Get to know: Ronan

Robin Lohrey is at the very beginning of his career. Under his artist name Ronan, to sum up his style can be hard to define, something he agrees with himself.

Radical Acceptance, his debut on Seattle label Budget Cuts was an ode to hardcore, and rave nostalgia of the 90’s. Prolongez La Magie was the demonstration of a deeper side to Ronan, full of warmth and texture; apt for an EP released on his own ‘Eternal Ocean‘ imprint. Both releases were mature, taking cues from key cultural movements and remoulding them into cutting edge floor fillers.

On the horizon for Ronan is a release with D. Tiffany’s Planet Euphorique, as well as some personal projects and forthcoming material for his own label. We caught up with the newcomer to get the lowdown.

So you’re quite fresh onto the scene, and we have you here at your 3rd career release. I’d like to know about your personal journey to this point, and your early musical experiences?

Right, I’ll start from the beginning then. So I had a few older siblings who were playing piano and we had this upright in the house. I must have been about four or five and I would go up and play around on the keys, I liked the pictures in the music books they had, I remember one was called ‘Ice Castle’ or something like that and I thought that was amazing. I guess I’ve always been inspired by music describing an environment or painting some kind of picture. Around the same time I started messing around on a violin my Dad had lying around. I was privileged enough to have parents with money and time to support my interests and so they started me on lessons and I studied classical violin and piano for about 12 years after that as well playing a lot of traditional Irish fiddle music which my parents were both very into.

After high school I got into New England Conservatory in Boston so I moved there when I was 17 and kept studying classical piano but started getting into Jazz so I jumped around a lot but eventually the last two years I started studying with a composition teacher who was in charge of this tiny electronic music studio. They had an Arp 2600 in there and an old Moog Model D, and a nice little six channel setup. He exposed me to a lot of early experimental electronic stuff and computer music, and I’d always kind of been into dance music on the side so I started kind of putting it together and making these kind of spatialized techno experimentations which is honestly something I’d love to explore more in the future, getting sounds to move and swirl around you is something modern clubs really haven’t really caught onto yet, but they will if I have anything to do with it.

So I got out of school, bought some basic gear, kept working on dance music stuff, got very bored of Boston and decided to move down to NYC where everything really started to be honest. I had some very formative rave experiences early on and I would say my sound now is very informed by those memories. I started helping throw this party Groovy Groovy with some friends and it was something else, we were throwing parties in the back rooms and basements of chicken spots and pizza joints, it was something else. But about two years in New York was getting to be too much for me and I knew I needed something else to continue my personal development so I moved back to Washington State to sublet my sister’s cabin in the woods for a summer and out of a lot of intense feelings of loneliness and depression I decided I needed to stop waiting around for something or someone to make my life happen for me so I decided to start the label, put my first record out and go for it. Now we’re a year later and everything that’s happened has been a result of that decision to just believe in myself and bring my own chair to the table.

How would you best describe the sounds you produce?

My sound is always evolving so it’s hard to pin down to neat and tidy genre labels. The last three records have all been sort of in their own worlds. A lot of times I end up trying to consciously or unconsciously emulate a sound or feeling of a style or artist and end up somewhere totally else. The track ‘Crystal Viewer’ from this latest release is a good example of that. I started messing around with a sort of float-ey textural beat and after pretty much finishing the tune I realised I was going for the sound and feeling of this Helical Scan tune ‘Index II’. It’s funny actually because after I re-listened to that tune after finishing mine it has almost the same like dubby chord thing come in half-way through the song which I do that exact same thing even though I hadn’t heard the tune in a few years it just stuck into my brain somehow.

Obviously I’m adding my own unique flavor to that idea and added a trendy break in there and whatnot, it is 2019 I mean come on. I guess what I’m getting at is we’re at the point where there’s nothing really ‘new’ anymore as much as there is just the raw material, whether it be anything from the sound of an iconic synth, a drum break or the rhythms and sounds associated with a specific artist or musical style, it’s all just material at this point. So then it becomes less about what ‘new’ thing we create and more about the way we contextualize and rework what is already there in front of us. Everyone has access to almost the entirety of music on the internet now so we all have this amazing opportunity to create endless hybridities and juxtapositions illustrating our own endlessly unique perspectives and experiences. The maker isn’t the message, or something like that.

Has this always been the way? Or have you have experimented with other genres before this?

Oh, for sure. I’ve hopped all over the place. I’ve gone through so many phases and obsessions over the years. I think that’s what it’s all about. I mean, good for you if you have found some specific musical style that you want to become like the best in the world at (I’m looking at you ‘Modern Jazz Musicians’). But like come on, there’s so much out there to explore, I think for me it was confusing and I felt like I was becoming a jack of all trades but a master of none sort of but now looking back it was crucial that I spent the time I did learning bluegrass mandolin, playing in a noise rock band, or learning Bach inventions among much else. It all created the bedrock for my musicality and now I have the pleasure of feeling truly comfortable when I sit down, at an instrument, synthesizer, laptop, whatever and just create from my heart and trust that I can get it out and sculpt it into something genuine and honest.

Your next release comes out on D. Tiffany’s Planet Euphorique. How did this come about? Did you send her your music, or did she reach out to you?

First of all, big shout out to Sophie, she’s a sweetheart and I’m really grateful for her support. We had a funny meeting actually, a few years back I was back home visiting family in Washington and I decided to drive up to Vancouver to see Umfang play and it ended up being in this studio space that Sophie shared with another artist. I had just made a tape under my given name of hardware jams and stuff and so deep into the night, I was a bit off my head and she showed up at the party and I remember giving her the tape with my sweaty hands and saying something like ‘I really want you to listen to this, your music is very special to me’ hehe. It was cute and we kept in touch and hung out over the years and she hit me up in February of this year I believe about doing something, and I had just written a couple of tunes and wrote another one, cued up Reptant to do that insane remix and sent them over to Francis Latreille aka Priori who did an excellent job mixing the the record and that was that. Big Ups the Tiny Planet.

So I understand you run a label, Eternal Ocean? Tell us a bit more about the label and it’s ethos?

Eternal Ocean is a special project for me, it was a slow burn concept for a while. I kind of always knew I wanted to build some kind of platform but I think I just didn’t know how to, or had the confidence to really do it. The name came from the day after closing out this legendary party at Greissmuhle, the first gig I played in Berlin, I was at the Airbnb and starting messing around listening to these old Trancemaster compilations and digging all this music and art and I started messing around with this design for a T Shirt which I eventually screenprinted myself over the next summer.

I want to give all credit where due and one of the titles of the compilations was ‘Eternal Oceanic’ so I just cut the last two letters and it clicked. I’m a water creature through and through and it just felt right. When I decided to pull the trigger during that summer in the cabin I decided to frame it as a ‘multimedia production platform’ as I didn’t have any interest in just running a label. Obviously there’s a focus on music as that’s my main focus and interest but I wanted to be able to create open format media projects that could take shape in both physical and digital space. To me it’s about creating stories and objects that encourage using all our senses to get in touch with ourselves and each other.

What’s in store for you and the label for the rest of the year and next year?

Well for me I’m getting geared up to move down to Mexico City in October for about six months. I’ve been bouncing back and forth around the Americas over the past two years and I’ll be down there for the winter working on a few new EP’s and a hybrid live performance that I got to test out this summer that includes my piano playing alongside the electronic stuff.

The next 12” for the label is almost done and I’m extremely excited about it. I got a very sweet email about a month ago from an artist over in Austria who felt their music shared a lot with mine and attached a few tunes. They completely blew me away and I’m honored to be putting them out. This will be their first release and I’ll be doing my best to get it out to as many people as possible, so that’s all I’ll say for now but stay locked! Other than that I’ll be putting out an amazing CD compilation of tunes produced in collaboration between myself and a few other incredible producers in a shared studio space in Ridgewood, NY between 2017-2018. Going to be looking into producing some more garments while in Mexico and getting the website together so I’ll be keeping busy 😉

Planet Euphorique will release Dream Portal on 23rd September 2019.

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