Viggie & Vika Thaw Iceland with Scorching Metal, Part 1: Interview with Brian Viglione
This is a joining of forces of epic proportions.
Even if you’re familiar with drummer Brian Viglione as one-half of The Dresden Dolls, you may not be acquainted with pianist Vika Yermolyeva, whose arrangements and performances of metal songs on the piano have become a YouTube phenomenon. Like Viglione, Yermolyeva is an awesome talent. And, like Yermolyeva, Viglione is a lifelong metal fanatic. This Saturday January 29, Viggie & Vika play their first concert of classic metal songs together at Sodoma, a club in Yermolyeva’s current hometown of Reykjavik, Iceland.
Yes, Iceland. In January.
Says Viglione, “There’s nothing to provide inspiration to get warm like the freezing cold, so hopefully through pounding fucking metal, we’ll achieve that end.” And then some. The combined powers of his and Yermolyeva’s fierce playing and the intensity of their shared love of heavy metal is likely to ignite the venue in a spontaneous combustion of energy that eclipses the Northern Lights.
“It’s gonna be sick!” Viglione predicts. “We’re gonna absolutely fuckin’ tear shit up when we get out there!”
Iceland: prepare to melt.
Original Hipster: How did you find Vika?
Brian Viglione: I found Vika on a late-night YouTube exploration, watching Slayer and Metallica live videos, and all of a sudden you see on the little sidebar, “Piano cover of ‘Battery’” pop up. And I thought, this sounds great. And just went on a wild odyssey of all of her different videos that I could find and was just absolutely blown away and found myself maniacally drumming away on my desk and getting really, really excited. Thinking, man, this is unbelievable!
I thought, well, maybe someday I’ll work up the guts to write to her and just say hi, great job, or something. So a couple months went by…and one night I finally just decided to write her a hello and introduce myself and introduce the idea of maybe doing a collaboration.
I thought, it’s a shot in the dark. Who knows? Maybe a couple months down the road, I’ll hear back. And within ten minutes, she wrote back and said, “Yeah, absolutely! I’d love to work with you! And I’ve heard of Dresden Dolls, and I’ve liked you guys for a while, and that would be great! We should definitely do a show together.” And I was like, all right! Enthusiasm and promptness! That’s a good sign!
OH: Can you give me a sneak preview of what songs you might play together?
BV: Yeah! We’re still tossing around some ideas, but the whole idea sprung from the fact that this is a teenage dream of mine that had never been fulfilled—to be in a thrash metal band with somebody. (laughs) And so, be it that there was never really a guitar player around to do it, and Vika completely rips, piano and drums it shall be. So, that’s going to be sort of at the core of it. But the songs that piqued my interest when I saw her playing—“Battery”, “One”, “Raining Blood”…I think we’re going to try to keep it to some of the more well-known thrash and metal songs of the 80s and 90s.
OH: What do you think your and Vika’s musical chemistry is going to be like?
BV: (laughs) Like two eighth-graders jumping up and down and turning the amps up to eleven is pretty much what I’m expecting. We were emailing each other pictures of the goat horns. It’s really exciting when you find somebody that you feel is a kindred spirit. All of these songs that we grew up listening to, that stuff is nearly imprinted on your DNA.
OH: What was the first metal song or album that grabbed you?
BV: The first metal record was probably the first Black Sabbath record. I remember in probably the fifth grade, my friend Casey Donovan found a version of it on vinyl and brought it over and was like, “Dude! Check it out!” And I remember being terrified of the creepy cover but then listening to the opening song, like the church bell and the rain and that menacing riff that comes thundering in… That’s great when you actually find music that is legitimately fear-inducing.
OH: What was the first metal concert you went to?
BV: The first metal concert I went to was Pantera. April 8, the day that Kurt Cobain was found dead, actually. It was a pretty surreal day for all my friends. We were all in eighth grade.
OH: What are your thoughts on the percussive combination of both piano and drums?
BV: I think if you’re coming from a similar place in how you want the songs to come across, and your approach complements each other, then it can work out great. That’s got to be the thing. You have to have a sympathetic view to one another. The heavy metal stuff definitely needs to be expressed with a lot of conviction, and I think Vika and I see very much eye-to-eye in that… And I think that’s where I wind up gelling with Amanda [Palmer] very much, as well…I love playing “War Pigs” with Amanda, and this is kind of the next extension of that.
OH: Will there be any vocals by you or Vika?
BV: I’ll probably be shouting my head off in unrestrained bliss.
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