Emre Ramazanoglu is Swiss Army Knife of music.
Born and bread in Portsmouth he came to London to chase the dream of being session musician – just in time for the downfall of the session scene at the end of the ’90s.
Looking for ways to pay the bills, Emre started doing more programming, which soon lead him to producing, engineering, mixing, composing, writing and pretty much every other aspect of the music making process.
With names like Noel Gallagher, Sia, Shakira, Duffy, Sia, Michael Jackson and Alex Clare on his CV (to name a few) I think it’s safe to say that his extraordinary career path has turned out quite alright.
Emre was always playing, but changes in the business have got him behind the kit more and more making Emre an in-demand drummer for all kinds of genres.
I caught up with him in London to chat about his journey from an initial hard start in London all the way to the drum chair of the worlds most famous beatboxer Beardyman
How did you get into drums?
Ah, that’s a really weird story. I have a coordination disorder so my mum made me play drums when I was young to help it, which it did massively. That’s why I started doing it. I was about 12 or 13 then. My mum was really cool about this, did lots of research and thought drumming would be good. I had lessons for the first two or three years with an amazing drummer called Bernie Fox, but then stopped because I went to jazz school for a year. There I learned from a great UK jazz guy called Ron Parry. That was amazing, he’s an incredible teacher.
When I went to University I just started teaching myself. I studied Psychology but was teaching drums on the side to pay the bills. I also got into the jazz scene in Southhampton and ended up doing hundreds of gigs while at Uni. It was great.
Do you think your coordination disorder influences your drumming?
Yes. Some things are easier for me than for other people but a lot of things are harder. Polyrhythms and mad times against each other have never been a problem, arms and feet at different speeds and all that kind of tricky stuff is not as bad just keeping basic stuff together. It’s a weird backwards sort of journey.
You then moved to London?
I moved to London to do session drumming in around 1999, at the exact point where session work stopped. I luckily met Andy Gangadeen in the first year I was here and he was just such a cool guy. He sold me some drum pads and let me play his Gangascope kit – it was awesome. He said to me: “Whatever you do, don’t so session drumming, it’s dead”. That was the best advice ever because it was dead then and trying to break in then would have been a terrible idea. I carried on doing lots of sessions stuff but it was mainly programming with a few live projects.
Was that something you had always been into or was it born out of necessity?
Necessity, and I then got into it. I guess I was into it a little bit form the Atari and S3000 kind of era. From there I got into ProTools and Ableton as it developed.
So I started with just programming, then engineering, producing, mixing and it just spiralled on. It was a pretty bad time for the music business the last 10/15 years but actually now that the labels are getting a lot more money from Spotify and have funds again, it’s great to have all these things under your belt.
I had a really interesting and weird career path and I don’t regret any of it.
And your CV proves you right: Sia, Duffy, Shakira, Michael Jackson, Mark Ronson…
Yeah, that’s a combination of some drumming stuff, some programming, some mixing and producing… all different kind of things.
If you get approached by artists/labels is it usually for one of those tasks or do you just do the whole package?
It always depends. I’ve just done some mixing for Rita Ora and that was directly from the producers/writers and mixing was all they needed. I’ve also done some Lily Allen stuff and that was full production and some playing. As I got a bit more known people will often ask me to engineer and drum. It’s unusual but cool.
So has your career come back to more drumming again?
Yes, I’ve been doing loads more in the last two years, it’s been great. I just had to get out of the studio and play with some people.
I was very lucky to have walked into doing Family Atlantica which is a sort of Afro-beat / Latin band with some unbelievable players.
I’m also doing a trio with a bass player called Steve Lawson and Mike Outram on guitar. It’s a fully improv trio and actually really interesting on drums. I use triggers on all the drums but they’re not triggering anything, they’re put into an audio interface and are used as microphones. That gives me a really raw, feedback free sound that I can heavily process. It’s all live and latency free, we’re not using any samples. It’s really interesting and you can go as nuts as you want.
I’m playing in another jazz quartet called Ill Considered, with Leon Brichard, Idris Rahman and Yahael Camera-ono. This is off the chain live and I’m loving it!
Has jazz always been a passion?
Kind of. I never got in the scene here though because I was so heavily intrenched in the electronic music and never broke out to do my tour of duty with the jazzers. I ended up playing with a few of them in pop sessions, especially my mate John Parricelli who’s an unbelievably good guitarist. That’s all crossing over.
One of my all-time favourite drummers Martin France has become one of my close friends mainly from producing an album with him. We’ve got a three drummer project on the go with Seb Rochford but it’s taking ages to find the other people to complete it!
It’s a dream come true man. I’m playing with people that I absolutely love, making music I like. Looking at all the session pop touring stuff I’m just not sure about it anymore. It’s very badly paid at the moment. It still feels like I’m kind of starting but it’s great.
How does it feel coming back to the drumming side of things more after spending so much time on the computer?
So great. Naturally in the studio I play quite lightly so I’ve been think about playing a bit harder lately because it’s more suitable for live gigs I’m doing maybe… My chops are not great loud, I’m really in my comfort zone at pretty low levels!
There have been quite a few drum sessions lately, which is great. I’ve actually just done some drums for Kylie Minogue, that was fun. She was in the studio and all, it was pretty surreal. She’s absolutely lovely and sings great on the track too. I’ve also just played on the Ghostpoet record. That was a last minute call as well from a producer mate of mine Leo Abrahams.
You’ve mentioned Family Atlantica already. How did that gig come about?
I’ve known Jack Yglesias for many years and he just got in touch saying his drummer – Yussef Davis, brilliant drummer – was going off to do his own thing. It was a very last minute thing, non of the songs are as they are on the record and there are no live recordings – so it was quite tricky. For me it was tricky stuff. Lots of Afro-Cuban, Venezuelan feels I wasn’t really sure of and lots of very polyrhythmic 6/8 Afrobeat stuff, which is fine on paper but can get pretty heavy.
Luzmira who fronts it is a Venezuelan master singer and she’s got lots of feels she’s really comfortable with that you would never hear anywhere else. There’s a whole Venezuelan quintuplet thing which is just amazing.
We’re doing quite a lot of stuff abroad, not a huge amount of stuff is in England.
It’s a really high energy and fun band. We’ve done a lot of gigs last year and there is lots more stuff coming in now which is great.
You write a lot of music as well.
Yeah, I do a lot of pop writing. It’s been full on but great. I’m writing a lot with a friend of mine who’s a very successful and fantastic writer. We’re probably gonna bring out an album this year just with all the stuff we’ve written featuring various people.
I used to write for TV too but don’t really do it anymore. Everybody does it and it was a great way of earning money earlier on.
Writing has just always been a passion. I realised I did loads of it and thought it would be good to earn some money from it.
Let’s chat about Beardyman. How did that come about? After all he’s very well known for being able to do everything himself.
It’s so brilliant playing with him, he’s a super talented musician. He just wanted to go past the restrictions of his looping unit (the Beardytron), which actually is an amazing bit of gear. He wanted to get musicians who could do that kind of stuff with their instrument so we built this electronic drum system that can do any genre pretty much instantly, quite convincingly and then live process and produce it. We do all the moves you would do with a record (doing different sections and processing them differently) live. It’s amazing but things get incredibly complicated. It’s all Ableton based, really complex but really cool. We’re currently just trying to make it a little more ‘fly-able’. It’s so custom that we have to take it everywhere we’re going. It’s a real problem.
Is it still a hybrid kit or did you go all electronic?
I’ve got an acoustic snare and hi hats. The snare is internally mic’d to minimise feedback because it gets heavily compressed. Those are processed along with the electronic stuff so I can high-pass and low-pass everything. I’ve also just added a NordDrum 3 to it which I’m completely in love with.
How do you even approach playing for a Beatboxer who is used to do his own grooves?
He’s got an MD mic and tells me what he wants. So there will be something like: “Drum’N’Bass, go!”. That’s pretty much all you get. Or you get a beat or two before he wants you to stop. “Eight bars build then STOP”, “Eight bars high pass build” – stuff like that. It’s getting less now the longer we play together. It’s all clicked and you have to be so tight for that gig because his whole rig is quantised. If anything goes out of time it really sticks out. We’re about to set up some long rehearsals to get the set really convincing.
The line up now is Beardyman, me on drums and a cellist called Rob Lewis. He’s an amazing classically trained guy who’s great at improvising and has a great effect set up. A lot of the time in this band we look at each other and go: “Who’s doing that? Who’s making that sound? Oh, it’s me!”. It’s just idea after idea coming out, it’s crazy.
We’re about to start doing a load of features with amazing collaborators now. I can’t talk about them just yet but it’s pretty wild what’s going on.
You’re also just about to start working on the new Beardyman album?
Yes, that’s gonna be a bit of a process to get it right. There is lots of live recording and there are some amazing people he’s got on it already. We’ll be chopping up all the bits and make it into a record. Beardyman just has so many ideas, it’s insane. It’ll be an exciting process and yeah, it will all come from live recordings which is the big difference with him.
You have also been working on the new Noel Gallagher album?
Yes, we just finished it. I was involved pretty much from the beginning to end which was a good couple of weeks. Initially it was worked on in Belfast before I got involved and then we’ve done all the rest. It’s been wild, I even ended up drumming on it which I really didn’t expect.
Noel was in for the whole thing, he’s very hands on. He’s a great musician, really knowledgeable and a great guitarist. David Holmes produced it. He’s unbelievable, I do a lot of work with him and am blessed to do so. I’m incredibly excited to start work on the new Unloved record with David and Keefus Ciancia and Jade Vincent this year too. David is an incredible producer and every time things just flow and feel great. He’s an absolute gift to work with.
So that was more the rocky Britpop vibe?
It really isn’t at all, no. I think people will be really surprised. You would have probably never guessed it was a Noel Gallagher record. Any of it. I think there will be a single in July and then the album later this year. I’m really excited about that.
You also run a sample instrument company called Rattly and Raw?
Yeah, that was actually something to train my mix assistants to get better on ProTools when I did tons of mixing. It turned out that we recorded lots of cool instruments and I thought I’d release them. It was very basic initially but got more and more advanced to the point where we now have a really cool drum product with Martin France. The reviews have been unbelievable for that. It’s called Martin France Drums and is made for Kontakt so you can play it from your e-drums or your keyboard. We’re just about to do a big update on that too.
There are a few really cool new products coming out soon too and we’re just looking for one more person to join and take some of the weight off.
Finally, what’s next?
Let me think, what’s drum related. There are quite a few gigs coming up with ‘ill considered’ which is the improv quartet, the Steve Lawson and Mike Outram trio and Beardyman of course. Should be great. I’m just about to finish some more mixes for Etienne Daho (which Keefus Ciancia produced) and some more recording this month with Leon Brichard!
Another album? How do you manage to work on so many different things? You have a girlfriend and child as well. How do you fit it all in?
I’m pretty tired, it has to be said… [laughs]. It’s a lot of different hats but I’m ok with that. I mainly consider myself super lucky so I’m not gonna complain too much. It’s better now, but there were times where it has been brutal – but that’s what we sign up for. It’s a very privileged thing to do!
Thanks a lot for your time Emre!
Interview by Tobias Miorin