Written By | Joshua Habtwold
European-based alternative electronic project, VNV Nation recently released their latest project in a 5-year span, entitled NOIRE. Being produced at his studio in Hamburg, Germany, Ronan Harris develops dark and ominous styles and sounds in his latest project, which was collocated with classic and new studio technology for this a 70 plus minute, 13-song album. With a new sound to bring on for fans, as well as being known for their unforgettable, energetic and inspiring live performances, it is something astounding that we had experienced when VNV Nation performed at Toronto’s own Danforth Music Hall on November 28th. With the vibrant energy, as well as the stellar production and outstanding crowd interaction, it was certainly an amazing experience for both the fans and Ronan, himself.
When IMPRINT Entertainment was given the opportunity for a phone interview with Ronan Harris of VNV Nation, we were delighted and grateful for the opportunity, and it was an excellent moment to conversate with him about his album NOIRE, his background and music history, touring, as well as making his first music video in 26 years, and much more. From getting a phone call at exactly 3:22 PM EST on November 30th, 2018, I answered my cell phone and it was Ronan Harris from VNV Nation, which was quite interesting since this was the first time for me, an actual artist has called instead of an artist’s manager or publicist. Since knowing about VNV Nation’s rise in the music industry and their influences and sound, I made sure this interview and the questions were more about the release and Ronan’s background in music before VNV Nation.
Conversing with Ronan Harris, he was an interesting man, who was really passionate about the music he makes and ensures that through everything he does. He started off by telling me that I was in Ontario, and I told him that I was from Toronto, which is in Ontario. He then notices since he thought the phone number’s area code was in New York. Finding out the purpose of his album, NOIRE, Ronan states that the ‘embryo idea’ came a year ago, where he was in the studio late at night. He had a keyboard and a music program, where he played certain melodies and founded a certain sound that gave him inspiration for the first track on the album.
Speaking about the name for the album, Ronan explains that he called it NOIRE since he wanted to write an album that was inspired by the night, or using that form of the ‘night’ as a metaphor, in the physical sense. Ronan’s background and history in music started before he went to preschool back in early 1970s Ireland, where his mom would listen to music while doing household work, and he would listen as well, such as watching the European music television channel, Top of the Pops, and being inspired by listening to Irish radio a lot and television theme and link music. Learning to play music, his parent bought a piano since they thought someone would actually learn and play it. He tried playing the notes for the Happy Birthday song, as a way to sound the notes and was given formal piano training. Although he liked the idea and would prefer better people to train him, he didn’t like the person who taught him due to that person being a masochist and used his mistakes to initiate pain. As far as learning, Ronan self-taught himself and learned everything as far as production, writing, and composition, and also has his own studio and has an assistant producer, who works with him, on a parallel when doing albums.
Speaking about touring this year, Ronan explains that touring was stepped up a big notch for this year, and he can’t explain. With NOIRE going top 5 in Germany, he had a vision of what the tour should like. The vision was met with some ‘happy’ accidents, which produce better results overall. By working with a lighting designer in Germany, as well as an American one, the lighting experience, for both Europe and North America, brought a great experience for fans. Shows were sold out out due to fans knowing about the live experiences of a VNV Nation show, and showing much love to the group, even though the album was much different than past projects. It has been exemplified and much better for each show on a bigger notch. By changing his team, in order to bring a much more, positive energy, he managed to get a much greater team who have a family-like vibe, in which it consists of great personalities who crave and feel better more on what they do.
Ronan also stated that when they played in Toronto, he never saw a much diverse audience, which he is much proud of. People of all musical backgrounds came and brought a very powerful, positive energy. It was very prevalent at the end for their audience, since half of the time is getting them to interact within their set and experience a feeling, and by bringing that same energy back, which is what the show experience in a VNV Nation show is all about, which Toronto became a phenomenal experience for Ronan.
Although there was no challenge, one of VNV Nation’s biggest accomplishments for this year was releasing his very “first” music video throughout the band’s career. When they worked on their first video for one of the most popular songs on NOIRE, entitled ‘When Is The Future’, it was something special for Ronan, since he had moments for meeting with video companies to work on their first video, but it didn’t work out due to their suggestions of how the video should, which had nothing to do with what the song was all about. He wanted something that brings an element, into what the music video is all about, instead of nice visuals. When he met a video production crew in Germany, he was interested in their documentary-like videography and decided that he wanted to shoot the video in Tokyo, where it was him walking the city’s streets like a stranger, which relates to the lines of “a stranger in a strange land” in their song. During the shoot, they’ve walked miles throughout the city and the setup was Ronan walking while the cameraman was following him, which was a real ‘monument’ for him and it gave him the chance to work on more music videos in the future, and how he can achieve this goal. Another well-known achievement was going to Japan for the first time, which made him feel more proud, in that sense.
As far as favourite songs, Ronan mentions that he doesn’t have a ‘favourite’ song since all of those songs bring a great feeling to him. Before he answered the question, he explains that the reaction from fans once the album was released was outstanding, since they really enjoyed this project, even though he thought that fans are much averse to new albums and would rather listen to the older ones. He sees this album, as sort of an entity of itself. With personal tracks that he like, due to his personal relation toward the song, the frontman feels that every song has a different vibe, and it was illustrated in this one example, where he talks about making ‘When Is the Future’. He mentions that the hit would be at the end of his studio production, for which songs he would make for the album or not. He mentions because he needs to write the tracks that become the pinnacle track that everybody listens to. As a complete accident, towards the end of the production, he plans out an album, and had no expectation to write ‘When Is The Future’. One day, he played the keyboard and came up with something, and the next day, it was finished and became one of the most popular songs we’ve ever done.
Another interesting story was being at an after-party in New York during the tour, where the DJ played every song that the band played during his set at Irving Plaza, and Ronan was quite astonished, that he was smiling to the point where his face hurt. With that special feeling, he felt like a proud father, in that sense. For his future in experimenting, he mentions that he’s always into music that brings a hybrid to the genre he makes for. He meant it, in the sense, of people doing covers and playing certain instruments for their most well-known songs, such as black metal band covers, choirs, acoustic guitars, and much more. As he comes to an end in explaining this, he states: “And that’s the beauty for me, a song is a song and the song is the most important part of it. And, that it inspires them to do that, and that it’s phenomenal.”
He also manages this, through writing music, as a way to inspire a feeling in himself and always trying to incorporate new sounds and ideas. He also exemplified this in another track in NOIRE called “Lights Go Out”, which has the similarity of a post-punk track. Ronan mentions that he creates a feeling that is similar to the same feeling, from listening to a post-punk track. Knowing that it has to incorporate the sound of guitars, the VNV Nation frontman made this with synthesizer-type instruments and helpers to bring that feeling.
Asking Ronan Harris for any final thoughts for his fans before our conversation ended and he mentions that he is very grateful for his fans and casual listeners for giving the band feedback, constructive and non-constructive, whenever it comes to music. He is also grateful for the people that checked out their music on Spotify and listened to NOIRE, from beginning to the end, since it brings a journey. He mentions that it is a singular experience, which brings the listeners to all kinds of directions, and that it’s meant for that process. IMPRINT Entertainment is definitely GRATEFUL and values the direction and experience that Ronan Harris of VNV Nation is bringing forward in music.
IT'S A MOVEMENT