“Analogue warmth and imperfections are vital”, says producer-singer, Jessica Winter
The all-round singer-songwriter and producer talks vintage gear, vintage gear with LSD stuck to the back of it, and vocal-processing plugins
Jessica Winter. Image: Nan Moore
Jessica Winter sways between electronic music’s many subgenres, spanning 80s dance, trap, indie, and pop. Originally from Portsmouth and now based in Brixton, she’s renowned for both her solo work and as part of the duo, PREGOBLIN. Her 2018 solo project Soundscapes Unveiled gained recognition in 2018, leading to her supporting Death Grips across Europe.
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For her latest EP, titled All I Need, Jessica collaborated with producer Jonathon Snipes. She says that the tracks on the EP were produced in one day in Snipes’ LA studio after she’d attended a party where people had used crystal meth. This led to a studio session inspired by the necessities of life, evoking tracks exploring raw themes of addiction. In our conversation, we discuss finding sonic warmth through vintage studio equipment and Jessica tells us about a peculiar synthesizer that was once distributed with a packet of acid attached to it.
You’ve just been nominated for One To Watch and Best Independent EP/ Mixtape at the AIM Awards. How does it feel?
They’re the first awards I’ve ever been nominated for, and it feels incredible. I can’t believe it. People don’t usually put me forward for things like this, so it’s encouraging, and it makes me feel like I must be doing something right.
Do you feel a sense of freedom in being a producer, singer, and handling various aspects of your sound?
It can be a bit overwhelming because when you have the capability to handle different roles, you can become a control freak and overthink things. But having these options also provides immense creative freedom. It’s essential to know when to use your strengths and when to collaborate with others.
Where do you usually create your music, and is it more hardware-based or plugin-centric?
I typically start creating at home, whether it’s writing songs or making demos. Then, I take those ideas to the studio because I love analogue equipment. I prefer running things through tape machines and vintage synths. Analogue warmth and imperfections add character to the sound, which I find vital.
Do you rely on hardware or use plugins for that vintage edge in your music?
Both! I recommend running sounds through old mixers and equipment like cassette decks. I recently used a reel-to-reel tape machine, which added warmth and character to the music.
Have you ever come across any strange vintage synths?
There is this one synth, the Buchla 100 – I think it was one of the first modular synths from the 70s. It originally came with an LSD pack on the back when it was first made. It’s worth about 50 grand. So, basically, when you want some inspiration, you’d put your finger on the LSD section, and you’d just lick your finger, and then you’d create a new world of space sounds, I guess.
How about plugins? Are they a significant part of your production process?
Absolutely. If you can’t access a studio with expensive equipment, plugins are a great way to achieve excellent sounds. Even if you’re technical, plugins offer versatility and unpredictability, adding an element of chance and play to your music.
Your vocals sound clean and powerful. How do you record them?
I used to think the Neumann U67 was my go-to, but now I’ve found that the Shure SM7 works well for my voice. With a good preamp like a Neve 1076, it gives the right warmth. In the box, I like to layer vocals, using techniques like a whisper track, a clean track, and distorted vocals. Post-processing, I enjoy using effects like SoundToys’ Devil-Loc and Decapitator.
With your vocals, are you using many plugins for processing?
Yes, I do. Layering vocals and experimenting with plugins allow me to create a unique sound. For example, I like to run vocals through guitar pedal reverb chains to create a distant feeling within the track.
Check out Jessica Winter’s music via Bandcamp.
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