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Enter The Metal Again: An Exclusive Interview With Joe Varga Of VARGA

By Cary Gordon, Metal Geek
Monday, March 3, 2014 @ 4:09 PM

On Splitting Up The New Release Into Two Parts: "The length was over 80 minutes, and we thought, ďWell, you know what? Letís split it up and do six and six.Ē So, that's what we did."

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After a hiatus of almost 15 years, Canadaís VARGA have returned with a vengeance, and this time are doing it themselves. VARGA had some popularity in the mid-90ís with their album, Prototype, and then followed it up with another release in 2005, Oxygen. The band went dark after that last album, and it wasnít until 2013ís Enter The Metal and the upcoming 2014 release, Return Of The Metal, where the band went back to their original Progressive metal roots, that reignited the flame of metal for these Canadians.

KNAC.COM: Itís been 18 years since the last release. What will fans that remember the band from the 90ís have to look forward to?

VARGA: Well, Itís a little different. Its very edgy and progressive metal than before. Which funny enough, is the stuff we were doing previous to the 90ís. Basically, the Ď89 - 91 era of music. Thatís basically where we are now. Kinda went back to our roots. More towards the Progressive metal style.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, when I listen to it, I definitely get that progressive, early 90ís, VOIVOD era style.

VARGA: Yeah, kinda Thrash, progressive insanity.

KNAC.COM: I read that this is going to be a two part comeback release.

VARGA: Yeah, we actually recorded twelve songs and basically decided to release it in two parts. Reason being is that it wouldnít all fit on one CD. The length was over 80 minutes, and we thought, ďWell, you know what? Letís split it up and do six and six.Ē So, that's what we did. We released Enter The Metal in October, and the second part, which is going to be called Return Of The Metal, will be out probably in May.

KNAC.COM: What brought upon the reformation of the band a few years ago?

VARGA: Oh yeah! Yeah, a couple of years back, I just called up the guys and said, ďLetís jam!Ē. And then, from there, we were actually doing, before we actually went back into the VARGA vault, we started doing some cover gigs in Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) here where we live. It was basically a thing called classic Metal night where we would cover full albums, you know, classic Metal albums from the 80ís or 70ís, like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN or BLACK SABBATH, and stuff like that. So, all how it sort of came to be. We started doing those gigs, and we were like, ďHey man. Letís go back to square one hereĒ, and get back in the basement and began jamming again and start jamming some of our older material. Basically, from there we had decided to just rework a lot of our older material and record it properly, you know, with good sound and a big studio and all that stuff.

KNAC.COM: Was it a natural flow to get right back into the studio after all those years?

VARGA: Yeah, yeah, I think so. I mean, we definitely prepared for it. We were well rehearsed when we went in the studio. Yeah, it was great. Great to jam out with the fellas again, and crank it up. All original four guys, and it couldnít be better. I couldnít be happier. Weíre all happy. (Laughs) KNAC.COM: Thatís a pretty rare thing right there.

VARGA: Yeah, itís great to hang out with those guys again, because we had kinda parted ways for a while. We did, you know, the whole life thing. Basically, life got in the way and we got jobs and all that sort of thing. We still have other jobs, but this is our first love and we are kind of striving towards making this happen again. So, thatís where we are at right now. KNAC.COM: What have you been doing in the meantime, musically?

VARGA: Musically? Well, believe it or not, my main job is another music job and I am part of a BEE GEES tribute band, believe it or not, (Laughing), which actually gets quite the response from everyone. Actually, Iím a singer in the BEE GEES tribute band. Itís been good to me. Itís got my voice in shape. Original BEE GEES versions. I do a lot of touring with that act and I do the part of actually one of the BEE GEES, Robin Gibb. Itís good. Not only is it a great lifestyle and a lot of touring, but also , like I mentioned before, keeps my voice in shape. Especially for the metal stuff, because Iím basically harmonizing with the Barry Gibb guy. All the higher harmonies, falsetto stuff, so itís made my voice much stronger for metal in a weird sorta way.

KNAC.COM: What has been the reaction to the album so far?

VARGA: Yeah, the reaction has been awesome. Most people are really digging it, and our old fans are really digging it. Weíre getting a lot of new fans coming out to see us. Yeah, man. Itís been a really good response, a lot of great reviews in magazines. Weíre pumped.

KNAC.COM: What is the writing process for the album? How long does it take for you guys to go from concept to completion?

VARGA: All of these songs that were on Enter The Metal and Return Of The Metal coming, were all basically songs that we wrote from Ď89-í91, and some of the songs were partially written, and some of them were just recorded as demos on cassettes. It was just a matter of us going through all the material and sorting it out and figuring out what songs we wanted to do. Getting them polished again, basically. Clearing out the cobwebs and making them good songs.

KNAC.COM: Tell us a little about the production on the album and where it was recorded.

VARGA: We recorded it in Canada here. Just outside Hamilton at a place called Caledonia. Actually, it was on an Indian reserve area at a place called Jukasa Studios. Fabulous place. We had our longtime friend, Julius Butty. He was the producer. He produced PROTEST THE HERO and ALEXISONFIRE. Amazing place. We actually got to record through an SSL board that was brought in from Abbey Road studios. It was really good. It really made a difference I believe in the sound of the whole production.

KNAC.COM: It has a very full sound to the album.

VARGA: Yeah, thick, but still very modern sounding. Weíre quite happy with the sound of it.

KNAC.COM: Letís talk about some of the songs from Enter The Metal. Itís so rare when bands write the lyrics in such a narrative style, and I definitely get the feeling that each song is a story set to the music.

VARGA: Yeah, I mean, for the most part, we try not to take our lyrics too seriously. Like you said, we are quite into the storytelling aspect of music. like the old school days, like with DIO. Not so much with wizards and dragons; stuff like that. ďMad ScientistĒ. I guess there are a couple of songs on there that are kinda political to a short extent. For the most part, it is pretty laid back, and intense at the same time. No rules! (Laughs)

KNAC.COM: Letís go through some of the tracks. ďBeginning Of The EndĒ has a great change a few minutes into it. What is the story on this track?

VARGA: That is basically a story, actually Adam Alex - our guitar player, wrote the lyrics to that one. Itís a story about basic war. I think it was a concept from a war back in the 80ís or something, and he kind of took elements of a Far East war sort of thing and kinda inputted it into the lyrics.

KNAC.COM: ďGameraĒ is a little self explanatory.

VARGA: Well, yeah (Laughs). The Ďol flying turtle man. Yeah, we are big fans of the old school Japanese movies, and monster movies. We thought, ďYou know what? Letís go thereĒ. And we did.

KNAC.COM: Iím sure people have talked to you about ďPlane CrashĒ. Do you have a fear of flying? Is that what inspired the song?

VARGA: Yeah. Pretty much. Well, back then I did. Since the late 80ís, I always had a fear of flying. Iíve done a lot of flying up to this day, so I am kinda over it, somewhat. But there is always still that fear. I mean, just flying in general is crazy.

KNAC.COM: How does the VARGA from 2014 differ from the VARGA that last put out an album in 1995?

VARGA: Well, like I said, it is more focused on Progressive metal. Basically, no rules. I believe that the two albums we did in the 90ís, we were kinda, you know, we were just kinda following the times. It was the 90ís. It was a strange time for metal. We kinda straightened out a bit and went for that straight ahead metal. We sorta had a little bit of an Industrial edge to some of our stuff in the 90ís. I guess that is how it differs. Now, it is more straight ahead, raw, Progressive metal.

KNAC.COM: Do you feel that the albums in the 90ís had anything to do with the record labels, and being forced into doing something you didnít really want to do?

VARGA: Oh, of course. There was definitely some pressure from the record company to write some hits. Itís a record company. They need to make money just as much as we do. You know, there was that pressure. We were younger back then, and we were like, ďYeah, sure, we will give it a shotĒ. We kinda just went with the times. We did have some success with those albums, but obviously not as much as we wanted to, but that is fine. It was a great learning process. Some of those songs on those albums are great songs, and we still like playing some of those tunes as well.

KNAC.COM: I am looking at my copy of Prototype right now, and it is one of my favorite albums from that era. What songs do you still play live? Do you change them around a little bit?

VARGA: Cool. Like I said, we basically started playing again not too long ago. I think we are going to incorporate ďGreedĒ, and maybe ďThe UnconsciousĒ into the mix. Try to incorporate some of the best of material from both of those albums and then some of our newer stuff. Make it interesting.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned a little bit before about how you guys are working to get this to be the best you can.


KNAC.COM: The band is doing this D.I.Y. mentality of getting everything done yourselves.

VARGA: Yeah. I mean, we havenít really shopped it yet to any labels or anything but for now, we are just taking it on ourselves. Our other guitar player, Sean Williamson, he is basically the webmaster. He takes care of the website and myself, I am kind of the graphics guy when it comes to our album artwork and sending him stuff for the website. Yeah, you know, we are booking gigs and just doing it ourselves for now. Selling merchandise off our website. You know, the whole thing. Basically, itís a business now. We are running it ourselves, at the moment. But thatís all right. We are happy with that because we are building up this engine once again, from scratch.

KNAC.COM: Now going back to the albums from the 90ís, what is the availability on these?

VARGA: I think they are available on iTunes only. Iím not sure about hard copies but I know for sure that digital copies are available on iTunes.They are hard to come by in normal CD stores. Sometimes, you might be able to find one in a second hand store or something like that.

KNAC.COM: I think all CDís are pretty hard to find in a store now.

VARGA: (Laughs) Yeah, pretty much.

KNAC.COM: Whatís the status on the Multiple Wargasms album?

VARGA: Like I said before, most of the songs on that were redone and put on these two new albums we have now. But better. Multiple Wargasms was basically, well, I donít know if it was even 8 track back in the old days, on half inch tape or something. Pretty low grade production. It was OK, but they have definitely come a long way since then. (Laughs)

KNAC.COM: Now you mentioned the music that are on these last two albums. Have you guys started looking into writing new music for the future?

VARGA: Yeah. Weíve a;ready been kinda shooting around some ideas but for the most part, this year will be concentrating on these albums, Enter The Metal and Return Of The Metal because like I said, we have Return Of The Metal coming out in May and then we are going to try to get out in the Summer and play some shows and concentrate on that. Probably for the most of this year. Iím guessing, when December of 2014 starts rolling around, we will start going into that writing process again.

KNAC.COM: So the band is full steam ahead right now?

VARGA: Yeah, weíre excited. Itís been great. We couldnít be happier.

KNAC.COM: What kind of touring plans are in the works?

VARGA: Right now, we are kinda just weighing out our options. Again, life kind of gets in the way. Everybody has jobs and stuff like that. Weíre making time for this as well. Fortunately, our jobs we can kinda branch off from our other jobs, you know, if a tour comes up, then we will definitely go do it. Right now, we are just doing single gigs here and there and probably more so in the Summer time. Our drummer is a school teacher, a music teacher so you know, he basically gets Summers off but he does have a good thing where he could actually take a leave of absence for up to six months, which is great, per year. So, itís really good. Itís really good that we are all flexible. Like I said before, if something comes up, we will definitely jump on it for sure. Trying to get over to Europe this Summer. Tour across Canada and the States for sure.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of touring , what was your most memorable concert with the band?

VARGA: I would say, back in the mid-90ís. There were a couple actually. There was one in Phoenix where we played a gig. We were on tour with a band from New Orleans, called CROWBAR and we did a gig in Phoenix, and I remember that Rob Halford came out to check us out. He was standing side stage for our whole set, which was amazing. We got to meet him later, and gave him some of our shirts, and stuff like that, which was really cool. But as far as other gigs go, we did a thing in Canada here, in Toronto one year. It was called Molson Canadian Blind Date which means, basically it was in a nutshell, all the fans wouldnít know the band they were going to see until they got to the venue, and just so happened to be METALLICA, and we got asked to open up for those guys. That was phenomenal. (Laughs) To say the least. That was a great one. There was one other one, where we actually did two shows, one in Toronto, and one in Montreal, was playing with WHITE ZOMBIE as well, and PRONG. It was a triple bill. That was awesome as well.

KNAC.COM: What is your opinion on digital music services like Spotify, where people can actually hear your new album?

VARGA: You know, itís going to happen anyways, eventually. Thatís great. If more people hear it then...fabulous. My theory is if they like it, they will buy it. Hopefully that is the case. I still buy CDís. A couple of weeks ago, I just bought the latest DEATH ANGEL CD. I got the digipak, and that is just phenomenal, man. Iíve always been into those guys.

KNAC.COM: What influenced you as a musician? What first got you into music?

VARGA: Well, I was playing music ever since I was five years old. That is when my dad basically got me my first drum set. I started hammering away when I was a young lad, and then shortly thereafter, I started getting into KISS, RUSH and BLACK SABBATH as a young teenager. My drummer, Dan Fila, we basically grew up together as young kids, playing in bands together, and then it kind of developed through public school bands in high school, and from there it was created.

KNAC.COM: What are some new bands that you listen to now?

VARGA: New bands? Not too many new bands. I kind of stick to the classics. Like I just mentioned, DEATH ANGEL. TESTAMENT, and ANTHRAX and MEGADETH and stuff like that. But, obviously, I always go back to the IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST and BLACK SABBATH. MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND. Thatís my kinda cup of tea. And of course, RUSH. We still love listening to old school RUSH.

KNAC.COM: If you had a chance to go back and do something different in your career, what would that be?

VARGA: What would that be? Not do something different? Not cut my hair. (Laughs). I donít know. I kind of like how my life has gone. Itís been a learning experience, as everybodyís lives are. I couldnít be happier than where I am right now. Yeah, itís going well.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything else you would like to say about the new albums, and to your fans?

VARGA: Yeah, just get ready for all out insanity. Itís very heavy, very Progressive and look forward to hearing us live. Weíre going to be playing live soon. A lot. And writing more stuff in this vein of music.

Cary Gordon's Bio:

Based out of Houston, Texas, Cary Gordon has been involved with the Metal scene since 1996 when he started the fanzine, Mainstream Resistance, which lasted for six issues. When the world of podcasting was starting to become something, Cary put his efforts in into creating onie of the very first Podcasts devoted to Heavy Metal, and called it MSRcast which plays a variety of Metal, along with specialty episodes, and interviews with many different Metal stalwarts, and is still going strong to this day through Metal Injection Radio. Over the years, Cary has written articles and reviews as well for MetalInjection.net, and various other sources. Recently, Cary has also started a second podcast called Metal Geeks Podcast, where Cary and his MSRcast co-host, JM Metal Geek, pronounce their love of Heavy Metal, comics books, movies, super heroes, toys, video games, theme parks, and lot of other geekery, as well as inviting special guests to come on and geek out as well. www.msrcast.com

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