Electronic artist Jenn Vix has had a long and illustrious career in the music industry as not only a singer, songwriter and performer, but also as a recording engineer and producer. For years she has endured sexism in the music industry with comments such as “You’re pretty good for a girl“, “Who writes your music for you?” and “I didn’t know that women could be recording engineers“. Currently based in Rhode Island, Vix lived in New York for a while in her youth, where she says she had experiences she wouldn’t have had elsewhere. She met Andy Warhol, joined a one-off group called Disco Donut with Adam Horowitz of the Beastie Boys and Nicole Willis and became a part of the Danceteria scene. Throughout her career she’s released a handful of albums, singles and collaborations with artists such as Reeves Gabrels (Tin Machine with David Bowie and The Cure), John Ashton (Psychedelic Furs), Marco Pirroni (Adam and The Ants/The Models/Rema Rema) and the late Andy Anderson (The Cure/Iggy Pop/Edwyn Collins). In recent years, Vix had a near-death experience from a misdiagnosed illness, the recovery from which took her away from music for several months. She slowly made her way back and released her latest EP 6, her 6th non-single release, on May 3rd via Umbrella Music Company. The EP features Vix (Music/lyrics/guitar/synths/vocals/electronic drums/recording), Paul LF (bass) and Dave Barabarossa (drums). The first single from the EP, “Ride”, was released in March along with an accompanying video. ““Ride” is inspired by the feeling you get when you’re on a first date with someone, and you’re riding around in the car with them,” she explains, but then she takes a left turn into uncharted territory, continuing, “but you’re actually a space alien and you’re going to take your date for a real ride, aboard your spaceship.” The accompanying video follows this narrative, with Vix going full-on extraterrestrial in the makeup department. With the release of her new EP, Vix is showing that she can do it all as a woman and is ready to take the world by storm! With plans to tour later in the year and to keep writing and recording new material, Jenn Vix is an artist to keep on your radar! You can follow her and stay up-to-date on all new music and tour news, as well as stream and purchase her music via the following links. Check out her video for “Ride”, the first single from the new EP, below, as well as her appearance in the video parody of “Tainted Love” with Bob Robertson’s singing skeleton group Sindy Skinless and the Decomposers.
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You will be releasing your new album ‘6′ on May 3rd. What can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the album and how you feel it differs from your earlier material?
Well, I think it’s somewhat similar…well, not to very early material! I think it’s somewhat similar to things I’ve put out in the last 5 years or so. I don’t know how to explain this exactly. It’s so difficult to talk about one’s own music! Usually, I’ll get a hook in my head and then I sit down and record the hook and go from there usually. I felt more in an electronic mood this time. The last record had more guitar on it and this one has more keyboards. It really just depends on my mood. If guitars don’t sound right, I’ll leave them off. This EP does have guitars on it, but more minimal then with the last release, which was a little heavier I think, emotionally. This release starts off with a synth-pop track called “Ride”, which I thought was kind-of fun. I felt like having some fun for a change. It’s about a car ride and a first date but the person behind the wheel is an alien (laughs)! That song is different then anything I’ve ever done before. I just really needed some happiness in my life so I decided to do something fun.
What can you tell me about the video for “Ride”? It looks like it was a really fun video to make!
It was a lot of fun, but a little bit stressful too, because I had to ride in the Mustang. When you’re driving a rental car, that can be a little un-nerving! We rode all over Newport Rhode Island and I had a professional make-up artist come and paint me up green like that. It was a lot of fun driving around and pretending to be an alien (laughs)! That was the first video I did where I felt really confident and had a good time doing it, which was a nice change. Actually, I had a good time making the video for “Complicated Man”, as well, but it was a little stressful because I had to rent a hotel room out and we didn’t have a permit. We were in this hotel room pretending to have sex…we were fully clothed from the waist down. This one was a lot more fun.
There are a couple of heavy songs on this EP, but it’s a little more lighthearted then the last one. I’m trying to go to a more positive place and move past a lot of negativity that’s been in my life. I think some of my listeners might be put off by the first track, but that’s the whole purpose. I didn’t do it to purposely put them off, but I wanted to kind-of shock them a little bit and show them that I’m not all darkness and that I’m actually not a goth! I have to say this publicly, for the record…it’s very important for me to say this. I’m not a goth! Just because my music is a little bit dark doesn’t mean that I’m a goth. I do like some goth music, but I would say that I am primarily post-punk influenced with a little bit of goth influence. No disrespect to goth’s! I like their music and I like them but I’m not goth. I’m far more influenced by new wave and post-punk, like very early Simple Minds…the first two records before they became famous. A lot of people don’t realize that I listen to a lot of that stuff. That’s one of the reasons I went blond again. When I had black hair, I got called a goth all the time and I got really tired of it. I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or genre-boxed. I listen to a lot of different music, from 1970’s funk to to classical and have a very open mind when it comes to music.
What role do you feel music has played in helping you through the difficult times in your life? Do you feel it has been therapeutic for you?
Yes and no. Yes, in that it gives me something to do and keeps me busy and creative. Honestly, though, for a little while, after I almost died, I couldn’t even listen to music for about 8 or 9 months. I was so traumatized that I couldn’t even listen to it. I would sit at my computer, staring at the wall and playing little video games, shaking. Then I said to myself “Listen! You’ve got to get back to work”. This is my life and my life’s purpose, so little by little I went back at it and here I am. It wasn’t easy at all. I do think it helps me by keeping me busy and stay focused on things that don’t frighten me. Although, I will say I have written songs about things I’ve been through and it wasn’t easy recording them. I’d be a liar if I said that I wasn’t crying while I was singing them. I’m trying to move past that, little by little.
I’m a recording engineer, as well. I sat down at my first analog mixing desk in 1985…late ’84/’85. I’m 52 years old now, but a lot of people don’t think I’m 52 years old! I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I had to be taught how to use a DAW and have taken lessons from someone who worked at Motown and from my previous recording engineer, and now I do it all. I do have a bass player who plays with me live and sometimes plays on my recordings, but that’s because he insists on doing it and I feel bad so I let him do it, but I play almost everything. I’m not a very good rhythm guitar player, though. I’m mediocre at best. I’m more of a lead guitar player, and so I work with other people a lot of the time to play rhythm guitar. I play the drums, the electronic drums, lead guitar, keys, sing, produce and record. I do it all and it’s a lot of work.
Thank you! It’s a hell of a lot of work. I also record and produce for other people, as well.
I know you started out recording in an analog studio with a digital assist. I know a lot of artists currently are choosing to record their albums with analog equipment. What are your thoughts on analog recording these days?
I recorded straight up analog all the way when I first started out, because I was in bands before I went solo in 1994. I ended up in the Kurt Cobain issue of Rolling Stone-oh my god! It was the shock of a lifetime, I’m telling you! I recorded straight up analog when I started out and then analog with a digital assist in the early ’90s and then I went straight to all digital. But honestly, I prefer analog recording over digital. Digital is convenient, in that if you need to punch in you can do it or you can erase something quickly. You don’t have to rewind a tape or calibrate a machine or go through so many steps. For me, what’s missing…even with the best pre-amps, what’s missing is a certain feeling you get sitting in a studio watching the wheel spin around. There’s a certain energy you get when you record onto tape. It’s almost magical. I think every musician should experience it at least once in their life. It’s remarkable. I really miss it. Because of that, I know someone up in Maine who has an all analog studio and I’ve been thinking of going up there pretty soon to a fully analog recording and then have it pressed to vinyl. I think it will be really fun! I miss tape, of course, but it’s too expensive and not practical right now.
How did you get into becoming a recording engineer and producer? What sparked your interest in that side of the industry?
A lack of money! It was a necessity due to a lack of finances. I figured that learning how to do it on my own and purchasing my own recording gear would save me money in the long run. It also allows me to record anytime I want to and not have to book time and be on someone else’s schedule. That was a big motivator. That and having complete control over everything. I will say that I do like working with other artists. I’ve worked with some notable musicians, such as members of The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Absolute Body Control, Adam and The Ants and Bow Wow Wow and I like their input. For example, when I was working with John Ashton on the Strange Buildings EP, he sort-of co-produced a lot of the songs on that. He had some creative control on his end because he owns a studio, as well, in upstate New York. We shared files back and forth and he’d do his guitar tones and we’d talk about it and so he co-produced that with me. I’m not always alone. Some people do co-produce with me via their input.
You lived in NYC on and off when you were younger and have said that although it was a difficult time, you are grateful for the exposure you had to the music culture, art and fashion. You have said that NYC, pre-gentrification, was one of your favorite cities. What were those early days in NYC like?
There’s an upside and a downside. The downside is that I was a teenage runaway. I ran away from home because of a very bad situation there. I am a domestic violence survivor. I lived on the streets of New York for probably almost a year and it was really difficult, but while I did that, I spent a lot of time in record shops and nightclubs. When I was in the nightclubs, I met a lot of people…I guess you could call them famous people. I was in a one-off group with Adam Horowitz of The Beastie Boys and Nicole Willis, who’s now in Nicole Willis and The Soul Investigators and is a solo artist. I saw things that I never would have seen in Rhode Island or elsewhere. I would just bump into people like Andy Warhol, who took photographs of me. And let me tell you, that shocked me. I had to try to keep my cool and be reserved around him so he wouldn’t think I was a fangirl! It was amazing! The things I saw…it was mind-blowing. I got to hang out with a lot of amazing musicians and know them very well. I also saw things that were very illegal and scary…mostly really illegal! I was also in the clubs underage, but back in the day they didn’t ask for ID. If you looked cool and had cool hair they’d let you in. I became a part of the Dancetaria scene. Luckily I didn’t have to pay to go in, as I made friends really quickly there and that’s how I got my musical start really. That was the beginning of everything.
Do you think there are any parts of New York right now that still have that same spirit from when you lived there?
I think small parts of Brooklyn do. When I look at Manhattan now, it’s really sad. All I see now is housing for people who have a lot of money, yogurt shops, banks and cleaners. Of course the art is still there and the museums. The music and the artists moved to Brooklyn but Brooklyn is still crazy expensive. I can’t afford to live there. If I could, I probably would but I can’t afford it. The reason I can’t afford it these days is because streaming took 99% of my income away. Being an independent artist is hard. Selling my music was a way to make a living and now I have to have a side job. If I can manage to get a lot of people to listen to my music then I’ll make some money, but it’s just so difficult. This I think is also why artists are on the road all of the time, because it’s the only way they can make money, by being on the road and selling merchandise. You make fractions of a penny per stream. If there’s a good side to it, people can listen to your song 100 times in a row if they want to. It has not been an easy transition for me. But, yeah, I think parts of Brooklyn is the only place that has it going on. I see more of the scene actually in Los Angeles. There are a lot of great bands coming out of LA right now.
You contributed 3 tracks to the PBS series ‘Hit and Run History’. How did that opportunity come about and do you do much work with television or was that just a one-off situation?
I met Andrew Giles Buckley on Facebook and he asked me if I would be interested in doing it. So I donated those tracks to them because I love PBS. Of course I wanted to help them. I haven’t done a lot of music for tv otherwise but would like to. I would love to have one of my songs placed into a film or a commercial of something I don’t completely hate. I actually think “Ride” would be good for a car commercial because it’s about riding around in a car. The only other thing I ever did that was not my own project was with Marco Perroni. We did a track together for a film about folk singer Shirley Collins and the funny thing about it was that Marco said “Let’s punk it up a little bit. Let’s piss off the folkies” (laughs). We did this loud and very intense track which was a cover of Shirley Collin’s “Turpin Hero” and Tim Plester, who’s an actor, was the man who was putting it together. He liked it but the record company, Earth Records, heard the song and said “Well, this is just a little too intense for the record version but we’ll put it online on the download version”. So Marco got his wish and pissed them off! We rattled their bones a little bit. I would love to get more into getting my music in film and television but just haven’t had the opportunity to do it. I hope I get the opportunity because I think it would be really cool. I’m going to tell you one of my secret dreams. One of the things that I have always wanted to do is sing a James Bond theme. I’ve been told by other people that my musical style and my voice would be good for it and I’m not going to disagree, of course! I would love to do that. It would be the highlight of my life.
I will say that I am extremely thankful to have worked with the people I’ve worked with and I’m not snobbish. I’ll work with anyone who’s great and has good ideas. I’ll work with local people and with famous people, but there is an irony here in that when I work with the famous people, I have an easier time. When I’ve tried to get people to play live with me or join my band, it’s been extremely difficult. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m female and they don’t want to be “bossed around” by a woman? I’ve found that when working with the notable people, it’s easier for me then working with the local folks and I don’t really understand why. I’ve been kind-of shunned for years by the local scene and only now am I getting a little bit of attention from them. In Rhode Island, it’s been difficult for me. The Providence Journal has always been very helpful, but the smaller local papers didn’t exactly like me. Maybe they think I’m stuck up or too big for my britches, but that’s not true at all. It’s tough when you’re a woman and trying to put a band together. I hate to say this, but a lot of people don’t want to work for a woman.
I know you have dealt a lot of sexism in the industry, especially as a producer and recording engineer.
Yeah. I’ve heard “Oh. I didn’t know that girls could be recording engineers”. The worst part of it is the dick pics and the come-ons. I’ve had people say “I’ll work with you if you sleep with me” or “Sure. Look at my dick pics and come meet me for lunch”. That’s really inappropriate. No women have ever done anything like that to me. There are very few women who have actually ever wanted to work with me. Recently a female drummer has asked to work with me and I’m shocked and excited about it because I really want to work with women. I’m all for it. Some of the guys have been not just difficult, but sexually deviant in that they’ve pushed and pushed and pushed when I’ve said no. It’s much like in the film business, when you have these guys running around trying to get up your skirt. I just find the whole thing weird. Just because I don’t have a penis doesn’t mean I don’t know how to play instruments or be a recording engineer. And I’ve had guys tell me “Get your tits out on your album cover. It will get more plays and will sell more”. They’ve said that word for word in emails. Previously when I got sick I gained weight and got fat-shamed, and then when I lost the weight I got skinny-shamed. Everyone has something to say about women’s bodies. It really pisses me off. I’ve noticed a lot of focus is placed on a woman’s look rather then her music. I get a lot of comments on my appearance. It’s exhausting. It’s a real problem and it needs to stop.
Do you feel that things have gotten better over the years?
It’s still a rough road. There are more female artists getting attention on the radio now, but I would say more in the mainstream and in country music than in indie music. I think it’s still a little difficult but there is progress. By the way, I don’t hate men. I don’t want people to think I’m a man-hating psycho! I’m not. I just want everyone to be equal. I want there to be equality for all. I hate racism and sexism. It’s despicable and I want it to stop. I just want to be taken seriously and don’t need somebody coming at me surprised that I’m a girl who plays bass guitar. Another problem with being a female musician is that you are asked to pose suggestively with your instrument. I’ve been told to lick my guitar and I did it because I thought it would get me more attention and then regretted it. There are actual photos of me on the internet licking a guitar. I was an idiot for doing it.
You’re involved with Bob Robertson’s singing skeleton group Sindy Skinless and the Decomposers. How did you meet Bob and become involved in that project?
I met him online and we started a conversation. I told him that I thought what he did was really cool and he thought what I did was cool so I ended up singing the Sindy part on a few of the songs. When I got sick, he had someone else sing Sindy and collaborated with him again when I got better. We made a silly video and I purposefully made sure to have blond hair in the video! We shot the video late last year and it was so much fun and I played a vampire. It was a lot of work but I like doing that with him and it’s just something I like to go for fun. Its fun to sing with animatronic skeletons (laughs)! I’d never before been in any of the videos. He had done all of the videos himself and I just provided the music and vocals but this time I got to be in one of the videos and it was so much fun! The tourists were out and about when we shot the first part of the video and people were coming up to me with my vampire teeth and asking to take photographs. We were by the mansion. It was really funny!
You have a side project called The Sound Of The Possessed. Is that something you’re still writing music for?
It’s on a hiatus right now, but I might go back to it. It’s just something I wanted to do since I was very young. I’ve been a fan of garage rock for a very long time…weirdo psychedelic garage rock and stuff like that. I have other stuff I’ve been working on. It’s just takes a lot of time to do your own music and I’m also mixing an EP for another band that I work with, so I have really full plate right now. I might get back to it, but for now I’m going to take a break from it.
What’s next for you? What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
I’d like to get out there by Autumn and play some more shows. That’s my primary focus. It’s difficult though, because I have a bass player who can travel at any time at a moment’s notice but my guitar player has to take time off from work to go with me. If I had a higher budget, I’d go everywhere and play, but I’m going to try to get out there and play some shows. I’m hoping to get some national and international press. I think that would help me. I’d also like to get my music on satellite radio. I actually got The Sound of The Possessed on satellite radio. I’m trying to get the new album out there and am doing everything I can to get this to the people. I’m going to try to play NYC again and get out of New England. That’s my goal-to stay well and keep playing.
Do you have any festival dates planned?
No, but I am playing a benefit show at C Note in Hull, MA in May with Positive Negative Man. I sing in the band and my guitar player is in that band. The show is to benefit an opiate relief fund. I’m going to start booking gigs for myself this summer for the fall. It’s good for me to be playing with Positive Negative Man because it gets me used to being on stage again. They’re a really great post-punk band. I believe in the band 100% and think they are under-rated and deserve all of the attention. So I do that on the side and am constantly busy recording, mixing, playing with them, going to rehearsals and keeping very busy.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!