Vega is a British melodic rock band that takes the best of 80s-era hard rock and brings it firmly into the current time. The band recently lost 2 of its founding members, but vocalist Nick Workman and drummer Pete Newdeck have taken the reigns and put together a killer record called Battlelines. Nick recently joined me to talk about the record and new lineup,
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Nick Workman –
On what led to Tom and James Martin leaving the band – The real world got in the way, basically. As you know, we do a lot of gigs and a lot of them fall over weekends and Tom and James have their own business aside from Vega, which is over weekends and they have to pay for what they do as well, whether they do or not. It was just basically meant that Vega was costing them money to do it. When you have kids and you’ve got bills to pay and a family to look after, it was basically making it less enjoyable for them because it was just becoming a stress and it was that simple. There’s no other issue other than that. I had a good long chat with Tom the other day. We were just talking and just having a chat about him, what they’ve been doing. Even in my Thanks list in the credits of the album, I thank them and I put in there, “To Be Continued…” because I’m sure we will do it again.
On Pete Newdeck co-writing the record with him – When Tom and James initially took a hiatus and we were doing this European tour with Magnum, I kind of already had an inkling that it was going to be more of a permanent situation. We just spoke on tour and said, “We’ll start writing together pretty soon after that tour’s finished” and we did. The first two songs we wrote are “Gotta Be You” and “Don’t Let Them See You Bleed”, which are two cracking songs. They’re very, very reminiscent of Vega. It wasn’t even really a big conversation. We just said, “Well, we’re still carrying on”. I wrote every song that this band’s ever done other than a Def Leppard song here and there. I still love doing it. I’m still passionate about doing it. It was never even on the horizon of giving up. So we were just like “Let’s just get cracking. Let’s get writing”.
On the influence Pete brought to writing Battlelines – Those big hooks and the big choruses and the big, big sing-along stuff. That’s what I grew up on. That’s what I still love. That’s what I still look for. That’s the first thing I look for when I’m writing a song is, “Where’s the big hook? Where’s the double chorus? Where is it?” Pete is at the same sort of thought patterns as myself. With this album, more than any other previous album I was, and it’s not like I wasn’t open to other vocal ideas before, no one just came forward with the really, but with this one, Pete would start off with the music. It would be a blank canvas. I would go in there with my vocal melodies and lyrics and what have you. When I go to the studio with Pete, it would just be him and me in there. I’d be chucking musical ideas, but he’d also be saying, “Why don’t you try this note? Why don’t you try that note?” Then Pete would also have chorus melody ideas as well. Even though I had a chorus melody idea, I’d be like. “Yeah, that’s actually better than mine, Pete. Let’s go with that”. Or we try it and we’d both be like, “Okay, yeah, let’s go back to the other one. Let’s go back to the original one”. So it was, we just had such a good chemistry work on stuff that we just wanted the songs to be the best song possible. It really was that simple. What is gonna make this song the best it could be?
On his love for vinyl coming out on “33s and 45s” – When I was a kid, it wasn’t even just a vinyl, you get a new album…a lot of people would be sniffing coke, I’d be sniffing album covers. It was that fresh ink. On cassette covers, you look at the side of a cassette, you could always tell the label, you could check the spine. You always knew it was Geffen the big red and white writing and the logo. You’d listen to an album from start to finish in the order that they wanted it to be listened to by the band. You’d look at the credits, you’d be reading the lyrics, you’d be looking at who took the bloody photos, the thanks lists, and all sorts of crap. That was part of the fun. That was part of the experience, and that’s gone. Streaming is far too convenient not to do. It just is. I get that, but there are actors and writers on strike at the moment around the world because of streaming services not paying what they should be, etc. But us, as musicians, we’re screwed. We don’t have that luxury if we have to do that. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I don’t do the streaming thing. I don’t have a problem with it. I have a problem with the pay structure of it, but also I don’t just do streaming. I buy physical copies because it’s such a good feeling to have that album in your hand and look at it and just read it and just listen to an album as it’s meant to be listened to. It’s a forgotten art. It’s not even an art though, is it? It’s just a forgotten pastime that was so awesome, it’s what made that period awesome.
On sequencing a record – When we sequence a record, you sequence it like a gig. Back in the day, in the 80s or 90s, you always knew that track three or four was going to be a ballad. You’d have that vibe. I think it’s how a band sequences the album is really important to listen to it in that order because it makes sense to have that. You don’t watch a film that someone’s done and just watch it from the end to the beginning, unless it’s Memento by Christopher Nolan, then you probably would. All these people that press shuffle, I’m like, what are you doing?
On if he ever thought of stopping Vega due to all the changes – There was a lot of talk when Tom and James left, “Oh, how can they keep going? They’re the main songwriters”. I was a little bit offended by that thinking, no, actually, I wrote every Vega song that we’ve ever done. The vocals, the lyrics, et cetera, and even some of the music. But the main reason for carrying it on and not stopping it is kind of that, I wrote the songs. Why the hell shouldn’t I perform them? I love those songs. I’m passionate about them. Those songs are my therapy. They’re my medicine. They’ve come from me because I am a very positive person which I kind of brought into each interview because this is very important to state that because I’m positive because of the music, of how it affects me in a good way. So there’s no way I’m just going to give that up. I’ll keep doing it until I don’t enjoy it anymore and then I’ll do something else. But at the moment, I love doing it. I love the back catalog of songs that we’ve produced. Pete takes the piss out of me because I get overexcited like a small child sometimes about anything that will be in the rehearsal, “But, Nick. Seriously, calm down”. I’m like, “Sorry, I love doing it”.
On if he is energized by new lineups of the band – I don’t know if that was it. Naturally, it wasn’t, “Oh, this will make me feel energized”. It just naturally happened that way because it’s always exciting producing new music. I love it. It’s just, it’s a blank canvas. It’s just like, so cool when you come up with something new and when you’re trying to come up with an idea, like “Love To Hate You”, we went through three choruses before we got to the one that worked. When you get there, you’re like, “Yes. Amazing”. It’s so exciting, so there’s no way I’m going to give that buzz up. It’s a drug. That’s the game. The second verse of “33s and 45s” is almost referring to music as being an addiction, being a drug.
On upcoming touring – We’re trying to get some dates all around Europe as well, and we’ll still be doing the UK, but I think the likelihood is that there won’t be another headline tour for quite a while because it’s tough out there for bands of our level. We need to jump on maybe some sort of support tour and do festivals and what have you. When you’re doing headline shows, you’re preaching to the converted. We haven’t done a decent support tour for a while where we can grab a whole load of new friends, fans and friends, as it were, from bands. So that’s important that we do that again. We’d love to come to the US, but as I’ve said in previous interviews about it, it’s got to be financially viable. We’ve all got bills to pay and what have you so it can’t break us at the same time. We just keep saying to people just all the American fans just start bullying all those festivals and then we can come over.
On if they’ve done cruises and the cost of touring – No, not as Vega anyway, I think maybe in other bands, some of the guys may have, but not as Vega. We did some dates in Europe and just getting over there since Brexit, has become an absolute nightmare for us. We buy in CDs and albums from the label and we had to spend close to a thousand pounds on additional taxes just to get our own product into England. So Brexit has made it doubly hard for us. It’s insane. It really is.
On what the future holds – There’s no end in sight for us. Pete and I had songs left over. had to say to Pete one day, I said, “We need to stop because we’re going to cause ourselves a problem of what songs to leave off”. On the vinyl, we’ve actually done something just to try and encourage the whole physical format. So the vinyl has a song on it called “Too Much Too Soon” that doesn’t appear on CD. It doesn’t appear on any of the digital streaming sites. You will only hear it on the vinyl. So you have to buy the vinyl to hear it, it’s a great song. So we’ve got songs left over and we’re, I don’t know, we’ll probably start writing again. Probably not until towards the end of the year. But there’s plenty of life left in this band, definitely.