VNV Nation Interview
Alberta Stars Exclusive Interview with Ronan Harris
the singer of VNV Nation
VNV Nation stopped at the city of champions in late September for 2 shows. Since Iím not too keen on going to an all ages concert, I got myself all lined up for Friday night. Through previous contact with Shannon from promotional department over at Metropolis Records I had an interview lined up with VNV Nation for Friday night before the show. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, VNV Nation crew got delayed a little so my original plan to do an interview at 6.30pm, when there would be no people at New City and no music played back got crushed and all I could do is wait and hope they would show up before the doors open.
You know Murphyís Laws though, donít you? Scott was already spinning and Terry, the New City manager says said she couldn't hold the people outside any longer. VNV Nation arrived just as the people started pouring in. That was when I got to meet the real Ronan Harris. He must be the most approachable and the most affable person on the planet. Definitely the coolest man to talk to and to hang out with. The positive spirit Ronan Harris radiates had all my worries diminished and I knew I had nothing to worry about. I knew that loud music and fans all over the place will be no obstacle to our interview and we were gonna do it and enjoy every minute of it. Ronan Harris is just a super cool manÖ
Unlike most other musicians who get affected by being rich and famous once their band takes off, Ronan Harris is nothing like that and his level of friendliness and approachability seems shocking to someone who hangs around ďbig bandsĒ all the time. Add to it an immense passion for music, great talent and dedication and you get the pure gold out of it.
Ronan took me to that little lounge they have just above the stage at New City, I pulled up my video gear, sat the man down, he lit up his cigarette and I pressed the record button. Just like that, holding the cam on my knee. We only had about 10 minutes and the music was already really loud (damn Scott, you promised to turn it down so I can do the interview). So I started asking away and this is how my VNV Nation interview with Ronan Harris, the singer of the band went:
Ronan, this is your second day in Edmonton. How was the last nightís show?
Ronan Harris - There wasnít as many people as we hoped for but it was the first time that theyíve done an all ages show here in this club. Really enthusiastic people, I have to say! Extremely enthusiastic. Some you could describe as fanatical. But it was a very good experience. I mean, every time weíve been here, the crowdís always been great. And tonightís sold out, as you know, so itís gonna be a packed house. For a town like Edmonton, for us to be able to play for this many people over two nights is great.
Did you get a chance to go sightseeing?
Ronan Harris - Iíve been here a few times before. Iíve been here when I lived in Toronto. I did business with the company out here, so I kind of took a wander in Edmonton a few times, soÖ I know the city. Itís a lovely place. I very much like it.
You were born in Ireland, but you live in Germany.
Ronan Harris - I live in Hamburg, Germany, thatís where I live.
How are you liking it there?
Ronan Harris - I love it. It feels like the place I always wanted to live inÖ I donít know how to explain it. Itís that time of my life. At this time of my life it is the right place for me. I have everything I need there at the moment. Itís a great city; itís a very unique city. Itís not a very representative city of the whole Germany; itís a very different place with a big mixture of people from all over the place. Itís a great creative vibe, thereís a lot of studios, a lot of musicians, a lot of people making their own thingÖ itís got a very alternative culture but itís very humble, itís not very arrogant. I would describe Berlin as being very arrogant cityÖ because of its music scene it thinks itís a centre of everything. And I donít agree. So I think, for the music Iím doing and for the lifestyle I want, itís everything I need.
Do you still visit Ireland much?
Ronan Harris - I do when I get a chance.
Howís your German?
Ronan Harris - Itís pretty good (says something in German I didnít understandÖ), thatís what I would say.
What happened to your Irish accent?
Ronan Harris - Itís there, but itísÖ When Iím traveling, or when Iím outside of the country, I adopt an international accent. Which means my accent is kept to a minimum, and whenever Iím traveling, my accent just fits the mood. But when I talk to my family youíll hear my accent. Oh yeah.
What was the reaction to your latest CD Judgement?
Ronan Harris - I think compared to any other CD weíve done, it was the most overwhelming positive response, plus, outside of, sayÖ industrial scene, the band has reached a lot of audiences, from many different backgrounds, so it was really cool to see so many news magazines and music magazines, websites giving us coverage and reviewing the album and giving it really high points. As far as critics are concerned, thatís one side, but the fans themselves came back with the extremely positive response Ė very overwhelmingly positive. Thereís always gonna be some people who want us always to make that album that we made 10 years ago forever, but you canít do that. We have to keep progressing. And there was that one good comment I liked about it Ė it was that people did notice that was a great deal of progress on it, compare to other albums. There are so many people who get criticized for staying the same and Iím kind of happy that a lot of people noticed that that was a big jump forward for us. Just a path in our progress. Thereíll be a lot more progress I would say to come, because Iím gonna start working on the next album in January and thereís gonna be a lot of other things I want to experiment with on that.
So VNV Nation is gonna go onÖ
Ronan Harris - I donít know why anybody would think that it wouldnítÖ
Just making sure youíre not gonna quit on us at your best ;)
Ronan Harris - We love what we do. We absolutely love it. Our lifestyle brought us to every corner of the planetÖ almost. Weíve met amazing great people, we enjoy making music, we love sharing that musicÖ I canít say I could ever want more.
Where do you take the inspiration from when you write music?
Ronan Harris - Itís hard to say. A lot of it can come from what Iíve been listening to for the previous year. But I listen to so many different styles of music, that I canít put my finger on one thing. Thereís just many different flavors. And as you know with our albums Ė thereís a lot of variety on the albums anyway, so the inspirations come from every corner. They could come from a book, a piece of music I hear in the film or a band that I particularly like or an album I like, or a track I like. There are too many things. I tend to not listen to music form this scene when Iím making an album. I tend to expose my listening taste to as many different artists and styles of music as possible - but things that I enjoy. I donít go out looking for whatever is popular and trendy. I go out and listen to what I like, I try to find things that I like and try to listen to as many different styles of music that are around at the time. Itís always very inspirational.
As far as making music and running a band is concerned Ė is there anything you would like to accomplish, but havenít yet?
Ronan Harris - I have a number of things that Iíve always wanted to do, like for example I would like to do a classical version of VNV songs and a concert. Maybe with a string quartet, maybe a small orchestra. I mean these are dreams. I would like to do a soundtrack for a big movie. I would like to do a soundtrack for a silent movie. But the main thing is - we like to reach people. People hear about us through word of mouth and I would like to bring our music to a lot more people. But we donít really have the resources for that. Weíre still a small band in many ways, we still have only a few of us working, and trying to handle as much as possible, so itís not always possible to achieve every opportunity that we come across. But we try our best.
Who does your artwork for CD covers?
Ronan Harris - With Judgement it was a guy in Poland called Michail Karsh (not sure if I got his name right) and he did an incredible job on the album cover. He has a very unique, very distant dream-like artwork style. For Matter + Form I did a concept and I gave this then to a professional artist to finish. With Futureperfect I did the cover with some assistance form another concept artist, but in general all the merchandise and all that graphic art is kind of like Ė someone will come up with basic ideas and weíll add to it, but Iím very involved in the process. Iím either doing the artwork myself or working with somebody together on it to create something that I think works for the music.
The question that typically musicians donít like, but if you were to categorize the music of VNV NationÖ
Ronan Harris - ÖI can answer that right now before you finish. I like to say ďAlternative ElectronicĒ because I donít like to be put inside the borders. I think weíre an alternative electronic band with our roots in the EBM scene, but weíre not strictly EBM. And I donít think we ever really were. I mean we do soundtrack pieces, we do ballads, we do a lot of different things, soÖ I donít think itís very easy to categorize us. I think weíre alternative electronic band with a very melancholic touch. I leave that up to the fans to try to decide but they always try to argue about what we should be categorized as. Some people like us who come form the techno side of things, some people like us who come from the alternative guitar side of things, and then of course thereís the industrial and goth crowd. Everybodyís got a different view of what we are. Me personally, I think we fit very nicely into the industrial scene, but we also fit into so many other scenes. SoÖ we have scope, we have a lot of reach as a band and I like that.
I have this on the tape, but I decided to make the video more exciting. Basically at this point I had asked Ronan for one last thing Ė if he had one message to pass on to his friends here in Alberta and all over the world, what would it be? And Ronan summed it up into:
Ronan Harris - Thanks for the support and keep listening because thereís a message in there for everybody who listens to it. Even the people who just like the happy melodies, but the music does speak to people. It is speaking about a lot of things about who people are. And I would like the people to listen to it and get something form that. And I hope they do.
I thanked the man, we shook hands and I stepped down having no idea at the time that the show which was about to take place will kick this much ass. What a show. VNV Nation delivered. Iíve never seen New City this packed before, Iíve never seen a band get called back on stage this many times, Iíve never seen so much energy to connect the act on stage with the audience below. VNV Nation played an unforgettable concert. And that comes from a man who used to do 80 concerts a year!