Joe Thornalley, who goes by his producer name Vegyn, is a multi-hyphenated producer, designer, DJ and label head. Something of a legend in producing circles and the electronic music scene, he has collaborated with some of the most renowned rap and R&B artists, including production work on Frank Ocean’s 2016 album Blonde. Eight years on, Thornalley’s latest album, The Road to Hell is paved With Good Intentions, is as much a culmination of his years of experience as it is a celebratory though sombre ode to musical freedom and artistic collaboration.
Four years after the release of his last solo album, Vegyn’s latest emerges to the warm refrain of John Glacier’s vocals singing “at least the sun still shines.” It is a simple assurance that seems to speak to Thornalley’s free-flowing creative process that produced this album. Letting go of any pressures to blanket his own ego, that process was entirely fluid and spontaneous, following inspiration whenever it arises. Perhaps this is the virtue of almost a decade of experience and a portfolio as impressive as his. 
Without the pressure to prove himself, Vegyn has relaxed into the simple pleasure of making music. That pleasure is most tangible in the buoyant Halo Flip featuring Lauren Auder, described by another journalist as reminiscent of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony. And even beyond this song, there is something of Urban Hymns’ fading hedonism, as it soundtracked the end of Britain’s second summer of love, throughout the whole album too. As the wildness of the dream fades out, the album pushes towards a kind of serenity simultaneously cut through by something like sadness. 
What arises is a sense of ‘happy melancholia’ as ambiguous as the album’s title, though I get the sense Thornalley invites the listener to dwell in that ambiguity. Rather than reaching for conclusions that may not exist, perhaps we ought to accept non-explanations, to concede as Auder sings, “it is just like that” and then move on. As he moves towards the album release, we spoke to Joe about his creative process, collaborators, the future of independent record labels, and the joy of letting go. The album will be released on Friday 5 April on his label PLZ Make it Ruins, to soundtrack all your joyful retreats to melancholy.
Firstly, congratulations on the new album. How do you feel in anticipation of its release?
I’m excited and very much ready for this project to be out in the world and off of my hard drive.
It’s been described as a culmination of years of experience and a refinement of your craft. If  you could pinpoint the key moments in your career until now, what would those be?
I’m not entirely sure, I’ve gotten to work with some really cool people throughout my career and have had the opportunities to release a lot of music in the process. Here’s to more releases and collaborations in the future.
Does this album feel to you like a culminating milestone in your career or standout project in  your oeuvre?
I don’t really think about releasing music in that way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more and more disillusioned with personal egoic desires. It’s just another stepping stone towards whatever comes next. I just hope that I can continue to share the work I make.
The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions is your second official solo album, coming four years after Only Diamonds Cut Diamonds. When did the initial ideas or inspiration for this album arise and how did the project evolve from there?
Probably around 2022 after the release of Like A Good Old Friend. Lots of trial and error along with some planetary alignment later, and here we are.
What is the meaning behind it’s title, The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions?
I think it’s more interesting if a title asks more questions than it answers. For me, it’s unimportant to share what I actually think. I’m instead much more interested in letting the listener come to their own conclusion.
Only Diamonds ends with the slightly unsettling near silence at the end of Blue Verb Reprise. Comparing that to the emergent chords of A Dream Goes On Forever, the first song  on Road to Hell, this latest album feels, to me, like a consolatory and satisfying encore to the  last. How would you describe this change in tone? What prompted it – was your creative process or mindset different in the production of your second album than it was in your first?
I wouldn’t say there is much of a direct change in my mindset, but I think a record can take a long time to take shape as sometimes I’m not even sure as to what it is I’m trying to say. I found the process with this album was much less about proving myself and much more about playing to my strengths and letting the project take shape in a more natural way.
Is it right that you wrote the songs while moving between hotel rooms, studios and living  rooms globally? What was it like to make an album in this state of flux?
I have changed a lot since I began making this project. Most of the time, it’s unclear as to when inspiration may strike. Nowadays though, I try to be more focused in completing something within a much shorter time frame. I find that by limiting the duration of the creative process, there is less time for second guessing yourself. As a result, the ideas have a more cohesive rhythm to them.
Were there any points, or any songs, that you found particularly difficult or posed creative  blocks while making the album? How did you get past those?
Working on something else, working with someone else, or simply, going to the ideas section of Ralph’s supermarket is usually where I would find myself.
The album also features artists John Glacier, Ethan P. Flynn, Léa Sen, Lauren Auder and Matt  Maltese. Why were you drawn to this collaborative process?
Because it happened naturally and without great effort.
Many of those artists are also signed to your label PLZ Make it Ruins, and you’ve mentioned before the importance of owning all your own work. Why do you think Independent Labels are important in the Major-dominated music industry currently? Do you think the future is positive for independent labels and artists?
I wouldn’t say any of them are signed to me. Ethan and I worked on one single together and released it on PLZ. John Glacier and I made one project together and released it on PLZ. I don’t really like this idea of having any dominion over other people. In fact, I am becoming more and more disenfranchised with running a label as time goes on. It’s a lot of work and the things you care the most about don’t tend to get the shine they deserve. That’s just life I suppose. I think the future for independent labels is bleak (that’s not to say there aren’t others out there releasing interesting works), but it’s very bright for independent artists.
Between now and your last album, you have released various singles, two EPs, another 75+ song mixtape albums and a satirical AI project album under the pseudonym Headache. Do you often find yourself working on numerous projects at a time, constantly working and experimenting? Why do you think you are drawn to this busyness?
I just work quickly, I don’t tend to think about it too much beyond if I’m having fun doing it or I think it’d be funny. I think letting go of that makes for much more of an enjoyable life as an artist.
Do you have any ideas of what you’d like to work on next?
No real plans, maybe another mixtape. Likely a sequel to Headache. Right now, I’m quite enjoying working on clothing for PLZ Make It Ruins.
Finally, you’ve been in the industry for around a decade now, what would be your best advice  for emerging producers or musicians?
Don’t trust anyone. Hold onto your Masters. Only take the check if you truly have no other option.