Victory, Not Vengeance
You know how people at Christian-music concerts hold their hands up to the sky, close their eyes, sway and mouth the words? It's because they feel connected to something pure, powerful and unarguably true.
That's the same feeling you get when VNV Nation is onstage. The Irish electronic band's latest album, Automatic, is like gospel music in binary code — full of poetic prayers, throbbing beats and keyboard melodies that electrify everything they touch. Luckily, very busy vocalist Ronan Harris made some time to answer a few questions.
Chatter: We've already reviewed Automatic on our music blog, and said we think it's the best album you've ever done. How do you think it stands up to your previous work?
Ronan Harris: What I can say is that Automatic was the most fun, most grueling, most triumphant, most heartwrenching, sleep-depriving, natural-flowing and frustrating experience that I've had making an album in a long, long time. The weirdest things happened while making it.
I'd be happy accepting a small number of tech problems in any production, because this is to be expected. On Automatic, however, it was insane. When things happened, they weren't little issues or a piece of gear blowing a fuse. It was more a string of mega-disasters with gear blowing [up] and recordings getting screwed up.
One of the guys who worked on the album with me is a 100 percent card-carrying atheist with no belief in anything supernatural whatsoever. Even he was seeing a pattern in all the weirdness that was happening. It just wasn't normal.
Still, every mistake, every disaster, meant me having to redo something or go another way at something, and the results were always 1,000 times better than the original. It was like the universe was helping us out with the odd exploding computer, and more, to make things better.
C: We interpreted Automatic as a concept album where your music actually accomplishes a better world (like Wyld Stallyns), and then you leave because the world no longer needs it. Are we way off?
RH: Alas, and I am sorry to say, you are way off. I enjoy watching things in this world unfold so much that I won't be leaving anytime soon. The album, the graphics [and] the promo pics were all heavily inspired by themes, styles and ideas from the American 1930s. In a way, Automatic is a lament to a bygone era of wonder and progress — and at the same time expressing that era's optimistic, albeit naive, futurism.
C: Optimistic, albeit naive, futurism describes a lot of your songs. Do you really believe that this species is going to overcome?
RH: We'll elevate, no matter what. I can see that every day, not just when writing music. In saying that, I'm still a realist, and I don't have some hope for a Joan Baez vision of the future where we're all placid and putting flowers in each other's hair.
We've come a long way, but we have a hell of a long way to go yet. We're infants, as a species, and it amazes me when we talk about ourselves and look at all we've built and invented as evidence of how amazing we think we are. Far from it. We have an incredible capacity for brutality and animalistic behavior still, and we like to paper it over.
C: What's it like to have inspired so many other acts?
RH: I find it hard to grasp when someone tells me that we've inspired them musically. It utterly blows my mind to hear it. I think of us as a small, struggling band, still.
And in many ways we are. I am so grateful for the chance to share what I want to say with people. If that inspires them personally or in their creative talents, then I cannot begin to say how incredible that is. But if I can inspire anyone, I want them to know that they can achieve so much for themselves. And take this from someone that a lot of people thought was a dorky, useless dreamer.
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