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Interview with Ron Vento (Aurora Borealis)

Ron Vento formed Aurora Borealis in the mid-1990s after relocating to Florida and taming up with drummer Tony Laureano to record their debut album Mansions of Eternity with Sepultura producer Scott Burns. Following its release, Laureano left the band to focus on other projects and was replaced by Derek Roddy for Vento’s sophomore album Praise the Archaic Lights Embrace.

After their acclaimed third album, Northern Lights, Roddy was unable to continue with the group due to his commitments with Hate Eternal. Laureano rejoined the line-up for the album Relinquish, before being replaced by Mark Green for Aurora Borealis‘ latest album, Timeline (The Beginning and End of Everything). To celebrate fifteen years in the industry, Vento recently announced that he has made the band’s entire back catalogue for free from their website.

Ron Vento discusses downloading and surviving in the music industry.

Why did you ultimately decide to give away all your music for free? Was this in any way a reaction to illegal downloading and filesharing and are you concerned how this could affect your record sales?

Yeah it had a little bit to do with it. My view is anybody can get anything they want for free today, whether it be music or movies or software, etc. My thinking is it will happen anyway so let me give them an opportunity to download it from me and if they like it maybe donate a little bit. Of course I do not require it but there are still some honest people out there that just don’t want the physical CD anymore. I have had plenty of donations from great honest people. The CD is dying and is soon to be a thing of the past. Besides, if someone downloads my CD and hates it I don’t want them to have wasted their money on it and just be mad they spent the cash. I know how that feels from buying some garbage back in the day and there was nothing I could do about it, so in a way I cannot blame people for downloading a CD.

My other thought process is these are hard times for people financially, some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, much less even think about purchasing a CD. I am saying to them if you can get to a computer you can have this CD. Maybe that little bit of enjoyment they have will from the CD will make their lives better. I don’t rely of CD sales to live nor make a living. I do rather well with my studio so why not pass some of the good fortune I have along to other people in the form of free music. I still make physical CDs for collectors that are available as well.

I am not trying to call someone out but Dave Mustaine recently said letting people download your music is plain stupid. He is so well off it is incredible, like he could not afford to give an unreleased track away here and there. I am not saying give his whole album away because that is his only source of income apparently, but give a little here and there when you can afford to. This is just the bullshit capitalistic attitude so many people in the USA have. More More More. Then I see major players like Anthrax giving away a free track away and that is awesome. He said something to the effect of it will effect the longevity of people’s careers. That is just stupid. He came up in a different time. He needs to learn to learn the motto “adapt or die.” Acting selfish like that will make his own career shorter. By the way, I love old Megadeth so this is not just hating on him. Bottom line is artists need to start looking for other avenues of revenue because that of the CD sale is long gone. Just ask the major record labels. Oh wait, most of them are gone, and the rest will be history soon.

Would you say that this decision somehow marks the end to an era for Aurora Borealis and what does the foreseeable future hold?

Quite the contrary, this is a new start. This decision will open us up to a whole new generation of fans or to people that simply did not want to download illegally. Also, it will help spread the word on the music. Being free and legal, people are sure to just check it out and, if they hate it, nothing is lost except a few minutes time. I think it will also get us more exposure to zines such as yours. I am having a great time talking to new people everyday who are hearing us for the first time.

Out of your entire back catalogue, which album and specific tracks are you most proud and best represent you as an artist?

Well let me answer this in a couple of parts. I am most proud of my new Timeline CD. It is the one I spent the most time on and I think it is a great CD and represents us very well. I know it is new and not part of the back catalogue but I just had to get that out there. I think I am most proud of the very first CD we did. I was very young and I somehow got the funds to go to Tampa, find a superb drummer in Tony Laureano and then get to record with the great Scott Burns at the legendary Morrisound Studios.

I know fairly popular bands that Scott didn’t even work with so this was a dream come true for me being so young. Tony had a lot to do with making the Scott Burns thing happen. But it was a very proud moment in my life. This was our first CD and we came out as strong as many of the much bigger bands out there. I think we made a great introduction into the metal world.

How has the internet changed how you manage your band and approach the music industry, particularly with regards to downloading and social networks?

I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. In some ways it is the best thing ever because of the fans you can reach and interact with, but in other ways I do miss the old days of tape trading and getting mail in an actual physical mail box. It was really fun checking out and trading with other bands. The social network sites are what I like to call evil necessities; it is a pain to have a million sites you have to check daily, but in the same exact breath those are the sites that open you up to new fans and people. The downloading I don’t so much mind just because, as I said, I am not relying on CD sales to survive.

Looking back to before you formed the band, how did your time at the Atlanta Institute of Music prepare you for a life writing, recording and performing in a band?

Wow, that is surprising you even knew that. My time in Atlanta was great because I got to meet and play in a band with one of my favourite, old school thrash bands Hallows Eve. We had a band called Lestregus Nosferatus. As far as the schooling, it was good but I am not sure it directly affected the way I go about writing music. I think it did play a part in leading me to avenues in working in some studios. I think you are taken a bit more seriously by some establishments when you present some sort of degree, even though I am not sure I even believe that myself. The schooling was an overall great experience; it was hard in some areas and easy in others, but I am glad I had the chance to go. It made me a much harder worker I think.

How do you feel about today’s mainstream metal scene and can you relate to many of the young, up-and-coming bands?

I think there are just as many great bands today as there were back in the day, but the problem is you have to weed through a million times more bands to find those great bands. With the technology getting better all the time people can just sit at home and record albums and have bands without spending too much money. Once again this is a good and bad thing. It lets people create music who could otherwise not afford to some time ago. Just a few short years ago to make a CD cost a ton of money and if you were just a hobbyist you would not venture down the long expensive road of making a CD. That is why it seems that back in the day you only heard good bands, or at least the bulk of them were good. They took themselves very serious. Today you have so much crap out because of how cheap it is to just sit at home and make music. There are less great bands and more just people sitting there with a drum machine making a CD. I still stumble on great bands here and there and those are the same bands that had they been making music back then would be the great bands then.

As far as ‘mainstream’ metal I don’t know if there is such a thing. Metal is not at the forefront in today’s music world, even at its most ‘commercial’ level. There are a ton of huge rock bands out there but they are not in the metal category to me. Some people say Cradle of Filth are considered commercial metal, that is just stupid. As much as I don’t like Cradle of Filth, no one in the regular world has even remotely heard of them.

Aside from metal, what other kind of genres do you enjoy listening to and which artists in particular would fans be shocked to discover that you enjoy?

I am being dead serious when I say I listen to everything. Being that I work in a studio I am exposed to all styles and genres. I really enjoy ’80′s rock and metal of course. But I even listen to modern pop. I appreciate the artistic views and expressions of every style. If some Aurora fans saw my iPod they may just decide to remove me from their iPod. You name it, I listen to it.

What is your most cherished piece of equipment and do you regularly upgrade your instruments or are you sentimental when it comes to keeping your guitars from when you were first starting out?

My favourite piece is and always will be my custom Jackson guitar. It is a one of a kind. It has custom frets, custom paint and custom engraving, built for me only. It took months to create and have made. I have many other guitars at the studio but I only use that one on my albums. As far as other gear, I always sink my money back into my recording studio. We have about a quarter million invested in it at this point. I don’t buy that much for myself but just for my business usually. We just want to constantly make better and better sounding records.

I am very sentimental when it comes to my gear though. Even though I upgrade I don’t usually get rid of my old stuff. I still have my first B.C. Rich Warlock my parents bought for me when I was really young. I will have it until I die.

Ron Vento

Ron Vento

As a writer, what subjects interest you most and would you say there are specific themes that recur throughout your work?

Through the years my subject matter has changed a little but it has mostly been based around historical type things. Most of what I sing about is history, things that actually happened. For the new one we went into the future but once again these are things I believe will be true in the future, so if you think about it, it still in the same.

I never write about Satanism or gore because frankly they either bore me or I don’t believe in what they are saying lyrically. I guess musically I have some influence from those styles but lyrically and concept wise I could not be further from it. I always try to make the lyrics meaningful, so if someone reads them they may learn something or at the very least think about what is being written about. I get so many emails and letters where people tell me how much they appreciate our lyrics and I am so glad that there are people out there that still think lyrics are as important as the music.

Over the years you have covered songs by Slayer, W.A.S.P. and Dio, but have you ever considered reworking a pop song or ballad into a metal song, thus making it your own?

Yeah I have thought about it, but every time I go do do a cover it is either for a label who has a specific band in mind or I just find a better metal song to do. Also, let me thank you for taking the time to interview. I really appreciate it and it is people and avenues like yourself that have always kept this band relevant. We never got much help in the way of labels or distribution deals. So you guys are really the driving force behind the band. I encourage all your readers to go to our site and download the new album and all the albums for that matter and see what they think. Thanks again.

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