Chatting with Jenn Vix about Guitars, Tone, and Her Latest Single “Mr. Strange”

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Jenn Vix
Photo: JFIVENINE Media
       

Multi-instrumentalist and alt-pop artist Jenn Vix recently dropped her new single/music video, “Mr. Strange,” via Umbrella Music.

Talking about the song, Vix shares, “‘Mr. Strange’ is an Indie Pop/Trap banger, about a woman who has a lot of fun with a male blow-up doll. You can leave the rest up to your imagination.”

Vix arrived on the scene when she released her self-titled album, which Rolling Stone Magazine highlighted. Vix has collaborated with Reeves Gabrels (David Bowie, Tin Machine, The Cure) Andy Anderson (Iggy Pop, The Cure) John Ashton (The Psychedelic Furs), Dave Barbarossa (Adam and the Ants, Bow Wow Wow) Marco Pirroni (Adam and the Ants, Adam Ant, Rema Rema, Sinead O’Connor, Shakespeare’s Sister), Ali Score (A Flock Of Seagulls) Rodney Anonymous (Dead Milkmen) and Dirk Ivens (Absolute Body Control, Dive, The Klinik).

Vix’s music covers an array of genres, including alt-pop, synth-pop, electro-rock, new wave, funk, and alternative. Her voice conjures up suggestions of Annie Lennox and Florence Welsh.

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Jenn Vix to find out more about “Mr. Strange,” her guitars, and her definition of tone.

What three things can’t you live without?

Drums; electronic or acoustic, my anti-anxiety medication, and love and kindness.

What inspired your new single/video, “Mr. Strange?”

Evidently, more than a few people think it’s entirely serious, but it’s a bit of a piss take; hence the use of the male blow-up doll in the video. The bar for women is set extremely high, and the bar for men is way too low, in my opinion.

Walk us through your mindset as you entered the studio to record the song.

I’ve owned my own recording studio since 2007; before that, I used to go into pay-by-the-hour studios. This situation was different, because I’d heard a beatmaker named Profit Money, on Twitter, and he’s so good, I sent him a DM; I wanted to collaborate with him. He sent me a beat that he had left sitting idle for a while, and I wrote a song around it. I was very excited to do this, and the beat inspired me. The lyrics came to me right away, and I recorded the whole thing in two nights. I mixed it in a week, and then sent it off to Colin, at SING, in Atlanta, for mastering.

How did you get started in music?

I played my cousin’s drumkit in the basement at his house, starting at around 3-4 years of age. In middle school, I sang in the chorus, and I was in an all-girl singing group called The Permanant Waves, led by Dr. Robert Sharon, at Simon Baruch, in NYC. After I was forced to drop out of school, due to personal and family problems, I ended up singing with Nicole Willis, with Adam Horovitz (Beastie Boys) on bass guitar. We practiced for a while, and then we did one gig at a popular club in NYC. I enjoyed it immensely, and then I went and joined another band. I went solo a few years after that.

Where are you from?

I was born in Providence, RI, USA, and I’ve resided in NYC, Alexandria, VA, Washington, DC, Miami, FL, Three locations in CT, and now I’m on the RI/MA border.

Did your hometown impact your sound?

Sorry to have to say this, but no. Living in NYC did.

Which singers/musicians influenced your sound?

I heard Wire for the first time at 11 years of age, when I lived in Miami, and I liked them a lot! I’ve been a fan since then. I got to meet them for the first time a few years ago. I spent some time backstage with them, and they are magnificent people! I can’t wait for them to come back to the US! They were recently about to do a gig in Boston, and I was going to meet up with them again, but Covid hit, and then Graham got sick. I was intensely worried about him, and thankfully he’s OK. I actually had IBTABA as a license plate for some time. I love the sh*t out of them!

I also heard A Flock of Seagulls when I was a kid, and I loved them because they sound like they’re from the future. I heard “Talking” in a record shop, because the owner had just been to the UK, and he had one copy of it. When I saw their music video, I knew for sure that being a musician and recording artist was what I wanted to do with my life. I recently got to collaborate with their original drummer, Ali Score! That was a dream come true!

I also love Blondie, Cindy Wilson, Annie Lennox, Shirley Manson, New Order, CAN, Wire, Beth Gibbons, Siouxsie, Missing Persons, Marc Almond, The Fall, Clock DVA, Killing Joke, UNKLE,  Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, John Foxx, Prince, Gary Numan, TV on the Radio, and about 100 Soul and Funk bands, including Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, The Jimmy Castor Bunch, Freda Payne, Donna Summer, Merry Clayton, Rose Royce, Madeline Bell, and more!

I also listened to early rap music and Hip Hop DJs, in NYC, as a kid, and I loved it all!

What kind of guitar do you play?

I have a preference for Fender Telecasters with humbuckers, and I can’t stand whammy bars; I rip them out. I also have a bunch of no-name, misfit guitars, and lately, I’ve been playing a custom guitar that my guitarist/partner, Feeney, made for me. I think his guitars sound as good as Gibson and or the best Fender guitars. I was shocked when I first heard them! They are absolute monsters!

What is your definition of tone? And has your tone evolved or remained pretty much the same?

Not too warm, not too cold, not tinny, or hissy, and with some nasty distortion. Think pre-metal Killing Joke or John McGeoch. I have small hands, so rhythm guitar is not really my thing, but I play lead guitar, and I have since I was in my early 20s. I have a bunch of old demos where I’m playing guitar in the middle of the night. I started out a little tamer sounding, but then the distortion monster bit me on the ass.

What inspires your writing? Do you draw inspiration from poems, music, TV, or other media? 

People, memories, politics and social issues, movies, weird TV shows, and space sh*t.

What can you share about your writing process? 

It all depends on what’s going on at the time. Sometimes a hook will drift into my mind, sometimes lyrics, and sometimes both. If I get the itch, I scratch it by turning the recording computer on, and I just go for it.

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now? 

The Weeknd, The 1975, Tame Impala, The Smile, Tyler, The Creator; IGOR!, KennyHoopla, Frank Ocean; who I hope will drop something soon, Thick, Taylor Swift, Tacocat, Gabe Douglas, Fat White Family, Izzy Perri, Lucious, Marc Rebillet, Grabbitz, Rani Adi, and Harry Styles, to name a few.

How do you define success?

People listening to my music and liking and supporting it. I admit I’m also proud of the collaborations I’ve done with legendary musicians. When I was a kid, I never thought it would happen! My dream is to become so successful that I can collaborate with newer artists, and if I make more money, I will donate a lot of it to help people in need. My dream is to become a philanthropist, but almost all of the time, I won’t say it’s me, because donations are not for clout, they are to help others, and about others.

What can your fans look forward to over the next six months? Music videos? Live gigs? New material?

I miss gigging so much! I hope I can get back to that soon; and I hope the Covid numbers go down. I’m on a medication where if I got it, I would not even be able to take cold medication, so I need to be extra careful. I last played a gig in Boston, on Sept 11, 2021.

I’m about to drop a new single with Feeney, for our Feeney Vix project; I’m on drums and backing vocals, and he’s on guitar and vocals. The single is titled “Dummies,” and it’s a post-Punk banger about the current mess in the US Government. The music video drops on 31 October 2022. After that, our second EP drops early next year.

I’m always recording something, so you can likely expect new music from me again after this recent single, early next year, and yes, there will always be music videos! I also spend a lot of time singing on TikTok.

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