❉ We’re asking, they’re answering. This week: Electronic rock artist Jenn Vix on her cult fave raves and her life and career so far.
Rhode Island based alternative singer-songwriter Jenn Vix should already be a familiar name to those of you who follow all the side projects of bands like The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs. On past releases, Jenn Vix has collaborated with Reeves Gabrels,(current guitarist for The Cure and former guitarist for David Bowie and Tin Machine), and with Andy Anderson (The Cure and Iggy Pop), as well as Dirk Ivens, Belgian electro-industrial pioneer of Absolute Body Control, The Klinik and Dive.
Jenn started out in 1984, where she performed in a one-off, four-piece band, singing backing vocals, along with singer/songwriter Nicole Willis from The Soul Investigators and Adam Horowitz of The Beastie Boys fame, amongst others.
Vix’s first solo release was a self-titled album of eight tracks on her own label, Umbrella, and was officially released in January 1995, through a New York–based distributor. Later she became one of the first artists to be sold on the US-based online music site CD Baby, also earning a respectable 3.5 stars from Rolling Stone magazine who said, “Vix sounds perpetually enraptured. And the Rhode Island multi-instrumentalist has reason to be. Her music; clear, simple melodies awash in echo, is all dreaminess and shuddering, and from inside its swirl, her voice wafts up lightly. Catchy but otherwordly.”
Her work with Marco Pirroni (Adam Ant, Rema Rema, The Models, Sinead O’Connor) resulted in her cover version of Shirley Collins‘ Turpin Hero being featured on the compilation album ‘Shirley Inspired’. Her new Unlocked EP, which We Are Cult reviewed recently, saw her collaborate with not only John Ashton of The Psychedelic Furs, but also The Veldt’s Danny Chavis.
Who were your heroes growing up?
Eric Idle, Stanley Kubrick, Ray Bradbury, Delia Derbyshire, Carl Sagan, Robert Longo, Number 6; from The Prisoner, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Alice Cooper, Bobbie Gentry, Wendy Carlos, Mary Weiss; The Shangri-Las, Agent 99; from Get Smart, Doctor Who; Jon Pertwee, Mrs. Peel; from The Avengers, Siouxsie Sioux, Poison Ivy; of The Cramps, Frank Tovey, and Deborah Harry.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Working in the office at a Stripper (exotic dancer) for hire service. My boss was on anabolic steroids, and his behavior was terrifying. One day, he slammed the phone down on my desk, during a rage, right next to me, and he screamed directly into in my face. I grabbed my handbag, ran out of the office, and never even went back for that week’s pay.
What are your best and worst qualities?
What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?
Monty Python: Is it funny?
It’s fucking hilarious!
What was the last film that you watched?
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; Basil Rathbone.
What film could you watch every day?
What’s your favourite film soundtrack?
Bullitt; Lalo Schifrin.
Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?
Actors: Peter Capaldi, Dame Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tilda Swinton. Genre: Crime/Mystery
Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?
My second album, Hope Springs Nocturnal. It’s too frigging long, and I only like about a quarter of it. Most of it annoys the shit out of me, and this is why I don’t play a lot of the songs from it at gigs. I had my head up my own musical ass.
Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend
A Web of Sound, by The Seeds.
Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?
154, by Wire.
Which book would you save if your house was on fire?
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury.
What’s your definition of what makes something cult?
When people are deeply passionate about something quirky, and or that challenges the mainstream.
What are you reading at present?
From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki.
So how did your life in music begin and what inspired you to make a career out of it?
I’ve been a music fan since about age 3, and I started collecting records as a young child. I also used to love to play my cousin Frank’s drum set, in the basement at his house. When I was in middle school, I had a music teacher; a mentor, who took a lot of extra time to help me with my singing, and then later on, I got into bands in NYC, as a singer. After that, Steven Severin inspired me to write all my own music, and to play bass guitar.
Which other singers, musicians, or producers have inspired you over the years?
So many that it would take me an hour to list all of them, so I will list some of them: Marc Almond, Graham Lewis, Malka Spigel-Newman, Iggy Pop, Colin Newman, Robert Fripp, Andy Summers, Prince, Lee Hazlewood, John McGeoch, Killing Joke, Beth Gibbons, DJ Shadow, Nina Simone, Annie Lennox, Jaki Leibezeit, John Ashton, Marco Pirroni, Clyde Stubblefield, Sky Saxon, Robert Smith, Billy Mackenzie, John Foxx, Curtis Mayfield, Nicole Willis, Steve Lillywhite, Thom Yorke, Jah Wobble, Dave Vanian, David Bowie, Gustav Mahler, and Maria Callas.
You’ve recently released your ‘Unlocked’ EP, which saw you collaborate with Danny Chavis of shoegaze pioneers The Veldt, and the single ‘Complicated (Into The Veldt Mix’). Can you tell us a little about how the EP came about?
Four years ago, I almost died of a misdiagnosed illness. This EP, and my previous one, Strange Buildings, took me almost three years to record and release; due to said illness. The stress and post-traumatic anxiety I experienced after going through it, caused me to not be able to even listen to music for about a year after I returned home from emergency surgery. At that point, though I wanted things to get better, I was unsure if I could ever record and perform again.
After going through the near-death experience, being able to not only record music, and play it live again, but to do that with John Ashton, inspired me to keep going. I first met him on social media; this is also how I first met Danny Chavis. The tracks on both Strange Buildings, and Unlocked, are about people who were around me, and experiences and thoughts I went through before and during my illness.
I’m also a domestic violence survivor, and a couple of tracks on Unlocked are about how I never let go of hope, and love, even though someone tried to beat those feelings out of me.
Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?
I wouldn’t call it unique, just somewhat unusual. I’ve had prophetic dreams, and it’s confusing, frightening, and interesting, all at the same time.
What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
Knowing that someone else might relate to it on an emotional level.
What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?
All of the collaborations, because they helped me to believe in myself, and to keep going.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I plan on releasing another single; and maybe another EP. I also have plans to release two new videos this year. I also have a new track on the way from my side project, The Sound Of The Possessed.
What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?
My grandmother says, “Work hard, don’t listen to anyone who tells you to give up, and always have your own money; in a private account that only you have access to.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?
As before mentioned, Steven Severin; bassist and songwriter of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Without him, I likely would not have picked up a bass guitar and written my own songs. Sadly, he and I are estranged. Last I heard, he was extremely ill. I’m worried about him.
Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?
No. I’ve met more than a few of mine; and even worked with them; the experiences were great; sans one twatwaffle.
We are at a bar, what are you drinking?
Seltzer, with a squeeze of lemon or lime. I’m currently on a low dose of anti-anxiety medication, and I’m not willing to risk my life by mixing that with alcohol. If I were not on this medication, it would be a nice Merlot, Chianti, or Malbec.
What are your three favourite cities?
London; back in the day.
NYC; before the mass gentrification happened.
What do you do to chill out?
I work out a lot. It’s good for easing stress, and I need to try my best to stay healthy, as before mentioned I almost died of a misdiagnosed illness a few years ago.
What would you like to be your epitaph?
It might be a bit corny, but I like “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.”
How can our readers discover more about you and your work?
❉ Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5emtKna6B0vxbBAi7HwcmP
❉ Facebook: https://facebook.com/jennvixmusic
❉ Twitter: https://twitter.com/jennvix
❉ Bandcamp: https://jennvixmusic.bandcamp.com
❉ My site: http://jennvix.band
❉ Instagram: @jennvix
❉ Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenn_Vix
❉ Jenn Vix at YouTube: https://youtube.com/jennvixvids
❉ The ‘Unlocked’ EP can be found on the usual streaming and store platforms, and also on Bandcamp at https://jennvixmusic.bandcamp.