VNV Nation - touring the US in support of new album Noire

By Aideen O'Flaherty

RONAN Harris has been the linchpin of the experimental electronic band VNV Nation since he founded it in 1990, and since then he has released eleven albums under the VNV Nation name and has seen his albums achieve chart success in Germany and the US.

The Terenure man has been based in Hamburg since 2001, and prior to this Ronan lived in London where he developed VNV Nation’s sound alongside holding down a day job as an IT manager.

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Ronan Harris founder of electro band VNV Nation 

VNV Nation’s eleventh album, ‘Noire’, was released last October and, as the names suggests, it flirts with a dark, industrial sound that veers between euphoric dance music and songs that are propelled by layered, glowering synths.

Ronan took some time out of his busy schedule while touring the US in support of ‘Noire’, to tell The Echo about his new album, quitting his day job in the 90s, and what he misses about Dublin.

You began making music as VNV Nation after you moved to London in the late 80s. Did the electronic music scene there inspire you, or were you interested in making electronic music before you moved away from Dublin?

I’d always been inspired by electronic music, whether it was during the 70s, when I was a very young kid hearing these incredible sounds on the radio, or through the explosion of electronic music in the early 80s.

I was always fixed on the underground genres that were fast becoming the prototypes for dance music. When I finally moved to London, it didn’t take long to meet people making music with the rapidly improving technologies out there.

It was a hotbed of creativity and activity. I got to know people back then who were yet to go on to become huge international artists. Personally, I’d never dreamed of chart success, more developing the idea for the kind of sound I wanted to make.

It took a long time to get there, learning as I went, and where I am is the result.

You worked as an IT manager before you released your first album, do you remember what it felt like when you were able to give up your day job and focus entirely on music?

I do. I quit my job after the release of the third album, ‘Empires’, in 1999, thinking I’d be taking a break for a year.

I’d tried to maintain both, as VNV Nation became more and more popular on the continent, but there were too many demands for shows, new material and time for the activities an artist needs to be able to do.

I had to choose one or the other. I assumed it would be short-lived and planned for a break of 12 to 18 months. That was 18 years ago.

What impact do you think being based in Hamburg has had on your music?

Germany is a country that’s rich in underground music culture. There’s a huge culture for dance and urban music, which goes without saying. You can find that in Hamburg, especially.

Germans have been familiar in electronic music since the 70s and don’t view it as something different in the realm of what general music is. The same goes for any alternative or non-commercial-chart genre. You always meet people working on something different.

Your lyrics tend to be very introspective and emotive, do you have to be in a particular head space in order to write lyrics or do they come to you quite easily?

They come as I write music. There are two ways this happens – the first is that songs will start playing in my head, as I wander around or am doing the most monotonous task.

I might be sat somewhere drinking a coffee and a song will start playing in my head like I’m remembering an actual song. They get stuck like earworms and lyrics start writing themselves.

The second is that I get into a mode while writing music, that the mood of the song or a simple melody puts me in the place for the lyrics to flow.

You recently released your eleventh album, 'Noire'. What has the feedback been like so far?

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The album charted at number four in the German charts and the video for ‘When is the Future?’ was being shared all over the internet.

Normally, when a band is set in their career, each new album will always meet resistance. I didn’t encounter much at all.

Can you tell me about the video for 'When is the Future'?

I was given a list of potential video companies and connected brilliantly with the ones who I ended up working with. They heard the song, loved the vibe of it and the message in the lyrics, and immediately suggested taking this to Tokyo.

It worked perfectly. It perfectly captured the whole ‘stranger in a strange land searching for something’ aspect.

What do you miss the most about Dublin?

The Dublin I knew, when I left, seems to be gone. Dublin is almost unrecognizable to me now. A lot of things I loved about it were sold, torn down and new things were built.

A lot of the character of its architecture and layers of history didn’t survive the real-estate orgy of the 90s until the crash just over ten years ago. I definitely miss the sheer inescapable rush of pure soul that you found in every corner of Dublin.

There was a hunger in every voice. Ireland has a very unique place in this world in both providing the setting for and enduring successive tragedies. If someone can ever figure out how to box heartbreak, we’ll be the richest country in the world.

You can find out more by following VNV Nation on Facebook, or by visiting www.anachronsounds.de

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