The motto for Irish electronic group VNV Nation is, “One should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret.” Accordingly, this perfectly depicts the tone of the conversation I had this week with Ronan Harris, one half of the seasoned techno duo. Touching on everything from the Great Depression to DIY, I got an earfull of what’s in store for us at the Paradise tomorrow.
Why electronic music? When did you first know that this was your calling?
Ronan Harris: I think I was probably four years old. There were a couple songs on the charts that had synths in them and were rather obviously electronic music, and it attracted me at the word “go.” Throughout the ‘70s, when I was kid, electronic music—the image of the synthesizer—and Sci-Fi were sort of part and parcel, and I was always interested in scientific things. Plus, I just loved that sound.
You’ve mentioned that Automatic is your “opus of retro-futurism.” What makes an album the opus of retro-futurism?
I kind of danced around with the theme on the previous release, and this time I just took it to its max. I’m fascinated with the America of the ‘30s, and imagining the world of that era.
It was this great leap forward in terms of how we imagined the future, and I wanted to capture that spirit of cautious optimism that was so prevalent at the time.
Since VNV Nation started at the dawn of the Internet age, do you feel that you had an advantage over lesser-known bands once Myspace, iTunes and Facebook came into play, in terms of popularity and distributive powers?
We had the benefit of already being known. In our genre, it’s nearly impossible for a new band to break out. Labels just don’t want to take the risk, and I think it’s the same for a hell of a lot of niche artists.
What I find sadly ironic is that the niche labels are the ones that have suffered the most from this self-justified wave of “sticking it to the major label” and downloading music for free and so-called chaos and anarchy and all those good things.
The niche artists are the ones who have suffered. Let’s not dabble in excuses—people aren’t going to pay for something if they don’t have to. That’s the bottom line. So we had the benefit that at least we had already gotten our name around.
Automatic is your eighth album. How does this differ from your previous work?
From our point of view, it’s more of change in the reaction, because it’s the most successful album we’ve done on the charts and in sales. I don’t know what happened in the process, but leaps and bounds in songwriting, production, ideas—everything clicked. This was a very strong album from beginning to end.
VNV Nation -- Automatic (Snippets) by VNV Nation
What can people expect from your upcoming show at the Paradise?
Those who have seen us before know that the show is very energetic, very personable, very intimate and very emotional. There are all these things wrapped into it;
it’s very human. We really do everything we can to put on an amazing show.
WITH STRAFTANZ, DJ CHRIS EWEN
THE PARADISE ROCK CLUB
967 COMM. AVE.,