is really all the glitter and glitz.
NÆ: For sure!
There is a Part 2 to this conversation where Ryan (Blizz) talks about his experiences working on different types of music projects. We also talk about artistic influence and genre. This extended portion of the interview will be featured as Bonus Content on my Patreon site which will be launching soon. If you want to explore more deeply behind the scenes with these and other artists, please sign up for my Newsletter here in the Blog sidebar and you will receive a notice when I officially launch the Patreon account.
All photos in this article courtesy of NÆ and REB Records.
NAE and Blizz
Please show some support for NÆ and Blizz by following their accounts and listening to their music. Independent artists rely on the support of the music community. You can actually make a difference in an artist’s life and career by showing your support in these ways!
For more cool new music and artists from around the world, please stay tuned to this Blog!