We caught up with established UK soul/funk artist Dina Vass, as she marks her return & explodes into the lockdown airwaves is with her danceable new single, ‘Give You My Love’ – delivering classic Latin House vibes.
T.H.E – Hey Dina, thanks for joining us today & welcome to T.H.E – Music Essentials! How are things in your world right now?
Dina Vass – Manic, but in a good way! Obviously with the pandemic having an impact on everyone and for us performers it has been particularly difficult. Generally, things are very positive though, I always try to stay upbeat and very much a glass half full kind of person. I’ve kept busy working on projects, my artwork, logo sketches and vibing in my studio. So, I’m excited to share my upcoming releases – ‘Give You My Love’ is just the start! Dusting off my cobwebs from being off the circuit for a while… I think I was almost turning into a fossil! lol I am also working on writing a few books but that’s another story! Ha Ha!
I’ve been looking after my mum as well, with her now being elderly and loving on my sweet fluffy cats too… they are my little chill out therapists lol. I’d like to mention I’m grateful to my partner Joe Lees for all his technical skills helping to re-launch everything. Things are going great! Better than I expected. I’m feeling thankful and enthusiastic about everything!
T.H.E – Congrats on your new single ‘Give You My Love’, can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind the track?
Dina Vass – The track originally was meant to be the follow up to ‘Waiting For You’ (2004). I got side tracked, when all my health issues kicked in. So it went on hold at the time (although I did write and sing some songs for other producers up till 2008) I slowed down a bit on a personal level. The inspiration of the track came from a chapter in my life when I dated somebody older than me. He was very insecure and was quite possessive, which caused me a lot of distress. We are all flawed, but when somebody controls your every move, it can do real harm. As I say in my lyrics, “Confrontation is all that’s needed”. What I mean by that is when a situation gets really bad, It’s good to try and deal with it sympathetically but at the same time honestly, thus the chorus saying “Gonna give you my love” – trying to express that there was no need to feel the way he felt because I was 100% with him in the relationship. However, this chapter has been put into a song now and obviously I’ve moved on! 😉
With you writing, producing & engineering, along with performing vocals on your own releases – this must give you limitless creative freedom?
Dina Vass – Absolutely! Sometimes I vibe things out with just chords and a bass line to start then work a song out around that. My best ideas come to me when I can’t sleep or sometimes when I’m driving long journeys… I think things through that are going on in my life… then my thoughts turn into melodies! lol… My dictaphone is always at hand.
I think I’m more of a night owl really when it comes to the creative side of my character.
My favourite way of working is when I start with a melody that’s in my mind, write out lyrics for it (depending on what’s been going on… my lyrics either come from my life experiences or just things from my observations in general…) I record the vocals to a click track or a beat that feels right, then build the musical composition around the song’s melody. Whichever way the song comes to me defines how I pull the song together. I also love different styles of music, so I don’t only make dance music. Initially, my songs were quite mainstream and varied in style.
Music is like therapy for me, so it’s an emotion and passion based creative process. I started out in old school analogue studios when I was around 11 years old working as a runner, eventually recording, working on 2 inch tape… on large analogue mixing desks where you needed sometimes six pairs of hands to do a fade out at the end of the track on the mixing desk LOL …
Regarding sound engineering, over the years I have been more reliant on working with sound engineers, it is easier to work in a studio producing with the assistance of a good sound engineer. Especially from a singing point of view and mixing up musicians. I know how to get the best out of my own vocals as well as doing the same for other singers that I produce music for. I think of my voice as an instrument… adapting to the style of song and genre I’m working on at the time. The feel and mood of the music does bring out a different feeling when singing too.
But the way the industry has gone, from a financial standpoint, it became more difficult to hire/afford sound engineers on a daily basis. This was the main reason I ended up doing a three year degree in sound engineering. I also did sound design and music for film as a specific category as well. I’m not naturally a technical person. But I have a very good ear and know what I want to hear and I do OK in the Studio 😉
I work using Logic, and sometimes Pro Tools. But when it comes to recording live musicians, I do book a session at a professional bigger studio with a sound engineer. They have more daily practice with micing up live musicians and better facilities for this than my home studio.
Though I record Dance music, I always use live guitarists, sometimes live bassists to re-play my bass lines that I have played on my keys.
My good friend who is a fantastic percussionist (Basil Isaac), came in and played on Give You My Love and my next track. The guitarist was Mark Johns, another lovely person to work with who played the guitars. The downside of doing everything myself including the sound engineering is that when it comes to recording my vocals, I have to do long takes in one go, run back to hit the spacebar to start and stop, do loads and loads of takes, e.g. harmonies etc, and then cut everything up for the choruses, arrange them, track them up and then come back and sing the verses in one take! It’s a lot of faffing, lol! But I love it, because time is not an issue in my own studio. Sometimes my other half is the space bar man for me, lol! He is great, when I need that kind of help. There are times though when I just book in at my mates’ studio and just record my vocals there and take them back home to finish up in my own studio. It all depends on the song I’m working on.
T.H.E – What influenced your remix choices on ‘Give You My Love’?
Dina Vass – I don’t tend to directly reference anyone’s style or their music much, I have my own trademark sound with my singing and song writing style (or I at least I would like to think so anyway 😉 ) Regarding house beats and what influenced me in general though, I naturally gravitate to the early 2000’s Dance/Soulful Funky House sound/style. Most of my work is very much mood based, going on a feeling and the mood I’m in at the time, I know sometimes it would be good to follow the latest trends… but I tend to do what I enjoy at the time.
Music is a bit like fashion in my mind. It can fade in popularity and then come back round again 10 years later and be the next big thing again. Though dance music has a bit of a timeless vibe about it. I can’t say that there is a specific influence that I was working towards with my mixes (not consciously anyway). More of just a case of liking the sounds I was working with. For example, the Calypso mix that I produced was a last minute creation, when I couldn’t sleep. It was 1am, I just had the vocals set up dry in the session. I used the keys on the keyboard to rhythmically play out in real time rhythms using a keyboard drum kit, with a specific collection of percussion sounds that I had loaded into my sequencer. I play out the rhythm I am feeling at the time, and then go back, EQ it, balance it, and polish it up. Then the bass line came to me, and then the chords etc. I have a thing about working with my singing notes/melodies to compliment the bass note melody in quirky ways, so it pulls on my emotions creating a ‘need for me to jump out my seat and dance to it’ lol.
This may all sound like a messy process, as I am self taught with my keyboard and piano playing… lol. But there is a method in my madness in the way of my creativity! If it brings a smile to my face, then I know I am on to something. I love to go back and rework stuff as well. With my other mixes, I love soulful funky House. My music background and passions are jazz funk, soul, disco and acid jazz. So, I suppose there is a little bit of influence from this era here and there. Again, it’s all about groove and feel good factor. In my mind, a song should take you on a journey, from start to finish. The song and music arrangements are important. When it comes to the real solid dancefloor mixes though, I know some fantastic DJ producers who are skilled at creating good dancefloor mixes of my songs. In this case, the lovely MANNIX and his production partner Albert Koler did a fantastic job. I have known Mannix for many years, and he is a dear friend as well. There will be more mixes to come, I am always interested in working with new people as well. As long as people like what they hear and enjoy it! Then it’s all good –)
T.H.E – Renowned for your soulful House sound & the Ibiza classic ‘The Love I Have For You’, how have you seen the industry change in recent years?
Dina Vass – Being off the circuit for a while… I have to admit… I became a little out of touch. I live in my 70’s, 80’s, 90’, 00’ bubble! lol listening to all my favourites a lot of the time… I do hear new music that grabs me from time to time… Though I do love listening to my DJ friends mix shows too . I’ve not ever stopped making music … It’s a big part of my life. I did lose track a bit though of what’s been happening in the industry… I was preoccupied trying to get well… and you know I’m sure… ‘Life happens’ etc.
But what I have noticed has changed in the industry is the expanse of styles that have developed… There seems to be a lot more varied Dance styles of music… Auto tuning with the vocals seems to be happening a lot more often… (which is not my thing personally…) but it has its market and respect and I appreciate moving with the times. It’s a ‘sound’ in its own right, I think. I think also Major labels have had to adjust as back in the day it was about huge advances… Long artist development preparations etc… But now, I think there just seems to be more ways and options to get your music heard without relying on ‘the major record deal’. The other thing that I think has changed… Is the ability to earn a decent living as a muso. Digital downloads are very low priced compared to your CD and vinyl days. Things have changed I for sure on that front. So, gigs or session work is the main way for performers to earn a living. I think you need to love music with all your heart and be passion driven in the industry… To keep going, doing what you love and find other lines of work to support your income.
I think the other sad thing to see as well is how many of the best venues have closed down that had the best nights we would all go out to. I think overall… It’s just a bit of a wait and see where things go kind of chapter for the industry. The important thing I believe is to make sure the younger generations are kept in the loop and introduced and educated about great music that doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves on the underground circuits especially. Like the soul and Jazz funk tracks I grew up listening to etc. Especially about Dance/house music and its history, quality music in general, to keep it alive and kicking and on going. My good DJ friends agree on this with me too.
Music always gets recycled and the industry always finds a way to reinvent itself and keep on going and adapt just as it always has. I don’t think the basis of it has changed much in the grand scheme of things. One thing that has been great to see though is the ability to be able to set up independently and actively get your own music out on your own using social media platforms and other marketing ways to get your music heard. This gives more creative freedom where you can freely put out music that you want to try out. I’ve been set up independently since 1999 as far as a label goes. But I also focused more on Artist development and coaching other artists while doing my own work. I have vast experience and a natural entertainer, so I help other artists with their confidence building. I’m personally a very free spirit, so I just go out and enjoy myself. You can’t please everyone, so why worry about it too much! Lol
I have slowed that side of things down for the moment. Just a case of managing things on the label in a different order now that’s more productive. I have a lot to catch up on! But I’ll be signing new artists again soon though who are like minded.
T.H.E – With many of your previous releases on CMWS Music, can you tell us a little about your relationship with the label?
Dina Vass – CMWS Music stands for “Connect Mind With Soul” Music. I came up with the name of the label when I was 17 years old. It is simply how I feel about music. And kept it in my mind till I was old enough and in position to bring it to life in later years. If social media and technology existed back then the way it does now, I would have probably made the most of it on every level in my teens! lol.
I like to visualise things ahead of time and work towards trying to pull things together collectively. If it takes a long time… That’s fine with me –) I’m in no race with anyone. You could say Enjoyment is my main Employment when it comes to my creative work Lol
The things we experience and the people we meet over time during our life’s Journey is what creates the best memories in my view. I believe things happen in the way they are meant to happen at the time they are meant to happen helping personal spiritual growth as well as career success. So with CMWS music it was a bit of an organic process the way it developed.
My music lawyer teamed up with me in the background supporting my work and small group of Artists that I developed and helped too. In 2004 when I launched ‘Waiting for you’ on CMWS music… This gave the label a nice little platform which came off the back of the success of my garage two step tune ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You’…I did all the leg work and promoted that on my label BAF Records. I spent 4 months in Cyprus mainly in Ayia Napa promoting it. I got picked up by GO Beat! In 2001 for ‘The Love I have for you’ then off the back of that over time.. CMWS music became my main anchor label.
But sadly, due to quite debilitating health issues… Everything became dormant but not quite finished. 😉 Now that my health is a bit better, I have associates supporting the label and it’s so far going from strength to strength very quickly. I am putting a lot of energy into it. This time round I have more support so if anything occurs again it can keep going. There’s no stopping this train now! lol
The label very much stands for supporting raw talent for artists that don’t get the support they deserve or recognition from majors. Also focusing on supporting Female producers, singer songwriters and DJ/Producers too. I know too well how it feels trying to break your work into industry circles and how hard it can be. We believe in developing ‘The Artists original style’ instead of turning them into artists that are not true to their nature. It’s important to try new sounds and think outside of the box! In my view… How can you stand out from the crowd with a cool sound if you follow everything that everyone else is doing 😉 setting new trends is fun… Or reviving your favourite era can be even more enjoyable. So, I am directly involved with my label. But for those involved… It really is like a family. Longevity is what we are all about –D
T.H.E – And finally, as we move deeper into 2021 – is there any other news you can share with our readers?
Dina Vass – I am working on a couple of covers at the moment. They will be released this year as well. There’ll be footage of the process with all the musicians in the studio. Some of these covers will be a complete live production – old school stylie –) Going back to recording the way I used to back in the day! Also, Another one of my original productions/songs will also be released in around 8 weeks’ time (though this song is pretty much a feel good kinda tune) It’s basically about what it’s called – ‘going to a “Beach Party” lol..
There are some collaborations going on too… And a little tip… I am looking into re-releasing my song ‘The love I have for you’. The old team who were all involved before with the mixes are getting together with me to do this… But this is in the pipeline – a work in process so to speak! ;-D
There’ll be more posts with me in my own Studio too… and just generally giving a bit of a window of what I’m up to. Just generally getting back to it! Getting involved with all that’s to do with music, good friends, good times! There will be monthly updates on the websites of things I’ll be getting up to so everyone can get involved if people feel that want to tag along!