INTERVIEW: Nick Workman – Vega

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Six albums in Vega has just recorded the album of their career, a huge roller-coaster of a record that sees them at the very top of their game and ready to convert the masses. Then on the edge of release with all the live dates set came coronavirus… time to ‘Grit Your Teeth’ and carry on. We caught up with vocalist Nick Workman to find out all about the stunning new record and the waiting game as dates are put on hold until 2021…

Nick: Hi mate, how you doing. You caught me doing our 8 O’Clock clap for the NHS in the streets (laughs) it’s great that we’re doing that and it’s all good I’ve done my little bit now.

Mark: That’s great to hear things like that across the globe.

Nick: It is. So how you doing alright?

Mark: Not too bad. I think we’re doing pretty well down here in Australia. How are things over there?

Nick: Well it’s pretty mental, they just extended our lock-down for another three weeks. So it’s pretty hard-core here, but it is what it is. There’s not much we can do about it is there really?

Mark: No and its strange doing these interviews with everyone across the world and always starting with the same subject each time. Things are so different though from New Zealand to the UK and the US were all at different stages of this crisis. Of course one of the best things about the situation is that I’m getting to hear even more great music, but the other side of the coin is that no one can take it out on tour.

Nick: No, I know. We had a whole lot of dates planned around the release of the album but if I look on the bright side maybe when we do tour in the first part of 2021 it will give the album another lease of life.

Mark: There is always that, and let’s hope when it does all start again we get to see twice the crowds and they’re twice as hungry for live music. And from some bands we might even get to see even more music as well. But it must be crushing for bands right at the moment who rely on that touring money now that the bottom has fallen out of physical album sales.

Nick: Absolutely, but there’s nothing we can do about it and we’ll get our opportunities again.

Mark: That’s a very positive thought to leave that conversation with. Six albums in I actually think this just might be your best work to date.

Nick: Awesome, that’s great to hear. You always hope someone is going to say that (laughs)

Mark: There’s just something about it, it’s got that ‘edge’ and I love the production, it sounds wonderful. My test, as I’m still working is if an album stays in the car longer than a week it’s a classic album and this has been in since the day I got it so it’s standing up to the ‘car test’.

Nick: Has it made it past the week yet?

Mark: It has, I think it must be eight of nine days now.

Nick: Perfect! (laughs)

Mark: It’s also the kind of album I can play all the way through which is another great sign and today the track that’s really resonating (and it changes daily) is ‘Consequence of Having a Heart’

Nick: That’s great, the person I just spoke to before you said the same thing – that was theirs too, so that’s great. Originally that was the title of the album maybe for about six months until we decided that maybe it was a bit too long to be an album title. So it only got changed when we hit the studio.

Vega - Grit Your Teeth

Mark: And are you still writing in the same way you always have or have things changed?

Nick: No we’ve been doing exactly the same since day one. Tom and James might come up with musical ideas and they’ll send them to me and I’ll ‘Dr Frankenstein’ it and see what I come up with. Then I send it back to them and they’ll critique what I’ve done and that’s where it all comes together.

Mark: It’s a process that’s tried and tested and has produced huge dividends again. ‘Only Human’ was a great record but ‘Grit Your Teeth’ seems like another giant leap forward for me. It sounds like an album to really tip you over the edge with all the variety you’ve packed in. That, I must admit is one of the things I really love about it. Take for instance that final track ‘Done with Me’ there’s a great Tom Petty vibe going on there.

Nick: You’re dead right. When we did that I sent it back to the twins (Tom and James) and said that’s kind of like Tom Petty does punk! It’s Tom with a Green Day type vibe!

Mark: That’s a perfect description.

Nick: I’m really glad that people are picking up on that.

Mark: What do you think your favourite will be as a singer when you finally get the chance to hit the stage again?

Nick: That’s a tough one because this is probably that one album where you think there’s not one song here I wouldn’t want to be singing, so I’d be struggling to single out one song but maybe ‘(I Don’t Need) Perfection’ and ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’ maybe because those are the singles, I love those songs they feel really good to me, when we wrote them I just had this feeling about both of those songs.

Mark: And surely the title track and ‘Man on a Mission’?

Nick:  Yeah I’d have to add that last one too because that’s pretty autobiographical.

Mark: I’ll have to check out the lyrics with fresh ears!

Nick: (laughs)

Mark: There’s even ’dare I say it’ a little ‘danceability’ to tracks like ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’?

Nick: Absolutely, it was definitely a Pop song we ‘Rocked-up’ and we added that four-on-the-floor bass jump in the chorus to really give it that vibe, so yeah it’s definitely a rock song but maybe has that cross-over appeal.

Mark: I know that Vega making it Downunder is probably a way off especially now, but before this coronavirus thing hit I’d been hoping to maybe make the Magnum dates you were playing in May that sadly got postponed.

Nick: Yeah, they have been moved to the end of January, beginning of February.

Mark: I was thinking this morning this is the longest time in my adult life I’ve been without seeing a live band! 31 days and the withdrawal symptoms are showing!

Nick: Oh Mark we were there! We were so keyed up to doing this tour before it all went to hell!

Mark: I know it must be hard artistically and financially as an artist and us fans out there are missing the scene so much. The last show I saw was Kip Winger here in Perth – he played a solo show just before restrictions came in. I’d seen him at Melodic Rock Fest before that and interviewed him and even though they were talking already about social distancing we said hello and had a hug. And I was sat there thinking if that’s the last artist I get to hug then so be it! (laughs)

Nick: As hugs go that was a good hug to have had! (laughs)

Mark: Lovely guy Kip and Winger made some great music back in the day and still do. And with a band like Vega you can certainly hear those 80’s rock influences though of course you’ve taken them and made them your own. Just looking back at my reviews of the last few albums to my ears they just keep getting stronger and stronger but surprisingly few have heard the name down here and we need to change that – take us back to where it all began?

Nick: We formed back in 2009. We weren’t really meant to be a band at the time, but I think the second song we wrote together was ‘Kiss of Life’ and we knew from that moment that it was just more than “having a laugh”! I think after that we also knew that we didn’t just want to be a studio project so we gigged from that very first album onwards, and it’s been non-stop ever since.  So it’s six albums now and we’ve not stopped gigging so if we get an offer to play Australia we’ll be there (laughs) immediately!

Mark: (laughs) we’re certainly bending the ears of a few promoters down here. People would love a band like Vega down here; and 2019 was a great year for Vega live. You played some huge shows – the UK version of Frontiers Rock, Hard Rock Hell, and I was talking to Paul from the Quireboys about the tour you did with them because they were down here recently down here for the first time…

Nick: And we did the Skid Row tour as well, which was great

Mark: And was it Download last year too?

Nick: Yeah we did Download too.

Mark: So you checked all the big boxes last year and let’s hope that 2021 is going to bring more of those types of shows. I’ve had friends who have told me they first saw you in a support slot and they’ve been diehard fans ever since.

Mark: Take us all the way back if you can. Where did it all start? Where does your love of music come from?

Nick: I think the first time I knew I wanted to be in a band was when I heard Def Leppard’s Hysteria. I immediately went out and cut up my pair of jeans much to my mum’s horror so they looked like Joe Elliott’s. It’s that kind of moment that happens once in your life and I think for some people that happens and you want to be in a band, or you don’t want to be in a band but you fall in love with music. It’s one or the other I don’t think you grow into wanting to be in a band, it’s a pretty immediate thing. So it was maybe the end of 1987 or early 1988 when I had my moment.

Mark: A great and very influential album for a lot of people.

Nick: Absolutely!

Mark: And I have to say there is a little touch of classic Leppard as well as some classic Bon Jovi in the mix of the Vega sound.

Nick: Absolutely!

Mark: Now here’s one that we’ve asked everyone we’ve interviewed since we started in 2009, which by my calculations makes us pretty much the same age as ‘Vega.’

Nick: So you’re in your 30’s as well are you (laughs)

Mark: Definitely in that ball park, and of course we’re very much in our 30’s as well (laughs).

Mark: If you could have been a ‘fly on the wall’ for the creation of any great album, just to see how the magic happened in the studio, what would like to have been there for?

Nick: It’s the same answer, it’s gotta be ‘Hysteria’ it’s so iconic and as Mutt Lange is such an incredibly private person  there is just no footage of that album being recorded. So sorry to be boring but it has to be that album! Though I wouldn’t have minded being there for ‘Pyromania’ either!

Mark: Hard for me to pick between those two, but for me I think ‘Pyromania’ just shades it. I think you’d have to have been a fly with a very long life to have witnessed much of ‘Hysteria’ though!

Nick: Yeah, it did go on for a while. OK then I’ll amend my answer to ‘Hysteria – the Jim Steinman sessions’ (laughs)

Mark: (laughs) now that definitely would have been interesting!

Nick: (laughs)

Mark: So once coronavirus is behind us, first night out you can invite four guests to your favourite restaurant, and in the spirit of questions like this they can be living or dead! Who are you going to invite?

Nick: Now that is a good question – a tough one! Well I would go Donald Trump so I could spit in his food and also kick the… you know what I mean. Maybe Jon Bon Jovi from the early days, I love Bon Jovi but I do feel that every album they do now is just tarnishing their legacy. Just a personal opinion of course. But other than that it’s hard, I’ll have to be cheesy here and say my other half because she’s in another country at the moment and I don’t know when I’ll see her next. So straight after coronavirus I better invite her as well… and I can’t think of a fourth so you know what, I’ll just have two helpings of food! (laughs)

Mark: (laughs) and to close the last question we ask at the end of an interview seems a little more pertinent in these crazy times… What is the meaning of life?

Nick: The meaning of life is… I’ll quote some Vega lyrics – “to live to love, to love to live”

Mark: I like it, keep it simple, people always over complicate things. Thank you so much for your time today Nick, its crazy out there at the minute, you take care of yourself and we hope to see you rocking when we hit 2021!

Nick: And you go back to bed and get some sleep (It was 3am in Australia when we spoke)

Mark: (laughs) I will do mate! Album of the year all the way!

Nick: (laughs) Cheers mate!

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