Varga – Throwing out the Song Writing Rule Book for Enter the Metal
By: Robert Cavuoto
Hamilton, Ontario, based progressive metal band, Varga, has just unleashed their third full-length studio recording, Enter the Metal, after 17 years apart.
Varga reunited in 2011 and have just released their awesome reunion CD.
Comprised of members Joe Varga [bass & vocals], Adam Alex [guitar], Sean Williamson [guitar], and Dan Fila [drums], Varga have built a large and loyal following of heavy metal fans, particular in their home country.
As heard throughout Enter the Metal, the long delay between releases has not dulled Varga’s penchant for penning inspired and challenging heavy metal in the slightest.
I spoke with guitarist Sean Williamson about their latest release.
Robert Cavuoto: Describe Enter the Metal in comparison to your other CDs, for someone that may have heard the other CDs and liked it, but is apprehensive, curious or simply clueless about the new CD. How is it different? How is it the same?
Sean Williamson: I guess if you sped up the old stuff, added more double kicks and fills, faster solos, crazier bass lines, frequent time changes, and took out the samplers and sound effects you’d end up with Enter The Metal.
Robert What was the writing and recording process like for Enter the Metal and how was it similar or different to what you may have done in the past?
Sean Williamson: Everything for Enter The Metal was written by the band in the jam room, full volume, riffing out for hours, coming up with parts, and piecing them all together, the way metal is meant to be written. Everyone in the band was having a blast, going crazy on their instruments and writing parts that are fun to play. When we went into the studio, we tracked the bass and drums the same way.
All four of us in there playing and recording together in the room until we got a complete take that we all liked. After that we went back and replaced the guitar tracks so we could experiment with sounds, try different guitars, and be creative.
On the first two records, we had been given drum machines and multi-tracks, so we ended up writing a lot more, individually. At that time we also focused a little more on hooks, and choruses. This time we threw out the song writing rulebook and completely played for ourselves.
Robert: Is there any song that you are most proud of on Enter the Metal?
Sean Williamson: “Gamera” turned out pretty fucking cool! That song takes you on such a ride. But “Plane Crash” is crazy. We counted 25 different parts before we’d go back and repeat one. And my solo from “No More Clean Air” has a little Randy Rhoads’ “S.A.T.O.” inspired lick on one of the key changes that makes me smile every time. But, my favourite song is actually on the sequel, Return Of The Metal, which we haven’t released yet, but will sometime this spring.
Robert: How does this Enter the Metal rate for you personally?
Sean Williamson: This is the first time, including with demo tapes, that a studio recording has ever turned out exactly how we wanted it to. It’s tight and technical, but doesn’t sound artificial, over produced, or synthetic.
Our producer, Julius Butty, managed to capture the chemistry we have when we play together. Being able to hear that chemistry with such clarity on Enter The Metal is amazing to me. I love this album!
Robert: The band walks a fine line between metal and power metal, what’s your take on that?
Sean Williamson: Is that like the difference between lager and ale? Beer is beer. Metal is metal. I might prefer Guinness, someone else might hate it, but I still enjoy a Pabst. And we all agree, more beer is the best beer!
Robert: That’s a great response!
Sean Williamson: You really can’t come up with a specific label either. If Cliff Burton had joined Dream Theater, and John Petrucci wasn’t so prolific and down-picked everything, it might sound a little like Varga. Or, if Dave Mustaine had replaced King Diamond on the first two Mercyful Fate records. Whatever you call that.
Robert: Without rock radio stations and video channels, how important are social media sites to Varga?
Sean Williamson: Very important. Being able to communicate directly with the people that are into your band, sharing cool tunes, discovering new bands, re-connecting with old fans, seeing other bands getting back together again, the benefits are endless. And the ability to be able to do it all yourself while maintaining full control is awesome.
There are no rules or barriers anymore. You don’t have to fit into anyone’s idea of what is marketable anymore. People will find you.
Robert: In your opinion, what person, band, place or thing best sums up the Canadian metal scene—past and/or present—and why?
Sean Williamson: Metal Tim Henderson from Brave Word & Bloody Knuckles. That guy has been supporting metal in the media since I met him in 1989, and his website bravewords.com is one of the biggest metal sites on the Internet.
Robert: With all these experiences you have gone through in your career, if a young musician was to come to you for advice about working in this industry, what would you tell him or her?
Sean Williamson: Same thing that everyone else says, “love what you do, stay true to yourself, and don’t be a dick about it.”