Mark Johns on her first sample pack, what keeps her inspired, and more

Mark Johns, alias of vocalist Naomie Abergel, originally had no plans to pursue music.

However, after uploading a few covers to SoundCloud, her rendition of a Kanye West track captured the attention of OWSLA head honcho and electronic tastemaker Skrillex, who signed her as the first solo singer to the label. Her voice, forceful yet fitting perfectly within the dreamy textures of electronic music, has garnered millions of streams across platforms and led to collaborations with the likes of Jai Wolf, Bearson, AOBeats, and more. Fresh off releasing her new vocal pack, Mark Johns sat down with us to talk bedroom recordings, coming up with song ideas, and the five things she needs to fuel her creativity.

You began your career singing covers in your bedroom with a USB mic. Now, you’re collaborating with the likes of AOBeats and gnash. Can you tell us how your process for writing and recording vocals has changed since you started out? What was your setup then, as opposed to now? How do you approach writing and recording differently since then?

It’s actually downgraded – I usually just use the Voice Notes app on my phone, a guitar at home, and the keyboard on GarageBand when I get desperate. I don’t really use a real mic anymore unless I’m in a proper session or until I’m cutting the final vocal. I just try not to take it as seriously I guess.

Your tracks (and subsequently your sample pack as well) include vocals that are wonderfully cozy and lush sounding. Can you speak to what you do to create that sound? How into the weeds of applying effects to your vocals (with delays, reverbs, etc.) do you get, and what plugins do you prefer? What’s your process for layering vocals and writing harmony parts?

I’m not fussy when it comes to this kinda stuff – to be entirely honest I don’t even know what mic it was for the sample pack, it had one of those foamy things over the whole top though! I usually let the engineer handle that stuff, but I like a little bit of reverb usually. When the vocal is dry, I just feel like I’m recording an audiobook and it’s awful. I like some tune sometimes depending on what I’m recording. I love layering vocals with one take that’s like a little farther away from mic, sometimes the topline whispered or yelled even, just to add texture. When it comes to harmonies I actually kinda suck – everything that comes to me naturally is super traditional and I love the weird harmonies so it’s very trial-and-error for me.

This is your first sample pack – can you speak to how the process for writing vocals for a pack differs from say, writing toplines for your own original songs or writing vocal parts with a collaborator? What was your process in terms of creating this pack?

Writing songs is rarely a spontaneous process for me. I’m not the type to go into the booth and freestyle an entire song; I hear the beat and then kinda just sit on my phone writing for a while until I have what I want, and then I’ll record. So this was fun for me because it was all very on-the-fly, you know what I mean – saying stuff that just came to me and felt like me. Off-the-top-of-me-head-type beat. I recorded this pack with my friend Ethan (Robokid) who has actually also done a Splice pack, so he was already familiar with the process which was very helpful.

In 5 words (or more), can you share with us the things that embody your creative process and give you inspiration? Whether it’s technical, atmospheric, ritualistic, emotional, etc. – we want to know what you need to fuel your creativity and what keeps you inspired.

  • Books
  • Other music
  • Flowers!
  • My friends
  • TV and movies

Make your tracks shine with the breathy vocal stylings in Mark Johns’ “Splice Type Beat” sample pack.

August 31, 2018

Ken Herman Ken Herman is a producer under the name Exitpost and is an editor of the Splice blog.