The Hit Maker – Emre Ramazanoglu Interview
In a career spanning nearly 20 years, drummer, engineer, mixer and songwriter Emre Ramazanoglu has garnered an impressive résumé: composing music for high-profile movies and working closely with some of the biggest names in pop… “I’m meeting Noel (Gallagher) shortly, we’ve got to finish mixing another track, then tomorrow, I’m going to be working on […]
In a career spanning nearly 20 years, drummer, engineer, mixer and songwriter Emre Ramazanoglu has garnered an impressive résumé: composing music for high-profile movies and working closely with some of the biggest names in pop…
“I’m meeting Noel (Gallagher) shortly, we’ve got to finish mixing another track, then tomorrow, I’m going to be working on some fashion music, then I’ve got some mixes for Lily Allen to be getting on with…”
A typical work schedule there for Emre Ramazanoglu, not just brushing shoulders with the icons of the music world, but being a bona-fide creative resource for them: getting his hands dirty and stuck in with composition, arranging, mixing and engineering… not to mention remixing, as well.
For many readers, this sounds like the pinnacle of their aspirations – to use their music making and technological know-how to contribute to the pop-music landscape (and get to work with a veritable shedload of celebrities/pop stars as well). So how did Emre get to this coveted position?
From a young age, he loved a wide variety of music: “I loved Led Zeppelin growing up, as well as Miles Davies and The Cure (quite an eclectic mix, really!) I also liked P-Funk and James Brown. Also lots of hip-hop, there were loads of mixes and remixes that I really liked and that’s what got me interested in music making as a career.”
Emre soon got stuck into percussion and became an ardent drummer, but over the years, he gradually picked up a range of instruments, including keyboard, though in his own words: “I mainly just play drums, but these days, I program a lot of keys – I mean, I do play a little bit of guitar and bass, but I’d never say I was a ‘player’ as such – It’s primarily rhythm and percussion I tend to ‘play’ – but I write a lot of music using a keyboard; that’s where I mainly compose.”
Things really kicked off after Emre made the move to the Big Smoke:
“Well, I started out drumming and programming for years, then I came to London in around 1998, and very fortuitously moved in next to a mate who was living with the Sneaker Pimps at the time. I got to know the fantastic drummer Dave Westlake, who’s actually an all-round brilliant musician. Dave knew that Jim Abbiss (producer/musician) was looking for a drummer who could also program and he put me up to that, and working with Jim really was the springboard that started my career off. Everything that followed in my career originated from that one very kind gesture of Dave’s!”
From establishing himself with Jim Abbiss as live drummer, programmer and occasional engineer, Emre became an engineer and mixer for hire. He worked with EDM and dance artists such as The Prodigy and Tricky, as well as pop heroes such as Michael Jackson, Shakira and Marc Almond. But Emre was not phased by the near-godlike status of some of these figures.
“Every person I’ve worked with has been interesting in different ways. It’s hard to lump people together or single people out – especially in this industry. Every single person is different. You just have to learn how they work and figure out how to work with them. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes more challenging.”
From then on, Emre has worked with an ever-growing roster of high-calibre artists, a list that includes co-writing for Sia and Carly Rae Jepsen, remixing for Mark Ronson’s I Can’t Lose single campaign and now working with one of British rock’s towering figures, Noel Gallagher, on his new solo record.
On their collaboration, Emre says: “Noel is utterly brilliant. I didn’t know him at all before we started and he’s just an enormously talented musician – a great guitarist and an inspired songwriter. What’s been really nice is how much he’s up for the journey of making a record. He’s really focused and easy to work with.”
If that wasn’t enough, Emre has also taken on projects for fashion/advertising, campaigns for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Max Factor and Puma. “It’s a totally different world and very high pressure! But super fun,” Emre says. Scoring music for film is the other outlet for Emre’s talents, including 2009’s John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. “I’d like to do more writing music for film, it’s also extremely good fun.”
Emre Ramazanoglu: Selected CV
- Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Who Built The Moon? – engineering, programming
- Lily Allen: New album (as yet untitled) – songwriting, engineering
- Mark Ronson: I Can’t Lose – remixing
- Sia + Carly Rae Jepsen: Making The Most Of The Night – songwriting
- Shakira: Live From Paris DVD – engineering
- Stacey Solomon: Shy – songwriting, drumming, programming
- Duffy: Endlessly – drumming, mixing
- Nowhere Boy: Soundtrack – production, composition
- Pulp: After You – programming, mixing
- Étienne Daho: Blitz – drums, percussion
- William Orbit – numerous projects
- Prodigy – live, engineering, drumming
- Logan Lucky: Soundtrack
- Mindhorn: Soundtrack
So what’s the cornerstone of Emre’s setup?
“I’ve been a Pro Tools user since version 3,” Emre says. “It’s been pretty reliable and luckily, quite early on I managed to get an HD rig, which is incredibly smooth. So I’m incredibly lucky to experience the best of Pro Tools always. Otherwise, I use Ableton Live quite a lot, I really like it: It’s an incredible tool and actually really complementary to Pro Tools. In fact, lots of people I know use Live alongside their ‘main’ DAW in this way. Even rewiring it, sometimes. Ableton Live does a lot of things that Pro Tools doesn’t do, but I do need Pro Tools for the ‘service’ side of things.”
When it comes to creative workflow, Emre happily admits to ‘living in the box’: “Oh, I work completely in the box – 100%. I rely heavily on UAD now and I have done for a while, I’m quite happy tracking just with Apollo, it’s very good gear, but when it comes to physical tech, the main thing is my monitoring, as I do a lot of mixing.”
Suddenly, Emre remembers: “Oh, I do use some percussion input devices actually, some bits are absolutely essential – the Arturia DrumBrute I use all the time and I still have a collection of analogue spring reverbs and distortion pedals. So yes, monitor-wise, I use Geithain RL 906 monitors, which are great. I’m currently working at Hoxa HQ [an amazing boutique studio in West Hampstead, London – see boxout] and every single person who works here has bought them!”
We ask Emre about the recording side of things and what microphones he tends to typically go for: “Well, actually right now, I’m completely blown away by Aston Microphones. I’ve put them up against lots of classic mics and the Aston will pretty much always win… and that includes comparing them against mics which, to buy, have two more zeros on the end – they’re incredible mics.
“I’m talking about the Spirit, primarily, but I’ve been using the new Starlights, which I’ve been using on my snare. The really nice thing is that, because of the price point, you can easily get hold of a few extra mics to create matched pairs and get a decent recording setup, which is often not possible with classic mics.”
So back into the box… and, more specifically, what’s in the box that Emre lives in?
“I’ve got a huge amount of plug-ins, because I work with a wide range of artists in very different genres. I’ve just been working with an acoustic artist and that requires a very different mindset to mixing pop stuff like Rita Ora. But having said that, I do have a core of plug-ins that I use quite a lot. Audified have a few that I love. I use MixChecker on everything I do, they’ve just released the Klangfilm equaliser (the RZ062 Equaliser) which is wild and I’m using that quite a lot, too.
“I use a massive amount of Waves plug-ins – I adore the Abbey Road series. It’s absolutely wonderful. I’m still using the C1 Compressor with sidechain. I’ve been using that since I started, I think, so quite a long time! The C6 is incredible for vocals and there’s loads in the Waves catalogue I often dig out.
“Another company I use a lot of is Softube, their stuff is just killer. I’ve actually got quite a lot of the gear they’ve modelled, which is all off at the moment on the racks. I didn’t think that would happen, but they do a great job of modelling. Then, of course, an absolute ton of UAD. Loads of things that I’d reach for in hardware are just there in software and it’s so convenient…
“Also, I must mention the awesome stuff that Plugin Alliance do, all the the Lindell models are ridiculously good and their new console is a completely different concept to any other console plug-ins at the moment. It’s very, very cool. There’s been several things recently where I’ve wanted to get that SSL vibe… and this has suited that perfectly. The Slate stuff is also worth a mention. Their Repeater is my go-to delay on everything and Trigger is a tool I don’t know how I’ve lived without.”
It’s clear Emre has amassed an impressive collection of versatile software tools, but mostly, these are used in a mixing/refining context. How does he approach songwriting?
“That’s an interesting one, as it depends on who I’m with: sometimes, it can all start with a sample-based arrangement and other times it’s melody. Other times, it can be drums, if it’s a more R&B or hip-hop-type thing. If it’s with an artist in the room, it’s almost invariably a piano-chord sequence that I or we come up with. Unless they’re a different kind of artist who wants something more inspirational.
“However, on the remixing front, I’m a little more brutal. I normally just get the vocal and ignore everything else and work around that. If, for some reason, I’m not ‘feeling it’, then I’ll go back to the track and start taking apart the stems. But usually, I can get some clear ideas from the vocal track.”
Emre is currently working in the frankly gorgeous Hoxa HQ in London’s West Hampstead. This boutique studio has recently been renovated to amazing standards and the decor is very conducive to creative projects, featuring a wide selection of vintage and modern gear collected by writer and producer Jimmy Hogarth. It’s in Jimmy’s main room where Emre is pictured throughout this feature and where he sets up shop when he’s working there.
The recent work carried out at Hoxa HQ means that it now provides four writing rooms, a main tracking facility that includes a large control room, a live room, two booths, two isolated areas as well as a comfortable kitchen and lounge area. But really, we’ll let the pictures do the talking… It looks simply amazing. All images here are courtesy of Elena Heatherwick and Hoxa HQ.
We ask Emre whether there’s any gear, new or otherwise, that he’s looking to add to his studio, or is he content with his current setup?
“Oh, there’s always stuff you look to get your hands on, or bits that would improve your workflow. I’m just looking at some new stuff from IK Multimedia, actually, the iRig Keys I/O looks very nice indeed. That basically means that I’ll have one keyboard on a desk, an iPad Pro and be able to use it as an input/output and process from the iPad.
“I’m really excited about the space-saving implications of this. Physically getting space to work on music in London is particularly expensive, so being able to have a portable, fully functional studio is wonderful. I’m very excited about it – I think that Keys I/O is a brilliant, brilliant product. Especially for the writing side of things and I can’t wait to get my hands on one!
“I’m also keen to get my hands on the Sonarworks Reference room-correction software. I’m very curious to see how well it works – It also standardises the headphone sound you get, as well. It’d be great to have the same studio sound wherever I’m working. It looks really well thought out. I’m also always on the quest for new headphones – Samsung’s Level-On headphones look pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to trying those.”
If you build it…
After speaking to Emre for a short amount of time, it’s very clear that he’s passionately invested in music making, music technology and the creative industry in which he works. We ask Emre what advice he’d give to our readers who crave a similar career?
“Well, something that I’ve said before to people who are coming up through the production industry is: ‘You should have no time off, ever!’ – no one understands that, really. It’s all about being passionate. So, when you’re waking up in the morning, you’re reading manuals [or magazines/websites! – Ed] about music making. You’re listening to music and thinking about it from a production standpoint. What’s key is that you’re always thinking about making music.
“It’s much more difficult now in some ways, but far easier in others – technology is so incredible now. 15 years ago, when I started, you couldn’t really make a release-quality track in your bedroom, it was very difficult. But these days, there’s no excuse!
“The best approach is to focus on music making and production as your sole passion and just don’t have back-up plans, because inevitably, you’ll take those easier routes. The best advice I can give, really, is to work on making something wonderful that will make people come to you!”