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Simone Vignola – Rising success with the VoiceLive 2

Italian based musician Simone Vignola is growing in popularity fast. He shares with us a little on his background and the use of his TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2…

Simone first started learning to play music at the tender age of just six years old. His father was an artist but also happened to be a very skilled guitarist providing the first sparks of musical interest for Simone leading him to pick up the guitar aswell. His first listening influences growing up stemmed from his family record collection at home which included The Police, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Queen, and the Beatles to name but a few.

At age 12 Simone switched to the bass guitar as he became curious about the instrument’s role in a band scenario and it somehow made him feel closer to Sting who was his idol at the time. Simone continued studying the bass for several years with a local teacher and even studied the upright bass at a conservatory for some time playing classical. Even now Simone shares his fondness for the “bow” sound.

As far as other bass influences, the first to catch Simone’s attention was Flea, followed by rock bassists of the likes of Steve Harris and Les Claypool; later, arriving at the music of artists such as Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten and Jaco Pastorius. Interestingly, he shares that he only began singing for the sake of recording his ideas – with the first song which he sang being “Time is Flying Again” which despite being written quite some years previous was included it on his CD “Going to the Next Level” (2010). “I didn’t study voice because I didn’t expect to become a singer”, says Simone.

“Generally my influences are quite stylistically diverse. I’ve listened to and played many different kinds of music and I love each one. When I was a teenager I listened to a lot of heavy metal music and had very long hair but as a session-man I worked a lot in Italian Pop music. Actually, I like music from every genre as long as it is well produced. But yes, I would say my main influences are from Sting & The Police, John Mayer, Planet Funk, Primus and The Cure. I love French House music like Daft Punk, Modjo, Thomas Bangalter and Holland Trance music.”

Simone likes to call his style of music “Groove Pop” with the main element being the rhythm. He continues, “When I listen to one of my songs the first feeling I get is that it makes your body want to move. When I decided to start with my solo project I was more into “song-writers” type music and that’s why I think that most of my songs have a pop structure. I started writing on an acoustic guitar and it was then that I thought of using the bass guitar as the only background instrument. I’m also really interested in dance music and I try to get close to a DJ’s type of production sound both in live situations and recording sessions. I also began working on using loops and I found that there was the possibility to communicate something in just one bar. In my opinion the result is a style of pop music based on the bass groove and focused on each loop’s concept.”

We asked Simone what initially led him to use the VoiceLive 2. He replied, “I was really interested in having some vocal effects for my live show and had been looking for something modern that was built with a one-man-band approach and the VoiceLive 2 looked like the one! When I tried the effects I was very surprised; you often read about clever harmonisers or “hard tune” effects thinking that they cannot really deliver… but the VoiceLive 2 does! I always look for “easy-to-use” products and the VoiceLive 2 is also very light and looks really good too!

You often read about clever harmonisers or “hard tune” effects thinking that they cannot really deliver… but the VoiceLive 2 does!

Sometimes I will put both my acoustic guitar and vocals through the VoiceLive 2. I think the guitar effects are brilliant. I can put a quality reverb and chorus on the guitar without it losing definition of the notes. If you are a good listener you can easily put yourself into your musical frame of mind and vocal effects can give you new ideas especially if you hear them from a dance music perspective. It’s important to set sounds and record ideas as fast as you can too without losing your intuition. With the VoiceLive 2 I’m able to realize my musical ideas quickly and have the possibility of approaching a new song with no rush.

I needed quality vocal FX for live use as well as in the studio that would work with my song’s original sound. I also needed an effects pedal that I could easily manage by myself, as I’m always working in a one-man-band type of scenario. Whilst the VoiceLive 2 lends itself well to song writing (it’s great for songwriters, guitar and voice) it’s also great for dance singers too! It completely changed my view of playing live. Finally, I don’t need a good sound engineer, I don’t need someone who takes care of my voice and I can finally have what I want. Now, I cannot go playing without it!

With the VoiceLive 2 I can completely build my own vocal sound. There are a lot of options and settings that can always guarantee a different sound with studio quality. I think the greatest thing is that you can have your effects with you (the ones you use during rehearsals) everywhere just by bringing along a small pedal board like the VoiceLive 2. I think in the beginning when you play your music, you are the only one who knows in exactly which part of your song a delay would work best or what the reverb has to be. Of course, when you use the VoiceLive 2 you need to see the look on the sound engineer’s faces! The audience always seems to like a “one-man-band” musician that sounds like a complete orchestra. I have always found everything I needed in the VoiceLive 2.

I always have the reverb on; TC Helicon has the best reverbs ever! I’m also really fond of the delay (my music can’t exist without it) and now I have, through the great “shortcut” function, the possibility to set “tap tempo” or to have the “delay moment”. Actually, Delay Moment is probably my favourite option!

My songs are full of harmonies which is why I wanted a harmoniser. And, VoiceLive 2’s harmonies are unbelievable. I have no latency on my main voice (very important) and I have high quality harmonies that sound extremely realistic. I really like the “Hard Tune” effect also – this is a great effect for dance singers and in some of my songs I also use the modulation effects too.”

Simone shares that it’s not just TC-Helicon’s delays that impress him, but also the level and depth of customization VoiceLive 2 offers.“You can set everything from delay colour to tape simulation! I also find the ability to set the bpm an invaluable and essential feature in the studio.”

He continues, “In the studio I usually record my vocals flat, and then I record the effect track separately from the take played in playback. I can use the “lead mute” function on the VoiceLive 2 recording just the wet signal, so I can mix it better with the original take. From a production point of view I like a clean and fat sound and in every situation, live or studio, I try to reach that. I prefer the voice to be a little bit inside the mix and I like to hear the bass up front. The groove must be strong and the guitars must be brilliant sounding. Everything else is just colour, and just as a painter would, I can decide how to use the sounds and effects creating different highlights.

I write all the songs myself, both music and lyrics. I guess it could seem strange that an Italian guy sings in English, but I always listened to music that was in English and some of the phrases just seem to come out by themselves. I usually start with the chorus as the main concept, understanding what the general sensation is and what I want to say. Then I build the groove with drum loops then adding the bass line.”

Finally, I don’t need a good sound engineer, I don’t need someone who takes care of my voice and I can finally have what I want.

When asked further about his approach to song writing, Simone said, “I tend to separate the writing moment from the listening one. Inspiration tends to knock on your door when it wants to and I always write when something good happens! I think it’s a strong part of my type of live music – that I use it to communicate what positive things happen in my everyday life. Sometimes I’ll compose during sad moments, but in the end I tend to save a few songs just for myself, especially the deepest ones.

Often I feel inspired by the weather, like “Hi, today it’s sunny and my hands are running on this fingerboard”. I’ll wake up in the morning and instantly feel inspired! The real challenge is reacting when you feel these sensations by stopping everything you’re doing and writing straight away. Sometimes nothing happens, but you feel better for having done it anyway. I think that music must be sincere and an artist just has to say what’s passing through his or her mind.

We asked Simone if he had any tips for up and coming musicians and any advice about the music business in general. He passionately responded, “I think it’s important to separate the music and the business. We often look for deals, sponsors and shows and we think we know how to reach them – so we start doing the “label job” or the “management job” by ourselves. I think this kills the art.

An artist needs to remain concentrated on his musical speech, or on his so called “mission” (I think everybody has one). To be more practical; the only thing that lets you be different from the millions of would-be artists is the quality of your songs, your gear and your musical features. You must work like a well-known artist from the beginning with top recording quality and top video quality. Even if you have no money you still have a “musical brain” and you should know how to arrive at your goals. Your thoughts are unique – work on them. If you’re dedicated and patient enough, sooner or later someone else will take care of placing your talent in the music business. I think in this period, music companies constantly need new talent and they are always looking for a ready-to-use quality product.

My overall philosophy is to firstly respect the music. This means that everything else around me doesn’t exist; there is only what I’m feeling. You’re the way that the music communicates in that moment and place. The art is something bigger than us and we can only respect it without questioning it. You must be yourself – if music and success choose you then it’s because of your nature and hard work. I still believe that people listen to a song before they become interested in the artist who wrote it.”

Simone can be seen touring as a session-man on summer tours and festivals on the big outside stages at high volume to big audiences right down to the smaller more intimate clubs. You might even catch him doing theatre work too which he notes he quite enjoys. Right now he’s concentrating on his solo project. When asked about his musical career Simone says, “I’m really satisfied with what’s happening now. As everyone believes in independent music nowadays, I still need more time to become apparent to people, but I see my name gaining recognition fast. Day by day I see new interest from different kinds of audiences, from the musician to the non-musician to the DJ’s. I had some great deals in 2010 and now I’m working a lot on my project with my Label. I have some great news for 2011 including new projects, new songs, new shows, new site… stay tuned!”

We look forward to following Simone Vignola’s success – his VoiceLive 2 at his side in every step of the journey!

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