Interview with Ronnie, 2011.
By Devon Kretzin
Devon Kretzin: I think the first question that most will want to know is, where have you been? There’s been a few select shows over the past year, no recordings since “Favorites At Play”, and very little news or announcements coming from the JE HQ.
Ronnie Martin: You know, it’s so interesting, because there’s been so many releases out at such a steady pace over the years that if a year and a half goes by without something new, some people think that something has gone terribly wrong! There’s been some major personal and professional changes that have taken place…all good…over the past couple of years, and those were all things that took precedence over recording a new JE record. More than anything, I needed a mental break and time to pursue other things. Most people take years in between records and I never have, so it was time.
DK: There has been some new material though, which was a three-song single from your new project, Said Fantasy.
RM: Right, last year.
DK: Can you explain the difference between the two projects, and is Said Fantasy taking over, at least in name, where JE left off?
RM: Both projects will exist side by side at the moment, with each giving me the opportunity to explore two different sides of the electronic music equation that I’ve struggled for years with, in terms of sound. It just took me awhile to figure out the division between the two. At its best, Joy E has always been about very straightforward melodic pop songs with an artistic element. I’ve struggled in one sense because although I love pop songs, I also love early electronic music, which to me is about using very raw, minimal textures that don’t necessarily go well with those more euphoric style pop songs I tend to sometimes write for Joy E. So Said Fantasy was an idea to create something influenced by that early synthesizer time period, like Joy Division, early Factory Records, etc., so that I wasn’t taking “perfectly good” pop songs out of context for Joy E. I also wanted the opportunity to write in a more personal style, using theme’s I haven’t necessarily touched in with JE. The first Said Fantasy single didn’t really show the musical side of what I’m talking about because two of the tracks were very layered and arranged, but you hear a hint of it with the original version of “Horse of Faded Grandeur”. Nevertheless, all of this time has been spent thinking conceptually about these things, which I finally came to some conclusions over. Sorry to ramble on.
DK: Will there be a new Joy E recording?
RM: Yes, this fall.
DK: Can you share the title?
RM: It’s called Dwarf Mountain Alphabet.
DK: Brilliant! It sounds very Joy Electric.
RM: Thanks. The title’s been in the works since right after the Cubist album.
DK: I won’t ask for an explanation of the title, but can you share a little about the overall direction of the album?
RM: Of course. It’s up-tempo, but with sad, longing melodies, probably the closest thing I’ve done to the earlier material. Musically, it’s all analog, but I used polyphonic synths like the Roland Juno 6 for some of the main sounds and textures. It has a very loose quality to it since a lot of parts were played in by hand. It’s easily the most uncomplicated record I’ve done in years…..very easy and fun to listen to, I think.
DK: It seems like for as prolific of a songwriter as you are, the production side of things has been a constant concern.
RM: There’s been an enormous tension, for sure. If JE’s had one strength, I believe it’s been in the songwriting, but the tension has always come in how to best translate it. I never wanted to fall into doing dance music. Although there’s always going to be elements of that, I’ve never fallen into any of the dance genres, although when you take the songs at face value, many of them would’ve been best translated that way.
DK: Would “Favorites at Play” be a good example of that type of translation?
RM: It would. Definitely a dance oriented sound and easy to listen to, but musically not as engaging or interesting to me. It’s too conventional for my tastes, but I think the songs translated….ok. But the point is that I never wanted to make that type of record every time even though many of my songs would have benefited from that type of more straightforward production.
DK: So you’re saying that trying to apply that more primitive, early electronic sound to the kinds of songs you write for JE is probably not the best way to translate them?
RM: Exactly. But the exploration of that early sound is what holds my interest, so to be able to pursue both the sound and the songs, I believe I need two projects to get me where I want to go both conceptually and production wise.
DK: Since your interest lies in that earlier sound, do you see Said Fantasy taking over eventually?
RM: I really don’t know. It definitely holds more interest for me at the moment, but I never wanted to leave JE with a covers album as the final recording. I’m not saying “Dwarf Mountain Alphabet” will be the final recording, but I’m taking things one step at a time here. I’ve purposefully stopped the frantic pace. It had its time, even regretfully so, but now I’m ready to be more thoughtful about what I’m doing.
DK: When you mention professional changes, the rumor is that you’re a minister of music for a large church.
RM: Yes, but I’d been doing that for years in California too, only now I’m doing it in Ohio.
DK: Do you compose church music as well?
RM: I do. It’s another facet of what I do musically. All of these different things really benefit the other, so it’s all a great thing. I’m able to stretch myself in different directions. At the heart of all of these things, I’ve always considered myself a songwriter before anything else. It’s what comes most natural to me, what I understand better than anything else, and what I’m most drawn to doing, for better of for worse.
DK: Will some of your religious songs ever be released commercially?
DK: I’ll assume you don’t want to elaborate on that. What’s happening with Eepsociety? Any changes since moving to Ohio?
RM: There have been some changes, yes. The biggest one being that I’m moving into another new location in September here in Ashland, Ohio, which I’m really looking forward to. There have been some minor gear changes here and there, but it’s primarily a Moog sound lab. It’s all exclusively Moog equipment. As far as the label side of things, we have a compilation coming out called “The Analogue Populist Review” soon.
DK: Will the new JE be coming out on Tooth and Nail or Eepsociety?
RM: That’s to be determined. At this point in time, there would be benefits to both.
DK: Is Eepsociety the studio available for commercial use?
RM: It is. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org if anyone is interested in recording, mixing or remixes.
DK: It’s seems like you’re involved in quite a few major projects these days.
RM: I always have been, but I’m pacing myself much more through it all in hopes that I’ll have a better balance. I believe that all of these things have a place, but I need to be wise in how I place them.
DK: Thanks for the update, I think you’ll have a lot of people excited to hear what’s coming up.
RM: Thanks! I don’t have the words to express how much I appreciate all the support!