A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the wonderful Sapphira Vee about her earliest experiences in music, her latest release ‘My Game’, and the numerous collaborations and guest appearances of the past year.
Chris: So, when did you know that you wanted to make music? Was there a moment that you can look back on and say, “that was the moment”?
Sapphira: I saw David Bowie on SNL performing TVC15 with Klaus Nomi, in a skirt and heels… got the Ziggy Stardust album after that, then later that year when my dad asked me what I wanted as a reward for getting straight A’s in school, I told him an electric guitar.
From there on I started playing along with every album I owned, whether I was playing it right or wrong.
I did get lessons though and I play right hand even though I’m a lefty because I was playing violin in school as well. I’d also jam frequently on one of those cheesy electric organs with all the air pushing through it, I forgot what they called those things.
Chris: That’s interesting; I assume music was already something you were interested in by that point and that the Bowie performance just solidified the idea?
Sapphira: Oh yeah, my parents listened to a lot of different stuff… Motown, prog, pop, I heard it all, and of course I was exposed to a lot of classical as a kid because of violin, Baroque is my favorite classical period.
I think it made me want to actually do it and not just appreciate it. Before that I was just kind of messing around, like I do now *laughs*
Chris: If I recall from a previous conversation, your current music as Sapphira Vee isn’t your first go with music. I think you said you were in a band previously. I attempted to find more info, but the attempt proved unsuccessful. What pulled you back in?
Sapphira: *laughs* Yes, you’d never find me!
Chris: I knew it wasn’t your first and I knew there was a gap in time between then and now.
Sapphira: I was in a bunch of bands, playing in bars and things. I did record a CD, which is out there, and if you know my maiden name you can find it. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Chris: Was it a punk band? I could totally see you doing punk.
Sapphira: No, it wasn’t; it was a techno pop band. Me and my buddy Paul. We switched back and forth on keys and guitar and used a drum machine and synth bass. When we played live, we used a DAT tape to play back the bass and drums and did everything else live. Prior to that there were some bands in there that you could call punk and I did strictly guitar in those bands. I didn’t do vocals or keyboards until my band with Paul.
But yes, so I was doing music, and recording and things, getting nowhere of course, then I decided to have kids with my then 2nd husband. With working full time, maintaining a home and two small kids there wasn’t much time for music and I really wanted to be there for my kids. Their father kind of wasn’t there for them, so I was basically a single mom from day one, even before the divorce. Once they were old enough that they were kind of doing their own thing (teens) I had more time on my hands and jumped back in. It was always a goal of mine to do it again, even if I did not believe I ever would at times.
Chris: I think stepping away from music is difficult for people that really have a passion for it. I had a totally different situation but similar outcome. I knew that eventually I’d get back around to doing music. It’s just not something we can throw on a shelf and walk away from for good.
Sapphira: Yeah, but it was strange coming back to it after over a decade or more. A lot of things had changed; mostly due to technology.
I could record at home, there was social media to promote the music, and so many people were releasing their own music independently. That sort of thing was present but nowhere near as popular previously. Most everyone relied on a label, even if it was a small indie label that some dude ran out of his basement.
I’ve been able to reach infinitely more people this past year than all the years before my hiatus.
Chris: I can partially relate. The recording tech was there previously for me, but there wasn’t a good way to distribute or get it out there without a label or at personal expense, because we were still stuck with physical media.
Sapphira: The concept of a of a local band is gone, good or bad, we are all global now.
Back then you could get your music mastered and make CDs without a label, just had to be willing to pay for it. When Paul and I made our CD, we had a friend who had a small bankrupt label, he gave us his contact for all that, but we did it all ourselves through his contacts.
Chris: That’s no small undertaking.
Sapphira: Well, it took more time because you had to ship it off, but it wasn’t any more work, because someone else was doing it.
Chris: When you returned to making music, did you know what you wanted to do with it? Like the idea for Sapphira Vee; was it already there and you just had to get back into doing it?
Sapphira: I had an idea for sure, but I really had to start writing again to get any sort of a direction. I knew I wanted to do electronic music and I wanted to be able to play guitar too, beyond that I just sort of experimented.
I feel like it’s taken well over a year to zero in on it. ‘My Game’ is where I think I really found where I wanted to be, but who knows, the next album could be totally different. One thing I will never do is limit myself to any specific genre, unless I’m doing it temporarily and intentionally just to do it, but that would never be my path forward.
Chris: That was something I noticed listening to your music. Each of your albums has a different sound, yet they still retain a certain sound that is unmistakably you. ‘Infunkstrial’ was more aggressive sounding in its approach and felt more up-tempo. ‘Missing Pieces’ slowed things down and had more of an eclectic mix of rock, pop, and industrial elements and now ‘My Game’ is much more pop electro rock in its presentation.
Has this been a conscious decision to evolve the sound or has it been a more organic kind of thing?
Sapphira: Both, it’s absolutely intentional, but where it goes, I don’t really decide, I just let that happen. Yep, I’d agree with that. I just love industrial music, it was such a tremendous influence on me when I started playing in bands post college, but I’m no Al Jorgensen, so while ‘Infunkstrial’ was a homage to industrial, there were other elements as well.
Chris: Its definitely got that Wax Trax feel. I think anyone that’s familiar with Wax would recognize the homage.
Sapphira: I remember watching ‘Industrial Accident’, the documentary on the history of Wax Trax as I was recording [Infunkstrial], it was so inspirational. If you loved those bands, then you’ll really enjoy that film; it was a blast watching Groovie Mann and Richard Codenys talk about those days.
And then there was DM [Depeche Mode] who were not really industrial but also a big influence, Erasure as well.
Chris: I loved a lot of bands from that period. They got a lot of rotation while driving around. You know, I never got around to checking that out; I’ll have to correct that soon. And if you’re a fan of electronic music, it’s impossible to avoid DM.
Sapphira: And my crush on Alan Wilder.
Chris: You and your musical crushes. I can’t help but laugh a little, but I have my own. You’re just more open about yours. *laughs*
Sapphira: Yep, I’ve got nothin’ to hide.
Chris: Your latest release ‘My Game’ seems to come from a more personal, intimate place. Did this change how you approached the writing process?
Sapphira: It was actually easier to write. I knew exactly what I wanted to say in each song and built the music around it. It’s been called moody and I suppose that is exactly why.
Chris: ‘My Game’ was easier to write? I would have figured the exact opposite.
Sapphira: Oh yeah, years of disappointment and rage over my two crappy marriages, it was very easy; disappointment with my exes, and myself. It’s rarely just one sided. Sometimes bad decisions on both sides cause the whole thing to implode.
Chris: It definitely happens, but I’m glad to hear that you were able to channel it into something positive.
Sapphira: ‘My Game’ was the best thing to come out of it, aside from my kids, of course.
Chris: Was there a particular song on the album that gave you issues along the way? Everyone always has one song that just never quite went the way they wanted. Conversely, were there any that you were completely satisfied with how they turned out?
Sapphira: ‘On Your Throne’. The message is how I intended, the music… still not sure if I could have brought it all together better, but it has some pretty cool moments, so I kept it on the album.
And then there were others that wrote themselves, like ‘My Game’, ‘Own’, and ‘Too Many’.
Chris: Those are all very solid tracks and of course the title track wrote itself and I think ‘On Your Throne’ came together pretty well.
Sapphira: Thanks, maybe I did so much battle with it that I’m not sure what to think. *laughs*
Chris: I know you’ve been heavily involved in collaborations and remixes over the past year, often with several ongoing concurrently. It’s a pretty diverse group of people you’ve worked with: Dogtablet, Audible Collective, Drearia, Melodywhore, Upon Eventual Collapse, etc. How do you isolate the material between projects? Does one project ever bleed through to another?
Sapphira: It hasn’t happened yet. I feel like everyone I work with has a very strong musical imprint of their own and as a result, I approach each of them differently.
Yeah, I mean, none of them really sound remotely like one another. Aside from us all remixing each other. *laughs*
Chris: I think it’s remarkable that you can isolate the projects. Obviously, they want to work with you for what you do. I fear that I’d re-tread ideas or sounds that I’ve done before, but maybe that’s partially the sound they want.
Sapphira: I think so too. I’m working with The Less Dead right now on a track and we talked about what he was looking for but he also mentioned my “signature sound”, I think he called it, and didn’t want the end product to not have that element somewhere in there.
Ultimately, I try my best to give my collaborators the vibe they are looking for while still retaining my identity.
Chris: Do you find that the inspiration comes from different places for each of these projects vs your own material or do they [the collaborators] generally give you an idea or direction of what they want?
Sapphira: It depends. Some of them have very specific ideas of what they are looking for and others kind of let me run with it. When Martin King, from Dogtablet. asked me to do a track and he gave me like 6 songs to choose from, and told me that if none of those spoke to me, he’d send more. ‘Collapsing Lives’ ended up being a great choice.
For inspiration, I always let the music inspire me. It always comes from there.
Chris: ‘Collapsing Lives’ was a great track. I don’t think I could hear that one any other way.
And you knew this had to come up. Melodywhore, your frequent partner in crime. How did that come about? Who found who first?
Sapphira: I think we “met” on Jaylyn Snow’s discord server “We Produce Music”. I’d throw some works in progress out there for feedback and that might be how we first started talking. We’d all sort of chat and get to know each other; that was about a year ago. Then when he started his radio shows on RDT, we started talking more and he asked me to send him some tracks to play, and I think that’s how our Venus and Erich thing started. We were joking about releasing a song under our “porn names” – the original names were a little different, but then he didn’t think his distributor would approve the release so we changed them to Venus McVee and Notorious Erich Von P, that was ‘Under Your spell’.
Chris: Somehow that doesn’t surprise me with him *laughs*
Sapphira: No, not at all, but we both have that slightly juvenile, okay, very juvenile sense of humor, I think that’s one of the things that makes it work for us. We enjoyed doing that one so much we decided to make it a side project that we’d keep going. Sort of a place for us to do things we might not do as Melodywhore and Sapphira Vee.
Chris: Does this mean that we can expect to hear more in the near future?
Sapphira: Yes, ‘Lunar Love Slave’ was only Chapter 1.
Chris: That’s very cool about the discord server. I figured there had to be something like that for the community.
Sapphira: Yeah, it’s still active under a different name now.
Chris: With the DM function of Twitter, I figured that was how most people probably kept in contact.
Sapphira: Right, that’s mostly how I keep in touch with everyone these days, DM.
Chris: What’s your future plans? Any projects or collaborations in the works or that you’d like to share?
Sapphira: Well, there’s Collapse of Dawn – ‘Transcendence’ coming out on April 27th, between myself and Upon Eventual Collapse.
I’m doing more work with Dogtablet; I did vocals on a track for them recently but have no idea when it will be released, and there’s also a remix for their ‘Feathers & Skin’ remix album, the original album on which I also appear.
Venus and Erich just released ‘Lunar Love Slave’, which includes all our singles and several remixes.
There’s a remix of ‘Dark Passenger’ for Jack Alberson, that should be coming out soon on a single and I think it includes the original as well.
And I’ll be releasing a remix album of ‘My Game’ as well. There are more things I’m working on but no definite release dates as of yet.
Chris: That sounds like you’re continuing to stay busy.
Sapphira: Oh! and I’m working on getting a video together for ‘Too Many’; I really hope that happens. I’m talking to a dude on Fiverr that Drearia referred me to; he’s listening to the track now, then we’ll see.
Chris: Sounds awesome and would love to see that work out. What have you been recently reading, watching, playing, or listening to?
Sapphira: No time for TV or games. I’m trying to get through a book by Thomas Cahill on ancient Greece. He’s written a whole series of book on various culture all through history. I’ve read most of them.
I recently found out [from Martin] that they are using Dogtablet songs on iZombie, so I need to start watching that again.
Chris: I love iZombie.
Sapphira: Hilarious. Don E is my favorite character, he’s slays me; and all the 80’s references, Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons, etc.
Chris: Totally stereotypical, but Liv, oh my.
Sapphira: *laughs* Right?
Chris: Pale girl with raccoon eye makeup? Yes, please.
Sapphira: When Major ate the cheerleader brain, I thought I was going to choke laughing.
Chris: Hah, yeah. It’s one of the risks *laughs*.
Thank you so much Vee for your time.
Sapphira: My pleasure, this was fun!
Sapphira Vee can be reached via Twitter @Sapphira_Music
Be sure to check out the her latest release ‘My Game’ and for purchase through Bandcamp.