THE METAL MAG #11
Interview with Sean Williamson
1/ You recently lost a member, what was the reason? Does it affect the music?
Yeah, Adam Alex is no longer with the band, and I guess that just comes down to the usual stuff… musical and personal differences. Since then, we’ve done a few live shows, and musically the vibe is still there. I’m using a stereo guitar rig, and harmonizer effects, so I can emulate the albums pretty good. Dan and Joe as a rhythm section are pretty unstoppable.
2/ You reformed back in 2011, what was the idea and were you the same line up?
There was never a plan. Originally we just got together to hang out and jam as a band again over beers. We started playing some of our old unreleased songs, and realized that they still held up, but were basically unknown outside our local area. Our old friend Julius Butty is a producer and had a studio, so we went up there and recorded them. At first, it wasn’t really anything serious, just a reason to hang out again. It turned out great, so we put it on iTunes, printed CD’s, made a website and Facebook page, and here we are. It’s a smaller world now, and we felt those songs deserved a second chance.
3/ When you look back on the band’s history how would you describe it? Is there anything you would change?
One thing we have always been given respect for, is our live shows. Even during our time with BMG records in the 90’s, with those songs, we had some great shows. What would I change? I don’t think we would have allowed BMG to release Freeze Don’t Move as our first single in Canada back in the 90’s. That was just a one-off studio experiment, and had nothing to do with what the band actually was, but we got labeled by that song, and it sent us down a road that eventually led to the first band split. I have mixed feelings about that time. The music scene was turned upside down, and we were just trying to find our place in it. The record label had our heads all screwed up. In those days it was all about getting signed. That was the only way to elevate your band, and make it your life. We learned a lot, and got to do some cool shit, but looking back, I think we might have been better off passing on the major label deal.
4/ When you see the Canadian Metal scene today are you proud to be still part of it?
Always proud of being Canadian, and especially a Metalhead.
5/ Are you playing in other bands or you just committed to Varga?
No I’m just playing in Varga. But I have had it in my mind to get a side-band together doing NWOBHM and heavy blues-rock covers just to get more gigs in.
6/ Are there any friends in the scene you hang out with, play live shows etc..?
Every show we’ve done since reforming, we’ve made new friends. Mokomokai, Mortal Fear, Entropy, Prismind are a few of the bands we’ve really bonded with. The thing with the bands, old and new, that are playing metal today, is that they are doing it for the love of the music. That’s why we still do it. There’s nothing better than standing in front of a cranked up amp, bashing out tunes for your friends and fans, everybody sharing in that live metal vibe. It used to be much more competitive, now its more of a metal family.
7/ You are using the pentagram logo Dimmu Borgir used on their famous album “spiritual”. What for ? Have you asked them?
We had no idea another band has used that image before. It was just something we found, and thought looked cool. We use it once in a while as a profile pic, nothing really official. Thanks for pointing that out, we needed something new anyway.
8/ Who designed the logo and why using the infinite sign?
It’s the very first Varga logo, designed by our old lighting guy, Joe Balen, back in the beginning days of the band. We changed it in the 90’s, but when we reformed we decided that going back to the original logo was the way to go. Same as going back to our original musical style. I could make up something profound about the infinite symbol, but honestly I never noticed that until now. Seems appropriate though.
9/ What’s your view on the scene today, is it harder than it used to be? What has changed?
It’s always been hard, but it’s changed a lot. It used to be that recording and releasing music was the difficult part – finding gigs was easy. Now it’s the opposite of that. When we were coming up, the local scene was huge. Even though most of the bands were ‘hair-metal’ or whatever, and we didn’t quite fit in, the rooms were always packed, bands every night of the week. Now the rooms are smaller, the PA’s are smaller, the crowds are smaller, light-shows are non-existent, but the newer bands I see are fucking great, and they mean it. You can feel it. And the fans that are there are true fans, and totally into it. Metal will always be on the fringes, but that’s why we love it.
10/ Are you gonna write new albums? What is the future for the band?
We’ve just finished building a new band space, equipped for recording, so we are writing new material as we speak. Right now the plan is to continue as a three-piece and get the new album done.
11/ Who has inspired you the most? Have you met your idols?
Randy Rhodes and those first two solo Ozzy records are what started me on this path, so I will never get to meet my idol.
12/ Are you following new bands?
Not really. I hear new stuff, there is so much of it, and think its great, but I’ve come to realize that the music I enjoy most, is the music I was into when I was a kid. Old-school heavy rock and metal. Basically anything pre-MTV with a distorted guitar and ripping leads. I really like a lot of the new stuff from the old-school bands, like Accept and Anthrax. Lately I’ve been getting into searching out unknown early-70’s proto-metal.
13/ Which one of your albums you would say has more sells? Have you tried to get different vibe or style to each of them?
Overall, Prototype has the most sales, but that album had a major label behind it. Back when there were record stores. Sony owns the master recordings, and I doubt it’s getting much action these days. Of the new stuff, Enter The Metal does really well. I feel we really redeemed ourselves with that release. It really is a great representation of what Varga has always truly been about. There are some great musical ideas in the albums from the 90’s, but it all got watered-down and simplified too much. The lesson we learned there, is that when you try to write for anybody but yourself, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Unless you enjoy being someone’s puppet. Fuck that. That’s why we bailed the first time. You gotta just do what you do, and fuck ’em if they don’t like it.
14/ You have a strong fan base, which country has the most ? Are you gaining from social medias?
That’s hard to say. I do know that most of our legit downloads and website hits come from North America, but we all know that there is a lot of pirate downloading, so there’s really no way to know if we have a lot of heat in any particular country or not. Social media is everything these days, no secret there my friend.
15/ Have you toured abroad? What difficulties you encountered to play gigs?
We haven’t toured outside Canada for these last two albums. It’s a difficult situation. Touring takes money, and most promoters don’t like to take risks. We know the European market would be great for us, but how many musicians can afford to support their own tour? If you’re not at a certain level, then you gotta pay to play, meaning the cost of getting to and doing a show, is more than what you are actually getting paid. Or you gotta buy on to a tour. You hope you sell enough merch to cover the difference, but its a risk. We’ve talked about teaming up with a couple of bands, and putting together a Canadian Metal package, putting it on the road, so we’ll see what happens there. But right now we are focused on getting a new record together for 2016.