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Brian Higgins & Vagabond interview
Posted at 12:37 PM, 19 April 2009 -

The Sunday Times has published an interview with Brian Higgins and Alex Vargas, the front man in Vagabond, who are latest signing to the rapidly expanding Xenomania label.

Sunday Times writer Dan Cairns compares Xenomania's HQ to «an enviably laidback holiday camp». He also describes Brian Higgins as «an affable though slightly edgy character», who admits to having «worked most weekends, going back, I suppose, to about 1994». Higgins says that he and longtime colleagues such as Miranda Cooper reject 95% of what they do: «Our year is spent trying to get to that 5% that is truly great».

Higgins says that he had a hunch that Alex Vargas «wasn’t particularly a rock singer but a soul singer». This led the producer, whose pre-Xenomania background was, he says, all about «really underground, trendy club music», to reconnect with buried influences: «I suddenly remembered the feelings I had for Hall & Oates records.»

Higgins: «There’s nothing wrong with teenage musicians having an idea that doesn’t tally with their ability. That’s called being young. Growing up is about learning who you really are and what your true ability is. If Xenomania stands for anything, it’s about trying to get clarity into that situation far quicker than life experience allows.»

Here's a few more excerpts from the article:

Working with Xenomania:
Brian Higgins: «It isn’t an entirely benign environment. The work ethic is so total. When people sign up, they sign up for a lot; it’s a fundamental lifestyle change. While they’re here, all these artists are used to witnessing a lot of success, but what they also see is, no limos, no champagne, nothing other than, ‘Right, what are we getting on with today?’ That culture is deeply ingrained.»

Alex Vargas: «Most people, when they have a No 1, will go to the pub to celebrate, and get lashed. Whereas in the Xenomania house, if they have one, they go, ‘Okay, let’s beat it.’ You have to be made of a certain material to be able to survive in an environment like that. There are people that come and go very quickly because they can’t handle it. I’ve been beaten up, verbally, a couple of times.»

Brian Higgins speaks about Alex Vargas
Higgins says he was attracted to Vargas (...) because he could hear in his head the music he felt the front man should be making. “You have to meet the right person. It’s not fate, I don’t mean that, and I don’t really believe in it. It’s all about chemistry and connection. As important as I knew I was for Alex, because I had a vision of where he could be, he was of critical, enormous importance to us, because of this sense that we would be able to move forward into areas we hadn’t been able to go to before, because there hadn’t been a voice of that nature.”

Alex Vargas speaks about Brian Higgins
(...) [Higgins] is a man on a mission, and, says Vargas, never really switches off. “At one of the Christmas parties,” the singer recalls, “we had all the amps set up in the purple room, all these musicians, and we ended up having this blues jam. And afterwards, Brian goes, ‘That song, what was that? Could you do it again?’ ”

(...) "He’s a very intimidating man. I was so impressed with how he opened my eyes; just the brutal honesty — you don’t get that with many people.” Vargas is convinced the experience was good for him, painful though it was. “You know the expression ‘killing your babies’?” he laughs. “Well, please don’t highlight this, but Brian will kill your babies.”

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