How is a hit being produced? And who are the people behind the stars and without who even people like Madonna would not be able to win any music awards? Mathias Ramson, music producer and song writer from Berlin allowed me a brief insight behind the scenes of the music business…
Mathias, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! During my investigations about you I read, that already in 1997 you had your own music studio in the cellar of your parent´s home, and on your myspace site it is written that „… since than he was only seen upstairs to eat something…“ Is it still like that nowadays? :)
(laughs) Yes, this is the way it has been! So thanks to my parents I was allowed to use our cellar. I was so into my work that my mum always came downstairs with the food. So this was like a full-board. I then played my songs to her and she gave me her feedback. Nowadays it is quite a similar situation, only with the difference that at Valicon we completely forget about eating. It happens regulary that I only eat in the evenings with my girlfriend.( laughs) I know this is not very healthy!
You used to play in a band. Have you ever had ambitions to continue with the band or have you always been desirous of becoming a producer/ songwriter?
Yeah true, I used to be the keyboarder of a schoolband. But it was never about a professional career. We had a lot of fun and were trying out many things. At one point I started to record stuff in our rehearsal room. Of course at the beginning just with a cassette recorder. It was exciting for me and the computers were increasingly powerful. I bought a new computer and rebuilt it into an audio-recording workstation. So I was able to record 8 tracks at the same time and from then on I was producing the demo tapes of our band. I was about 15 at that time. I was so into this whole thing that I started to become more interested in professional music production. I started to research everything about it. Since then my mind was made up that I wanted to become a music producer. (grins)
You have been producing for quite a few famous people. (Sarah Connor, Silbermond, Jennifer Rush etc..) And you produced the song „Satellite“ for Lena Meyer-Landrut. How did you get this job?
It is quite plain. I have been working as a part of the Valicon producer team for more than 2 years now and together with „Brix“ I work at the studio 2. Universal approached us and asked for a possible collaboration. We began searching for a possible winner song and found it. Working successfully as Valicon in the music business for quite some time, record labels approach us directly. Therefore we don´t have to sell from door to door anymore. (laughs) In the meantime we know the A&R manager very well and if you deliver well, then you always get new interesting projects.
Did you know this song was going to be such a success?
From the start this seemed to be a very interesting song to me. It suits Lena, whereas only with her song performance she really breathes life into it. I was not suprised that this song was number 1 over a time period of weeks. Lena´s overall package appeals to people.
There is quite a few people that tell me that they had to listen to the song 3-4 times in order to consider it awesome. Probably it is because in Germany they didn´t expect this kind of song. The track is very particular and not necessarily typical pop. But I am happy that we were able to offer to people a more pretentious song. The success proves that we have been bang on target.
When does a song become a „hit“? What does a song need to have in order to appeal to so many different people?
That is a really difficult question. I think it is a combination of the artist, song and marketing. A typical „hit“ has to make you feel as if you can´t get the tune out of your head anymore. Pop music can be defined as follows: simple, easy, clear and the perfect song structure. The most important thing is always the melody and the sound design. There are „golden rules“, but I am not going to reveal them ( laughs)
Is music a matter of taste or is there good and bad music in your opinion?
When music serves the purpose and makes people happy or thoughtful then it doesn´t matter what sort of music it is. Let´s say…„Ballermann“ music in Mallorca. Many people complain about this kind of music. But every year they play this music in the clubs over there and the people celebrate like mad! It goes together with the sort of holiday and party. People have fun and they sing along and they are happy and cheerful. Therefore the music served its purpose and that is the whole point. Or let´s say… Techno or electronic music. In the clubs things are really happening there. People are able to get away from all it and drift along with the music. For a few hours they disappear into a different world. Music just needs to touch deeply, no matter if it is Schlager music, hip hop, techno or pop music.
Can you tell us a bit about how it works when you produce and write songs? Please give us a brief insight of one of your typical days…
Let´s start with production.
I go to the studio at 9 a.m., switch on the coffee machine and boot up everything. Usually only then I record all piano parts and synthesizer parts and structure the song. Then my drummer Felix Lehrmann arrives and we record the drum parts. At the end a backing track is being formed. At last the singers comes and we record the vocals. After that there is a lot of editing and mixing to be done. I think on average it takes about 3-4 days to finish a song, always depending on what kind of song it is. When it comes to songwriting things are not that well planned.
When I hit on an idea I record it quickly. That can also happen during the night ( laughs) If after a couple of days I still like that idea, I develop a song. Many times songwriting sessions take place. Songwriters from all over the world meet and you write several songs together . Then you produce the songs and with the ready songs you go to the publishing companies.
How much freedom and right to say do you have when producing something?
It depends if it is an assignment production ( such as DSDS) or your own project. Talking about assignment productions, in that case others are deciding too. It starts with the selection of the songs and ends with the evaluation of the mixing. Despite that, there is still enough room for development for me. Most of the time there is nothing to be criticized on my productions. (grins) When it comes to your own projects at first you make all desicions on your own. But in general I have absolute freedom. People have always trusted me. When they approach me, there is a reason for that. ( laughs)
How do you feel when you hear a song that you produced or wrote on the radio? Do you sometimes feel a sort of melancholy, because it is always just the singer or the band that is in the spotlight and never the people working in the background?
To hear the songs on the radio is just an amazing feeling. It makes me really proud. I don´t feel melancholiac and wouldn´t want to swap places with the artists. I am happy to be in the background and be part of the „creators“. At least I can go outside and don´t have to be scared of paparazzis.
Do you have plans to write a song for yourself and release it under your name?
No, certainly not. I don´t have a really good voice. It is good enough to sing something to the singers at the studio, but I don´t see myself as a singer at all.
However I can imagine to release a producer album. Timberland and David Guetta have also done that. But I don´t want to give away too much.
Do you have any role models- people or things that inspire your work and life?
Yes, for me it is mainly about down-to-earthness and I can learn that from my parents. Professionally I get inspired from my private life, in particular my girlfriend. We have many dreams together, and I want to achieve quite a few of them. That inspires me to even better performances and creativity. I don´t have any role model in particular.
I try to go my own way and not follow any trend.
What music are you listening to? I actually listen to the sort of music that I produce. Normal pop music. In general I am very open and I also put on a Jazz DVD from time to time. I am a music lover and probably not even the whole lifetime of a human would be enough to listen to all the good music that exists.
I think because of your job you have a different perception of music also when listening to it in your free-time- f.e. When you hear a song, do you sometimes think, -this has been produced badly, I would have done that completely different?
Yes, it happens to me all the time. There are songs that are just produced in a bad way. I could get really worked up over that. You also compare your own productions to others. It is a constant process that takes place in my head. (smile) When I go to clubs I notice that I can´t really switch off. I always analyse why the one or other song goes down so well with everyone. But this is an occupational disease and is incurable.
With whom would you really like to work together, – for whom would you like to write a song?
That would have been Michael Jackson. But there is also other bands or artists that could very well interest me. Such as Snow Patrol. The Fray or acts like Lady Gaga or Madonna. The list is long. There are many interesing artists for whom I would like to work.
At last a few typcial C-Heads questions:
Where do you see Mathias Ramson in about 5 years, professionally and in your private life?
In my private life one could hope for addition to the family and professionally I am hoping for international success as a producer and songwriter.
5 things you cannot live without? Love, Safety, Family, Friends, Music
The biggest challenge in life is…? To accomodate a number of things and to use your time on earth well and to give something to the people.
What is your biggest fear? To lose someone important, someone I love. And to become disloyal to myself.
Is there anything that our readers should absolutely know about you? I cannot judge that. I think after this interview they will know pretty much about me (laughs)
Thanks a lot for the interview!
Interview by Sigrun Guggenberger