Fan Interview With Ronnie.
Q. Would you like to do any other music with your brother on a full length album? Also, if you could be in a group with anyone, who would it be and why?
A. Jason and I are
both pretty busy and committed to our personal projects right now, but
who knows what will happen in the future. Maybe after both Joy E and SF
are through recording it would be a possibility, but I don't forsee either
band stopping anytime soon, if ever.
Q. Who did your make-up for the "We are the Music Makers" album?
A. It was Judita Wignall, wife of Matt Wignall (Havalina Rail Company) and singer/guitarist for The Halo Friendlies.
Q. Is Monosynth a subtle reference to monotheism, or am I reading too much into this stuff? I suppose like most poetry, what's important is the listener's personal interpretation, but I was wondering if that was an intent.
A. Monosynth is not a reference to monotheism. It's simply a song about a mono synthesizer, which happens to be a synth that can only play one note at a time. It's also what I've used exclusively for the recording of the last two albums.
Q. I really loved the Unelectric cd. Do you have any plans to make an Unelectric 2?
A. Thank you. There are no plans to do an Unelectric 2 at this point in time. I don't think I would be interested in doing another one, because I don't particularly enjoy redoing older songs too much. I'd rather concentrate on releasing new material.
Q. In the sleeve of
"The White Songbook" it says something to the effect
A. The inner "book" credits were added to The White Songbook to go with the overall theme of the inside of the album, which was to read like the inside of a novel. We looked through some old books and sort of took some of the same ideas we found in them. It was all for effect.
Q. You had mentioned
in an earlier interview that you were thinking of
A. I decided against it. The label was actually all for it, but I decided to leave well enough alone, because everyone would've just continued to say "Joy Electric" or "Joy E." no matter what. It all comes down to me being bored, but I thought it best to leave well enough alone.
Q. Is there a songbook
available where your music is notated and arranged
A. We don't have a songbook available, and that's simply because we haven't sold the amount of albums that are usually required to create enough of a demand for one. To answer your second question....yes, most anything can be done in exchange for large sums of money.
Q. Have there ever
been times when you thought about giving up on doing music,
A. Of course. I think anybody involved in music has thought about that from time to time, because it's a very discouraging business. But I don't like quitting. What keeps me going is the never ending desire to make good records, and lots of them. It's just the best thing in the world to be able to write a song, and know that it's a good and memorable track. It's an exciting thing to have a great batch of new songs with which to start a new album with, and hopefully improve on your previous work.
Q. Have you ever been
approached to score a film or considered producing a CD
A. I have been approached once or twice about doing music for an independent film, but nothing ever came of it. I actually just finished an instrumental album called The Tick Tock Companion, which features over an hour of live-to-tape analog synth sounds and textures. Fans of Raymond Scott will probably like this recording. I do like other, more structured and melodic instrumental pieces, but my main focus is to concentrate on writing actual songs, with instrumental bits added here and there for good measure.
Q. How did you know that Melissa was the one you were meant to marry?
A. I just knew that I wanted to spend every moment with her after we met, because of the kind of person she was. Everything just clicked between us, and still does. It's hard to explain, really.
Q. What are some of your favorite books?Genres?Authors? Where do you get inspiration for your Lyrics? Did you have any formal musical training?
A. At the moment I've
been reading a lot of Janette Oke books, which are these prairie/romance/family
novels. They're very encouraging books, and they teach me a lot about
families and relationships.
A. Just a person I once knew from a long time ago.
Q. Why the sideburns?
A. It's that much less you have to shave every morning......
Q. I was wondering who the girl is who introduces The Tick Tock Treasury? Also, if I was to dye my hair reddish to match yours from the Christiansongs era, what color should I get?
A. It's not a girl, it's my Roland System 100 synthesizer, of course. I can get it to make any sound possible including speech. What color dye......?......try red.
Q. Why didn't you put the lyrics in 'The Tick Tock Treasury' booklet?
A. Good question. I did it to change things up a bit. I put the story in there instead.
Q. In TWSB: who is the ice queen? What kind of church do you attend? Do you do ok financially by making music? Can I go on tour with you as an assistant?
A. The Ice Queen is a fictitious character, no doubt. I'm still looking for a new church since moving a few months back, but I've always attended non-denominational churches my whole life. Financially I do ok, but it would be much more profitable for you to be an assistant to someone who does something other than music.
Q. What would you consider your music? Synth-pop, robot rock, etc?
A. Whatever you want to call it, but I've always hated the term "synth-pop" because it brings to mind all things 80's, and there are people who use the term soooo excessively, like it's a medal of honor or something. But whatever you choose is fine.....
Q. What is the most
upsetting/frustrating thing or description people have ever said or have
continued to say about your music?
Q. I read and hear
over and over that you drive trucks for your dad's
Q. This question has probably already been asked, but I'll ask it just to be sure. What's the deal with The Tick Tock Treasury being labeled as Legacy Volume 2? I thought you said that you weren't going to continue the Legacy series. Not that it really matters. I just thought it was strange that you said you weren't going to continue the series and then all of a sudden, here is volume 2.
A. I changed my mind. I decided I wanted consistency above all else, and the album theme was already set to be Legacy Volume 2. Since TWSB, I've wanted to do albums with strong literary type themes, so I will probably continue with this series for awhile, if not forever.
Q. Is there any chance that you will be releasing any of the other albums on vinyl in the future? I personally would like to have the whole JE collection on vinyl, but I don't think that would happen. I would definitely like to see The White Songbook and The Tick Tock Treasury on vinyl.
A. I would love to have everything on vinyl, but no one has come to the table interested in financing it for us. Tooth and Nail stopped doing it years ago, but they will let another label come in and do it. Nobody has approached us thus far. Any takers......?
Q. What is the significance of the time that is displayed on the clock in the artwork? It says something like 10:05 or so. Just a random time or does it have a deeper meaning?
A. No significance as far as I know. I think it just fit symetrically with how the clock was positioned within the rest of the layout.
Q. I was wondering, will you guys ever play at the Creation Fest again?
A. I would like to play Creation again, but they have not asked us back since we played in 2000.
A. My first synthesizer was an Ensoniq SQ-80. It was a digital synth from the late 1980's that had a built in sequencer. It was one of the first of what are now known as "workstation" synths. My family is not particularly musical. My brother and I are the only ones I know of who ever pursued anything on a musical level.
Q. Does the inside of your house look like a wonderland?
A. Not exactly, but it does look like the inside of an issue of Country Living Magazine, so in a way maybe it does. The decor of our house is a style called "primitive country", which is mostly antique furniture and knick knacks from the "Little House on the Prairie" era.
Q. I've seen Joy E live with all your different setups - from your two man show with Cloud, to the three piece "rock" setup of recent years, and the current one man show, which happens to be my favorite of the three. Which do you prefer now that you're doing the one man show?
A. I've liked them all for different reasons, but people have really seemed to connect with the one man show, which is odd to me. It's a little more intimate and it is live, so maybe that has a lot to do with it. It's hard to say what my favorite has been, but I'm growing to like the uniqueness of the one man show right now. Another person on stage with me in the future would be nice, though. Joy E shows have always been a little unconventional, but I like that they've always changed throughout the years, too.
Q. Are you a fan of Radiohead? If so, do you prefer the older albums like The Bends and OK Computer, or the last two, which are more electronic?
A. I am a Radiohead fan. If I'm just going to go by songs, I would pick the earlier albums you mentioned, but musically I think they did some real nice things on Kid A and Amnesiac, and I hope they stay with that direction. I know most fans just go around pining for them to do another album like The Bends, but I really don't want to hear them go through that again. It's amazing that they were able to make such an abstract electronic album like Kid A, and still go to number one on the Billboard charts. I've always said that they are probably one of only 5-10 bands in the world that can make any record they want and have it still be hugely successful.
A. I think it might be the most consistent album I've ever put out. I really view it as a transition album to what I will be doing next, because it helped me minimalize my sound. I like that it crosses between being both pop and experimental at the same time. I don't think it's perfect, but I think half of it ranks up there with my best work. Like I said before, it has just prepared me for the next album, which I believe to be my finest batch of songs ever.
Q. What's your opinion of other electronic bands, like Apoptygma Berzerk, VNV Nation and other future pop stuff? Do you like other synth pop bands such as Cosmicity or Iris?
A. I actually like some "future pop" stuff, although it doesn't sound very "futuristic" or "pop" in my opinion. It's basically all just trance. Nevertheless, I like some A-Pop, Covenant and VNV songs in limited doses, like anything else. I haven't really heard much Cosmicity or Iris, but I must say that I don't care much for most of those Depeche Mode influenced bands, with those unnaturally low to midrange vocals you hear them all try to sing like. They sound like the voices on those used car commercials you see on TV or something.
A. I'm not sure. Probably bits and pieces of different albums. To single out one song for the moment, I would have to go with C Minor Miners, from TTTT. An entire album would probably be the Shepherd album, "Committing To Tape".
Q. Ronnie, do your albums usually turn out how you envision them, or a lot different?
A. I think I'm probably happy with about half of every record I've made up to this point. Some songs just come together nicely, and I end up being pretty satisfied with them, even years later. Then there's other songs where I just couldn't seem to get the ideas flowing on. Those are the ones that I look back and wish I could change, because they didn't line up with what I had in my head. "Picturephone" off the new album, is one of those songs. It's one of my personal favorites, but I'm just not happy with how the sounds and production came out on it. I probably didn't have a clear enough idea of how I wanted the song to be when I started it.
Q. Who is someone you've worked with musically that you really respect?
A. I have a lot of respect for everyone I've been able to work with. Gene Eugene comes to mind of someone that was a lot of fun. I guess Jon Sonnenberg (Travelogue, House of Wires) would be a person that's been great to work with and I have a lot of respect for. He's artistic without being pretentious, and he always gets the job done. He never makes excuses or let's his "personal life" get in the way of making records. He's also completely realistic about his music and where it's going, which is a rare thing among artists, and quite refreshing. He makes the records he wants with absolutely no ego attached. We've built a lot of trust over the years, and that's because we're not expecting the impossible from eachother.
Q. What specific albums have influenced you the most?
A. New Order "Substance". The Smiths "The Queen is Dead". The Human League "Octopus". ATF "Best of". LSU "Shaded Pain". 441 "Mourning Into Dancing". Kraftwerk "Man Machine". Jean Michael Jarre "Oxygen 7-13". It's hard to think about what exactly has influenced me, because I don't really keep a list, you know?
Q. What is your personal favorite Joy E record and song?
A. Probably TWSB and TTTT. Favorite song would possibly be "And Without Help We Perish" or maybe "C Minor Miners". I can't really decide. There's too many songs at this point, but I like probably 75% of them.
Q. What album or song are you least proud of?
A. Sugar Rush. Hands down.
Q. How do you feel about your particular level of success?
A. I'm thankful for where I am in the industry. I wish I sold more records, but the Lord has increased things very slowly and steady for Joy Electric. I've actually been able to achieve things beyond my reach thanks to the quality and quantity of fans that have stayed devoted throughout the years. I can't complain.
Q. How important do you think it is to make sure that your music has a Christian theme and what do you think of other so called "Christian-bands" who dilute their lyrics when switching to a larger market/label.
A. I try to stay true to whatever artistic ability I feel the Lord has given me to create original music, so in that respect, everything I do should reflect God's glory. Much in the same way that a person who paints portraits of apples should make sure he's doing his best work to reflect the excellence of God through his apple paintings, I feel that's what we are called to do in any walk of life. I don't know of any Christian bands who have dilluted their lyrics, but it does seem that if your music is going to reach the ears of many millions, a subtle and tactful approach would have the most effective impact.
Q. Many of your songs contain fantasy themes of wizards, forests, heroes, etc...I was wondering if you enjoy the "Legend of Zelda" video game series, which contains many similar themes?
A. I've only heard of the series you mentioned, but nothing more than that. I don't really play video games, with the exception of Excitebike by Nintendo, occassionally.
Q. What ever happened with your side band, Shepherd?
A. The Shepherd album, "Committing to Tape" has been picked up by Northern Records for release in May/June of this year. I'll be performing some of the songs accoustically this year at Cornerstone at The Rock for Life stage.
Q. I would love to know where the name "joy electric" came from. I constantly have people jesting at me that you stole it from Joy Division, which I do not believe at all, so how did you come up with it, and also what were some other name choices?
A. I'm not really sure where it came from, but I remember thinking it was a name that was easy to remember. I didn't take it from Joy Division, which I happen to think is a far better name, actually. The story is that I started Joy E right before I signed to Tooth and Nail Records, and I went in to see Brandon with a few names in mind. I told him the name "Joy Electric", and he loved it so much that he didn't even want to hear the other names I came up with. I told him that I didn't really like it that much, and he was just like "it has to be that name", so I said "ok...."and have regretted it ever since! Every band hates their name after awhile, it's just inevetible. What were the other names on the list? I can only remember one, and I'm too embarrassed to mention it now.....
Q. How does Mr. Martin feel about people burning his music? And of course when I refer to burning, I mean the act with which the "music industry" is in a pickle over.
A. I'm fine with it as long as there's a balance. I love to shop for and buy new albums myself, so I probably naively assume that everyone's the same way, but that's not true of course. Album sales are down now as opposed to a couple of years ago so downloading might have a part in that...I don't know. I've personally never downloaded an album before, but if that's how some people get the music, so be it. I just hope they eventually go and buy the record.
A. With writing, I tend to take certain liberties with wording that seem to capture the feeling of a song better. Saying "...but every hope I've had's been misplaced" sounds a little better than "...but 3 out of 5 hopes I've had have been misplaced". There are times in life where it truly does feel like all your hopes are being shattered, even though there are numerous blessings to count among those lost hopes. "Such as it Was" describes the feelings of things being within your grasp, but never fully attained, and I think everyone can associate with that. You have to remember that these songs can also be written from another person's life or standpoint, if need be. I have had a lot of blessings in life that you've described, but they've been mixed with difficult things that other people will never know about.
Q. After reading that great little story you placed inside of The Tick Tock Treasury, I was wondering if you ever considered developing that into a novel?
A. I don't really know if I have the skills necessary to write a novel. A short story is easy enough, but a novel requires a lot more. It's not that I haven't thought about it, but I just don't know if it's something I could accomplish.
Q. What types of synthesisers do you use and do you use any other instruments in your songs?
A. The eternal question. I use a Roland System 100 synthesizer. I used it for most of Robot Rock and Christiansongs, and exclusively on The White Songbook and The Tick Tock Treasury. Other synths I've used over the years are a Roland Juno 60, Juno 106, SH-101, SH-1, SH-2, SH-9, Pro-Mars, MC 202, Minimoog, and a Sequential Circuits Six Trak, to name just a few. I haven't used anything but synthesisers since the second album, "We are the Music Makers". There were some guitars and drum machines on the first album, but everything's been entirely synth based since that time. Why? I just find it more interesting and I wanted to bring my sound to it's ultimate and limited conclusion, so to speak.
Q. Will you ever do a CD of all cover songs?
A. I'm not sure. I've thought about the idea, but I don't know when or if it will ever happen. It would have to be something that the label was willing to get behind and support, but even then, I don't know if I have enough interest in doing it myself. It seems like taking a step back, and I'd much rather spend the time making an entirely new album of original material.
Q. What can we expect from Legacy Volume 3? What is the mood of the songs? Can you give us a couple of songtitles?
A. I've never been more anxious or excited to start a new album in my life. Of course, I won't have time to begin until The Tick Tock Tour is completed and the Christmas album is mixed, but the plan is to begin work in July. The mood of the songs is very melancholy, and lyrically complex, so in that sense it will be more like TWSB, but I believe the songs are much stronger. Musically it's going to be extremely limiting and focussed, as I will be doing the whole record on 8 tracks and giving myself a time limit to have it done within. I plan on concentrating on vocal sounds a lot more fully than I did for TTTT because I want a more lush sound this time around. Basically I want to make the ultimate record, and I think I have the songs this time to have that goal fully realized. Some early songtitles are (tentatively of course):
The Lives of Unknowns