Phil Ramocon: “Whatever’s best for the song is usually the best way forward”

There’s a new band in town, although they’re quite near the edge of town, apparently. Lounge at the Edge of Town is the latest project by the members of Turin Brakes and Phil Ramocon. It’s Turin Brakes, and it’s not, because it’s many other things as well. This week, we dive deep into the Lounge… Today, we talk to Phil Ramocon, who is a music industry legend, but might still be the more unfamiliar part of Lounge At The Edge Of Town for Turin Brakes fans. Today, we get to know him and his influence on the project.

Welcome to the world of Turin Brakes, Phil. Can you introduce yourself to us, walk us through your personal Hall of Fame and suggests some works we might be familiar with and / or we should definitely check out?

Phil: “I’m a singer songwriter keyboard player with a Classical / Jazz / Pop background. I started playing in bands while I was at Art school. One of these bands featured a prominent Jamaican trombonist called Rico Rodriguez. He was very influencial musician had the respect of more famous artists and bands like Squeeze, Steve Winwood, John Martyn, Bob Marley, Lee Scracth Perry, and many others. My association with Rico brought me invitations to play on other artist’s records because they liked the way I played, and also because Rico may have put in a good word. The Rico band recorded several successful singles which helped me to learn more about the recording process.”

Take five

Ska wars

“The Rico band supported Bob Marley and the Wailers across Europe when they were promoting their Exodus album. They liked what we were doing and I got a call after the tour was over to play on two new Bob Marley songs in the studio. These were: Punky Reggae Party and Keep on Moving. I used to bump into Mark Hollis (Talk Talk, ed.) a fair bit back then when he was with The Reaction, but we didn’t connect musically yet.”

Punky Reggae Party

Keep on Moving

“About a year later, I got a call from Jimmy Cliff’s office to work on his new album being recorded in America. I got a chance to arrange, compose and play with famous session musicians like: Denise Williams, Gene Page, Tom Scott, Abraham Laboriel, Paulinho Da Costa and many others.”

I’m the Living by Jimmy Cliff

Shelter of your Love by Jimmy Cliff

“Others artists I’ve worked with:

“Some co-writes I’ve done:

Your most prominent influence on the project seems to be the piano as well as co-writing the songs?

“Our approach to the writing process, was to keep it sonically uncluttered, organic and honest; to let the lyrics and the melody in each song shine through. When it came time to record the songs properly, we tried to keep it simple and not add too many other elements after the rhythm section was recorded. I’m glad you can hear the piano and it’s not covered up by overproduction. Sometimes it’s hard to locate a single instrument clearly in a crowded production because of multi layers of organs, guitars and synthesisers and the like.”

Do you feel the piano was missing in the world of Turin Brakes? What possibilities does this versatile instrument bring to the table?

“My first instrument is the piano so it feels natural to help work out harmonies and chord voicings that suit the melody without getting too complicated. I was able to dig into classical harmony for ‘Sunshine’, which gives it an almost gothic feel of majesty and wonder. It’s all about the feel of a song and the mood it creates. We all love the art of songwriting, so artistes like Carol King, Bowie, Todd Rundgren, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles and Prince, often came up in conversation.”

What is your favourite song on the album and why?

“I like to play the album from start to finish each time. It feels like it’s own universe and I love that.”

You’ve worked with many famous names, including Mark Hollis, Gloria Gaynor and others. Is it true that Turin Brakes are bigger divas than any other famous name ever?

“Lol! Actually, they’re very cool, open minded people and not divas at all.”

Can you talk a bit about different dynamics for writing and recording projects and where Turin Brakes are on the spectrum?

“I always want to hear everyone’s thoughts on how a song is taking shape and how to get it to sound better. I love songs where the dynamics are alive and the chorus sections just jump out at you in an immediate way. I’ll usually gently push for that to happen. But equally, if the song is a bit more experimental in nature, then I’ll roll with that too. Whatever is best for the song is usually the best way forward. Turin Brakes are top draw writers and musicians. They totally understand the importance of emotion in music and how to get it across. There’s great chemistry between us and a great positive spirit which we all need in these crazy times. Looking forward to writing more big tunes with them.”

You’ve been part of projects for the past few decennium, how would you describe the music industry these days?

“The music industry in always changing like shifting sand but, people will always love to hear great songs with a great performance. After this period of lockdown more musicians will move all their work online. There should be very interesting times ahead.”

What’s next for you? Any projects on the horizon we can look out for?

“The self- isolation period had made me re evaluate what I do. Most of my performing work was suddenly curtailed but, I love writing big tunes and making records and that won’t change.”

Part 1 of our feature series is available here… check back tomorrow for our interview with Gale.

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