Jessica Vale is a multimedia artist based in New York city. Her debut CD, The Sex Album, features eleven tracks made from the sounds of recorded sex, manipulated into melodies, beats and ambience.
In the first part of this interview, Vale talked about The Sex Album, and what led her to make it.
In part two of the interview, Vale reveals secrets of her recording sessions, and discusses turning the sounds of sex into music.
More Talk About Sex and Microphones
Synthtopia: Tell us more about the recording sessions.
Jessica Vale: When we first started out, we just wanted to get a plethora of source material. So we kind of sat down and said OK, we’re going to need sounds that are rhythmic. We’re going to also needs sounds that are melodic.
Now, melodic sounds are the most difficult to do. We learned that very fast! Coming up with sounds that lend themselves to rhythm is not that difficult, but when it comes to trying to introduce melodies into it, it was quite frustrating at times.
Synthtopia: Did you do anything special to get the sounds that you wanted?
Jessica Vale: When we first started out, we were going to go for the rhythm, so we placed microphones in certain areas and recorded a lot of “generic” activity. As we got more into the process, and writing more songs, we had to start coming up with more sounds , so that the whole album didn’t sound exactly the same. We wanted enough source material so that we had a big variety to work with.
So we started incorporating a lot of different types of scenarios that might lend themselves to different sounds, whether it be a shower, a bathtub, or giving people toys to play with.
Those were all things that we started doing about halfway through the process, when we started realizing that we had really great bass sounds, but that we had to come up with something more akin to a guitar. “What can we do?” We went through every possible sexual scenario in our heads, and then had to go ahead and create them.
Synthtopia: Once you had the source material that you wanted, what processes did you use to turn it into something that you could make music with?
Jessica Vale: In some cases, it was Jean-Luc plugging it into different algorithms that he works with. In other cases, it was just us sitting around plugging it into software and processing and tweaking it, doing whatever we had to do to end up with the sounds that we were going for. At times it worked out very well for us. Other times, it took us a while!
Synthtopia: Can you give an example?.
Jessica Vale: One of the most easily explained would be bass lines. What we ended up doing for the bass lines was using vibrators. That wasn’t something that we did right off the bat, but it was something that we knew fairly close to the beginning of the process.
We were working on a song, and we were looking for a really nice, heavy bass sound, and we were just thinking, “Why not give one of these couples a vibrator and incorporate that sound into what they’re doing?” Vibrators, as I know now, have a lot of different switches and speeds, all of which produce different frequencies. So when we gave it to them, we let them do their thing, but at a certain point, it would be like “OK, why don’t you use the faster vibrator. Why don’t you use the one with the slower switch…”
Synthtopia: So you’re saying, “We need the vibrator in D!”?
Jessica Vale: Exactly! (Laughing).
Synthtopia: Don’t mind us!
Jessica Vale: Right. That way, we could end up with the bass line that we wanted. In some cases we would just use it straight. In others, we would bring it in and do whatever we had to for a more pleasing sound.
From Sex to Music
Synthtopia: Once you had the sounds, what was your process for making the music?
Jessica Vale: It was totally collaborative. Ivan and I sat there together and did all of it. Jean-Luc was here for certain pieces, and was involved in different capacities.
One of the hardest parts about it was sitting there composing a music piece, and knowing what you want it to sound like, and not being able to just pick up a guitar and do it! We’ve got instruments here! We could have just picked them up and done it, but it didn’t have the same effect. It didn’t have the same kind of sound. We wanted the music to not sound like it was made from traditional instruments in the first place, or we would have just done that and saved ourselves a lot of hard work.
Synthtopia: What do you think about the final CD. Did it come out the way you wanted?
Jessica Vale: Definitely. In fact, I think it came out better than what I had expected. There are certain things, that when you’re involved with it, you don’t necessarily see, because your minds too much in it. Stepping away from it and looking back on it, having it mastered now for a couple of months, I’m extremely happy with the results.
Synthtopia: What did the people that you worked with for the source material think of the CD? Do they recognize themselves in it?
Jessica Vale: They think they do, here and there, but I don’t know that they are necessarilly correct. I don’t even know who’s on what anymore!
Synthtopia: Are you planning to do any videos to go with this?
Jessica Vale: We’ve already started working on that. That should be done fairly shortly.
We’re also getting a live show together, which is another interesting challenge, given the music. We’re working on some new material, that is not based off sex, but material that is along those same kind of lines musically. With the live show, we’re trying to work on the multimedia aspect of it.
What remains to be seen is exactly how we’ll be able to perform the CD, as The Sex Album.
Synthtopia: Well, you’ll have to get all the couples on stage….
Jessica Vale: (Laughing) Right! Those are the sort of kinks we’re trying to work out, I’d guess you could say!
Synthtopia: How can people find out more about you and your music?
Jessica Vale: They can go to our website, www.thesexalbum.com. We continually update it with information.
Synthtopia: Jessica, thanks for taking the time to talk with us!
Jessica Vale: Thank you!