Tone Talk with Jesca Hoop

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My name is Jesca Hoop. I’m a Californian and have been living in Manchester, England for 11 years. I write songs; I make records, I play shows all around this blue planet. I am a keen walker, a mean cook, and there is no place I love more than home (for a start).

At the moment, I am working on a live show to support my 5th record Stonechild which I made with John Parish in Bristol, England.

What is your definition of tone, and how has it changed over the years?

That’s a good question. Tone is a matter of balancing the spectrum of EQ and playing with waves and shapes to create texture. Tone is beyond hearing; it is also about touch, sight, and taste. Tone is about relationship. A guitar played in one atmosphere will differ tonally in another. An instrument played in a controlled environment consistently through the same amplification will be perceived differently according to the listener.

Indeed my hearing will differ throughout the hours and days; therefore, even though the matter seems fixed, my relationship with it is in constant flux. There is no sound that is not heard. Again, tone is about relationship. The more I rely on my senses, the more I am able to fine tune a tone. I experience synesthesia. Experiencing sound in terms of taste, physical sensation, color, or visible shape has been of great assistance to me. I have come to rely on tone over the years to illustrate stories. A cast of tones is a cast of characters.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

My workhorse is and has been for many years, the Gibson ES 140 3/4 scale slimline hollow body, and I use flat wound strings. The result is a darkened timbre. I use the Fender Deluxe, and I generally play through a Line 6 M9 for effects. I also play Martin acoustic guitars. I have a wonderful 000-28 Martin that was given to me by Mark Knopfler and a beautiful Martin Tres given to me by my father.

Are there certain recording techniques you prefer in the studio?

I like to experiment with different vocal mics. They offer very different things and can be enabling or disabling depending on their application. I like to play with proximity. I like to vary how I monitor–this can affect the performance greatly. I also really love tracking guitar and vocal live to capture live fluid takes.

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

I would love to say that I carry my own monitor desk, but I’m not there yet. One day very soon. Keeping stage volume down is the primary objective. STAGE VOLUME DOWN…gives the front of house engineer more capacity to balance the sound to its optimum in the room and for the audience.

What does your practice consist of?

Physical fitness, diet, structured sessions of isolated learning, and refining of my own work – conviction through repetition –  then expanding the work through bringing in other players.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

Gosh…where to start? Making a living in music is not just simply a creative endeavor. This is a business, and there are systems models and modes that you need to understand in order to get on to the stage and stay on the stage. Relationships are everything, and building a reliable team is of utmost importance. With that said, aim for self-sufficiency. Teammates may come and go…(get ready for some pain). You are the common denominator, and in the end, it is down to you to maintain or should I say…survive. Get mentally and physically fit. You’re going to need it. Understand the institutions and branches in the field so you can interact with your teammates from an informed position. Gather as much technical knowledge as you can. Don’t leave it to the boys. Leave no email without response for more than two days. Keep emails in threads.

 

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