Interview: Patrick Vega

Dan McAvinchey: Patrick, you've had your CD "8 Bullets" out for a while, what kind of feedback have you been getting for it from fans? What do they like the most?

Patrick Vega: A lot of people dig it a lot because it's kind of a heavy record. Guys like all the heavy tunes, but there's also a couple of ballads on the album that the female audience seems to enjoy.

Plus, I have gotten some pretty great reviews for it. Especially by DPRP (Dutch Progressive Rock Page). Those guys are not easy to please and "8 Bullets" scored an impressive 8 out of 10.

As far as favorite songs goes, it's cool, cause everyone likes a different song out of all nine tracks, so that's awesome. The all time favorite (even though being a remix on "8 Bullets", as originally released on my debut album "Freefall Faith Firestorm" is the track "No Surrender". It actually just got certified as an international "TOP 100" song by The International Association of Independent Recording Artists, IAIRA (they monitor charts around the world), not quite sure what that means now, but it is pretty cool.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little about the gear you used when you recorded "8 Bullets".

Patrick Vega: Well, being a struggling musician in the DIY age of our digital time I have a mobile recording setup. Mac Book Pro, Mbox, etc. As far as amplification goes, I used my Line6 amp modeling gear for all guitar and bass tones. The guitar, as always, is my beloved SX6 Stratocaster and I also used a Les Paul, a Dean Evo, a Nikki Sixx Blackbird and a couple of Schecter basses (just stuff that was lying around at the time and location of the tracking which varies, since I must live on two continents). The only "real" pedals I used on "8 Bullets" was a Cry Baby From Hell Wah pedal and a Digitech Whammy4 on ANIMA.

See, I am a big tube amp and pedals fan. I own some vintage amps, but these days it's not that easy. Since music is free now (as it seems) and the situation just keeps getting worse not better, I have to adapt for budget reasons. The Line6, I can plug in and record anytime anywhere. As for my 5150 or the Silver Jubilee Marshall - not so easy! Using real amps is the way to go, but, so was pressing a CD and so was getting publishing royalties and so was to be on a label. We'll see, hopefully for the next record!

Dan McAvinchey: What are you striving to achieve musically, particularly on your last CD?

Patrick Vega: On my latest release "ANIMA", that has been released on my label FFF Music on August 21, 2010, I did something different - I used samples, keyboards, electronics and electronic drums. I have been wanting to do an electronic album for a while now, as I not only favor classic rock and metal, I also like NIN for example. The plan was to do a low budget electronic EP, the timing was right, the inspiration was there and "ANIMA" was born!

Musically, I record what I am inspired to do at the time, but striving to achieve? I am on a quest for emotions made into songs. See the big sonic picture. A flow of feelings and emotions - and to break through to some people that usually do not listen to instrumental music and changing their attitude about disliking it! That is a never ending work in progress!

Dan McAvinchey: From a publicity and promotion standpoint, what do you find is working best for you at the moment? What is not working?

Patrick Vega: Great question. Right up front, I for one, need a manager or representation. Why? This DIY thing is nice because one has 100% control but, look around, there's so many artists doing "all the right things" and you probably will never even hear from them. The old model is gone. And quite frankly, no one even knows what this "new model" is supposed to be. I could go on for hours on the impact of illegal downloading (now streaming), the disappearing of the labels and all that.

Now you have this bottomless pit filled with all kinds of artists: incredibly bad to sheer genius. But who's gonna know? Yes my stuff is available around the world on everyone's cell phone. But here's the kicker: How would you find it?

What works for me is a real life approach mixed with the internet stuff. The Internet by itself is just digital overkill for all of us suffering from ADHD. Everyone has 47 social media profiles, a web page, and ends up sitting in front of the computer all day. Artists send out invitations on Facebook (mainly to people in foreign countries, as you gotta have 5,000 friends) and then are surprised no one shows up to the gig.

Back in the day, classic Van Halen got 4,500 people out to their shows. No internet, no representation. Just four Captain Ahabs working it. I sometimes have to remind myself that I could just walk up to people, introduce myself and actually talk! That is how I landed my endorsement with Guitar Picks by Steve Clayton Inc., which I am really proud of. It's cool to collaborate with a company whose products you like.

Dan McAvinchey: What do you now find to be the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent musician?

Patrick Vega: Advantage: Total control - both artistically and businesswise. Release music whenever you want, however you want, wherever you want. And you can perform and tour whenever you want too. All on your own terms. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Disadvantage: Who's gonna pay for it all and who's gonna tell people that you do all that?

Release music, okay, but who's going to buy (stream it, whatever).

Make your record available on iTunes Japan, okay, but who's going to know about it over there?

You're a great band and so ready to play a show and tour on your own terms, okay, but who is going to get the venue and promote the concert? Who will be in the audience? Who is making it possible so you can go out on tour?

Think about all the decade-lasting bands out there. Let me tell you, they would not be what they are without a big machine behind them (even if some artists trash talk their labels). The machine is what makes all of the above possible. Having your record available worldwide is one thing (example: a teenager in Sweden can buy the record of a US band, but having the record of the US band displayed and promoted so the Swedish teenager actually knows about is a completely different story). The only band that hit the big time through MySpace was The Arctic Monkeys. But only because they were the first ones when that thing was huge and they jumped on a big label pretty quickly. Nothing wrong with starting out indie, but where does it go from there? Making music for the sake of art alone is one thing. It's pure and great and there is nothing wrong with that, but you are not going to make a career out of it.

Dan McAvinchey: When did you first get interested in guitar, and how did you learn and progress as a player?

Patrick Vega: I have been doing this since the age of nine. I have come a long way since then, moving from Europe to the US, graduating from music school, playing, recording and touring with bands, up to doing my own thing on my own label now.

I have also been threatening to quit music on and off (let's face it, it ain't easy these days, especially doing instrumental music) but honestly, I am still as hungry and passionate as I was when I first laid eyes on a guitar. There is a reason that I have all this passion and love for music. I will keep doing what I do and I consistently work on myself to reach what I set out to do: be able to make music and play it for people to hear. Which sounds easier than it actually is!

Dan McAvinchey: Have you heard any new guitarists that have really caught your ear in the past couple of years?

Patrick Vega: The following is regarding the term guitarist. As in, my personal big three (Hendrix, Page, Van Halen). See, that's the thing, honestly, nothing has really happened since like 25+ years ago. The guys that take turns on the covers of the guitar magazines are a pool of maybe 12 people.

It was pretty much one wave of outstandingly great and (more or less; that's debateable in some cases) truly original guitar players: Hendrix, Page, Eddie, Satch, Vai, Yngwie, Eric Johnson, SRV, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads, Santana, Eric Clapton and Slash.

Ok that's 13, but you get me. Just look at Camp Freddy for example (Dave Navarro's all star band). It's great of course, but where's the new guys at? Most of the indie reviews and spotlight features in the big guitar mags disappeared. All you have now is castings, contests and Guitar Hero. Who ever came out of that? The world is ready for a new guy bad, but the question is can an Eddie Van Halen exist at all today? So if you're working with students (of all ages) be sure to tell them to appreciate music, buy music, support the art they love. Don't let it become a faceless, intangible thing.

Dan McAvinchey: Does it make sense to consider releasing physical CDs in the future in the age of digital media?

Patrick Vega: Well, the answer to that is that it is being made pretty much impossible by your surroundings to release a physical product at this time. One is almost forced to go digital.

Hey I released my latest record digitally. Not by choice, mind you. I couldn't afford the pressing, and yes, no one buys CDs anymore. Oh yeah, you got all those great short run offers, huh? Think about it: after pressing 1,000 CDs, one record costs about $0.80. I can just give away a CD that cost me under a dollar to people (and you damn well know this is what is gonna happen a lot - friends, family, reviewers, industry, etc.)

With a short run? One CD costs you more like $2.00 or even $4.00 (use Discmakers offer as an example: $199.00 for 100 CDs - in jackets!) Okay. So $199, plus taxes, plus shipping. Imagine this scenario with jewel cases. Yeah, there you go. Are you gonna give away a CD that cost you like $3.00 just to manufacture it (remember the cost to actually create it too!) More, can you afford to give it away?

Pressing plants are hurting (of course they are). Matter of time until they go broke. What then? Exactly. Think, people, what then?

So we all go digital. Now, how do I submit my new album for review? Send mp3s? They don't like that. How do I show my new record to family and friends? Send them a link? How do I find the equal passion designing a tiny cover for an iPod instead of the art for a full blown CD? How do I celebrate my new album release? By staring at my iPod? That's what I did, folks, and let me tell you, it ain't quite the same feeling as holding your record in your hands.

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Dan McAvinchey: If you could do a once-off album project with any guitarist in the world, who would it be?

Patrick Vega: That's tough, but probably Eddie Van Halen. Why? Hey, there's nothing like driving your car around anywhere in So Cal listening to some classic VH. It's not the flashy part of his playing, it's where he comes from and how he approaches the guitar. Working with him would just be insane. Not sure if he would be mean to me or anything and I would definitely be intimidated as hell, but hey, it's Ed!

Dan McAvinchey: Finally, what`s up next for you, what are some of your plans for the future?

Patrick Vega: Writing new music and continuing to fight for my ultimate dreams and visions, but keep getting better at fighting for it every day. Much, much better. What that is you ask? Play my music, live, in your town and you being there!

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Always aware of his roots (guitar instrumental music), Patrick Vega released his first solo album ("Freefall Faith Firestorm") on his label FFF Music. Vega's second release ("8 Bullets") featured structured rock songs, heavy riffs, melodic lines and a lot of taste and skilled production. Patrick Vega's motto, "where the guitars are the vocals", infuses even his latest work "ANIMA".

Dan McAvinchey connected with Vega to get opinions on being indie in the digital age, and to address some of the other, more complex issues facing musicians today.