Born and raised in Holland, Ramon Tapia is the son of an incredibly musical family. His father was in fact a revolutionary Chilean musician, and having such a strong musical influence from a young age meant that it was inevitable that he himself would go on to become a musician in his own right. After his older sisters introduced him into the world of dance culture with tales of ‘dance floor epiphanes’, he moved to Belgium to study as a jeweler, but having bitten by the techno bug, he found himself becoming increasingly involved with the music scene in Antwerp. From these foundations, Ramon has gone on to become one of the most active names in the scene, with releases on labels including Great Stuff, Plus Minus, Craft Music, Remote Area, Turbo Recordings to name a few, as well as his own imprint ‘Say What? Recordings’ which continues to go from strength to strength. We were lucky enough to get a few moments with him amongst his busy DJ schedule to elaborate a little on everything from memories to future plans, to his opinion on the scene and the importance of establishing his own imprint. Oh, and he also provided us with a killer mix for our podcast series. Check it out here:
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! We’re big fans of your work, but could you describe your sound for someone who’s not familiar?
That’s quite simple: From house to techno and back.
You’ve worked with Hermanez on some great tracks like Organo Scuro, and now co-own Aella Music… how did you two meet? And what encouraged you to start a new label together?
We met in the Belgian club scene, and we were on the same line directly. So, after some releases together, we started brainstorming about what the next step could be for us. We decided we wanted to do a label together – and Aella Music was born. In the beginning we were not sure where to go with it, but that path was found very fast and now we are doing really good supporting the new talent, and there is a lot of new talent out there!
Aside from Aella, you also established Say What? Recordings last year! What are the advantages of putting out your own tracks?
I can do what ever I want; I’m my own boss, which is good. I’m still quite picky on myself too which is good, and I can choose it all myself which I really love.
Despite this, you still regularly contribute to other labels, ranging from Great Stuff to Strictly Rhythm, and of course your new release on ‘I’m A House Gangster’. You seem a perfect fit for the label; can you tell us a little about the release?
Sneak asked me to do a new EP for his new label, and I already had some tracks finished but I wasn’t sure he would like it. I sent them over, and I got the answer “BIG ” back, so it was signed quite quickly! The EP itself is a mixture of minimalish techno with house, and is of course mostly aimed for the dance floor.
What makes a house gangster?
Love for house music in heart and soul.
You were brought up around music, first from your father and then later from your sisters as they discovered the world of club music. Is there a particular track that reminds you of your youth?
For sure: S Express still is – and was – one of my favorites ever.
Later on whilst studying, you worked in a record shop in Antwerp, which no doubt helped shape your music taste. How do you feel the rise of the mp3 has changed the way we listen to music? What effects do you think this has on the scene?
In the beginning it was quite a hassle, because you had to burn CDs and all that… but when the computer got introduced I was really stoked about it! But then, after a while, the sync button came and it actually fucked it up a bit. At this moment, I only play with USB and it’s made things a lot easier for me. I don’t need to fix the cables and all that, I just plug and play!
In general, I don’t think it changed the scene that much. People still want to come and listen to the DJ no matter how he plays the music. It did change the way we buy music, and it’s a lot easier. Lots of music is now just a click away.
Can you remember the first time you played your own track out at a club? What was it, and how did it feel?
It was and still gives me a good feeling, because you never know how the crowd will react on a new track. It’s also good to listen to it loud, so I can fine-tune it afterwards in the studio. If the reaction is big, you feel king of the world for 6 minutes 😀
It seems your compilation for Strictly Rhythm helped firmly establish your name worldwide, but before that, how did your first release come about? Was it relatively easy, or was it a struggle to get signed?
I sent so many tracks out, it was ridiculous, but after a while I got interest from the great stuff camp, and 30 tracks later I signed my first EP: Ramon Tapia ‘Sweetlullabye’. So, you see things didn’t come easy, but if you keep on going, the outcome will always be good.
What would your advice be for people looking to break into the music scene today and get their first release?
Be yourself, and don’t get let down if a label tells you its not good enough. Keep on going, and don’t look back!
Are there any producers you have your eye on for either of your labels at the moment?
Pig & Dan, Christian Smith, Leon and Zoo… and many more.
If you could collab with anyone on a track, who would it be and why?
Pharrel Williams – just because he’s pure genius.
Thanks Ramon, it was a pleasure speaking with you!
Stay in the loop with I’m A House Gangster as well as Ramon Tapia by following the following links:
Words: James Ellis