Ronan Harris (VNV Nation)
The latest album ‘Of Faith, Power and Glory’ has been released in June 2009 and currently, the band is touring to promote the album. Before the show taking place on 18th September 2009 in Krefeld, another sold-out one btw, we had the chance for an extensive interview with VNV Nation mastermind Ronan Harris. Ronan was very talkative and filled us in on many things you'll surely find interesting as well.
Taking place in a little room backstage, we met Ronan in best temper while the ROTERSAND sound check was taking place in the hall. With some chitchat about the last interview Ronan was taking, about record collections and so-called vinyl-fetishism we easily found into the real topic, the new album which is out now for a while… what commented Ronan right away: It’s only two months the other journalists haven’t heard it when they did the interview. They heard snippets. Bad quality snippets… I might add… what Ronan commented…
It wasn’t intentional. It’s just that we have an agreement with our American Record Company and in America it’s normal to release stuff in mono and here its 96 kbps encoded Mp3. It’s just for journalists to write something about the new album… I think it was 64 kbps. It didn’t sound too good when we were working with it. You were one of the few people who said that. The problem is that a lot of journalists in the scene are used to getting the full quality thing. That’s just not possible anymore, because the last time we did this the album was online in about two hours. I know who did it and they’ll never get a copy of me again. What else could I do?
Definitely a difficult topic… nothing one could do I guess except for not giving anything to journalists anymore, but that’s not the right way either. And so, Ronan added: We did some listening sessions with four big magazines. We had them listening to the whole album and one of them was sitting there recording the whole thing saying he would need this for writing the article later and I asked him why he was here, because I paid for him to come here to listen to the album in full quality and that’s more than everyone else gets. For his needs I could have send him some mp3s. According to the mono copies, American labels usually send out, he added: I don’t want a mono copy going around on the net but it gives people an idea about the styles, or at least the make-up of the songs, but it’s better than snippets in full quality.
What made us agreeing to this comment… because otherwise you can just hear one part of the song and you’ve got now idea how it turns out… The whole song is the important thing as is with all the other songs I’ve written; ‘Darkangel’ for example which is going back a long time ago. The point of the song is the last part of it. It’s just 1:30 minutes. But everything else before that I sonly bringing you to that point! I’d say there are many songs I’ve written where it’s like that. In ‘Where there’s Light’ everything’s bringing you to this slow piano part and then it’s building back up. I mean, there’s dark before there’s light, you need the contrasts. Well, to put a conclusion, it’s better than snippets.
But we wanted to know of course more about the latest album. So back to topic… what was most interesting at first for us, when did the first ideas for the album take shape in Ronan’s mind? He replied: The concept for it was made maybe a year before I finished it. I started writing tracks. I started writing tracks about two years before as far as go. I think ‘The Great Divide’ was the first song and I was just having fun playing music instead of writing something for a concept. I’m doing it like this for lots of years and I picked the ones I think fitted to the concept I had in mind. But I had no idea what I wanted this album to be about or how I wanted it to sound. I wanted it to have a lot of variety. But there’s was no defined point in time when everything was solid because even the song ‘Verum Aeternus’ was going to be a hidden track, like a reprise from another track. The problem is that the track isn’t on the album, so there’s no connection. So in the end I came home from DJing and I left this club at maybe 5 in the morning, got an a train to Hamburg, went into the studio where I wanted to work for two hours literally ended up working on that track from 10 AM until 6 AM the next morning. I was just having fun with it.
When I wanted to know if this happens more often, he stated: Things like that happen. Like starting with an idea and it’s nothing to you yet, but then suddenly you get this inspiration and start rolling with it, building it into something. For me what I’m writing s like a painter painting a picture. A sonic image! There were only few people I’ve ever met who understand what I’m doing. It’s like certain harmonies in the music react with me in a very unusual way, and they hit me on a deep level. I know a lot of musicians who do this, I know painters who do this. It has to affect you in a specific way and if it gets momentum you can write 4-6 tracks and have fun with it. But all the time it’s me sitting in the studio playing with a piano sound or a string sound playing music for myself, because ultimately I don’t write albums for the public. I write albums for myself so that the concept is clear to me and try to transform it in a way that it will make sense to the public.
Starting some kind of monologue, he went on: There are songs I’ve written that have subject that I would never talk about, that I would sometimes never talk to my friends about, because their ultimately personal and music for me is the only way to describe the feelings of what I’m talking about. They’re like an outlet for my feelings, a print of what’s going on in my life at the moment and even 10 or 12 years later. I can see where I was, I know the atmosphere of the room, of all the location around it, I can smell the air. It’s bizarre! If I hear ‘Solitary’ I know exactly where I was, I know every detail about the room. It’s a bit like synaesthesia. I don’t know if you know what that is. For example it’s people who hear a sound and they see colours. Until recently they’ve though that it’s because their brains are wired the wrong way. No they found out that it has nothing to do with it. They have more pathways in their mind and they sense sound in a totally different way, they hear it and the also see colours associated with it, and it has different forms, some of them incredible.
There are people who actually can see their live as a visual image. They can see time almost like a road and they can go back through all the days of their lives and tell you what they were doing, because their brain works this way. As for me, if I’m writing a song, I’m feeling something that’s beyond pleasure or anything. When I’M listening to a song I’ve written I know exactly what was going on in my mind and what’s happening in my life at that time, as well as being able remembering something special connected with the song that was not about my life. It’s a strange thing. The more emotional attachment I have to a song the deeper the feeling is to a point, where I can remember where I can remember the week etc. There’s one really strange example with one song part where I can remember everything that happened to me that morning. From getting up, what was going on in my mind, what was happening in my life, why I went into the studio and decided to do the song like that! Basically the whole thought process!
Impressed by what he told about creating music, I wanted to know how he reacts when people tell him about their personal feelings about certain songs connected with personal experiences: Well, that would be the majority. The minority are those who come and tell me that they like the music because of the style. A lot people are missing, maybe of language or because they can’t or don’t want to hear it is the message in the music. There’s nothing that I have done musically, in the cover artwork, or in any other aspects of VNV NATION that was meaningless. They’re all tied together to something… and he tells me now how he connects his music with lyrics and artworks before he goes on: I express the thoughts and feelings to those kind of people who I’ve met many of in my life. When I show people that are very, very close to me some e-mails I get from people who have disclosed their deepest and honest feelings to someone they don’t know, not knowing if this person is going to care or not. The music has really helped them, gave them a confirmation that there’s nothing wrong with them no matter if they see things or hear things or feel they don’t belong and that makes me very proud. ‘Empires’ was written at a time when I was going through a lot of difficulties, so was ‘Praise the Fallen’. I was going through a lot of turmoil and chaos in m life, and this was my focus. I used as my artificial light like people who have a friend who helps them through a situation.
‘Arc Light’ was named like this, because in history they had lighthouses that used low lights, lights that weren’t that strong, but somebody invented a thing called the arc light, where two electric, metal rods spark through a chemical, burned it and created the brightest light anyone has ever seen. I wanted to describe the song as arc light, because it was my arc light to help myself out. Strange thing was that when I went to America, where obviously the semantics of the language, the nuances, there are multiple meanings possible with using a certain phrase, and people know they’ve heard that phrase before, or this style of phrase in a book or maybe another book that I’m giving an allusion to like hinting at it or pointing at it, or making a sarcastic version of it.
As you already see, a short question can bring Ronan into telling very long stories. And so, we go deeper into the meaning of his songs for his listeners: On the first gig I did in America I had literally 10 people wanting to talk to me privately to tell me that this music hit them in a way that it wasn’t just a band, and that’s what it is for me it isn’t just a band. I mean, we do everything that a band does, but I always wanted to be something special, so how do I feel? Very happy because it’s part of my nature to want to help people, something I’ve always done whether in music or not. I like the feeling that I made somebody’s life a little better. It’s not why I do it, but it’s basically to tell people “You’re not alone and there are other people like you” and of all these people I guess I’m the type of person that gives them something to hear that keeps them going everyday. Some of the e-mails are just breathtaking from people with strength that I will never have. People who come back from war trying to find their place in the world after theirs have been torn apart.
I’m in contact with a lot of people from Iraq and Afghanistan because of their relations to America who like the band, believing they’re not there for the right reason, but someone has to do it.” Sometimes these are very happy stories, sometimes very sad stories. I get stories from mothers telling me about their children getting out of a state of isolation, finding strength through the music to think “It’s ok to be me and to go out and find other people.” It’s strange, but it’s very humbling. He tells us how impressed by such reactions he is and that he likes to give people time, I like to spent time talking to people. Unfortunately, in some cases you get people telling you “I want more angry songs.” or “I want you to make ‘Empires’ again”.
My usual answer is if they’re polite about it “I’m not angry anymore, but I was angry then. You’re not who you were when you were 16 and I’m not who I was when I was 20 or 30 and ‘Empires’ results of the time and the constancies of what was happening in my mind back then, the music I listened to...” It’s not something I repeat. I mean, we’re not a shop where you can order a product and we just produce it. When people are impolite about it, I usually and quite honestly tell them to go fuck themselves, because I have no time for them. They’re not getting what we’re about, no understanding of what this is about. Maybe, they’ve seen a concert, liked the style, loved the image, loved the sound of the songs, because that worked with their clothing at the time. Maybe it matched their car or something and they like it for very superficial reasons. I find this offensive to me I mean even IQ is not telling anything of a person’s character. I’ve met people who had an IQ of 80 or 90, which would be average or above average. But they’re still trying very hard to express who they are.
I don’t think that the human spirit has a measurement. But I’ve met people with very high IQs who I’d have more fun talking to a wall than talking to them. Intelligence does not dependents on how well you can solve a puzzle, emotional intelligence shall we say. These are people who have no understanding and when I tell them what it’s really about the say “No, it’s not, it’s about this!” and I’m like “Hey, I’m the person who made this and what it is for you is your own choice.” And I’m telling him for example about the cover of the new album. There’s so much symbolism in it. Every album has an unbelievable amount of symbolism in it. Even in the measurements of pixels and the cover, there’s so many hidden messages in there it’s crazy. But a lot of them will never be known. That are things that I like to include. Sometimes it’s based on science, sometimes it’s based on an old believe or something. Just adding a little element to the subject of the album!
I was explaining to someone the cover of ‘FuturePerfect’ and where this came from and that it is a mixture of two posters. One poster was from the American world fair in Chicago in the 1930s and one was from the Soviet equivalent exhibition. Talking about the world and how amazing it’s going to be with its new inventions. It’s grey and it’s blunt, because I wanted it to show that this poster for the future is hollow. It wasn’t exciting with loads of colours and everything’s going to be beautiful because it has been, and here we are in that time 70 years later and what do we show for it? Well, we have washing machines, we have electricity, but we don’t have a better world. I was trying to explain that a lot of symbolism in these albums is based on the subjects I’m talking about and I don’t think that it should be any other way. Just take a book, have look at the inside cover. They’ve taken the time, made the effort to put in some details, imagery, something that’s going to add to it. When you read Tolkien, there are pictures, little diagrams and they’re important to the book, they add this real texture and that’s what I grew up with and what I want to include.
Leading towards the new album, he added: It’s not answering your question but it’s usual for me to explain the cover of the new album. Well, we had that question anyway. So we just let him move on with that topic: Michael, the man who made the cover and I seem to very understand each other. He’s a very troubled artist; he’s the true artist struggling, in pain, fighting to make something that in his mind is perfect probably never being able to properly realize it. I gave him an idea of the concept and he came back with this very strong image. What I wanted to express was that our greatest hopes, our human ideas how wonderful we can be are always connected to the end of us, to examples of worst human behaviour. Furthermore he adds: We’re living in a schizophrenic state. I wanted it to be a powerful, bombastic image.
The tomb of the unknown soldier is a classic image of our hatred of war not our love of it, and I got angry with that people who purely saw a soldier on the front, only Germans purely saw a soldier on the front and immediately meant “I don’t like it it’s military” and I say “Sorry, do you want a world without military?” I’m coming from a country that was torn apart by war and our best chance for the future is to repair that. Taking our example, of what we learned from it and going out to other countries to try making sure that it doesn’t happen there. Germany has learned an awful lot and I’m saying this to Americans all the time. It’s the most militantly pacifist country in the world. It’s like “No, we’re peaceful.” Germans should be very proud of this, because they’ve learned the lesion in a very positive way; they’ve gone the right road. But this world is at war, there are wars all over the world. But instead of always living with this guilt of all the terrible things that happened they should go out and use that for something positive like going outside the borders of the country making sure it doesn’t happen somewhere else improving their status in the world as peacemakers.
He’s now going deeper into German pacifism and then he moves on: I want to live in a world where people apply the lesions they’ve learned and go off to use it for a good reason in other countries. I got offended by people who took this very negative. “I think they’re trained to think that when people make a cover it’s just to look cool and to look strong”. But here’s the idea: The statue represents our human notion of wanting to express our greatest hopes for ourselves, but at the same time living with the dark side. The idea is in the middle of a desert, because this idea is isolated in a wasteland. The other thing is from the very cloudy sky comes down a single sunbeam on the statue, and this is meant to express that there’s always hope no matter how dark the skies may be.
Even if it’s just one voice, but it is one voice! This is not an ism, it’s just a way that I believe humans are and always will be. I’m glad that there’s always this light that shines that keeps these ideas alive. The other thing is that when you open up the package you see the statue from the side and you see what looks like a destroyed city. Michael made this image, because he said this would be an ironic joke. In 1,000 years aliens come to this planet, because they wanted to now what’s here. The only thing they found was burned-out cities in the middle, and in the middle of it all a monument that we should end war. The only thing that’s left is that in the middle of a nuclear wasteland. This would be the ironic legacy of humanity, so when you look at the cover this is how it is at the moment and when you open it this is what could be. This is where we’re heading if we really want to. There was a strong message with it, but it needed me to explain it because people wouldn’t get it.
They’re trained to open a CD Cover and it has to look cool, strong etc and they’re missing the point, even in the context of the album. ‘Pro Victoria’ was a standard ritual in the Middle Ages among people who had an organization, who had very positive wishes for the world. It was their way of wishing themselves victory. Victoria was a goddess, she was a kind goddess not one who destroyed people. The god of war was the evil one. She was a benevolent goddess, because she meant to return peace and sanity to the world and everything else goes like a book, like a pathway to something. Anyway, that was me talking about the cover of the album.
After such a monologue, an interesting one anyway answering a los of our questions on advance, I tried to get back to the songs itself. Ronan told us that everything was connected. So, I wanted to know how important the lyrics of his songs are for him: Anybody who can really understand these lyrics understands that they’re the most important element of what VNV NATION is about. It’s not always like this. For example people who are complaining about instrumentals don’t understand that if you’re watching a movie you hear a piece of instrumental music, feel a certain way because of this music. Then again it comes down to people’s perceptions of what a band should be. Maybe they only want my voice; maybe they only feel comfortable when a song has vocals. I’m writing a lot of these soundtrack pieces. They’re describing an emotion or a scenario. One of the journalists from another magazine heard an instrumental from ‘Matter & Form’ called ‘Colours of Rain’ and he asked “Where did you come up with this title, because rain doesn’t have a colour.” And I said “It has”. It’s a colour that’s reflecting everything around it as it’s falling. That’s the colour. It’s basically watching the world through raindrops. It came up when I was sitting in a café in the industrial part of the harbour in Hamburg. I was sitting there at 5 in the morning when I was doing the album, and it started to rain and everyone started to run and I watched it all so tired because I hadn’t slept for so long, almost watched it in slow-motion. Watching the world just through raindrops!
Sounds silly to some but I don’t care as that’s how I think and he was talking about how he felt listening to this song watching his son play on a playground in Berlin and it was the most amazing thing, because I thought “Wow, one person got it, that means there’s more” and that’s what I write things for. But lyrics for me are the tangible part for humans to connect to. Lyrics are really just about expressing a message, but you can express so much more with emotion in your voice. I could sing “This table is empty!” and it means nothing, but it’s how I sing it that gets the message across and influences how a person feels about it. I think some people feel a great deal and some people don’t. The people who like technical things don’t necessarily like lyrics, but that’s ok. Bu the people are emotional, who feel things, who think about things, are wondering what I mean but in general they’re getting their own personal meaning out of it. I think ‘Beloved’ without lyrics would make no sense. The instrumental parts wouldn’t get the message across.
‘Illusion’ is a perfect example. The lyrics are so clear and simple as it was meant for everybody to understand, it wasn’t cryptically and just for me. So yes, lyrics are the probably most important part, because you couldn’t separate them from the music. You could use it for different styles of music, but it’s the one part that can’t change.
Talking about reactions… How are the reactions thus far from the press and fans according the new album? Incredible! I was absolutely amazed by how many press companies and websites in America wrote an article about the album who have never touched us before, who see it as a general alternative album. I had a review in France of the top alternative magazine there. It’s called D-Side. They called it the most important alternative album of the last five years, and it’s not a dark scene magazine its general alternative and avant-garde. I got this all over Europe. I got this in places I never expected it to come from There’s allmusic.com in America which is THE resource to find out everything about a record. ITunes uses the reviews from them that’s how big it is. The review they did just left me speechless, because I never expected we would get anything like this. The reaction to the album on the general level was astounding. It became a hit. I can’t judge the album; I have my own feelings about the album. I hear what other people think of it.
I usually hear it my own way and I don’t know if other people will like it or not. I think the quality if the music is great, I love the melodies, I’m really happy about the effects and the construction of the songs, and how it all fits together. It’s almost like I made it for myself, and I’m happy with it but I can’t hear it for people’s ears and that’s a really sad thing but in a way it’s a good thing. If people like it, the like it and I’m very happy.
That people like the album is also visible in the incredibly good selling tour. It was selling pretty fast and I couldn’t remember any other tour has sold as good as this. Last time we had a tour like this it was close, but not like this. It was in 2001, before ‘FuturePerfect’ came out. We had like 1,100 people in Munich and we had ridiculous audiences in other places. But we never had anything like this. Frankfurt maybe sold-out before the concert, but Dresden sold-out on the night so did Hamburg. Now, we’ve got 5 shows almost 6. And now, after a big part of the tour, we know that it was even more shows to be sold-out. Vienna was sold-out, no one expected that. We had the double amount of people at other shows in other countries than we had before. I’m not complaining. I mean, I don’t know what happened, but I think it’s the package, I think it’s the value for money, that we left two months since the release of the album for people to hear it, The album was well received. I think we’ve done some great festivals that people really enjoyed.
From the fast selling tour, Ronan went back to the album sales: But the crazy thing is that the album sold better than ‘FuturePerfect’. What happened with the latest releases is that people liked ‘Homeward’ Perpetual’ and ‘Chrome’ but they didn’t get this feeling of the whole album. Now, they get it because they’re beginning to understand where that style is coming from. We’re trying to get away from being a scene cliché, because when we did ‘FuturePerfect’, every fucking band on the planet was trying to sound like ‘Welcome to Earth’, ‘United States of Mind’ or ‘Empires’ and I said “Right, if we repeat ourselves we’re finished and I don’t want to, because it’s boring, I want to do something new”. I wrote ‘Arena’ and ‘Perpetual’ the day ‘FuturePerfect’ went to the mastering company. I wanted to do something totally different, so always when I start a new album it seems that the strangest songs, the new songs come first. Anyway, all these clubs are playing perpetual again and everyone is singing, even at the show at Blackfield they’re singing and it’s great.
Because we have a really nice light thing planned for perpetual tonight which you’ll see later. The people in Barcelona started this cheering thing, they started it on their own and it became a worldwide phenomenon in every city we’ve gone to. Everyone knows what it is. I had one fan criticize me after the Blackfield show and he said please stop explaining this before the song start, and I said “Why?” he said “Let us do it on our own”. No, you can do it on your own, but what about these 5,970 other people. Maybe they don’t know what we want them to do and I want them to enjoy it. The whole point of being on stag is that you get to go like this to the crowd saying “Come on, you’re not just here to watch us” You have to be a part of it because this energy we create, this is us and the audience together, this is not us alone. The more the audience gives, the more you give them back. You draw on this energy and it lifts you to a whole now area and you’re giving them more. There’s no other way to describe it.
When I went off stage at Blackfield I was so happy, I was jumping all over the place. M’era Luna 2008 was also very good; Wave Gotik Treffen was really good. The Agrahalle was full and it was ridiculous this time, because there were a thousand people waiting outside that could not get in. We had the largest number of people and we broke the record 3 times. They keep saying there’s a limit, but nobody controls this limit. When we played in 2007 there people with their backs pressed against the wall just listening to the music, because they couldn’t move and couldn’t see anything, and I thought this is insane and I don’t get it.
You can’t have fun pressed to a wall I think… Yeah, but they were still enjoying it. It was a big celebration. I mean, I don’t want to be superficial fun; I want it to be a celebration of life and emotions, because as I always say “just because your wearing black doesn’t mean you’re already dead.” And I keep reminding people, because I think it’s a complete waste of time for such a creative group of people with the capabilities for creating something or coming up with an idea. But they’re spending they’re time being miserable concentrating on such things as “Do I like the right bands, Am I wearing the right clothes, Do my friends like me for how I look?” instead of really devoting that energy to what they should really be doing. I mean, generations before ours those people were the poets, the writers, the painters, the musicians, they were the artists of their time. They expressed the spirit of their days. In our culture, those alternative people are just labelled into a group. It’s an easy way to control them, so they have no influence on the world around them. The cyber culture in the early 80s to the mid 90s influences Apples design philosophy. They influenced so many design philosophies. It’s amazing how music and street cultures can affect the world, can affect history, and can affect how the news is reported. I want people to feel a little bit inspiration inside. I just like them to spent 5 minutes to be absolutely active and alive, and your head is moving and you think about so many things.
But don’t let the thoughts end there. Don’t say “Oh no, I can’t do this1” Have some faith in yourself and you can do incredible things. I mean, I dodo it and you do it. It’s the first step and the most important one.
Talking about past shows I wanted to know what Ronan expects of tonight’s show: Well, it’s packed, it’s going to be very hot and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We have to change the setlist a bit for tonight. Just be a little bit different from what we did in Stuttgart. What really surprises me is that in Stuttgart ‘The Great Divide’ is a big hit. Nobody told me that DJs in Stuttgart are playing it and that is more popular than some of the other songs. I thought that everybody would jump on ‘Sentinel’ or ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’. This is what we expected. Good, conservative scene music. Maybe your audience is more advanced than you thought? This remark made Ronan philosophy about different styles of music:
I think it’s that tastes have been opened a lot more. There’s so much alternative music out there that inspires what we do and German media just doesn’t let it through. I mean, it’s a miracle that even COLDPLAY became so big in Germany. I did an interview and I mentioned that I was listening to THE KILLERS at the time and he said “Who?”. Well, it’s one of the biggest bands in the world, so if you don’t know who they are you shouldn’t be a journalist, really if you’re just listening to one sort of music. I’ve had this experience so many times. There are so many amazing bands in America for example doing incredible things. I love a band everyone else calls MGMT. I love bands like the French M83 which is an incredible, band, but you have to see them when they have their own stage. It’s a bit like SIGUR RÓS but with a beat. They’re walking around the stage doing their own thing. It’s one guy who does all the music and he has this different musicians and it’s such an incredible emotional experience. It’s watching people create.
There’s a band from France, called MORTEM VLADE ART they’re very similar. We met them last night. They came to the concert to hang out with us. I love these people and if they’re on stage they’re experimenting, making the music go… and I’m thinking “Where is this now?” I would love to do something like this, but it would probably go wrong. Maybe, it’s also going wrong for them but we think it’s great. I’d love to hear more clubs opening up to this music. I’ve been DJing for years. I was trying to play some grey area music, some indie music, indie-electronic and I play it and then the DJ says “I’d love to play this, but if I play it nobody will dance. You play it and everyone dances.” And I said “oh I’m sorry, I thought that’s what I’m here for.” There’s some much music connecting with our scene and what I was explaining to a 30 year old DJ the other day is you’re thinking like a 30 year old. You think that the scene is still the same as it was 10 years ago. Do you know what 16 year olds are listening to today?
I said “Their context of this music is totally different from ours”. I love listening to new music and it’s really exciting for me to listen to young people at concerts. They’re talking about the bands they like. I even had people giving me recommendations of bands. I heard about SHE WANTS REVENGE long before there was an album. A friend in America sent me this link and said “You might like this music” and I clicked on it and it was incredible, so I wrote the band asking if they could get me a copy of this song, it was a demo version. I played it at Wave Gotik Treffen Agra 4.2 and there were many DJs on the stage. It was my second round, so I was playing more of the open music. This guy came up to me and said “This music is very inappropriate. This is not scene music. We knew you were going to do this”.
Well, I told him what to do with himself as usual. Then I said “By the way can I ask you one thing” and he said “Yes”. “Can I ask you to put your glasses on” and he answered “I’m not wearing glasses” and I said “Then why is it you can’t see the dance floor. Do you see that people are actually singing along to MSI? That they’re singing along to AFI, or they’re singing along to INTERPOL?” They’re all going crazy, because all this music relates somehow to our scene. INTERPOL is an excellent example, because it’s a bit like JOY DIVISION. I love the new EDITORS single. I loved this band from the very first minute I heard them. I love WHITE LIES [all excellent bands btw.]. I sent the link to Eric from Public Propaganda, because they were No.1 in the UK. I sent him this link and he talked to someone from another magazine and she was going crazy about it. We’re all in this age group where we’re listening to this music again and it’s just amazing sharing these things with each other. There are 100 new bands out of America that blew me away like WAR TAPES, an indie rock band that supported us in America. Their music really hit well with a lot of the crowd. I’d love to do that here.
Maybe that would be difficult in Germany… It’s difficult in America, too. There are always people who only want to hear their music or what they’re calling their music. They only want to hear Electro; they only want to hear EBM. There’s no time for anything else. I think that’s narrow-minded and boring. But this public there, they’re really enjoying it and that’s what’s important.
Now we had talked a lot about music in general I went back to VNV NATION’s releases, to be exact to ‘Reformation 01’ that has been very successful within the fans. Now what about the second edition Ronan already announced in several interviews? We really like to get an EP out first. I’m working on an EP and ‘The Great Divide’ is going to be the single. It’s already been played in a big way on American Television and I have to somehow come up with a video. That’s going to be fun.
Of course I wanted to know more about the video now. Will the band play in the video? I don’t know. Somehow I don’t like these videos where the band is playing. It depends on what the concept for the video is. I’ve got five different directors giving me concepts and treatments and I explained that this is really about someone leaving their home and everything behind doing this big step to go to an unknown land. Like going into a new territory! Taking that very big step into the big wide world! I had so many people saying we should be filming this in a desert that we need to do this like it’s a journey through their lives. It could be good, but it could also be crap. There’s one person who wants to film this in the deserts of New Mexico which would be incredible and I would love to do this. We’ll see, In America they want us to include live footage, because they think the live aspect of VNV is the deepest part of what we do.
Have you already filmed or recorded anything? We have a lot of footage of us on stage and we’ve got fan footage. I would love to ask a lot of people to film ‘The Great Divide’ and to put all the footage together to basically an armature video. That would be fun. Would be better than the new RAMMSTEIN video… I guess you’ve seen it? I have seen it. I couldn’t resist Everyone’s talking about it what made Ronan comment: Nobody will be able to resist. It’s the temptation and everybody’s going to be talking about it whether they love it or hate it and it calls for a cover story like sex always does. Great computer skills but this is aiming at people with the brain mentality of a 12 year old. It’s really for those kinds of people who don’t look at the lyrics. It’s like watching football fans making a song.
It’s what RAMMSTEIN does… Of course and they’re clever about it. The cleverness in this is they don’t need to spend any money on marketing. They let the whole population of the world do it for them. I was chatting with Andy from COMBICHRIST about it today and I sent him the link to the video and he said “We’ve been brainstorming thinking of a great new idea how to make a really great reaction with a video for COMBICHRIST and then I got your link and then I said Nah, let’s forget about it”. Then we started talking about all those crazy ideas that they could do. I love the fun aspect of what they put into their music. They have some really mental ideas. I’m sure they could do it. They could think of something that would make the RAMMSTEIN video look like “What the fuck is this?” like you need to take drugs to understand. I personally think RAMMSTEIN have gone too far; way too far. If it can be a reflection of what people are like of what the population of the world is like and that’s what they’re going for, what they’re entertained by, this highlights it…
Anyway, back to ‘Reformation 2’. I have a lot of material still sitting around. But I want to get some of the material on the EP. But there will be a ‘Reformation 2’. The first was hard work because of the design and the cover, getting the samples back to me to check it out doing the booklet and everything to really make it a work of love. This was really a ridiculous work. Actually, it was more work than an album. I mean, it sounds strange, because I’m just remixing tracks that were already there. Doing the design and everything! But I’m glad that I’m the one doing it, because I’m thinking of the fan all the time and what they would want. If you give it to a creative company they have no idea. The just come up with something that looks cool. They don’t know what the focus is and I’m obviously the best to say “Yes, it works” or “No, it doesn’t work.” I loved making ‘Reformation 01’. But it was so much work, so intense. I’m very proud of the result. I didn’t expect it to hit like that and that all copies would be gone. It is really something that amazed me. It did what it was supposed to do. The fans felt it was something for them.
I loved these unreleased songs… Yeah, but to explain, the three songs: People always ask why it wasn’t released at the time they were made. Because it would have been a repetition of what we were already doing at the time and it would have sounded boring. There was a trance influence in our music back then and at that time the charts were full of shitty trance like really bad producers doing horrible pop songs. Musically, too many people make a connection between that and this sound. After a short break he went on: I loved ‘Still Waters’, I loved playing it in the studio just to listen to it over and over. I got this amazing feeling out of the melody starting up… ‘Suffer’ was the song that gets to me more than any of them. These chords do something to me that I can not explain, I don’t know why. I’m getting heavy goose bumps and I just feel electric. I’m happy that I got them, because there are others sitting around that are maybe not as good, but there are a few that really are amazing and I don’t know if should use them for the next album or release them as unreleased material and just do something new for a new album. I’m already writing a new album. I’ve already written 4 songs for it.
Sounds very busy to me... Was just wondering if je sleeps at all… Oh, I do. You have to watch how I work. Here’s an example. I’m in the shower and suddenly you hear a song on the radio and you can’t get it out of your head. You’re getting this earworm. You don’t know what the lyrics were, singing something in your head which fits to it. It’s a bit like that. I could be walking down the street, making coffee, watching television and suddenly a song starts playing in my head like my brain needs to be active. I play a song and it will write itself. I need to write this down like running it through my computer. I’ve a shorthand which I developed for the beats, the description of the feeling, the guitar, strings, synth lines or whatever else and if I’m not in the studio, I’m trying to keep this in my mind, try to record the melodies then enter the studio and write them out because literally in five minutes they’re gone… unless they haunt me. Then they keep coming back. If I forget them, they’re coming back. ‘Illusion’ was such a track that wouldn’t leave me alone. ‘From My Hands’ wouldn’t leave me alone. It’s like I’m haunted by a whole song, because it was like the saddest music in the world playing in your head and you think “Why am I feeling like this, I don’t feel sad”
This song’s melody is very melancholic, sentimental melodies playing over and over! The most difficult song I’ve ever done. I recorded the chord over 20 times and cut together the pieces where my voice would not break, because I couldn’t sing it. It’s really hard to describe what it’s about and I don’t know if I will ever be able to tell anyone, because it’s such a complicated thing to describe. This feeling comes with these complicated things that are connected together. It’s so unique. It’s like being in a very quiet place of your mind, where there’s no sound, no lights, just you. You’re not hiding anything you’re not pushing anything back. You’re feeling exactly what you keep denying and you let it out and that’s really what the song is about. It did the purpose for me. It took me a long time and was very difficult. I couldn’t hear it. If I heard it I was a mess. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video somebody put together with it?
No we haven’t right now… Ok, so somebody has put together a video with it and I guarantee you will be a mess and you won’t be able to stop crying. It affects every single person who watches it. It’s so beautiful, perfect. I banned my girlfriend from watching, because she’s an emotional soul. I said “You’ll be destroyed, you don’t want this; it’s pain you don’t need.” But it’s an emotionally beautiful video somebody has put together and I was so amazed by it. Many people heard the album at a time when they’ve lost somebody and this song said anything they want, so to come back to Reformation 02 it will come but it will come in time. It will be filled with lots and lots of things. There are so many things to put on there. Might be a little bit different, not the same format, just something interesting.
After about an hour we’ve finally arrived at the end. So I wanted to know if there is a message for the fans, especially for the VIP Nation. A lot of people from there will be here tonight. Oh yeah. I’m always saying it. I’m blown away and solely thankful for the support and the dedication and, to some of them: We made other albums than ‘Empires’. I hope this interview will explain to them why we did that, because I think some of them are a little bit too attached to this album. This message and the vibe that was in the album goes on through all the other albums and if they just take the time to listen and understand what’s behind, they’ll understand that there’s a procession of thought going through this.
At the end, we want to thank Ronan for taking so much time for us.