ALEX VARGAS – Interview

Seit Alex Vargas im Januar dieses Jahres seine umjubelte EP Giving Up The Ghost veröffentlicht hat, ist er aus unseren Playlists nicht mehr wegzudenken. Zurecht gewann er damit den diesjährigen Danish Music Award als bester Solokünstler. Die soulige Stimmgewalt des gebürtigen Dänen, versetzte dieses Jahr auch das Publikum des Golden Leaves Festivals in Begeisterung. Vor seinem Auftritt hat er sich die Zeit genommen ein paar unserer Fragen zu beantworten. Wie ihr außerdem noch Tickets für seine ausverkauften Deutschlandshows gewinnen könnt, erfahrt ihr am Ende des Interviews.

I saw a video…apparently you started a second career as a high jumper? How’s that going?
It’s going okay. I don’t get to practice that much, cause I’m quite busy at the moment, but I’ve got big hopes for my career in high jumping.web_alex_vargas_2645

Well I think the festival is the perfect practice area so just knock yourself out later!

But seriously, I saw a video of jumping on your facebook page. It looked professional, what was that about?
It was a festival in Denmark, I was doing a radio interview, a filmed one and they challenged me. The Olympics where on and they were saying that standing high jumping was an old olympic sport that they got rid of eventually. So they wanted to challenge me to an ancient olympic sport – and I won!

Did you know that it is the year of the fire monkey according to china…
I haven’t kept tabs with my Chinese zodiac but I didn’t know it was the year of the fire monkey.

Well you should! Apparently this year is moving really quickly and everything is on fire so did you notice anything like that so far?
Well it’s been a very busy year and everything has been moving really quickly. We’ve been doing a shit loads of festivals and traveling a lot all over Europe and Russia so that is a good representation of what this year has been.

Perfect! When I first listened to your music my immediate thought was D’Angelo but I can’t even put my finger on it…
That’s a huge compliment! I think it’s really cool that you heard that cause I am really influenced by him but I certainly don’t think that my music sounds like his. But there are little tricks and things that I certainly take from there – no doubt about it. So it’s really cool that you heard that, I so admire what he is and what he does.

Are you ever afraid of being into someone else’s music too much? Influence wise?
I do get that but the thing is, I listen to quite a wide variety of music. The music that I listen to over and over again is rarely music that sounds like mine. So for example I listened to Kendrick Lamars ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ every day for two months and I still listen to it regularly but I’m not worried that I’m gonna be to influenced by that. It’s so far from what I do, especially vocally that’s more a beats and instrumentation level that I feel very inspired by what that album. It’s a very powerful record and it’s always very important to me that you believe it, as a listener. It doesn’t really matter what is said or if you agree with it, but if you believe it, that makes a huge difference for me.

How do you do that?
Well, you have to mean what you say. Not everyone is gonna get on board with it but one of the main things for me – and that goes for playing live as well – is that it comes across that this is really important to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t talk about it you know.

So would you say your music can be understood as autobiographical?
My music definitly, yes! I can’t speak for other artists but for me, my music definitely is an extension of my own head, my own brain. Somethings I color it, I’ll over dramatize or underplay it. I write my songs with Tommy Sheen, we write and produce together but we also invite third parties in to work with. And we now have a collaborator in California, whose name is Leggy Langdon. While we are touring we take our productions to a point where we feel we need ideas from the outside. We pass them to him and he really understands our sound and what we are trying to do and he is extremely skilled, sonicly and he is an amazing mixing engineer. He basically is our finisher so to speak. So it is definitely a collaborative thing but the songwriting process can be anything. Tommy and I both play various instruments so there is no set way of doing it. It can start with a piano idea, a beat idea, a guitar idea, so that kind of keeps it fresh, to not only have one approach and one way of doing things.

What do you think is the key for a good live performance?
The challenge there is meaning what you say every night cause you’re singing the same songs again and again. I often find with certain songs of ours I tag into different emotions that are relevant to me right now even though I’m singing the same song that I wrote over a year ago. It may ment something else to me when I wrote it but, you know it can’t bring up those same old emotions but sometimes you find yourself in a position where it means something else to you right here and now.

Do you have one particular song that you wrote a long time ago and now evolved into something else? Does it even work like that?
That does happen but it’s mostly momentarily, I always remember what the song is actually about. It always takes root in what it initially ment to me. I’m trying to think of an example but a certain song I wrote for or about one person. Let’s say I wrote a song about a person who is in a lot of trouble and I wrote a song about them. A year later I’m standing on stage and I have another friend who is now in a lot of trouble it might be their issues I’m pulling of. That is a very basic way of saying it.

I found the artwork for your EP very interesting, where did it come from?
I’ve learned that it is very important to allow the people around you to excel at what they are good at and not to control too much. I’m definitely a control freak in many ways and I have to stop myself sometimes. Actually the head of my label in Denmark he sent some ideas for artwork and none of it was really working. So he then dove into these old encyclopedias and stuff and found this old images from an anatomy book from 1908 where they had drawn people without their skin and drawn their muscles with numbers. Underneath there would be little descriptions of what their were. He sent them to me and I lost my mind, I thought they were amazing and he then passed them to a graphic designer he trusts, and the designer played around with some ideas. The first one was for ‘Solid Ground’ then one for ‘Giving up The Ghost’ and then one for ‘Shackled Up’ and they were all based on these images and then he sort of mashed it all up and did that sort of flower-looking thing we have on The EP Cover. To me that image is extremely powerful, it has a strange depth to it where you can see all the muscles, strong arms and legs. In no way can I take credit for that artwork, that wasn’t me, that is just because I have some incredible people that I’m working with.

“Giving up the ghost”… is that a saying?
It is a saying, to give up the ghost is to spill a secret…’Giving Up The Ghost’ as a song, is about acknowledging your own issues and therefore being confronted with them. The chorus in all its simplicity says: I need someone to talk to about this. It’s a pretty basic subject cause we all need that. It was kind of a tough song to write though, cause it immediately makes you look inwards. The verse says: “My flaws have broken free they’ve ganged up on me”. It’s about all of the flaws that you have inside of you, all of the issues you have jump out and you see them as people in front of you and they are working against you. Looking at you, confronting you. So, it’s just about revealing that about yourself to someone.

When was the first time you discovered your singing voice?
Well, the first time I realized I could sing… I always sung as a kid but it wasn’t until I was 12 that I actually started to take it seriously being in theater and musicals back home. I got a guitar when I was 15 but I started singing and playing around with music at about 14 maybe. When I got to 16 I met my manager and when I was 17 him and me moved to England. But my voice today is quite different than it was then, I was more trying to be a rock singer but my voice now and how I use it now I didn’t really find till I was about 24.

I always wonder how people settle on “their“ voice as you can use your voice much like an instrument, there are so many ways.
It’s purely through experimentation and challenging yourself. You just constantly push the boundaries of what you can do. I do that now, try and push myself. I know that someone once told me that a mans voice evolves till he’s 28, but I am 28 now and I’m not done yet.

And you are an amazing live singer. I go to concerts sometimes and see people struggle with hitting their notes on stage. It’s hard to watch sometimes.
Yeah, I learned that it is much more fun to play live if you make sure you write your songs in a key that, with the main melody there is no note that is super hard to hit. You have to write to your own abilities. It is fun to push yourself cause eventually you can start writing to your new abilities that you might find. That is what I did. When I was 21 it was really hard to sing in falsetto. I had this band and in some songs we had to sing in falsetto and I found it really really hard. It was basically not there. So when that band split up I just started working on it. I’ve always been a huge Jeff Buckley and Led Zeplin fan, all these singers that could sing really high. I practiced, I sang in the shower, I would then start trying to write songs were I had to push myself but only to play at home. And I always do my BVs (backing vocals), do falsetto BVs to practice in the studio but eventually it became quite a big part of my instrument so to speak.

So, when is the album coming out?
There is no date yet but we are working on it! We are entering the final stages of it, we just need to get the production done and alongside that we’re probably gonna do some writing – just in case. I am definitely reaching a point where I wanna finish this record, hopefully by the end of the year. When it will be done and released I don’t know.

OK, last question: You said earlier that you are a control freak. So which part about the whole process of making an album did you find most hard to let go of?
I think the hardest time to let go of is probably the production side. It can be really difficult to kind of put the brush done and say it’s done now. That is why, for me, it is really good that we have this extension of our team were we pass our productions to someone from the outside who has not heard it before. It means when he then sends it back I can listen to it from the outside, I’m not as much in the middle of it as I am sitting there, on the computer with Tommy. It can be really difficult to get perspective. So sometimes when we work, we have to leave a song for a week and work on something else. Production is also the newest thing to me, I’ve only been doing that for three to four years I think. As a producer I’m very young you know so… Production: it’s fucking hard!

Für Alex Vargas’ ausverkaufte Konzerte in Berlin und Köln verlosen wir noch jeweils 1×2 Tickets. Wenn ihr gewinnen möchtet schreibt ihr einfach bis zum 28.11. eine Mail mit dem Betreff “Alex + Wunschstadt” an

 Alex Vargas Tour:

29.11. Prince Charles, Berlin
30.11. YUCA, Köln


Foto-und Videographin, Fotoredakteurin und Bedroomdisco-Lover

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