Self-Portrait: Vanessa Worm

When JD Twitch received a demo from New Zealander Vanessa Worm a few years ago, it caused chaos at Optimo Music HQ and began the start of a valuable relationship.

2019 saw the release of her debut EP Z Time on the Glaswegian imprint’s Digital Danceforce offshoot; an introduction to her hypnotic and unique take on dance music. Journeying through stomping acid-flecked house and freaky minimal synth saturated with sliced and chopped vocals, this debut left us wondering what exactly the now Melbourne-based producer and musician had in store next.

We didn’t have to wait too long as this year sees her continue that partnership with Optimo Music with the release of her debut album Vanessa 77, some tracks of which you can hear in her Self-Portrait mix – a heady blend of unreleased cuts that showcase her punk approach to crafting electronic music.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

I was six months old, in a pram with my parents at a restaurant in Port Douglas (we were on holiday). At this restaurant, there was a band. All I remember was the feeling of being so amazed by live music and I remember the singer and the feeling of the drums and guitar. So early, I had to ask my parents if this happened. And yes, it did.

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

No I did not. My Grandmother, Mary, was a pub singer in Greymouth, New Zealand. I never met her as she passed long before I was born. I still feel her deeply in my heart and blood nonetheless. My parents are not particularly musical, although I was blessed to grow up on a 40 Acre farm, where I had much land and freedom to explore. I could sing and dance everywhere, at almost any time. My imagination was very much nurtured through this space! My musical awareness only really indulged in Hannah Montana, That’s What I Call / NOW! CDs and other pop sensations at the time. My parent’s music I unfortunately always shunned – “this music is too old for me mum!!”, although deep down, it would so pull on my heart strings. I think I always wanted to be ‘tough’ or something as a young girl… hmm makes me think!

Anyway, inspired by Disney Dreams, I began to learn guitar when I was about 11/12 years old. At that age, I was put into a band where we would play reggae music. Through this, I was also able to gauge the foundations of a song and how the parts worked together. I then continued making music throughout high school and played in one band.

What led you into music production?

Well, I went to a boarding school and playing guitar or instruments wasn’t so nurtured as what it was like when living at home. I had to go down to a cold bland room and practice there. If I wanted to play guitar in my room people would normally get annoying by the music. I believe this had caused me to have to look at programs on my laptop to play and make music, so I could express myself creatively from the comfort of my earphones. That’s when I downloaded Logic Pro X and would experiment with the built-in VSTs. This was the beginning of production for me I feel.

When I was about 17, I met my now partner, Eden Burns. At the time, Eden was playing as Sandboards. I had never heard house music in my life – Sandboards was the first of it. Then, after being introduced to house and dance music through Eden and Tom, I realised that musical dreams are so possible, especially in club music. I began to create music that was club-ready and explore that world.

Vanessa Worm, in particular, began after a big awakening. Where I woke up to the truth of my heart via a mystic / healer / singer who shared the message with me. Since then, it has been a journey of deep growth and empowerment through a journey guided by the stars. 

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

To my knowledge, the only artists who have inspired my production and my music are my friends. What is written below might be so cheesy, but it is so so true.

Definitely Eden Burns for one, watching him make music and to have been inspired by him since the day I met him has had a huge influence on the music I create now. He is also always pushing me to be better, just by being him. It’s a relationship I honour so deeply. Eden makes music every day and I get to be by his side during this almost every day. The most inspiring work-ethic, dream-maker, BIG BEAT man. He is so freaking talented I learn from him all day, every day.

Nice Girl as well. For me, to get to walk alongside such a golden human on this journey is so powerful and consistently always so inspiring. She always helped me to believe in myself. Her taste and musical style are always so refreshing too. The magic in her sound always sounds powerful and I’m blessed to witness the magic in her whole world. 

DJ Chrysalis, another friend, who without I would literally not have the life I have now. His presence makes it all so worth it. The way he has influenced my life is quite similar to the sound his music reflects. Always fruity, always fun, always looking for ways to be functional yet so creative. 

Although, currently I am finding much inspiration from Bjork and Genesis P-Orridge, so let’s see what happens from there.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Surprisingly no. I guess the way I work is that I live my life, go with the flow, follow my emotions, and then when I feel like making music – I will. Sometimes it’s not very often. I really live by the fact that my life is my music, that I am music, so by following the flow of life I will open my channel for music when it is ready to be born. My main ritual for life at the moment is to take a moment to pray and breathe… everyday. This for me slows me down and enables me to nurture myself and nurture each moment. For me, that is so important for music creation, as it brings forward an easy non-resistant flow of life.

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

Never. Maybe through a feeling I want to create, but hardly ever.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

Definitely an impulsive creator. Some of my songs are made within an hour and never touched again; or sometimes it’s a straight 6 hours never to be touched again – or a few bursts of creation for a few days and then never touched again. I never touch a track after I feel it’s done. I find when I do, it loses the magic of that moment.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Definitely depends on how I am feeling and what works at the time. I often like to put a kick drum or a drumbeat down first, so I can play guitar or VSTs over the top. Or, I like to sometimes play the whole instrument through until I feel it’s done (maybe 3 min) and then layer other instruments and vocals over in one take (this is how ‘Cave of Creation’ and ‘144’ were made). I really just play around until a song is made. The formula always different. It’s all about intuition and flow and feeling it. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t even bother. I will find parts that work together and play around with them in Session View on Ableton, and then when I feel like it’s time to press record, I will record while using the clips, ideally automate during this time as well. I will then go to arrangement views and do a few touch ups until I feel it’s done. 

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Majority of it is original. Sometimes will use drum breaks, and sampled sounds. Most often though, it is guitar, VSTs or other gear we might have around at the time.

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Vanessa Worm track?

100% Ableton. 

This mix is comprised of 100% original Vanessa Worm material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

Yes, so most of this is all 100% original music, although I have added 3 songs in there which I use to sing and dance on top of during live performances. Those tracks were created by Eden Burns but I thought I would give a taste of some sounds you could expect live. The opening track is one that I made a couple weeks ago. It’s definitely an example of creative expression and freedom and letting go of all idea of how a song should be. Having moments like these help to uphold a clear creative flow. A couple of tracks are some old V Worm things that I haven’t put out to the world, and some others are from my upcoming album ‘Vanessa 77’ on Optimo Music. 

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

Yes, my Debut Album ‘Vanessa 77’ will be out on Optimo Music, 10 July. I am very much so looking forward to this! You will also see me on the next Public Possession Chill Pill compilation alongside some of my favs – definitely worth checking out!

Vanessa Worm’s debut album ‘Vanessa 77’ is out on Optimo Music on 10 July.

The singles ‘Heaven To Hell’ (including two Eden Burns remixes) and ‘In Heaven We Are’ are out now on Optimo Music Digital Danceforce.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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