Hey Vanessa, how’s your day going so far?
It’s been good, pretty laid back today.
What have you been up to today?
I’ve seen a lot of fresh air out the window. I’ve been working on creating the album live, so today worked with my friend Claudia on the Hammond and backing vocal parts, we had a nice home rehearsal, lots of singing and playing in nice company. Also got some film stills together from the film I made to go with the record and booked many many German flights for my tour there in the Spring.
Introduce yourself to our lovely readers.
I’m half German but I’ve lived in London most of my life. I’ve made records previously in electronic bands Rubicks and Six Years with my mate Marc Makarov who I run our label Sharp Attack Records with. Now I’m on my second solo record, a dark folk affair following on from my first one Behind the Wall. I also made my first album-length film to go alongside my new record Zumbo Waxes.
It’s been three years since your debut album came out, what have you been up to?
Ha, it’s two and a half! Gimme that six months back! The creative process for Zumbo Waxes was quite in-depth. Recording straight onto tape means lots of rehearsal time to get a whole ‘perfect’ take, so there were long days in the basement of an art gallery, Gallery 46 in Whitechapel, recording demos over and over, working out the best way for the particular song to go. I made a collaborative film, a visual element of the album to go alongside it too and that was quite an epic process, everything being so DIY!
First imagining the scenes, I made an endless supply of colour coded charts and story boards, then filming them with my friend setting up and building sets and also meanwhile working out the structure of the record to go alongside the film. I’m also pretty far into the recording of my next album and I’ve been touring in Germany quite a bit over the last couple of years. Our Sharp Attack artist, Phoebe Coco’s debut record is out later in the year and I’ve been doing some co-producing/writing on that too.
Tell us about Zumbo Waxes.
It’ll lift you up. I love the guitar crunch you only get with analogue, and you can glide off to those tape delays and reverbs, that droning Hammond and get totally lost. It was recorded at Gizzard Analogue Studios with Ed Deegan and I had such fun playing around with all the 70’s gear in there. I want it to be a journey through battle to salvation, watch the film with the record too and go down the rabbit hole with me.
What does songwriting look like for you?
Tidying the psyche, lots of colours put together to make something beautiful.
What song of yours is the one you really want people to hear, and why?
All of them of course! but ‘When I Compare’ is a good one to remind us all to stop moaning.
One of my favourite songs on your album is ‘The Breeze’, what can you tell me about that song?
Ah, that’s a good one for a bit of dancing! That song’s a real roof down, run fast song. When I wrote it I visualised me running on top of a cliff. For the film I found a cliff top, right at the end point of the island in Majorca and did a good pagan style rock and roll dance up there. So good. Pretty funny to film, the odd car would pull over and wonder what strange ritual was happening. It was super midday–hot, I nearly did myself in after dancing for a few takes!
What’s the theme of the album?
The fragility of life is quite up there I think but in songwriting so much is all unconscious. It’s only when you look at it afterwards or talk about it like this that you and the listener can hear different things in it and general universal themes can rise to the surface. When I made the film I tried to bring a story journey out through the lyrics. It took me a long time but what ended up coming out was me making an Alice in Wonderland type journey, passing through different colourful worlds, a metaphor for life and death… probably.
I believe it was “conceived” in Florence, that’s a fantastic city, what inspired you most about the city?
Someone told me about an amazing museum La Specola, go if you’re ever there. It’s full of anatomical waxworks from the Victorian era and lots of crazy taxidermy. I found one small dusty room with Italian sculptor Gaetano Giulio Zumbo’s works of art. “The Zumbo Waxes” depict still lives of people in various state of decomposition in small glass cases. Pretty macabre stuff but very emotional and charged, the feeling it gave me and the phrase stayed with me and kept popping up in my head so the whole record grew out of that moment.
What’s coming up for you in 2019?
I have another large tour throughout Spring and I’ll be carrying on working on album three that I’m part-way through. I’ll be writing more songs for that and will end up making some more films too, I’m sure. Sharp Attack will be getting more new records out there and I have some songs that need to be finished with my longtime collaborator Marc Makarov so that will happen this year too I hope. In the summer, if my friend hasn’t sold the house he loans me to write in in the countryside in France, I’ll spend some more time there with the fields and forests, it’s a wonderful space to be in on my own and create.
What’s the worst thing about being in the music industry?
The glamour, the adulation, the late nights, the free beer, the creative control, the freedom of expression, doing something you love.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
Things are changing slowly, there are more role models for young women in music and obviously a big drive towards equality in general. Ironically I think the collapse of the music industry has actually helped women as everything is much more DIY and women are able to be more in control of their own futures, from production to label release. And hopefully the obsession with the image is something we can all let go of.
If you could recommend one artist to hear this week, who would it be?Phoebe Coco of course!
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
What was the first song I wrote and why?
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
With as many croissants as possible.