Rome RamirezFueled by Ramen Records
By Ashley N. Milholland on January 8th, 2014 at Phone
While no stranger to the music world, Rome Ramirez jumped to the forefront of every music outlet when he took over vocal duties in Sublime With Rome. A midst touring heavily with the band and working on a new album, Rome also recently finished working on a solo record highlighted with a new single, Terrorista.
The Californian native recently talked with us about all sorts, from the solo effort and Bradley Nowell to what he won’t drink.
While growing up in California, where the music scene is so diverse, as a teen what type of music scene were you most gravitated towards?
I was mostly gravitated towards punk rock. As a teenager, that’s just what the kids that I hung around with listened to and that lifestyle was something I could adapt to, But I listen to all different kinds of music and like you just said, that is one of the big benefits living in California. You are just exposed to so much different music in such a relative proximity.
Did you personally know Bud and Eric of Sublime before you joined the band?
No, no…I’ve just been their biggest fan.
What is the story behind how you met Eric and Bud who are the original members of Sublime?
I met Eric in a studio in Orange County while I was doing some songs over there and we just became friends. We kicked it and he’d come over to the studio, hang out, get stoned, and I would go over to his house parties. We started jamming at one of his house parties one time and we played a couple of Sublime songs—it was just fucking hella fun. He called me up one day with our manager—well, soon to be manager and was like “Hey, would you be down to sing for Sublime?” I was like, “What the fuck? Hell yeah…of course!”
Yeah, it just happened really naturally. We can make it sound like some great grand story like yeah, there was a long line of auditions wrapped around the building.
When a band loses its frontman, its almost impossible to replace them with someone else, if the band is trying to keep their original sound alive; but, you sound so much like Bradley Nowell—it’s actually chilling to listen to you cover his songs because I remember when I first heard Bradley Nowell sing I notice he had a very unique and distinctive musical style. I was wondering if fans of Sublime have shown or expressed the same feelings towards you as well?
I think so, I hope. He is like one of my biggest influences it would only make sense that I would sound like him being that I am so heavily influenced by Brad. I think the fans can more or less tell that I’m a fan of the music as well, but the fact that my voice sounds similar to Brad’s—I’m sure that helps too. I think they can see that we are just having fun, you know.
I recently notice a lot of members of bands are taking on solo projects, as you are. When you decided to do a solo project, what kind of sound were you looking to create and what kind of message did you want to get across?
I really wanted to go for something that no one was doing. I wanted to revert back to when I was a younger man with what I was heavily influenced by and all the pressures of everything. I wanted to write an album based around song that I would like. I wanted it to have an edge and be a punk rock album with my twist on it with heavy hip-hop production drums behind these big booming guitars with samples from the 80’s and stuff. It’s pretty all over the place but it has a cohesive sound that’s real edgy.
Basically what the album encompasses lyrically are the struggles of being a young man or a young woman in the world while everybody tries to steer you shy telling you to take the safe route and saying, “Don’t do this or don’t do that, it’s not worth the sacrifices,” and all this shit when basically I just try to tell my story which is the fact that I stuck to my guns. I’m no fucking genius. I’m no rocket scientist. I just put myself in the right place, at the right time, by taking the right actions and by not listening to what everyone else was telling me about how bad of an idea this is and they could have been right, but I think people are going to walk away from the album feeling like, “You know what? He was right! Fuck it! What have I got to lose?” I think if you use that mentality towards anything you’ll see the results you want to see.
How much creative control do you have with your solo project verses working with other bands such as Sublime and The Dirty Heads?
For my solo album—I wrote, produced and played everything. On a couple of the tracks I have Josh Freese playing drums, but for the most part, I did everything—I’m the only cook in the kitchen. That’s honestly one of the liberties in doing solo ventures.
Being in a band is like being in a relationship, you all have to agree on things, be on the same wavelength and it creates a whole different writing atmosphere. I’m not saying its any lesser or greater, but it is just a whole other entity in its own. When you are in the studio by yourself, or with your engineer, working on your music—it is like being the only cook in the kitchen. You can challenge yourself and not worry about how others are going to perceive it just quite yet right off the top of their heads. It just creates a different writing atmosphere.
You recently released the song “Terrorista” along with an official music video on youtube. I must say that I love the shirt you are wearing in the video that reads Paid in the USA. Very rad, very original!
[laughs] Yeah, I wanted everything to just be like a big bang. “Terrorista” is the perfect launch for what the album is going to be. I’m not saying the rest of the album sounds like that, but it encompasses what you can expect to hear and totally gets the message out.
I knew I was going to turn some heads with this song. For the video, I really wanted it to fucking stand out, come out of left field, be hella vibrant from the colors of the walls, the clothes people were wearing, frantic camera angles to the shirt I was wearing; just very bright and vibrant. I couldn’t be happier with the way the video turned out.
Are you planning to tour in support of your solo project?
Yeah, I’m going to be going on a full tour actually. We are in the process of working out those details.
You collaborated with the band The Dirty Heads for the song “Lay Me Down.” Can you tell me the story behind that collaboration?
We have the same management and we’ve always been friends so when we went to go do the song I was new meaning I was just hanging out with them; I was still “green” and we had a studio session set up to do a song together, you know, see what happens. They were fucking around with some ideas and I had the melody written down in my cell phone because I was coming up with ideas for ‘Yours Truly’ the album I did with Sublime with Rome. I had a bunch of ideas down and that was one of them that I showed the guys, they really liked it, and we started playing around with the song and working on it. The next day I came back, they had written all the words to the verses and added a cowboy theme, western style to it and I just wasn’t feeling it. It grew on me eventually. We did the song, sat around, and nobody really thought much of it and then one day our manager took the song up to a radio station and the rest is history.
Do you ever find yourself in a car, turning on the radio, and hearing your music being played? How does that make you feel? Is it amazing to you when that happens?
Oh, dude…that’s crazy! I’ve gotten to work with and meet others artists that are far greater than myself, far more popular and they have the same damn feeling! It never goes away, I guess. It hasn’t gone away to me. I’ll be in the studio with some huge, gigantic artist, this subject will come up and they’ll say that it’s the most amazing feeling…still. I don’t think that feeling could ever die; it’s the most humbling feeling in the world.
What instrument are you unable to play, but would like to learn to play?
It would be really cool to learn to play the trumpet. Yeah, I think that would be fucking rad.
Yeah, I hear some horns in a lot of the solo projects from artist today. I know Tim Armstrong uses horns occasionally with his solo project.
Yeah, Dude…Tim, he’s such an awesome guy. He’s the nicest guy on earth. As I am growing older, when I am his age is like you know someone gave me the torch as a young man and real, solid, genuine people pass the torch down to as many people as they can.
A guy like Tim, a guy like Eric Wilson, they see opportunity and growth and they have belief in your art and craft so they want to see you succeed, so they start bringing in the young guys and that’s what its about, man. You gotta get those kids off Facebook and get some guitars in their hands. There is so much out there. You would not be interviewing me now if I had not just gone out there and did it.
What artist that is dead or alive would you like to kick it and/or collaborate with?
I would like to kick it with Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. I would want to work with Lamb of God in the studio-that would be cool.
What has been the biggest struggle you have faced in the music industry so far?
Trying to create personal relationships with your business professionals. So, that they want to work on your art and not just the fact that they are a representative of your entity.
So do they just want to keep it business orientated and not establish a personal relationship?
I mean, just putting more than money and business into relationships and trying to find people who support your art for what it is rather than seeing it as another dog track. It’s hard to weed out the real people from the fake people.
On the topic of Cerveaza, what is your favorite drink and what will you not drink?
I am going to have to say Tecate, right now. I won’t drink Fireball. We were having a party at my house and somebody brought Fireball over. It stayed in the freezer for like 8 months and nobody touched it.
What can fans expect to see from you in 2014 as a solo artist?
Finally, an album and more music. This year is all about releasing new music and touring my ass off.
Sublime with Rome, you guys are going to put out a new album in 2015, is that correct?
The original drummer Bud left the band. Is he never coming back?
It’s not so much that he’s not coming back. Both parties are happy with where we are at. Never is a very strong word, so, I’ll never say never-to quote the wonderful Justin Bieber. I will say that we are really happy where we are at in the band with Josh Freese. Bud is in a kid’s band right now sort of like The Wiggles and I think he’s really stoked on that, we tour a lot, and he can be home more; so we are all happy just doing our own separate thing.
Will the style and sound change since Bud has left the band?
Well, if you’ve gone to any of the shows…well, I mean we have the most incredible fucking drummer in the world, Josh Freese, he’s like insane and destroys it at the shows. Bud’s never been much of a writer so he’s been like a parts guy, who comes to the studio, cuts his parts and it’s from my understanding that he’s always been that way-which is great. Josh Freese is a writer actually, if anything, it opens the door to more growth and new sounds. Now, we have another writing entity and it’s not just me and Eric.
If you could ask Bradley Nowell one thing, what would it be?
Out of all your guitars, which one was your favourite?
Do you feel as a solo artist you create an identity supposed to being in a band?
Definitely. By nature you categorized things quick. You like when you see something and you instantly put it in a category or you tie it to something you previously know so instantaneously you know whether or not you like that person or object. When it comes to individuals in bands, fans will automatically tie you to where you come from. The idea is pretty interesting, so check this out…you have the singer in the band who goes and does a solo venture and the fans expect it to sound like the band and some are disappointed if it doesn’t sound like that because it sounds new and they don’t respect you because you are not doing what you use to do.
So you’re caught in this weird paradigm were you’re thinking, “Am I trying to please the fans or yourself?” So you have to keep in mind, if you’re doing the same album all the time with the same stuff; that’s not challenging. I think when you have a solo career, it allows people to see your individual side, what you’re able to create, or what the band has done to inspire that artist. The way I see it is if the artist goes to do an album on his solo venture that sounds just like his band, then why not just do that album for your band?
When you first teamed up with Eric and Bud to form Sublime with Rome, were you nervous at all or feel like you had to live of to certain expectations to be like Bradley Nowell?
Partially and no. I never thought I had to be Bradley, ever. I knew that if Bud and Eric wanted me to sing for the band that was good enough for me. Obviously, I have impressed the toughest of critics but I did feel incredibly nervous, of course. I played to maybe a 100 people at the most, but in our first scheduled show which was 8 months away in front of 20,000 people so I had some catching up to do, I mean I really had to fucking get it together. I had to understand that this was a big step in my life and I had to start getting really serious, treating it like the huge opportunity that it is, so I practiced all the time, stayed focused, stayed positive, stayed away from people who wanted to party all the time, and from the people who just want to hold you back. It took a lot of growth, and yeah I was incredibly nervous but at the same time I realized this was an incredible opportunity and I was ready to go.
What keeps you motivated, inspired and focused when times get tough?
My family and friends. I have a lot of people who count on me to do better. The better I do, the more opportunities I can provide for my family and friends and it’s really them that keeps me going. Of course my fans, I mean, they feel the music and they are the ones listening so I owe it to them to keep going, challenge myself and always give them the best music possible.
Do you feel you have more creative freedom with your music when you play live versus recording in the studio?
There are different levels. You have a lot more creative freedom on stage as a band like Phish when you’re just jamming for like 10 hours [laughs]. Sublime with Rome, we always freestyle or go off on little tangents but we know we have to come back down to earth for a little bit and finish the song because we have the next one to play, but in the studio depending on the circumstances as to why you are there, you can really get creative, wander and play around with things. It’s a big playground, and again, I mean if you’re not paying for the studio time; fucking go nuts, man. Playing live, sometimes I’ll sing the song just like the record or sometimes I’ll put a little twist on a song and it’s only just to keep it fresh and to have a little fun out there. Sometimes, I notice bands like Incubus and Muse when they play live, they’ll change one little part to their song on their record and it’s so awesome-so, you’re like, “Dude, why didn’t they do that on the record?” I think it’s because bands want to save it for the live show.
The song “Terrorista” you’ve said it’s about the expectations of others, not conforming because society says to. I agree with that statement. I was wondering if there has been anytime in your life where you’ve felt the same way?
Yeah, definitely. Growing up as a young man where there were not a lot of opportunities. It was like either you join a gang, get a shitty job somewhere or just give up. As far as music goes, there were not a lot of people that I knew who were really heavily motivated for music or to play music. So when I had this wild dream, I mean, since I was 12 years old I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I never thought I was going to be in Sublime. Everybody thought I was crazy and out of my mind. I’ve been told everything like get a trade or go to college-just play it safe. “Terrorista” is a song about those people who are looking to steer your light, shoot you down before you cross the street. The song is about putting an eye on those people, letting others know that they are everywhere, be mindful, and avoid them as much as possible. Be respectful; but avoid them.
What is one thing that totally pisses you off?
[laughs] One thing that totally pisses me off is when you lie to my face. I know that is very common and vague; a lot of people say that but like I’m okay with you lying to me if I don’t know it so I will just push it as truth. When I know that you’re lying, and you’re actually looking at me, and you’re lying, and you have no idea that I know; that to me is the most disrespectful thing on the entire earth. I honestly can’t even stomach people like that. I just fucking cut them off.
Before you bite the dust, what is one thing you would regret not doing in life?
Not having a family. I’d be bummed if I died and didn’t have a child. I also would like to live somewhere like Mexico for like a year or something. I want to experience some outer culture and totally disconnect myself with the typical American culture.
Its 2014, a new year, new beginnings. What would you like to see happen in your musical career and in your personal life?
In my musical career, I would love to do a worldwide tour. I would love for this album to be so successful to launch itself on a worldwide tour so I can play this music non-stop for like 2 years all over the world. I think that would be the most incredible thing in the whole world. In my personal life, I would like to take this year to grow and develop more as a musician and as a better man.