We catch up with VASSIŁINA before the launch of her brand new EP, IN-SōMA. Released by UNDO RECORDS, IN-SōMA is a beautiful and deeply textured work that explores somatic feeling and the rebellion of the inner self, so we sit down with her to talk about how she achieved it.
You did everything on IN-SōMA yourself apart from the mastering. What was this process like?
It was definitely a journey that moved me out my comfort zone. I’m not gonna lie, there were times that I was thinking “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING VAS?” οr times that my ears were almost numb after the 100th time of over-listening. I remember there were days when I was processing and mixing my voice that I was literally saying out loud “OH MAKE HER SHUT UP!” (laughs). However, overall it was the most liberating feeling that I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had my own control.
My musical background was a singer/songwriter always working with bands and other producers/ sound engineers/ graphic designers. Luckily my experiences were always good — as the people that I worked with were all professionals and cool — but I always felt that I wanted things a bit different. So by doing everything on my own, I saved myself (and believe me, other’s) time and energy in spending hours of trying to explain my vision to them. Don’t get me wrong — one of my favourite things in music is collaboration, but sometimes when you have a specific vision on how things want to be done it’s better to just do everything on your own. Even if you’re not an expert, you don’t actually have to be an expert in every single thing you’re doing. If that is what expresses you as an artist at that specific time, it’s better to just do it. It feels more personal and intimate that way.
You have some really interesting and conflicting drum sounds across the EP. What do you use to achieve them?
Most of my sounds were Logic drum machines and soft-synths processed with a lot of reverb. I don’t use any fancy plugins, nor any real drums. I love the use of toms and kicks, heavily processed until they sound unnatural and feel a bit disconnected. One of my favourite Logic drum machines that I use pretty often is Big Room, which is the one that I’m using in Somatic and Endless End.
Another way that I like to process my drum sounds is by side-chaining a bass synth sound to my kick. For example, in Soon I’ll be gone I side-chained a sub-bass field recording to my extreme reverberant kick drum, giving a swinging effect. I then continuously played with the panning to its extremes, trying to create an intense dismembering of sound.
You have a lot of synth on the EP. Are all of these software synths or do you use hardware synths too?
They’re mainly soft-synths apart from few sound effects in Sοmatic and Sοοn I’ll be gone where I’m using a Moog Theremini Synthesizer.
What other hardware do you use?
Apart from my Theremini and my laptop, I have a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 audio interface, the TC-HELICON VOICELIVE Touch 2 and a Komplete Kontrol S25 by Native Instruments. It’s also pretty much the same gear that I use in my live set.
What other software and plugins do you use?
Most of my plugins are from Logic. I really like Logic’s ES2 and Retro Synth and I use it in most of my songs. For my vocals I use lots of Space Designer and generally I just love recording my vocal with heavy reverb. Sometimes I wish I had an automatic Space Echo in my throat! (laughs)
I also use lots of Logic’s presets, such as Dark Aura from Drone Tones any other from Textures. Also the Logic pitch shifter, and for EQ a Fabfilter Pro-Q 2. However, because of my midi controller, I’m using MASSIVE pretty often.
So you work mainly in Logic, why? Do you have any secret tricks?
I’m gonna say something really cheesy now… but Logic is just logical! Maybe it’s also cause I started with it and couldn’t afford to change to another DAW.
There are no secret tricks in my production actually, but mostly coincidence. The same thing with organising and grouping my sounds. Sometimes I’m just terrible! However, in the end it’s the results that matter. The more time you spend on producing and mixing, the better you become. The important thing is to find your own personal tricks even if they’re unconventional.
What are your top tips for mixing?
I think aesthetics-wise just try to experience the mixing in a bodily way, and as a full sonic-body trip. Listen and just let yourself create and experiment.
Also a tip for vocalists, you have to find the mic that suits you and you feel comfortable with. After long hours in studios recording with really expensive condenser mics that just weren’t my fit, I ended up recording all my vocals through my HEIL dynamic mic (which has a syncing problem, by the way) and I just love the sound of it. Maybe because I feel more relaxed and I can perform better. But it did save me hours of mixing.
The technical part will just follow after hours of experience and researching. The more you ask around, the better. A helpful tip that a friend gave me when I was starting out was that the rough mix should be the best it can be, and when you think that you’re done mixing, just leave aside your precious headphones and listen again through a pair of £1 earbuds.
In Soon I’ll Be Gone, you use field sound that you recorded on an aeroplane to provide vocal texture and the sub bass of the song. What was your creative inspiration for this?
My main inspiration in IN-SōMA, which stands for “inside the body” in Greek, was the somatic feelings and the Sοmatoform disorder. There is an inner self trapped inside the body that tries to escape, but there is no way out.
Soon I’ll be gone embodies society and self disconnection. This song was a result of a happy accident. On the plane from Greece to London, I was working on a mixing and I accidentally pressed record on a full reverb channel and the outcome was surprising.
With the reverb on, I realised for the first time how loud and abnormal an aeroplane is. Planes are actually a great example of a claustrophobic and agoraphobic environment, and in a way they’re a miniature version of modern society. Hundreds of people are forced to stay seated and almost silent for many hours in an extremely loud and quite small space. The loudness of the machines makes it impossible to listen to other people talking. What is happening within one person’s mind? What if one person suddenly decides to scream? So, I tried to reflect a modern world problem: we are surrounded daily by hundreds of people but we never actually listen to them.
For these reasons, I reversed some of the voices in order to create a vocal Babel-effect and overused reverb to express dominance combined with a “ubiquity effect” (sounds that are always there but we continuously ignore them). Kind of like a war or game of dominance between the machines and every single person on the plane that wants to escape. I wanted to provoke in a way, and cause a sense of panic to the listener. To emphasise that, I used a sustained sub-bass synth sound combined with a field recorded plane noise that creates a feeling of inescapability.
The launch gig for the EP is coming up in April, what can we expect from your live show?
What future projects do you have planned?
Currently, I’m working on new songs for my upcoming LP and also on a new project that will be mainly instrumental. But this is still under-construction. Also more events are going to be announced soon!