November 01, 2003

RONAN HARRIS OF VNV NATION

By Justin Schneider/ Kat Toronto†

In a world fast becoming a toxic hell there is a lack of positivism from a world of individuals and Ronan Harris isnít in that majority. Ronan is the mastermind behind the successful ďFuture PopĒ band VNV Nation. ďFuture PopĒ is the term that Ronan uses to describe the bands captivating melodies on top of hard dance rhythms. While promoting the new VNV Nation release I caught up with Ronan to discuss his new album, views and future.

Justin Schneider: So how long did it take to complete ďFuture PerfectĒ?
Ronan: All in all if I had to think about it, which I had to think about it this time around I would say two years not the writing or recording process but just stewing up all my ideas. I was totally computer oriented on this album. The whole album was done with one PC, nothing else was used and I love that because people will say, ďI got to see your studioĒ and Iíll say alright and theyíll come up to the studio and thereís like one computer, a screen, a mouse, an audio interface, amplifier and two speakers and that was it. I just packed everything away and said thatís what Iím going to concentrate on. You focus your ideas. I wanted to make a focused album, drawing as many ideas and influences together but kind of organizing them all. I used the thought processing program called The BRAIN which I was introduced to years ago. Where you draw your thoughts out like molecules and itís the most incredible program. Go check it out on the internet, itís called the The BRAIN and ití! s a program by Matt Artificial.

JS: as far as technology is this an easy program to use?

Ronan: as far as technology, you can never write down all your ideas on a sheet of paper in a straight line, this is just like saying hereís my album, I want lyrics, and you just spawn off thoughts and notes for each thought.

JS: so itís easy to use?
Ronan: Incredibly, cause it works like your brain. So when you work it like your brain you can take pretty much whatever you can work with. When you touch on a thought it spins around like a molecule so it looks awesome too. It gives you the feeling that Iím using the future. (laughs) But I used this technology on this record. I write aí lot of songs in my head. I write the vibe and feel of the song and I jam aí lot. I just sit there and write a song with how feel with a certain sound and Iím just like ďItís written for meĒ and then it just gets turned into a song and put on an album I suppose, Aeroships was like that. I just sat there writing a song, the last song on the album. I was writing the song in my head and I was haunted by this melody and I broke the whole thing down as I wanted it, like this big buildup of an eight and a half minute epic. Itís giving me liberation. As a musician I want to write my own music. I used to play with other musicians and bands in the pas! t and you know youíre always fighting, but if I have a concept in my head the way I view it itís like my own symphony. I setup my studio and I had been playing around with melodies and different ideas and different things and I just had the whole thing worked out and I said nope Iím saving it until I get to Hamburg. I got to Hamburg, Frank gave me a room and studio and I basically setup all of my equipment and I did it and it worked. JS: would you consider ďFuture PerfectĒ the best VNV Nation album? Ronan: I think theyíre all important. Theyíre all parts of my life; theyíre thoughts and feelings that are very important and personal to me. In some ways yeah it is because itís more focused, itís reached more people, and the whole point of what weíre doing is to reach as many people as possible but without being superficial about it. Thereís a certain amount of intelligence to it. There is aí lot of intelligence and emotion of the lyrics in the music. I wanted it to be a more sort of wide ranging electronic album. Future Perfect does sound a lot better, it doesnít sound like it was recorded in a garage anymore and on those levels and things it still gets the point across, but for me it was really important because a lot of bands have this problem where they do one album and everybody likes it and then they try to do this second album and it falls on its face. The album was ready just about the time the tour was last year so it didnít take to long to get it all ready and finally recorded out. I was thrilled to take care of all my vocals and mixing and everything like that myself. I just worked alone till about five in the morning.

JS: working till five in the morning, I love that.
Ronan: yeah but after awhile you kind of get this lack of sunlight thing (laughs) and you do get down.

JS: yeah, you become a hermit Ronan: yeah I was a hermit for five months, you get really down and you began to lack social skills after awhile. JS: was there anything that greatly influenced the album?
Ronan: Iíll tell you the main thing was basically I wanted to draw a lot of influences in together from times in our past. In our collective past there was an inspiration for self betterment of the future and I wanted to point out that the world weíre living in at the moment isnít the most perfect world. One hundred years ago there was this big drive which motivated people to come up with things like futurism and modernism. Iím not talking about the movements themselves but Iím talking about the drive. Youth were responsible for all of that. They were the ones who came up with the great ideas that we could build a fantastic world for everybody and etc. The world for us and not us for the world, which I think is actually how it turned out, we ended up having to fit the world. I drew a lot of influences in like the Futurism. The Chicago Worlds Fair was the inspiration for the album cover. There is an advert poster for it that has a kinship it, and also there was a Soviet futur! ism expo, because there were like two isms at the time of a past before the world went mad. I also took influence from a lot of 70ís electronic music. There were a lot of bands that said ďoh the future is going to be all psychedelic, brilliant and beautiful and itís all going to be wonderfulĒ and I took influence from that because theyíre kind of elements of optimism, and yet itís cynical optimism because the world is not fantastic, and Future Perfect is just an introspective album. I took influence from a lot of different styles of music. I listen to a huge variety of music, everything from new metal to classical opera and really heavy electronic stuff and trance to you name it and I listen to it. I think vocally I would like to sing like the vocalist I like. I would even say this, someone pointed out to me who knew I liked the band TOOL, and he said itís amazing because you actually sing so much more varied on some of your songs and that if some of the songs were done on g! uitar they would have been TOOL songs. But Iím not a metal head and I never was, itís just this is the type of music and I have an open mind to a lot of stuff. So a lot of influences from books and films to etc.

JS: what kind of films would you say influenced it?
Ronan: One film I would say influenced it is ďDark CityĒ. Because it painted a city and it was like a futuristic twilight zone. One of my favorite films of all time is a film by the name of ďWings of DesireĒ. In one and a half hours it sums up humanity. Itís a German film done by Wim Wenders with English subtitles. It was intended for an English audience and all it is about is two angels in Berlin who hear the thoughts of everybody as they walk past them so people never move their lips in the film, you just hear their thoughts in the overdubs. Itís the most incredible sum of what we are as a species. This film has always kind of inspired me to write about humanity and human spirit. People always ask me if Iím religious and my reply to them is that Iím spiritual. I found my own truth because I view religions as just a mechanism to understanding the workings of the universe. I donít think that theyíre going to give me all the fantastic answers. You will find your own truth if ! you want it or need it. I just want to convey how it is to be the human spirit in a world that seems to try to dehumanize us.

JS: Have you seen that film La Jetťe? actually ď12 MonkeysĒ is based on this French film. The whole thing is black and white and itís all still photographs and yet it progresses and itís like a regular film. Ronan: no I havenít, Iím going to check that one out.

JS: what music do you find yourself listening to?
Ronan: Iíve always been interested in European club culture like the get up in the air and wave your hands in the air type of stuff. I want to hear anything new and anything different. I still listen to a lot of classical music and strange weird stuff. I started to listen to a lot of dark ambience, I donít know why; it just struck a chord with me again. I stopped listening to it five years ago and now thereís a whole new wave of it. I like listening to things that have a whole a totally different vibe then what Iím doing. I canít say thereís one particular thing.

JS: so every type of music?
Ronan: not Britney Spears (laughs) Mark loves Britney Spears I donít know why (laughs). I just despise it.

JS: Do you have any side-projects and what are your future plans?
Ronan: Weíre going to be doing a live DVD, and weíre going to finish editing to that. I want to do something different with it then what other people have done. What we do is special and I want to orient it that way. Iím also working on a soundtrack for something that isnít a film and isnít a book and Iím going to start working on that in June. Itís not going to be VNV. Itís going to be a soundtrack with live artist and real instruments, which I love saying that (laughs) Itís going to be something that is quite big and epic and Iím going to work on that for about a year. Iíll usually start on something and stop and go off on something else then come back to it and everything will cross pollinate. Then of course Iíll work and put out a new VNV Nation album in the future.

VNV NationóFUTURE PERFECT is now available www.vnvnation.com www.vnvnation.de

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