The Red Bulletin

Simonne Jones: The renaissance woman

Meet RBMA graduate Simonne Jones – a singer, actress, scientist, instrument maker, you name it.
Simonne Jones.
Simonne Jones © Andrew Woffinden
By Florian Obkircher

Things go quiet for a moment when Simonne Jones enters the room. On the one hand, that’s down to the fact she’s done some modelling and catches the eye in all her one-metre-ninety glory. On the other hand, it’s because the 26-year-old Californian has a talent for holding your attention.

Even if it’s doing a handstand while wearing heels, or smashing a guitar to bits, whatever she does is engaging. You listen as she explains that the scrawl on the back of her hand is the structural formula for serotonin – “my favourite neurotransmitter, I wrote it on this morning.” If she wants to nerd out about the first law of thermodynamics, you nerd out with her.

Jones has brought along a guitar she made herself and explains, between photographs, how to hook up an analogue synthesizer, how to meditate for 15 hours straight, how to clone bacteria. Last year, she was on stage, as both actress and musician, at the Salzburg Festival.

The RBMA graduate is currently recording her debut album – “imagine Depeche Mode and PJ Harvey have a love child born in Einstürzende Neubauten’s backyard,” she says – and divides her time between London, Toronto, Los Angeles and her adopted home city, Berlin, where in 2013 she had an exhibition of her art and performed with two heroes, Björk and electro-punk icon Peaches.

Simonne Jones.
Simonne Jones hits the right key © Andrew Woffinden

What is it about Peaches, who once said you are “the future”, that makes her a hero?
"I went to a concert of hers when I was 15. It was a crazy circus show. I saw my first dildo, my first transvestite, it was intense. Nothing's the same any more after an evening like that. I met her after the concert and a couple of years later I was her roadie on tour. Now she’s my mentor.

What can you learn from her?
"I tend to be kind of shy, but on stage I’m like an animal and I think this comes from Peaches, because she used to come and critique my shows. It’s thanks to Peaches that I’ve got the confidence to jump off speakers into the crowd."

Did you have to work hard to conquer your stage fright?

“During rehearsals and every show, I video myself and watch every recording. That took my performance to another level. You don’t want to look at somebody who is awkward and shy on stage.”

Simonne Jones.
On the rise: Simonne Jones © Claudia Grassl

Cringing at yourself works?
“This is what works for me. I try to get myself into my songwriting mood when performing live. When I’m writing, there are no inhibitions. It's the same concept of dancing around in your underwear at home with a broom or whatever."

How old were you when you fell in love with music?
“I started playing the piano when I was three. I was 10 when I composed my first piece. I took up the electric guitar when I was in that the-whole-world-hates-me phase, aged 14. Then the bass, then the drums and then the sitar. I learned every instrument I could get my hands on.”

Check out the rest of this feature, in which Jones talks about making instruments and her biomedical research, in the March 2014 issue of The Red Bulletin, the global monthly magazine. For access to the international issue, download the free app for iOS or Android now.

The March edition of The Red Bulletin is out today, February 11.

Simonne Jones’s debut album will be released this summer by Universal Music. More here.

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