Increasingly productive metallic hardcore experimentalists Vegas are in the midst of preparing a yet-to-be-titled new full-length for a 2021 release. The album is planned to include 14 songs, of which I've been lucky enough to hear 10 so far, and I must say that my initial reaction is that this is shaping up to be the group's finest full-length to date. There's a consistent/cohesive character to the listening experience without losing the exploratory diversity for which the band is known, and stronger songwriting that builds on to-the-point energy without degrading their patented abrasive sheen.
Check out "Recovery"—a brand new track from the sessions—below, followed by the latest check-in with chief architect T:
What I've heard of your yet-to-be-titled new full-length retains plenty of experimentation and variety, but feels like it's gravitating toward an increased sense of cohesion from track to track—especially in terms of the production techniques. Was this an intentional shift?
Some of the recordings from the 2015 - 2018 era—specifically the vocals—were multi-layered and at times a patchwork of ideas: recorded in different locations, captured and mixed guided by impulses in the moment, spontaneity and an approach which I found to add an interesting experimental dimension and unique grittiness. However, it at times went at the expense of sonic cohesion, much to the chagrin of people who like Vegas' more traditional recordings—including Ogirdor Zul.
After a period of running riot creatively in that department, we reignited our interest in what could be achieved if recordings are conducted in a more succinct manner, and the new album will be the result of that.
It is funny because to a certain degree, it simply means to do less than before yet have a more straightforward, cohesive, and powerful outcome.
The same could be said for the songwriting. Despite exploring a wide range of different influences—as well as the variances the cover songs provide—the compositions themselves somehow feel more memorable—the listening experience doesn't jump around, even though each song generally has its own unique character. Who have you been working with as of late—is Ogirdor Zul still your primary collaborator? If so, has this result just been a natural progression of your partnership?
Over the years, the musical understanding and self-conception of Vegas that I share with Ogirdor Zul has matured to a level where the inception of new songs can be imagined, clearly articulated, and executed without a lengthy back-and-forth.
Needless to say, Ogirdor Zul is an immensely gifted, prolific musician and creative soul. However, what added to the progression of our collaboration is that we have grown to thoroughly understand and appreciate each other in terms of how we were socialized with underground music and how it has not only shaped our preferences, but our lives.
Not unlike in any other relationship, communication is key, and I think I can speak for the both of us that the new album is an organic and natural step up—both sonically and conceptually.
The song being revealed herein, "Recovery," sort of refines the "staple" Vegas sound with subtle tempo and textural shifts. It's also one of several newer songs that carries a simple, striking one-word title. You're not one to go into detail about your lyrics, but what are some of the themes that have been inspiring the work since ...Not Ever.?
It comes down to focus narrowing under pressure. The present moment is all we ever have. The last 12 months have been intense and taxing on all fronts, and there is no end in sight—just when there was a vestige of improvement, things turned worse on the personal front than they had ever been. The songs of the new full-length in conjunction with the lyrics, the production, and the titles represent that and culminate in a form of purging of emotions and catharsis, which would only be diminished by poetic window-dressing.
I find it so interesting that you would say that, because a sense of mystery has played an important role in Vegas' artistic identity, but you and I have conducted a number of interviews together going back nearly 20 years, and along with what we've been discussing here about the songwriting and the recording tactics, your disposition is also different. Almost like the tribulations of the past year have frustrated you into the directness of the "present moment," and I mean that as a (perhaps circuitous) compliment.
There has never been a cookie-cutter formula to how Vegas should be perceived, and it all made sense at its time. At the end of the day, there are no facts, only interpretations. Sometimes the worst is indistinguishable from the best, and there is power in both surrendering to and challenging what is.
You're still working on final touches for the new record, and have spoken to a few potential labels thus far. Are you optimistic that an album will see the light sometime in 2021?
We are definitely aiming at a 2021 release, and are currently recording songs for another surprise release as well (e.g. a limited 10" lathe with exclusive new songs, only offered to the secret VV mailing list), as well as exclusive releases in South America (i.e. a local reissue of ...Not Ever. and what should turn out to be an interesting split with a Brazilian black metal band).
This is an odd question, but do you ever pause to reflect on the uniqueness of this audience that Vegas has cultivated over the years? It's pretty special.
We touched on that before: i.e. in the fast-moving day and age we live in, with unprecedented and unlimited access at one's fingertips paired with ever-shrinking attention spans and fast and easy-to-digest entertainment an expectation, any modicum of attention and taking an interest is to be greatly treasured.
As someone who's often responding to messages and/or conducting vocal recordings from a slew of different locations around the world, how have you been impacted by the ongoing pandemic? Has the situation significantly reduced your travels, or have you been finding ways to safely move around amidst restrictions and health concerns?
Having not been able to travel has been immensely painful because of personal losses and the inability to attend the devastating departure of loved ones.
I guess I can consider myself lucky that in the part of the world where I am currently residing, the pandemic and incidence rate is relatively under control. Since 2020 came to a close, only a low number of new cases continue to be reported each day. Compared to Europe, the U.K., or parts of the U.S., the day-to-day is not impacted to a degree that would make going about your own business too difficult. However, this was only achieved by the tightening of travel restrictions with only a very limited number of flights available, which makes it not only difficult to leave, but most cumbersome to return—with mandatory government-organized quarantine if you are lucky enough to score a flight.
Since my first visit to the base camp in Tibet, I have had 8,848 meters on my mind for the last decade. If things had gone according to plan, I would have attempted my first climb of Mt. Everest, as I had not only prepared for years but also managed to beat the Nepalese bureaucracy and finally secured a permit for an expedition in the summer of 2020.
It remains to be seen when and if international travel will resume to a stage reminiscent to how it was before March, 2020...