I am greatly pleased to give you my newest interview with vegan straight edge musician Gab De La Vega and a proper feature on his new solo album called “Never Look Back”, released in March this year through a bunch of DIY labels. Having an intriguing sense of both adventure and discovery seeping through its every pore, the record proves a certain milestone in Gab’s recorded output to date. I believe we meet certain people for a reason and this buddy right here is no exception. Meet Gab De La Vega, take some time with his art and see what he has to say about his new records, political expression in music and the role of movement like punk rock and hardcore. Listen to his passions and let it stick with you.
“Never Look Back” by Gab De La Vega was released by Annoying Records (Italy), Backbite Records (Germany), Goodwill Records (Germany), I For Us Records (Belgium), Rise Clan (Portugal), Saitan DIY Shows (Austria), Ugly&Proud Records (Bulgaria), Vegan Records (Argentina), Entes Anomicos (Germany) and SP Discos (Germany).
Photo by Claudine Strummer Photography.
Hey Gab! Again, thanks for taking some time with me! How are you?
Hi Karol and all the readers!
I’m great, thanks! Keeping myself busy, struggling sometimes, but all in all I really can’t complain.
I hope things are good at the Idioteq.com HQ too!
Thanks man! Everything’s cool at me end! I’m listening to your newest solo work and I am really impressed by the natural tones you managed to keep in your music, yet further professionalizing the production process and the general feel of your sound. Reflecting on your process of the making of “Never Look Back”, what would you say was different this time?
Two years on the road, that’s what happened! Playing a lot of shows, getting more familiar with the acoustic sound, learning new things and discovering new influences and perspectives.
I also faced the studio session with a wiser and more mature approach, differently than the previous recordings of “Songs Of Existence”.
I guess I can say I grew up, as a songwriter as well as a performer. There’s always something to learn.
How did ideas for these songs come to you?
It depends. I often strum my guitar and that’s the best way to draft a new song. You catch the feeling of that moment and if you like it, you can save it for a song. It’s hard to tell thought, there is not just a single creative process, there are many.
As for lyrics: I tried to avoid easy rhetoric, I wanted to talk about things I feel. I wanted these lyrics to be close to my reality, to my life. It wouldn’t have been real to write songs with easy slogans. Yet, I wanted to deliver messages, reflections, ideas, criticism, along with expressions of my feelings, such as anger, hope, fear, joy, outrage, happiness. I wanted these lyrics to be real, to be a reflection of who I am. I guess it’s necessary when it comes to such a personal music project as a solo project. You need to go out there and speak out your mind and your heart, say something by telling what you see in the world, talk about what makes you feel in this way or in that way and why.
There’s a story behind every lyrics of this album or something that triggered that reflections. I could tell things about all of these songs and they would all lead to my reality, to my life. Some of them are almost streams of consciousness, as I really felt I had to take those words and thoughts out of my chest and sing them loud.
What made you choose “Never Talking To You Again” as a cover addition to this collection of your very own, personal tunes?
I used to play that song during my first live shows. I didn’t have enough songs so I also played a few covers, plus the project wasn’t really headed to become something so personal and developed.
By the time I was getting ready to hit the studio, I found myself playing it a few times and I thought it didn’t sound so bad, so I thought to include it in the session if I had the time. I wasn’t even sure whether to include it in the album or keep it for some b-side, compilation, or something.
When I heard the final result I was really excited about it and I thought it could fit perfectly in the album.
HÜSKER DÜ and particularly their album “Zen Arcade” have been pretty important to me when I was younger. I listened to that album many many times over the years and I still love it. “Never Talking To You Again”, so mellow yet intense among all those powerful songs, always intrigued me. And to go back to what I was saying, it is nothing far from what I am: a hardcore punk band’s song but played acoustic. Story of my life ahah! :)
True :) Can you tell me more about the cover art for the album, made by Katharina Rot? Who or what is symbolized by the fox?
Katharina Rot is a very talented artist from Hamburg. I saw some works of hers and liked them a lot. They are all about animals and animal liberation. Both her talent and her commitment for the animals made me think that I wanted to work with her for my new album’s artwork.
She was also happy to work with me and it’s been a great. She perfectly understood what I had in mind and translated my confused yet somehow clear ideas into the drawing that you can find on the cover. The music is important, of course, but also the cover makes a big difference for an album. And I’m more than satisfied with the result: it looks awesome!
Why the fox? Can we cut it short and say that it’s a secret? It would actually take a lot to explain the process that brought me to choose that picture and that animal. Let’s keep some mystery for the readers! ;)
Haha, sure thing buddy!
Ok Gab, so what does it take to make politically charged and yet so emotional music in these harsh times?
I’m not sure. I wanted it to be spontaneous, to be an expression, an extension of my thoughts. I wouldn’t say it’s political or it’s emotional. It might be, but to me it’s very intimate in the first place.
I didn’t want to be trapped by expectations such as “Gab De La Vega sings about political issues”. If you try to meet the expectations, you won’t sing about things you feel, and everything becomes fake.
I wanted to sing about my thoughts and feelings. And some of them happen to be about politics. I consider myself a politicized person, but that doesn’t mean that my thoughts are just restricted to that area. I wanted to speak out my mind and sure, some songs bring reflections that have been triggered by political matters.
I could introduce any of these songs either with a political introduction or with a personal introduction. A fact made me think of something, something reminded me of a fact. Either way, the two worlds are deeply connected and intertwined.
Politics is something that every person in the world experiences, one way or another, and surely it triggers emotions. And emotions make us take different choices, which happens to be a remarkable part of the political process.
I am personally very satisfied with these lyrics. They give voice to my thoughts, an individual crossing this world and interacting with it, in these harsh yet incredible times.
Real punk rock and real hardcore still exist and I still think they can have a huge impact in people’s life
Passivity is one of the biggest “charges” leveled against punk and in particular modern hardcore. The truth is that indeed the core concept behind punk as a rebel attitude is generally no more. Do you think punk rock and hardcore can still change the world or has that battle been lost?
I know that many bands and people that call themselves hardcore or punk don’t have anything to do with the concepts and the messages this music should bring, but it’s nothing new. Real punk rock and real hardcore still exist and I still think they can have a huge impact in people’s life. And these people can make a difference in the portion of world they live in.
Hopefully all these small changes can result in a bigger change. We know where we are and we know where we want to be. All it’s in between depends on us, on our choices and on our actions.
Photo by Burnt Bongo Photography.
What else do you think punk communities and hardcore bands’ followers today miss out on compared to the early days?
It is somehow hard to tell. For example, the internet can help promoting an album or booking a tour, but it can also distract people from a more direct approach to hardcore and punk; it can shorten the distances or make them bigger.
It can help me being interviewed by IDIOTEQ.com but it can also overflow the kids with too much music and information. And sometimes it is bad music and useless information.
The internet made everything bigger, even hardcore and punk, even the DIY scene. Today’s kids are probably not as “thirsty” as the early days kids used to be. It all became easier and maybe this made them struggle less and less to get what they really wanted, whether it is a record or an interview from a band they like.
But again, it’s hard to tell. This is just an aspect, an example. We could talk about this from many angles; the differences are many and on many levels. I don’t think we should say something like “it used to be better”. It is more complex than that. It is just different now, but there are still a lot of dedicated people who work hard to keep the music and the message alive.
Ok Gab, so I guess now it would be wise to strike while the iron is hot and hit the road big time, huh? Tell us a bit about your touring plans, the booking process, the people helping you out with the process, etc. Speaking about organizing stuff, how’s Epidemic doing these days? Do you still have some time to develop your label project?
I’ve just come back from my first UK tour and it’s been great! I’ve met great people, seen incredible places and shared some shows with very talented musicians. Everyone has been so nice, also in the booking process. Who couldn’t help directly sent useful contacts and I eventually got all 10 shows booked. Everyone has been so kind for all the tour. It’s been a beautiful experience.
I am playing some festivals this summer: I’ve just played the Vegan Street Day in Dortmund. It’s an event focused on veganism and animal liberation. As a vegan, I’m happy to bring my music and my message to these events.
I’m also stoked to play Fluff Fest for the first time this year! I’m playing the Info-Tent, a space where people can find information about politics, campaigns, projects and learn more about them. Politics and hardcore music (but also punk/folk, I guess!) are undisputedly linked to each other. Fluff Fest has always been a space that cared a lot about this connection and it’s an honor for me to be part of it. My show is scheduled for July 25th Saturday, 2.30 PM. The Info Tent is the small brown tent not far from the festival entrance.
I will also play the After-Fluff Fest Hardcore Matinee in Prague.
What else… ah, I got a very cool show in August confirmed! I’m opening for Against Me! on a big independent festival in my own city, Brescia. It’s quite scary: on a big stage, all by myself… but I’m stoked to play with one of my favorite bands ever!
I’m also leaving for a new European Tour in September (booking: epidemicrecords(at)hotmail(dot)com
I book all my shows and tours by myself. I like being in touch with people who care so much about my music to invite me over and play a show.
About Epidemic Records: it’s going through some big changes: I’m about to open a new online store for records, merchandise, clothing, books, dvds, which will be parallel to the label itself. So much hard work to do, but I’m stoked. Things are in progress.
The label has just released Vengeance Today (Germany) and Iron (Sweden). A new release is on its way: Lamantide (Italy) and more are to be announced. Keep an eye out!
Gab De La Vega tour dates:
25.7 – CZ, Fluff Fest
27.7 – CZ, Prague, Cafe Na Pul Cesty, After Fluff Hardcore Matinee
18.8 – I, Brescia, Festa di Radio Onda D’Urto w/ Against Me!
21.8 – A / D, Innsbruck/Bavaria! Book a show! <
22.8 – D, TBA
September – European tour – dates TBA
Cool! And how about the THE SMASHROOMS? What are your plans for this year and beyond?
We decided to go on hiatus last November. It was a painful decision but it was the only thing to do in that very moment, for several reasons. I can’t tell if we’ll ever play shows again. We don’t know. We just know that we had to take a break for sure and that we are still incredibly good friends. Cello and Cesko are my brothers, we grew up together playing in THE SMASHROOMS, we shared so much and this can’t be taken away from us. I’m glad for every second this band gave me to spend with them.
In the moment we took such decision, everyone has been absorbed by other things in their lives. For me, it was the writing of the new solo album. I am glad this happened in the right moment, it helped me deal with the fact that I probably won’t play those songs with that band anymore. It’s been quite traumatic, after so many years as a band…
Developing all these projects, including the label, must have been exhausting! Is running your music related projects something you find still valuable and truly enjoyable?
Sometimes it is exhausting, but the satisfaction, the experiences, the emotions are a great reward. I couldn’t live without music and its related projects, so I still enjoy it a lot, even if sometimes it gets pretty messy!
Hardcore and punk, straight edge, veganism and politics helped me a lot in the process of shaping my identity and my attitude towards the World
Ok, so here’s a tough one. What’s been one of your most important lessons so far in life?
This is not an easy question. Life is always offering new challenges and opportunities to grow.
I can say I changed a lot during the years, I probably did something (I now would consider as) wrong when I was younger, but I’m glad I got to recognize my mistakes and did all I could to change. Of course hardcore and punk, straight edge, veganism and politics helped me a lot in the process of shaping my identity and my attitude towards the World; but all things considered, I might answer to this question in this way: the most important lesson in life is the one that is still to come.
Human beings are lively creatures, capable of big things. Good or bad, it depends on us. The point is to recognize our personal and direct responsibility in the wrongs we want to fix and do something to make them better. It’s not always easy, sometimes it takes time or compromises, but it’s the way to go. Every step in this direction would definitely teach us something and possibly make us better individuals.
Photo by Homeboy photography.
Ok Gab. Thanks a lot for your time. Before you sign off, please drop us a couple of lines about books, bands, movies and people you recently find engaging, interesting and inspiring.
Thank you for this nice interview! It’s always a pleasure to be your guest!
Well, here we go:
-Movie: you definitely have to check out a documentary called “Cowspiracy“, by Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen. It shows how every big environmental organization doesn’t take into account the consequences of animal farming on the planet. It’s absolutely one of the best documentary you’ll ever see! Facts and data are displayed very clearly and it will make you think a lot.
-Solo artist: My welsh friend Efa Supertramp has just released a new album, which sounds great. Acoustic punk both in English and Welsh (beautiful language!); she has a wonderful voice and songs are so catchy you’ll like them after their first play.
Bands: check out my label Epidemic Records latest releases: IRON (Sweden), VENGEANCE TODAY (Germany) and LAMANTIDE (Italy). I’m also in talk with people in the US, but I don’t want to unveil anything for now!
-Book: I admit I don’t have much time to read anymore, at least as much as I’d like to. Anyway: in Italian: “Black Hole, Uno sguardo sull’underground italiano” (“Black Hole, a gaze on the italian underground”) by my friend Turi Messineo; it’s a journey into the multifaceted world of the Italian underground. It’s also a DVD and it should also have English subtitles.
In English: I bought a copy of a book I’ve been told being interesting: “Green is the new red” by Will Potter. I admit I only read a few pages till now. It keeps looking at me from the shelf, I hope to have some spare time this summer so I can read it!
Keep up the great work at IDIOTEQ.com! See you hopefully some day on the road!
Yeah, hopefully! Thanks so much! Good luck and till the next time!