All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Interviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

25

On the Bus with Ronan Harris: Classical to Futurepop and Everything in Between

On the Bus with Ronan Harris: Classical to Futurepop and Everything in Between
Christine Connallon By

Sign in to view read count
"You’ll hear it another time and it’s going to resonate with you in a way that you need it." —Ronan Harris
The tour bus that ferries about and serves as home base for a band of internationally known musicians is surprisingly pristine and neat. The air conditioning is on full blast giving the space a delightful chill against the late spring humidity. Only a lone bottle of sriracha sauce sits on the kitchen counter, waiting for a meal to break out.

Ronan Harris, the vocalist and mastermind behind the electronics and lyrics of the powerhouse duo VNV Nation rushes to adjust the temperature controls, ever the lovely host. He and Mark Jackson, drummer extraordinaire, are currently winding down a tour of the United States and playing two sold out nights at the iconic lower east side of Manhattan haunt, The Bowery Ballroom along with a team of support musicians on keyboards. There's something familiar about Harris, his warm handshake, easy smile and quick wit. He's like a pal from school that you've just reconnected with, or your new neighbor, friendly and eager to share stories. His open face breaks into a grin when he receives a photo on his mobile phone.

"I'm a vintage hat wearing and clothing wearing chap," he explains, slightly giddy. "There's a guy in Milwaukee who has a store called The Brass Rooster. He's a master hat man." Harris explains the nuances of colors and fabrics that remain untouched from the 1930s. A hat the color of petrol, an unusual blue, has just been constructed for him, to perfectly match a suit that he possesses. The owner of the store has become a fan of the band. "He's been to our shows and my friend is a good friend, a supporter of his...so this guy is making this hat and the band is vintage fabric, silk and the thread he's using is from a vintage roll, everything is new old stock. Inside the hat band, in the sweat band, he's actually punched my name into it. I never asked for this, he's going above and beyond." He proudly brandishes his phone to show a photo of a stylish hat with a silver band.

Considering right before us is the man who coined the genre Futurepop , Harris is an enigma. His affinity and love for the past would seem to fight his love of new technology and the electronic-style music he creates. Instead, the sides of Harris seem to complement each other perfectly.

He and his girlfriend, who he affectionately gushes is "too glamorous for words," enjoy dressing up in retro duds together. His pride and joy is a 1938 Nash Ambassador. "The only two door sedan in the world. It is liquid silver. It's not glossed, there's no topcoat. It looks like the car is carved out of liquid aluminum, the way an aircraft looked in those days. It just sails past." The gearshift which is "three on the tree" sports an old Electro Voice microphone that fit perfectly on the stick. Harris designed the color teal scheme for the interior, selected the paint himself, wanting to keep things authentic with a few adjustments to make it custom. It's been a labor of love and very accurately showcases his dedication and amazing eye for detail.

"Uh, oh...police. They're not happy with us being here, " notices Harris through the curtains. An NYPD traffic officer takes note of the tour bus, though the band had been assured that it is fine to park there. Our talk continues.

VNV Nation now calls Hamburg, Germany home. Harris hails from Dublin and Jackson from Essex. Their music, is accurately dubbed "composed by humans; built with machines." Part alternative electronic rock with heavy doses of industrial, 80s, new wave and hints of orchestral waves, VNV nation is hard to pigeonhole, which is just fine with their legions of fans.

When asked how he created the term Futurepop, Harris answered, "Radio wouldn't play us. Anything that had the words EBM (Electronic Body Music) or goth associated with it in Germany, which was not intentional because I don't come from that background, was a death sentence. It still is. We were making a style of music where we were listening to a lot of underground electronic music which was rather euphoric and it was inspiring for us to adapt that. This was everything we'd listened to in the early 80s like Italo-disco and other forms of electronic music. It just wasn't commercial yet. We grew up in the New Romantic era, we listened to a lot of progressive electronic music in the 80s and we wanted to have this amazing anthemic quality about our music. We all seemed to like orchestral music. And we tricked radio into playing us by giving it this name and creating the idea that this is some crazy new genre."

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Lucia Cadotsch: Whispers Speak Louder than Screams Interviews
Lucia Cadotsch: Whispers Speak Louder than Screams
by Ludovico Granvassu
Published: June 20, 2018
Read Andreas Varady: Guitar Wizard On The Rise Interviews
Andreas Varady: Guitar Wizard On The Rise
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: June 18, 2018
Read Mandla Mlangeni: Born to Be Interviews
Mandla Mlangeni: Born to Be
by Seton Hawkins
Published: June 11, 2018
Read David Sancious: From Monk to Sting Interviews
David Sancious: From Monk to Sting
by Luca Muchetti
Published: June 8, 2018
Read Bokani Dyer: African Piano Interviews
Bokani Dyer: African Piano
by Seton Hawkins
Published: June 7, 2018
Read Salim Washington: To Be Moved to Speak Interviews
Salim Washington: To Be Moved to Speak
by Seton Hawkins
Published: May 30, 2018
Read "Dafnis Prieto: Cross-Cultural Mix" Interviews Dafnis Prieto: Cross-Cultural Mix
by Angelo Leonardi
Published: March 13, 2018
Read "Tomas Fujiwara: The More the Better" Interviews Tomas Fujiwara: The More the Better
by Troy Dostert
Published: November 6, 2017
Read "Randy Weston: Music of The Earth" Interviews Randy Weston: Music of The Earth
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: June 28, 2017
Read "Eric Ineke: Surveying the European Jazz Scene" Interviews Eric Ineke: Surveying the European Jazz Scene
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: September 6, 2017