In the spotlight – Vix 20

In the spotlight – Vix 20

Vix20 comprises of Gary Mills and CJ, two music industry veterans who became so disillusioned with the state of every element of the music industry that they walked away, vowing never to return. Years later the duo have returned to the industry they previously left behind. This time with the help of Kill and Rich. I sat down with Gary Mills to chat about the band name, their creative process and other things.

How and when did you meet?

“CJ and I met at school, I think our girlfriends at the time were friends, although I had known about him for years as he was the best drummer in our school, so we formed a band and eventually signed to Red Bullet in the Netherlands. Kill and I met through our band Hypo Psycho. We have played hundreds of gigs together and have written as many songs. We both met Rich through another project which lead us to become a power trio, playing in different projects but sticking together whenever possible. So once CJ and I released our first single ‘Digital Age‘ there was only one rhythm section for the job.”

“In many ways Vix is a super group of my playing career.”

About the band name. I’ve read somewhere you were named after a Commodore VIC-20 computer?

“Yes, that’s exactly right! It was my first computer and a snapshot of where we sit in the world. Plus I have a hobby of collecting old computers…although I have to sneak them in the house these days.”

What bands have influenced your sound?

“It’s hard to pin down exactly where the influences have come from in our sound, our releases are never really that close together. Abba to Zeppelin with holiday homes in funk jazz vile. Golden Earring on holiday with The Midnight…hmmmmm. I’ve no idea really. CJ produces all our tunes, so quite often I think we are going in a particular direction and he will turn it on its head. We always start in power pop, from there it’s a mystery until it arrives.”

I always love hearing about the creative process, so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into that. What inspires you most?

“It’s all about our own life experiences and what’s going on at the time. Quite often there are several stories going on at once, we write different parts of the tune and the stories will cross over and crash into one another! We also write about our friends and their experiences although all the names are changed to protect the innocent. We write and demo regularly. Over a period of time the strong tunes will stand out from the others and we then take those forward.”

Broken Melody’ is one of my favourite songs in our current chart. It was your first release in a year. You were a bit scared for this release. Are you happy with the response to ‘Broken Melody’?

“I was a bit scared of this one, you’re absolutely right. It’s quite a personal song and as much as we are busy with social media and proactive with promotion, I definitely felt wide open as it’s about my daughter. It’s so different from our other songs – it was at least in my opinion, a gamble.”

“The song started with Kill and I, and CJ finished the writing and produced a beautiful song but I was never sure if I was comfortable in being so honest. The response has been incredible. I’m so happy that so many people have identified with it particularly other parents. All the anxiety I had about the song has gone and I’m now extremely proud of it. My daughter on the other is completely mortified, and stands by her review at the end of the 7 minute version.” (“It’s a little bit rubbish dad.”, ed.)

I was really impressed by your animated video to ‘Broken Melody’, but I understood the animations weren’t made especially for the video. What can you tell us about the making of the video? Also the video was completely different from your usual rocking videos. Did that have anything to do with the lockdown?

“An excellent question. You’re correct on all points. We have all been making and recording music for so many years it’s very much part of normal life, so making the videos is when we have the most fun. Because of lockdown, we had planned and in fact made a lyric video for ‘Broken Melody’ but it just didn’t do it justice. CJ discovered the beautiful animation by Anthony F Scheppard – in it’s original form of 5 mins and although stunning it didn’t quite sit correctly. After several weeks of slowing down and editing CJ managed to marry them together to a magnificent result.”

You had plans to tour in 2020, but then the world changed due to the pandemic and key worker duties took priority. You also have a podcast. How do you balance all of your commitments with making music?

“The easiest answer, I’m extremely lucky. CJ and I work very well together as a team. We write together but then handle different aspects of running a band. I have a wonderful family that understand I need to be as creative as possible and that means I’m always busy. My month is broken up between planning and recording the podcast and demoing as many new ideas as possible. CJ is constantly working on our next tune between his work commitments and we come together regularly for the podcast. Which we love doing! We never thought The Vix Essentials would take off like it has. An idea discussed with Chris Hyde from Sound of Spitfire, his encouragement has turned our podcast into a syndicated radio show that is broadcast on over 20 stations. It’s a real privilege to play talented writers who haven’t had any radio coverage and bands that sit on the very edge of breaking into larger audiences and the best thing is we have a bit of a giggle doing it.”

What artists are getting you excited at the moment?

“The best thing about having a podcast we have discovered so many incredible artists so I could literally write a page full. We have a couple of playlists that I put all my favorite new songs and artists please check them out as everyone one of the artist deserves a mention.”

What’s next for Vix 20?

“Well more podcasts. We have a few more releases coming this year. First up in April a remix single of our synth wave track ‘Tron Takes the Train’. The brain child of DJ producer Spatial Awareness. He has approached a selection of producers to put their own take on our song. Brilliant and unexpected experience! Then into the summer months we return to our power pop/rock n roll roots expect videos!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool 20?

“Such an incredible list of talent something for every mood. I love ‘Antidote‘ and ‘Damnation‘, but my favourite rite now is ‘Hangman‘… incredible vocal, love it.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“I’d like to add a tune by Andy J Gallagher called ‘Sheena’s Big Night Out. Another person instrumental in the encouragement of Vix20. Kill, Rich and I have been Andy’s band for many years. He doesn’t play to much, but when he is motivated to pick up his guitar there isn’t another songwriter like him, unique artist and I respect him highly. Andy heard an early Vix demo and put us in touch with his label. The rest is history.”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

“If any bands want to appear on our podcast they can submit to us through our social media and all our episodes can be found here.