A Sit Down With DJ D. Ramirez
The D Ramirez name has been synonymous with cutting edge, forward thinking sound since the release of that genre defining remix of Bodyroxs 'Yeah Yeah' Top 40 #1 in the mid-noughties, but its the rich tapestry of production that followed that continues to make tidal waves across the industry. From Space Ibiza, Womb in Tokyo to Avalon in LA; or smashing sets at iconic festivals Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Global Gathering and Australia Day in Sydney; D Ramirez is a definitive crowd puller across the globe.
As well as commercial success with high chart positioning hits and even an appearance on the famous BBC television music show, Top Of The Pops, D. Ramirez has also received a number of illustrious industry awards throughout his career as a producer, from places DJ Magazine (Best Producer and Best Remix 2007), iDJ (Player of the Year) and even an Ivor Novello nomination for his now classic remix of Bodyrox Yeah Yeah. With his remixes of Roger Sanchez Lost (D.Ramirez Lost In Rave Remix), which was named as Pete Tongs Essential new tune, Plump DJs Electric Disco (D.Ramirez Mix), also an Essential New Tune along with Max Linen The Soulshaker (D.Ramirez Mix), D. Ramirez had his industry peers tipping their hats to him.
"Being just a DJ isnt enough these days - you need to bring something new to the table and impress people with a different skill set. "
Tell us about your musical background.
My real name is Dean Marriot. We might as well get the real name out of the way first. Ive been producing music for the last 30 years. Making music was always a hobby for me, and I started when I was about 10 years old. Eventually I had some recognition for a track when I was producing with another guy under the name The Lisa Marie Experience. The track, Keep on Jumping was what we became most famous for. That was in 1996 and went to number 5 in the UK charts. Later on in the 90s after doing hundreds of remixes and tracks I decided I wanted to make more techno-influenced House music and this is where the D.Ramirez moniker came from. I wanted to start again without any connotations as the Lisa Marie Experience was quite a commercial project, really. I wanted to do something dark, underground and dirty, and I didnt want anyone to know it was me. I wanted people to think it was a Spanish dude, you know! Though I couldnt look anything less like one actually. So, Ive been doing the D.Ramirez project now since about 1999 and its going strong.
Talk us through your typical workflow from idea development to conception.
I always start by finding the right hook - whether it be a sample or a riff and i build it from there. I used to start with drums and percussion and add the hooks in later but now i get the hook first. Basically if i can have something sounding great with just a kick drum alone, i know i'm onto a winner. I'll then start by throwing some loops (that i've collected over the years) around the hook in Ableton. Once i'm satisfied with the way things are sounding i'll bounce everything out from Ableton and export into Logic Pro. I prefer to arrange in Logic as it's just what i'm used to. Here i start to sketch out the track. This method is very much in keeping with the 'left brain/ Right brain' theory where i'll play around with ideas first and then i'll go into arrange mode later - it splits the 2 processes up.
You have been a firm fixture on the house and techno scene for many years, what do you feel is the secret to your continued success as a DJ and Producer?
I think my secret is sheer tenacity-I'm a hard worker and I absolutely adore what I do. I love being in the studio, it's all I need in life and making music is my number one pleasure. I'll continue to keep doing this while ever I possibly can.
What kind of sound and what musical trend has inspired you most?
I have to say I was inspired the most as a child when the New Romantic scene broke in the early eighties. Bands like The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, ABC, Depeche Mode, and Heaven 17 were my favourites. I even had the infamous asymmetric hair cut that Phil Oakey from the Human League had!
So, your music style has transitioned from upbeat, Electro House to underground Techno. Where do you feel your music is at now?
Well, Ive had big moments in my career from the time of The Lisa Marie Experience. Ironically, I began making more underground music afterwards because I didnt like the success and commercial nature that led to the expectancy of playing only a certain style of music. But then in 2006 the same thing happened: I released an experimental wonky-electro track that happened to go to number 1 in the charts. It was amazing but it kind of went against everything I wanted to do, because then everybody was looking at what I was doing, booking me for big concerts and festivalswhich was brilliantbut with that came the expectation that I must play commercial music. After that I decided I didnt want to make that kind of music anymore, especially as a lot of other artists copied that sound I had started. So, Id be hearing stuff and think, "Hang on a minute, that sounds familiar!" It wasnt just that the style was copied, it got to the point where that genre got watered down and was being overdone. So I decided to start making minimal Techno which I think was a total shock to my fans, but I carved a little niche out doing that. Now Im making more House-oriented music; Tech-House, and Im signed to Toolroom who are purveyors of that sound.
What part of the production process do you find the most challenging?
I currently struggle with getting my mix downs sounding fat enough. I've got to the point now where i don't even attempt the mix anymore - i just pass it over to a mix engineer...
How do you think the technology affects the music producers release?
The kids now have the ability to make fully produced tracks entirely on a laptop from start to finish. You can produce and master a track using the best, professional plug-in's on the market so it's an open playing field out there at the moment technology wise. Although, just because there is all this technology available doesn't necessarily mean that the track produced will be any good.
Recently, you have changed your musical direction and have been greatly influenced by Deep House and Techno, would you agree?
I have always loved house, deep house and the more underground techno sound. So I was really happy when I started to hear this music trickling back through the underground again; especially the old school sound that I grew up with.
Not only a label owner, producer and DJ, you are also a regular contributor to the academic side of things through your work with Toolroom Academy, SubBass DJ Academy and various online tutorials. What made you decide to give back? Any further plans in this area?
Teaching is something I really like, mainly because I get to talk about all the things that most people generally don't want to listen to. Im really passionate about music production and all the technology that goes with it, i love to learn new techniques and i love being able to share those techniques with others. Ive recently become one of the main advisors for the Toolroom Academy and ive just completed a 6 hour long, Tech House Masterclass for Fader pro which is out now which im already getting loads of props for. Teaching is something a see a lot in my future as ill always want to give back.
What about hardware in studio and live?
I used to play with vinyl and then I got heavily into the laptop generation and started off with Serato Scratch and Traktor which I was using with the S4. But it was pretty big so Ive gone back to using CDJs and USB sticks when DJing. Of course I use all my hardware to produce the tracks first and then play it live the easy way when I get to the gig. Ive been collecting stuff for my studio for the last 25 years. Ive got my SH1, Prophets, Jupiters and lots of stuff! I started getting into nice preamps. For example, Ive got a Universal Audio 610 preamps, Culture Vulture stuff, and the Thermionic Culture Fat Bustard Summing Valve Mixer. So Ive got all of this hardware mainly under dust sheets because I dont get a chance to be in the studio much now.
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