Could you please tell us who you are and how you got your start in music?
I got my original start in music at 8 years old after my parents bought my brother and I a piano and started us in lessons. I got started writing songs and music when I was 17 after saving for 6 months to buy an Ensoniq SQ-80 synthesizer. It was on that machine that I learned how to sequence sounds and put arrangements together.
Do you ever regret putting such restraints on your recording process (by using only analogue synths)? Do you ever want to go back and change some of the CD’s you’ve already released?
In some ways, yes, I probably do. I’ve specialized in a certain style of music that gets quite a bit of criticism, whereas if I was doing something more traditional it might have gotten more attention at times……but maybe not. The flipside is that I’ve always stuck out like a sore thumb, and there’s a lot to be said for that. A lot of people think I’ve taken my recording restraints a bit far, but I believe that those are the kinds of things that have helped to establish my own sound, and not a lot of artists can claim a sound of their own, I think.
I would probably change every CD I’ve ever released if I could go back. There’s so many things you realize that could be better or different after they’re finished, but once they’re done, they’re done for good. I wouldn’t want to change the fact that they’ve all been made with synthesizers, but I would change certain sounds, mixes and vocals. I feel less this way about the last couple of albums, though.
The masterful White Songbook is one of our very favorites. Can you tell us a little about the recording process and inspiration behind this CD, and did the message contained in the CD hit the masses in the way you intended?
I just decided at that point to make the kind of in depth records I’d always dreamed of making. I think other records had their individual moments, but I wanted to make something as a whole that was an original and creative statement from start to finish. The recording process was agonizing. There were so many little sounds and ideas and I just wasn’t settling for anything that wasn’t well thought out and complex. It’s far from being a perfect record, and there’s many things I would change looking back, but it felt like an accomplishment at the time. I feel like I’m on the same course again for this new record, but with better songs.
The “message” of the album was supposed to be self-interpretive. I had a certain premise and storyline but it was so vague because I wanted people to come to their own conclusions. It seems like music in general stays at an elementary school intelligence level, and people expect it to be easy to digest. I just want my songs to make people think and not be so obvious. I think the melodies and songwriting should be obvious, but not the lyrics. Was it lost on the masses? Well, the masses never even heard it for the most part, so….yes, I guess it was.
We’ve read in other interviews that you consider Joy Electric to be a Christian band. Has T&N helped or hindered Joy Electric’s career?
Probably a little of both. They’ve done some really good things for me, but being associated with T&N has its own stigma, too. More good than bad, I would say.
What is in the future for Joy Electric?
More albums, more touring. I’ve yet to make an album I’m really satisfied with (although I came close on TTTT), but when I do, I’ll tell everyone. It could be this next one if I don’t mess it up. I just want to make great albums for the next 20 or more years, if possible. I believe it is, but life changes when you least expect it to.
Will you ever record another song with Jason? What is your favorite Starflyer 59 song?
I really have no idea. If the opportunity comes up, then I’ll give it a whirl, you know? My fav SF song is probably “Give Up the War”. It’s just a timeless song with all the right chords and melodies.
Are you pleased with the Shepherd release? Will there be any other non-electric Ronnie Martin releases in the near future?
I am happy with it. It’s one of the few things I’ve done that turned out pretty close to how I wanted it to. I think it’s some of my best writing in places. I don’t know if there will be more non-electric releases…maybe another Shepherd. Who knows….I’m open.
What are you listening to right now? What are you reading?
Listening to the new Innocence Mission record, Befriended and reading Prophetic Untimeliness by Os Guiness.
Which Joy Electic CD are you most proud of, and why?
I don’t know; I never think about it like that. I do really like TTTT, and I think it’s because it’s so listenable (to me at least) all the way through. I don’t know that it contains my finest songwriting as a whole, but it does have its moments, I think. If we’re talking “proud” I guess I could say I’m proud of a song like “C Minor Miners” because it contains all the elements I like in music: a sad melody and experimental sounds and arrangement. I’m always more fond of the songs that aren’t so straightforward.
Which Plastiq Musiq CD are you most pleased with, and why?
Probably the stuff that Jon Sonnenberg has done, either with House of Wires or now with Travelogue. It’s music made without compromise, and nothing gets me more excited than that.
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