Volume 92, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


The Concrete Beat

Exploring the avant-garde: Brakhage documents experimentalist

Seeking security and music on the internet

Vani thrives off intimate atmosphere

Casing the joint for a little funked up house

Celebrity sightings

Groovin' around with fashion

New Wahlberg film too weak to corrupt

Vani thrives off intimate atmosphere

By Terry Warne
Gazette Staff

What's that, up in the sky? Is it an up and coming singer/songwriter? Is it a trip hop DJ who spins under the name Rise Ashen? Is it an engineer and mastermind producer? Or, is it the founder and president of Prose-Act Records? Wait, it's all of those things... it's Eric Vani.

Vani may not look like the man of steel, but the amount of work he takes on represents Superman proportions. Vani has his fingers in more than a few cookie jars – and that's just how he likes it. "It's my bag baby," he says.

What immediately stands out when listening to Vani's sparse, plaintive, acoustic based tunes, is his haunting voice. Vani wraps his vocal cords around emotion-filled songs. In the tradition of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, he dwells in introspection. "It's real quiet. I like to call it midnight music," he says.

Vani feels writing from a position of awe produces his best work. He writes about conflict, tension, emotion and society. This makes for an interesting listen because these lyrics of conflict are juxtaposed with mellow, soothing melodies. He is the first to admit his lyrics are challenging and occasionally difficult to interpret. "I'm talking about big things, I'm not really talking about – baby, baby, this or that – the way a lot of pop music does. Not that I have an objection to that."

Vani realized more success the softer he played – something he has come to terms with. He recognized he wasn't going to overwhelm listeners with his music, so instead of becoming more vocal, he chose to retreat. In effect, to appreciate Vani's music one must actually listen to it. "I want to challenge and stop the listener dead in their tracks, not by screaming at them, but whispering at them."

As well as performing, Vani co-produces his albums and has engineered, recorded and produced for other artists such as Melisse Lafrance and Understorey. He says he enjoys the presence of another producer when recording his albums because it helps him stay objective.

As well, after producing for other artists, he has earned an enormous amount of respect for the role of the producer. "The producer has become the person who directs artistically, as opposed to the person who just organizes everything," he enthuses.

Vani also dabbles in trip-hop as DJ Rise Ashen. He expects to release an album under this name within three or four months. It is this kind of diversity which keeps Vani interested in his musical career. Trip hop allows Vani to express a side of himself which remains harnessed when performing his acoustic numbers. However, he doesn't believe audiences will ever hear a Vani tune performed in the same show as a Rise Ashen track. "People just get confused. They like buying into a concept, an image or a lifestyle," he explains.

Performing live is an experience into which Vani invests much effort. He doesn't like shows where things remain static and enjoys performers who pour their hearts out to the audience and live through their music. Vani provides what he calls a very mellow experience, relying on intimacy and subtlety in the hopes of transfixing an audience. "I like to be able to see everyone's eyes when I'm performing."

He might not be leaping over tall buildings or speeding faster than a freight train, but Vani can give Superman a run for his money any day.

Eric Vani plays the Whippet Lounge on Saturday.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999