October 3rd, Anno 21
VAGH - INTO THE FUTURE ZONE - SLICK CITY SLACKERS
InterviewsSweden's Vagh is undoubtedly a new name to most readers of Metallian. The act, formed around the core of one Robin Vagh, has issued two independent albums. The newer of the two releases, Into The Future Zone, was the recipient of recent praise in this space. Ali "The Metallian" graciously invited the aforenamed guitarist/keyboardist and drummer Anders Rosell to Metallian Towers for a chat over a well-appointed dinner in order to acquaint the readers further with the circumstances of the Swedish hard rockers. The result of the conversation is below. - 29.08.2004
METALLIAN: Gentlemen, welcome to Metallian Towers. Why don't you begin by chatting about the band's time-line so far?
VAGH: Thank you for the invitation and the hospitality, Metallian Towers is palatial of course. I started as a young dreamer in the late '70s. Early in the '80s I co-founded a band named Future Zone. That was together with Thomas Ragnarsson who now is writing some lyrics for the project Vagh. We performed many gigs at local clubs and recorded a demo that got some airplay. In 1986 we put the band to sleep due to a constant problems with bass players. They kept quitting the band all the time. I toured with an AOR band called Montmartre. During the summers of 1987 and 1988.
For a long time after that I worked as a DJ and as a sound engineer. It was first in 1995 that I got involved with a band again. I joined the band that now is known as Art In Motion. Keyboard player Tom Rask was one of the members. He participated in Sands Of Time, the debut album. We played many songs that now have ended up in the project Vagh. Art In Motion though has moved on to more progressive grounds.
After leaving that band I started the project Vagh. I re-recorded some old songs and composed a couple of new songs. I uploaded some of them onto the internet around 1999. I also produced a demo CD that was available on mp3.com. I got raving critiques for the demo and decided to record and release a full-length album. I started to gather good musicians around me and the line-up was completed in 2001. In 2002 we released our debut, Sands Of time. We got a great response to it, with great reviews and a lot of airplay. That lead to the recording of Into The Future Zone.
METALLIAN: Which are the band's influences?
VAGH: My earliest influences were Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. I also loved bands like Styx, Kansas and Journey. Later on, the NWOBHM exploded and that was awesome. Being from Sweden I also loved the Scandinavian style of AOR/metal. I know the rest of the band has also been inspired by NWOBHM and Scandi-rock. I have mainly been listening to different kinds of hard rock and don't care about other types of music. I know there's a lot of good music out there, but it doesn't really move me.
METALLIAN: Purity especially in the higher forms of art is an admirable trait. Elsewhere, what can you say about the name Robin Vagh?
VAGH: Yes, It's an alias for Tommy Silfvenius. That's no big mystery really. When I started this project I was getting older and it was to protect my children from questions about their weird father who refused to grow up (laughs). Today my children think that dad is pretty cool, by the way. Most of the action takes place on the Internet and an alias was handy there.
Over here in Scandinavia it's actually a common name for boys. Robin is one of the names of my son. Vagh was my wife's maiden's name. Actually it was Vågh. So I didn't have to look that far for an alias.
METALLIAN: I am sure you will make feminists the world over happy! Shifting the questioning, what is the inspiration behind the current release, Into Future Zone? Let's discuss the album.
VAGH: I've been writing AOR songs for almost twenty five years and recording and releasing Sands Of Time was really a dream of mine. I wanted to know how my demo songs would sound with real musicians. It was also a statement for hard rock since it was totally neglected in the Swedish media at the time. The response was really great and we sold pretty well; not having a label behind us. I decided to use the money to record and release Into The Future Zone. We are really pleased with it and we feel it can be a minor breakthrough for us. We hope some label would be interested in working with us in the future zone...
METALLIAN: Which label would be ideal?
VAGH: The crucial thing is that the label really believes in Vagh. We don't need a label that makes promises they can't or won't keep. Of course, it would be great to get signed by a major label, with all its strength, but there's always a risk that you're becoming a small fish in a very big pond so to speak. Right now we are discussing a deal with a minor company and that's pretty promising so far. We just keep our fingers crossed. I think we will be able to take another step forward with the right support.
METALLIAN: One little bit of trivia is the album name's source. Why is the new album named after a former band of yours?
VAGH: Basically, I think it's a good title. Future zone is a fictitious 'better place'. I think we're all searching for something better. The lyrics and the artwork are referring to that. The cold world outside and the possibilities to find a better place. Of course, it's also a bit nostalgic. A kind of tribute to my old mates from twenty years ago. We still talk to each other every now and then even though we are scattered all over Sweden.
METALLIAN: Can you please say a few words about each of my favourite songs, namely To Hell And Back Again, Show Me Heaven Tonight and Rebecca?
VAGH: To Hell And Back Again was written back in 1993. It's a great melodic rocker. I really like the bass line on that one. David Persson recorded a great solo for it. Show Me Heaven Tonight is a new song. I wanted to try John Marshall Gibbs on vocals. And boy, he really blew us away with his shouting. I just had to add this song to the CD. Henrik Hansson added some great guitarwork on that one. Also, the talented author Björn Ledelius wrote great lyrics as well. It's about a stock broker hunting for the rush of success again and again and again. Rebecca is an older song. I rewrote the verse in the late '90s and I feel that it's Jonas Blum at his best. I think that song suits him perfectly.
ANDERS: All right, let the crazy drummer speaks I must say that Rebecca is one of my absolute favourite songs on the Future Zone record. The song is well-produced and contains all the cool elements that a good rock song needs. I really enjoyed recording Rebecca on drums and I think you can tell by the cool drum fills throughout the whole song. I really dig the second verse where the drums and bass are connected into a strong groove. The first verse where the drums play with just the bass drum and snare drum and without the hi-hat was Henrik the engineer's idea. It's like saving the cool groove for the next verse. The choruses are really strong. As soon you've heard them you can go sing it for the rest of the day. The aggressive voice Jonas Blum delivers doesn't fail you a second and that is really impressive for a song with many high notes. Show Me Heaven Tonight was one of the first songs we recorded. The pressure is always on me and my drum playing because drums are the first instrument that is recorded on a song. It feels like I must set a ground 'character' for the song. Working with the drums on this record was really cool because we recorded it in my hometown of Malmoe. Henrik, the engineer, is an old friend of mine. Music-wise we go back many years, I believe since we were thirteen years old and recorded a lot of Metallica covers on our stupid tape recorder. Henrik has a very good ear for how a song should sound and he is always full of good ideas. Like Rebecca, Show Me Heaven Tonight is full of cool grooves and fills. It's a fun song to play. The great vocals by John Marshall Gibbs took the whole crew from 'hell and back again'! The high notes are really impressive, especially the scream at the end. The guitar playing from Henrik is solid with a very cool solo. It was really fun when he recorded the solo because he called me up on the phone satisfied and played it for me. To Hell And Back Again is a really cool song to begin a record and a live gig with. The title explains the road we all take when our life is about to crash. For me personally, the title explains a recent relationship that crashed and burned me down to hell. As lucky as I am, my life is about to enter the 'future zone' from the dark days in hell. There are two things you should listen to in the song. First of all Jan Åkes bass playing during the choruses which is played with a 'walking' feeling that works great with the guitars and drums. The guitar solo is really cool. I love solos played with slide.
METALLIAN: Here is a question that needs to be addressed. Is Vagh comprised of a solid line-up or a project featuring guest musicians?
VAGH: It started purely as a project, but we're slowly growing together towards being a band. The plan is for a real band to crystallise. We have to find a live-version of Vagh. In the beginning I just wanted to gather musicians who loved hard rock the same way I did to record my demo songs. Jonas Blum and I lived in the same city and I had heard him in different bands and I really liked his voice and personality. When I heard he had quit Majestic I asked him to join the project. I'm glad he did. I found the other guys on the Internet. I think they have all added great qualities to the band. I think you learn something from meeting new people. The guests on this CD were friends or friends of members of the band.
METALLIAN: Anders, how difficult is it to work with Robin? Specifically, his stamp is on every aspect of the band.
ANDERS: I must say that working with Robin has been a pleasure all the way. Just because the focus is on his name doesn't make it hard for me to work with him. The songs are written by Robin and, for me, it's fun to help him take them to a higher level. Robin is cool because he leaves me free to do what I want with the drums. Just because there is some years between him and me doesn't change our consensus on how the songs should sound. If you flip through the booklet of Future Zone you will notice that some of the keyboard playing is mine. I think that Robin likes the stuff that I perform on keyboard as well. Furthermore, for the new recordings that is about to take place I will be playing a lot of the keyboards. Robin is a good band leader and I just want to help him as much as I can.
METALLIAN: Elsewhere, is Slick City Slackers Productions your company?
VAGH: SCSP is mainly a production company which only works with Vagh. Basically, it was founded due to the Swedish tax authorities. It's a long story of administrative madness. Since I couldn't get a record deal I decided to release the CDs myself. It was too good to stay unheard! Then SCSP grew into a label as well.
METALLIAN: Don't forget that taxes are a useful and efficient tool to procure social programs and bring the society together. Elsewhere, we received your album through a Chilean PR company, Risestar Promotions. What is the relationship between the band and the outfit?
VAGH: Since we don't have a major label behind us I have to do everything on my own. It was a lot of hard work with Sands Of Time. It was fun then, but this time I realized that I couldn't do in two or three months what I did in six or twelve months last time!
When I announced the release of the new CD, Risestar approached me and we signed a promotional deal. I knew the guys since they had reviewed Sands Of time on their website. I'm working with an Italian promotion company as well.
METALLIAN: Speaking of your doing so many things in so many months, if you had a magic wand what would be the one wish you would fulfil?
VAGH: I would force people to slow down a bit. Make them take some time to reflect on their lives a bit. I think the extreme tempo of today is breaking too many people. It's a cold world for many people and that really scares me.
METALLIAN: That is a worthy wish if I ever heard one. What are you doing to change things?
VAGH: I've been working for almost ten years as a volunteer for a Swedish union trying to help people who need help with different matters. For example, what to do if you're injured at work? What to do when you become unemployed? Am I paid the right salary and so on.
I like talking to people. I really love meeting new people. It's an experience that's underrated. Everyone has a story. You just have to give them some time to tell it. I really try to notice people in my surroundings. One of the biggest problems in Sweden today is that too many people never get noticed. Young ones are thrashing houses, fighting and raping in order to try to earn respect. We have to slow down a bit. Life should not be a competition.
METALLIAN: We have to fight Capitalism. It has brainwashed the masses to accept that competition will lead to efficiency when, in fact, collaboration is the efficient and civilised way.
Robin and Anders, thank you for your time. Please add anything you wish.
ANDERS: Thanks for having us.
ROBIN: I wanna thank all our fans for being there for us. We're getting a great deal of fanmail and that's cool. We like getting in touch with people. Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Furthermore, Metallian Towers is the centre of the universe because that's where the action is! It's really crucial for bands like ours to get noticed. You're doing a helluva job. Thanks for your support man!
Gentlemen, you're welcome. Everyone is invited to check out the band by visiting www.vagh.net for more information.