There are many complaints one could lob at the modern rock ‘n' roll industrial complex. One of the less toxic, but consistently chafing contemporary aspects for me, is a loss of mystery when it comes to the people who make the music we enjoy. Rock used to have an edgy, inscrutable quality that left die-hards pouring over liner notes and hunting down magazine interviews to fill in gaps in knowledge about the people whose art made your life more bearable. Now everyone lives their lives in public, through social media and the internet more broadly. Your favorite guitarist has nary scarfed a burrito that you can’t find a photo of on Instagram. And I think even Dwid Hellion has stopped deleting information about himself off Wikipedia. As a culture, we’ve lost the battle of inertia against the internet’s bottomless hunger for information and abdicated the ability to control our individual narratives with it.
There is still one punk rocker who resists this aspect of the unfavorable human condition, and that old head is one T of the industrial hardcore band Vegas, VVEGAS if you prefer, or V.E.G.A.S. if you’re really an old school fan. There is information out there, but following this trail of bread crumbs can be like deciphering a maze drawn by MC Escher. T and his SEO resistant band are dropping a new record this August on Berlin-based Iniquity Records. I was able to catch up with him about that record over email, and got a sense of his perspective on recent world events to boot. There are some points of interest that he has made clear. Others will forever remain guarded by shadows. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our correspondence.
SPB: Mick for Scene Point Blank
T: As himself.
Scene Point Blank: Where does the name VVEGAS come from? I found an interview from a few years back that seemed to imply that it’s an acronym: “Vermouth Equilibrium Ghanoush Asphyxia Symphony.” Is that right? And if so, where does the extra “V” come in.
Vegas: What’s in a name?
The use of the double-V goes back to the First Folio and is based on how the voiced labiodental fricative is used in Proto-Germanic. It is not dissimilar to how the military speaks – with lots of profanity and acronyms, which we like to change up whenever it feels appropriate.
Scene Point Blank: Where are you currently based out of?
Vegas: It can be disputed if one ever reaches home but sometimes where certain paths cross, the whole world can at least look like home for a time. Currently Oceania.
Scene Point Blank: You have a new record out called … not ever. What does the title mean and what are some of the themes you are developing on it?
Vegas: We recently released two teasers via our Bandcamp to wet the appetite for our new full-length LP ( ... not ever), which will be released in a very limited fashion is different versions on August 14 through Iniquity Recordings. The title is a bookend of sorts.
Scene Point Blank: Why did you decide to share these two songs off the new record?
Vegas: The two songs in question were chosen as they give an idea of some of the musical coordinates that inspired the direction the new full-length is sliding in and has been influenced by, i.e. songs reminiscent of how bands from the United Kingdom channeled with grave-black aural acid assaults and the more arsenic side of what made hardcore punk exciting in the mid '90s. You can check out the sampler here.
Scene Point Blank: Who did the cover art for the sampler? Will the LP have a different cover?
Vegas: The artwork for the new full-length was created by Give Up and methinks it connects well to what the release stands for. We have been collaborating with Give Up for quite a while and I like that there is an element of truth to what they do that resonates and leaves one with something after they’ve left their emissions. The art is a re-imagining of the V.E.G.A.S. logo and articulates something we’ve felt and connect in a way where words are not necessary.
Scene Point Blank: You’ve released a couple of records through Iniquity Recordings. What is your relationship with them?
Vegas: Iniquity Records is an up-and-coming label with an eclectic, well-curated back catalog that explores the more extreme ends of what can be achieved sonically, so it seemed like a good match. We have been collaborating on a few V.E.G.A.S. releases recently and look forward to bringing the new full-length to fruition, which will be released in different versions with bonus items.
Scene Point Blank: Who played with you on this new record? Is it the same team as usual, or did you mix it up?
Vegas: For the last couple of years, there has been more of a consistent approach to recording as I have had the pleasure and privilege to work with the immensely talented and creative gentleman that goes by the name of Ogirdor Zul.
Scene Point Blank: Has COVID-19 affected your ability to promote your music or make a living as a musician? What has been the impact of the pandemic on you personally?
Vegas: There is not really any walk of life that has not been affected by the pandemic. At this stage it does not look unlikely for COVID-19 and its reverberations to permanently reshape the way we do things in all aspects of life. I felt the impact very early on as I was trapped overseas for a while.
Scene Point Blank: You’ve also released a single as of June called “BLM.” Why was it important for you to show solidarity with the BLM movement at this time?
Vegas: The song you are referring to is a cover version of one of Austin’s greatest, i.e. the phenomenal band The Dicks and Gary Floyd. We recorded the homage to one of the greatest punk rock songs of the Reagan era long before the killing of George Floyd and its aftermath, yet it was finalized and released after. As the subject matter and lyrical content of the song relates directly to what happened and the outcry for social justice and racism that ensued, making a reference of some sorts felt appropriate. My opinion as a white person does not really matter but I think allyship is important to amplify for the right voices to be heard.
Scene Point Blank: From your vantage point, what has been the response to the BLM protests internationally?
Vegas: The push for Black liberation from state-inflicted violence has evolved into one of the most influential social movements, with BLM being more of a human rights movement rather than a civil rights movement. BLM’s focus seems to have been less focused on changing specific laws and more about fighting for a fundamental reordering of society and freedom from systematic dehumanization.
The broader cultural impact of BLM as a movement, which of course originated long before the recent events, has been immeasurably expansive as it has popularized what has now become an indispensable tool, i.e. the phenomenon of “mediated mobilization.” By using the tools of social media, BLM pioneered the use the internet as a mass mobilization device. It laid the groundwork for other movements, e.g. #MeToo. If nothing else, BLM has provided a framework for transforming mainstream conversations about societal ills, with police violence and racism being focal points.
Scene Point Blank: What does the future of VVEGAS look like for 2020?
Vegas: While it is always wise to look ahead, it proves difficult to look further than you can see – which at this stage for the band is the release of the full-length vinyl album of ... not ever via Iniquity Recordings. Things will keep going to slide, slide in all kind of wonderful directions.
Scene Point Blank: Who is your dream bill to play with once venue restrictions and restrictions on large gathers have been lifted?
Vegas: Electric Wizard, 6ix9ine, and Einstürzende Neubauten.
Find Vegas on the following links: