Experimental Music Love

January 8, 2008

Vega 4 Interview Nov 06

Filed under: Features,Interviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 8:32 pm

Our adventures began on the smog ridden streets of Glasgow with a hefty walk up a rather steep incline that promised Britain’s official number one venue for live music that is King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut as it’s destination. Slightly nervous about our impending meeting with the ‘famed’ Vega 4, we proceeded to do what any good music journalist would do in such a situation – we got pissed. After some sufficient intoxication, we were lead up some now rather cumbersome stairs to come face to face with the brooding, hoody clad figure that is Johnny KJJHK, lead singer, and rather dashing front man, of Vega 4. Crushed into a small, dusty office in the darker recesses of King Tut’s, Brig’s very own Kira Agass-Hanson set about charming this dazzling musician as they talked hecklers, X Factor and the obvious connection between these two luminaries of their respective professions.


EML – Sorry, I’m a bit drunk, a bit nervous. Do you want a Pez? (Kira offers her delicious Pez’s to everyone in the immediate vicinity). They’re not drugs. Honest.

Johnny – (takes the kindly offered Pez and sucks on it contentedly) Oh are you nervous? Don’t be. Do you want a piece of advice?


EML – Go for it.

J – Just treat it like a conversation. Like if we were in a bar (with a sly wink in Kira’s direction), except I ask fewer questions than you (a rule he did not adhere to as the interview progressed).


EML – Thanks for that, let’s get cracking. You supported Boy Kill Boy on their recent tour. What were they like?

J – Oh, they were alright you know. I like them.


EML – You’re lying (with a look of disdain on her face).

J – No, they were good guys.


EML – You were the only good thing at that gig (when Vega 4 supported BKB at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall). But you guys still attracted a heckler there.

J – Yeah he said we were ‘shite’ or something. We just got to crowd to yell ‘fuck off’ to him.


EML – You can be quite scary when you’re like that.

J – You have to think ‘why’ when people walk in all ballsy to shout ‘you’re shit’. Why is that their prerogative? But it’s part o the job. Most of the time it’s just fun banter like when we are headlining a show. But then there’s twats who just spoil it and demand the attention. We give them that attention, but it’s a negative attention.


EML – Now how do you deal with being so smouldering on stage?

J – I don’t really know what that means.


EML – You know – brooding, dark, caressing the microphone.

J – I can’t really say.


EML – Does it help you with the ladies?

J – I wouldn’t know. I’ve never not been smouldering I guess. I’m no different now as to what I’ve always been. You know, you really should have your own TV show.


EML – (blushing) Thanks. I checked some of your lyrics – a hell of a lot of chorus in there.

J – It’s the way the songs are laid out. It’s just like that.


EML – There was one that particularly caught my attention – ‘We laid in bed ’til we got sore.’

J – Well, you can take that in all sorts of ways.


EML – Well I did (as the two share a knowing smile). You were recently heard in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. That reaches an audience of 20 million people. How did that come about?

J – Well our management got in touch with them, and they heard some of our songs and liked them. It’s a big drama, but it’s also always looking to promote new music and we were lucky enough to have 4 and a half minutes of ‘Life is Beautiful’ in there.


EML – Do you watch it?

J – I actually don’t have a TV. There are better ways to occupy your time. I do some times get whole series on DVD and watch them on my computer. But there are people out there who just sit there and flick through channels. I prefer music and books.


EML – With those Irish vocals, people are always going to compare you to Snow Patrol and U2, but you’re a very multinational band (members are from Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and England) and your influences must be quite wide ranging.

J – We actually have the same producer as those two bands you mentioned. He does some very good work. We all met in London and that’s just such a cosmopolitan city. There’s no real reason why we’re all from different backgrounds, it’s just a coincidence really. And we do listen to a lot of stuff and try and have a wide range of influences. We were listening to a lot of electronic and classical music whilst making this album, and it’s not just music that influences us. I mean, we just get inspiration from what’s in the world outside.


EML – What about a main influence. Who speaks to you most?

J – My mum, on the phone all the time.


EML – Musically.

J – This is always difficult to say for posterity. You can only really say who it is just now, what’s our favourite thing today. You can’t pick one out though as a complete favourite.


EML – Deep stuff. But you do seem a bit of a joker…

J – We know we’ve got an amazing job, and we know we can’t ever take ourselves to seriously.


EML – You do have members from a wide variety of countries, but what’s the best?

J – Ireland.


EML – Apart from Ireland.

J – That’s like saying what your favourite song is. It’s just impossible.


EML – Alright then, but you’re going to London soon. Are you excited about playing Koko in Camden?

J – Yeah, very. I used to go there years ago when it was Camden Palace. We played there a few weeks ago with James Dean Bradfield and before with Hope of the States. I love the levels there, and it’s on a Friday night so it should be excellent.


EML – What do you think of Simon Amstell?

J – Who?


EML – You know, he does Buzzcocks now.

J – Oh, that was a great show. I did watch that when I had a TV. But I don’t have the time to watch it now.


EML – Tom (Kira’s partner in the journalistic game) and I really like him. He’s our idol. We really want to be like him.

J – Why don’t you just be yourselves – you guys are doing good.


EML – (bushing again) What about Hanson?

J – I’ve no real idea of what they’re like. Do you like The Ramones? (Kira is wearing a Ramones t-shirt).


EML – I like that ‘Hey Ho’ song, and I’ve been to CBGBs. Talking about fashion, I notice you’re wearing a cardigan.

J – Yeah. It’s from Top Shop. What do you think?


EML – Meh. Moving on swiftly, who does what in the band? Do you all write individually, or did the New Zealander write all the songs?

J – It’s more collaborative than that. We all come up with ideas, but we don’t form the whole song until we’re together as a band. And we a;ways do the lyrics last. Sometimes lyrics and melodies aren’t written until the last day before recording. This isn’t something we choose to do. Music is what we have to do. It’s our most important exorcism in life. Some people write songs because they enjoy it. Some write them because they want everything else that comes along with music. Some write songs because they need to. We’re definitely the latter.


EML – What do you think of things like X Factor?

J – It’s just like anything in life. It’s necessary in music. You need absurd parties in politics to show how necessary the serious ones are. You need extremities, with no censors there’s no art. But you can’t limit real beauty.

The 50s was full of manufactured artists. The first rock ‘n’ star was Elvis Presley and he didn’t write any of his won songs and was dressed up by his record company. But he oozed sex, and was as intense as a sunset on the Californian sky.

With X Factor all they can do is polish a turd, but with Elvis – he was already a star, they just turned his light up.


EML – Very profound.

J – No, not at all.


EML – Are you always this modest?

J – I’m not modest, I’m just truthful. I never aim to be profound. There’s a difference between simple and plain. Sometimes something simple can be beautiful at the same time.


EML – Alfa 9 are supporting you on tour. What are they like?

J – They’re good, honest guys. I like them.


EML – Are you lying to me? Have you even heard them?

J – Of course we’ve heard them, and yeah, they’re really good.


EML – Is there any question you’d just say ‘no comment’ to?

J – If you asked me to explain a song. I like people to take their own interpretation from them. It’s like, if you were at the Tate and you saw this amazing painting that just moved you so much, and you didn’t know why, but you then asked the artist to explain it to you, no matter what he said it just wouldn’t explain why it was so powerful. Explaining what art is makes you lose track of why it’s there in the first place.


EML – This description of you in King Tut’s booklet is a bit gushy. I mean, it goes on about how your music can change people’s lives…

J – Well, who says we haven’t. If we’ve touched it, we’ve changed it. It’s that butterfly effect. It’s like touching a grain of sand, it changes it.


EML – You haven’t changed my life. You may have touched it but you sure haven’t changed it.

J – But even touching it is changing it. Even if it’s just a smidge, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for the better.


EML – Nah, we’ll say it’s for the better.

J -Everyone’s the same at birth. Like my mum giving each of my siblings a our letter name, with mine being John obviously, to make us all equal.


EML – Where are you from?

J – Northwest Derry. It’s a good place. It’s where The Undertones are from.


EML – I’ve been to Ireland. My name’s Irish, but don’t be fooled (still off her face), it’s not spelt like it. Your name’s not very Irish sounding though. Where’d it come from?

J – Well, my mum gave each of my siblings a four letter name with mine being John obviously, to make us all equal. Everyone’s the same at birth. You really should have your won TV show, and you should call it Kira’s Kicks like the Undertones song.


EML – But that sounds a bit trashy...

J – It’s not trashy. It’d be good… kitsch. I can be the first guest, but I don’t want to have to have to ask. You have to ask me.


EML – Of course. Anyway, on a final note, what advice would you give to any young, aspiring bands out there?

J – You have to realise that it’s a difficult business. If you rub your hands on kerb stones, it hurts.


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