A Conversation with Vega frontman Nick Workman

If you haven’t discovered British rockers Vega yet, now is the time. The band is about to release its seventh record called Anarchy and Unity. This record continues the amazing evolution of this band and is certainly a must-listen for anyone looking for straight-ahead hard rock with soaring, melodic vocals. Vocalist Nick Workman recently took some time to talk about the new record and all things Vega.

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On how he met the Martin brothers and formed Vega – They knew me from my previous band called Kick, and they were a big fan of that band. They approached me at a gig I was doing with another band at the time because that long since finished. They said that they’re, “Looking at doing a project, would I be interested in doing it?” Bear in mind, they were a few sheets to the wind and I thought, “Yeah, just send us some of your tracks if you like”, as I was just being polite really. I didn’t even know who they were. Anyway, they sent me a song called “New Religion” or something like that. It was not bad. To be fair, I quite liked it. So okay, I’ll give it a little bit more of my attention at this point. Then they sent me some (tracks that) had some sort of melodies over it already. So I was just really copying what was done. Then they said, “Well, here’s a song that hasn’t got any words on it all. Have it go at it”. I did it, I think that was probably the song called “Into the Wild” from the first album. So that was a pretty good first track to sort of come up with together. But I think we got something here. Literally, the chemistry did just grow from there, and it became a proper band, probably within about four or five songs. Even though we weren’t meeting together, we knew that we weren’t going to do a project, we were in it for the real deal. 1:06

On seeing the Who We Are record as a turning point – You also have to realize that because we’re not a project, because we are a real band, we were playing live a lot. So we were touring a lot, that’s why we had this sort of transition to where we were at the beginning, where we hadn’t played live together. Then we played live from that moment onwards. If you look from the fourth record to the 7th record, now there’s an evolution happening there as well. We are constantly transitioning, and we’re gender fluid in the music world. So it wasn’t really so much of a shock in terms for us, because we’re always evolving a move forward gradually, gradually, gradually graduate gradually. But I think that was probably the album that maybe we just did a big leap at that point. The others sort of naturally grew where when we went from Stereo Messiah to Who We Are was the big jump at that point. 3:03

On the evolution of the Vega sound – Everything we do is natural, it’s organic, we don’t try. We haven’t been trying to sort of write any particular record. We just write songs. (Previous record) Grit Your Teeth was quite a big step for us, from Only Human to Grit Your Teeth. That was working with the Graves Brothers, who worked with quite a few big metal bands in the past, and that was really good for us. But we’re not a band that’s afraid to take risks. In our pot of ingredients, we’ve got your Def Leppard, Guns and Roses, and Bon Jovi, but we also add in the Police or we might add in the Eurythmics or we might add in Oasis or another random sort of bits of influence if you like. So that’s the thing that always sets us apart from the AOR bands of the world who sort of like they do what they do. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, and they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. But they may be focused on two or three bands like Journey, Toto, Night Ranger, whatever. I think we’ve got the same problem that Def Leppard had in that we’re too pop for metal and were too rock for pop and stuff. We are in that middle ground. What I love about it is that people can’t pigeonhole us. They can’t sort of put us in a place. But as I carry on my verbal diarrhea, here, the thing of it with this new album is that we had this conveyor belt that I keep referring to. Whereas when Pete (Newdeck) and Billy (Taylor) joined the band, Tom (Martin), James (Martin), and I had already written about eight songs in their demo. If you listen to our demos, the first album’s demos were shockingly bad quality, but from What the Hell! onwards, you wouldn’t know which album the demos came from, because all of our demos are the same. We don’t put any effort into demos. A lot of bands do the demos, and that’s what they’re going to use on the album. We don’t because we want to have that change of gear when we go to the studio to record. So our evolution doesn’t happen and we don’t know what’s going to happen to the songs until we hit the studio, literally. We had the demos of myself, Tom, and James, and then with this album, this conveyor belt, what happened was some of the songs, the song “Ain’t Who I Am” I originally wrote, I was bored one night, nothing to watch on Netflix. I scanned it for an hour and go, “Jesus, I’m still scanning”, and I was just on my Mac computer. I just programmed some drums programs bass because I had this acoustic idea and I don’t even have an electric guitar at home. I write everything on acoustic, and I just put some distortion on the acoustic guitar, and I had this song for it. I wasn’t going to do anything with it. But then when my wife was listening to some demos and stuff, I said, “This is just what I was dicking around with, ha ha ha”. She said, “That’s really good. You should do something with that”, I was like, “Really?” So I’ll just send it to guys anyway, and they thought, “Yeah, that’s really good”. So that started it. But how this conveyor belt works is that we had these original songs, and then it’s like, “Okay, we’ll send it to Billy”. “Billy, you redo the music in your mentality. Let’s replace The Edge from U2 and let’s put Slash in there”, that took us to a different place as Vega. We tuned everything down a whole step. So it’s not in a normal concert pitch and that took it down to a muscular step as well. Once Billy did something, he sent it back to me. So I would then resing it because it was in a different tuning. Then once I’ve done my bit, I’d send it to Pete, and Pete would do some sort of cool sort of production touches. Maybe add some BVs as well, and that’s the conveyor belt. It was just because it went through such a process of all of us working on it. I think that’s why the songs ended up being how they are because there was such attention to detail. 4:45

On bringing in many different types of influences -Definitely for me, from a vocal melody perspective, if I hear a melody from anywhere, it doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll make a note of it. It will influence something somehow. Sometimes you find yourself, like on the last album, “Consequence of Having a Heart”, when I wrote it I thought, “Oh man, where have I heard that before? Where have I heard it?” It was obvious it was Tears For Fears. The original demo was exactly Tears for Fears. We couldn’t do it exactly. So I had to change a few notes. If it went to court, I should keep my house. But it’s like Butch Walker when he did that “Cigarette Love Song”, and he pretty much rewrote “All the Young Dudes” so David Bowie actually got a cowrite on that song, and I’m sure he never even set foot in the studio. Sometimes you inadvertently stumble across a melody you think he’s genius until you realize, “Oh, yeah, somebody’s done that before already”. 9:14

On recording Anarchy and Unity after not being able to tour for Grit Your Teeth – Well, we hoped we were going to hit the road, but we knew it was going to happen, so it’s kind of a bit of empty hope. But we didn’t really have the intention of writing a song. Obviously, two members left during the pandemic. We kind of knew one was coming and kind of nudged the other one in that direction as well, because when you know, you know, and sometimes it’s best to sort of cut your losses before it becomes sort of an issue kind of thing. So there are no hard feelings all good, off you pop. So then Billy and Pete come aboard during the summer, when restrictions kind of relaxed briefly, we got to go and said, “Let’s have a rehearsal. Let’s just have a rehearsal”, just to knock out and play together because we’ve got these new members. But we’re not likely to play together for a long time. So we had a rehearsal So we just decided to only play songs from Grit Your Teeth. We played about four or five songs from Grit Your Teeth because none of us have played those. When we’re playing them, Billy was playing the songs, but he played a different guitar part to what was on the album, I thought, “That’s really cool, man”. Then we do another song and Pete might do something different on the drums and it’s just like we’ve written sort of six or seven or eight songs for the next album, just because we always write songs before an album comes out and said, “Why don’t you have a go at just reworking some of the songs that we’ve done?” It happened because we had that rehearsal. Have we not done that we probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking about a new album. We’ve never said to any member in the band who’s been in the band previously, “You can’t write it’s ours. That’s what we write”, but no one’s ever bothered to get involved. So when Billy and Pete wanted to get involved, “Yeah, brilliant. Please”, they did more in the band in the first six months, and all of the other previous members combined in ten years. That is brilliant. We had this purple patch of inspiration, and it was exciting because of the conveyor belt, something would come to me, it would go to Billy, come back to me. It was just so exciting to do it. It was brilliant. 10:47

On keeping the Vega sound with new members –Well, as I said, pretty much all of the songs originated with myself, Tom, and James, whether it’s just with me or the three of us like that. So they all originated from the same place all Vega songs have started. So that’s why it will maintain that Vega flavor. We haven’t taken anything away from Vega, we’ve added. We’ve dropped in loads of new Pete and Billy herbs and spices to sort of like flash up. With “End of the Fade” we did the demo that myself, Tom, and James loved it, but there’s something about it, Jim was like, “Yeah, there’s something I just don’t know about it”. I think it’s one of the last ones that we sent to Billy sort of like, “Let’s see what you can do with this one”. I spoke to Billy, I suggested a couple of songs by Slash, “Try something like this on the verse instead of just chugging away”, because that’s all the demo was. It was just chugging like that. Melody wise, vocal wise. I barely changed the thing. I just re sang it to suit the way that Billy played it. But we called it our James Bond theme. To the point where if you listen to the verse, you’ve got this sort of sampled hand clap on it, that was actually sampled from Duran Duran’s “View To a Kill”. 13:37

On upcoming touring – In all honesty, the gigging for us is really all about 2022. Because as much as venues are open here, ticket sales are massively down here. I mean, I’ve been speaking to promoters, we do pretty much everything in-house at Vega. So I’ve been speaking to promoters of venues that we’re doing. They said they did this gig, and I can’t remember who it was, but they pre COVID they sold 1200 tickets, then they had to cancel it, refund everyone, then put it back on sale now, post COVID or ongoing COVID, if you like, and they only sold 500. No one’s walking up on the day to buy tickets and 10 to 15% of people who bought tickets aren’t even turning up for the gigs. So your outdoor festivals are okay because people feel safe. But I think it’s just a sign of the fact that if you think about the demographic that our music is appealing to at the moment, it’s not really the young. It’s more so like your middle-aged. So the smaller venues aren’t really going to fill you with confidence because they’re quite a low ceiling, compact. You’re probably right in amongst everyone’s sweat and spittle. So we are not expecting a massive turnout for these 2021 shows, but we just want to get out and play. If there are 25 people in the room, yeah, it’s not going to make me very happy, but I’m still going to have a great time doing that gig because I just want to get out and do it. It’s just going to be great fun to do it. Then next year, we got we have got some really cool festivals. We’ve got a festival in France we’re doing this year, one in Scotland we’re doing so they can be great as well. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still going to go 100% for these shows. But then next year, we got a lot going on with festivals in Europe, Belgium, a tour in Scandinavia with the Dan Reed Network and Magnum in Europe as well. So next year, I’m not so worried about Covid, I’m more worried about Brexit and the amount of logistics and paperwork that we probably have to fill out just to play a gig in Belgium or something like that. 15:33

On possibly touring America – We talked about all the time that we would love to do. But we aren’t in our early twenties with no commitment. We’ve got families. We’ve got bills to pay so we can’t do a gig where it could cost us thousands of pounds. We can’t just do it just for having a laugh, the boy’s weekend away, “Let’s go and do some gigs in America”. So for us to do it, it’s not even about making money. It’s like because what with all the streaming and stuff now you’re not doing it to make money from your music, like the old days. If we make money, it’s from merchandise sales from gigs and stuff. So gigs are what we want to do. But it’s not about money for us, because the currency for this band has always been, “I bloody love doing it”, but at the same time, we still need to put food on the plate and pay the bill so we can’t just jump on a plane in America. We need someone to come in and say, “We’ll cover your expenses, get over here”, then we’d be there tomorrow. 18:09

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