For many Trance fans, if asked what the most heartbreaking Trance song they’ve ever heard was, most would respond with RAM’s striking vocal ballad “RAMelia” without a hint of hesitation. Over the course of a year, RAMelia became one of the most played tracks, queued into the sets of many Trance icons including Armin Van Buuren, Aly & Fila, Bryan Kearney, and of course the man behind the powerful tribute, Ram Boon.
The vocal masterpiece, which quickly climbed to No. 1 on the Beartport Trance charts, was inspired by the recent loss of his beloved wife, Amelia. As you could imagine it has been an emotional roller-coaster for him, having to play it over and over again during his grieving process.
We chatted with RAM about his resurgence into the Trance spotlight by a song which carries a devastatingly personal meaning behind it. We also asked for his insights on the current state of the Trance scene in Europe and details his new record label Grotesque Music and a look into his upcoming album…
Trance United: Hi RAM, welcome to Toronto; we’re very excited to have you here! How often do you play gigs in North America or Canada for that matter?
RAM: played two times before in Vancouver and Calgary. The last time was like ten years ago for the ShyBrothers. Maybe you know them? They were pretty popular at that time in Vancouver. It was a really amazing crowd- very into the music so it was a very good experience. I liked it very much!
TU: You are also set to play at EDC. Will this be your first time playing in EDC?
R: Yes, first time in EDC. It was on my top-three list to do, so I’m very happy to play there.
TU: It’s no secret that you’re one of many Trance pioneers hailing from the Netherlands. How would you describe the scene in your home town from then to now?
R: To be honest there’s a lot of change because the music evolved a lot. But I started in the first real trance club there was in Holland; Trance Buddha. They had a full trance program seven days a week. It was pretty big and unique in the beginning, from psy and tech trance to normal Trance. I hosted there for four years on Saturday with Bas, my old former colleague. What has evolved now is not nice to say, but in Amsterdam Trance is a little bit dead. There are no clubs that will play it anymore. It’s only the parties like ASOT and of course the parties I do myself. It’s a little bit of a sad evolution, but I think it will come back again after EDM dies and everyone gets bored of it. Then trance will take over again.
TU: That reminds me of what happened to Trance Energy, a globally recognized Trance festival in Utrecht but they dropped the “Trance” from the name and re-branded it as “Energy”
R: That was a bit sad because at the time IDT was the biggest in the world and if anyone could do trance it was them. For two years they had less capacity and sales – they didn’t sell out as they normally did. Trance was becoming less popular and they cancelled the party and the whole concept. It was a big disappointed for trance lovers of course because that was the one festival worldwide where people came for an entirely trance festival. It was a sad step in dance music.
TU: What has been a big stand out or highlight gig for you that you’ve played throughout your entire career?
R: One time was the Trance Energy main stage for 25,000 people. But it’s not only big events, it can be small parties as well. I’ve got good memories of Brazil on the beach and Israel on the dolphin reef. The smaller ones with great locations and great people.
TU: What circumstance led to your big break in the music industry?
R: Well after my break up with Bas I had to start over again. I was happy in the first year that I got RAMsterdam. That was for me the big break-through track that people saw once I was solo. Last year, sadly enough, RAMelia caused my big break-through moment. Of course that event has two sides to it because of what happened. Still, its very beautiful that because of the track, so many people related to my emotions. I thought it was so special, and of course Armin gave me big support and it exploded after that.
TU: So a bad circumstance that led to a good thing for your career
R: I’m glad that it did, because otherwise I might have been sitting at home depressed. Of course I had other tracks after that, including my “Big Sky” remix, and “Kingdom of Dreams”, but yeah Ramelia claimed worldwide attention and I got a lot of awards and recognition.
TU: How does it feel to play such an emotional song so frequently in your live sets?
R: Well it’s probably the “must do” track for the rest of my life in my sets. Because everywhere outside Holland (I don’t play it anymore there) I need to play it because everyone is begging for it and asking for it. I think also people can relate to it and it’s an emotional track that brings a special feeling. People like to have that special feeling in the music, not just normal tracks. It gives that little bit of extra flavour because of the meaning. Sometimes it’s very difficult when you look at people’s faces and see their emotions because of the track – it’s difficult for me. Last week in Korea there were lots of people who made special banners for me and my wife Amelia, so it was a hard moment and the tears came running in. But not always, it depends a little bit on the crowd. How they lift up with you. Some people like the party music and some people really feel the music and can start crying. If I have ten people crying in front of my nose also can’t keep it dry.
TU: All of your track titles are puns which include your pseudonym ‘RAM’. Why did you decide to include your name? How did this idea come about?
R: It started with RAMsterdam – it was just for fun- we thought it was a nice name. Of course the track exploded and everybody liked the title so much! They thought it was original and cool and so we thought “let’s do the next one similar”. From then it kept going – a good marketing tool also. Everybody knows right away from the title. I only do this with my best uplifting tracks. I do other genres like “Kingdom of Dreams”, which is a little bit different. I will only use RAM in the title for my real pure uplifting tracks.
TU: Is it hard to think of the puns?
R: For now it’s been really easy but now we’ve kinda run out. I still got three or four more to go, then it’s going to get hard.
TU: So you saved it for the special tracks?
TU: Your latest vocal track with Stine Grove ‘RAMore’ is quickly climbing up the Beatport charts and currently sits at #7. What is the story behind the new track?
R: It’s a follow-up to RAMelia, and one of the prime tracks from my upcoming album Forever Love. It is a tribute to my wife, Amelia. It’s made from all the emotions of the last year – I’ve been through hell and back three times. I’ve kinda taken all the emotions in my music – from this last year and now still – and I think RAMore is a beautiful follow-up to RAMelia with meaningful lyrics that are close to my heart and close to what I’m feeling at this moment in time. It’s very important for me to express my feelings, and for me music is the number-one way to express my feelings and to also overcome it. It’s very personal.
Buy ‘RAMore’ here
TU: It appears that emotionally driven albums with real meaning always resonate with people the most and become timeless
R: It Touches people more. They feel the message and the meaning of it. It was strange before I made RAMelia. You always want to make music that touches people’s hearts and you see with some kind of input how you want to make a track. This one was so intense with so much emotional power in it that it’s funny to see that people relate to it so much more. You do it from your heart, but it’s always interesting how it impacts the people.
TU: You started your brand new label, Grotesque Music this year and a radio show. What motivated you to do these ventures? Which type of trance genres are you celebrating?
R: We started the Grotesque Events four years ago in Holland and it’s now one of the number one club nights for trance in Holland. We did the radio show for a couple years and now it airs weekly on Friday night so it’s prime time. Since last week we started with the release of RAMore on the Grotesque label. We want to build up our own platform similar to Armada and any other label. For the label we want to work with upcoming talents to give more people a chance. The big labels are hard to get on for big or renowned artists. We want to give upcoming talents a better chance to bring out some of their music and of course my own music. Of course we’ll also work with the big names that have always played on Grotesque and residents. For now upcoming guy like Dreamy, Daniel Skyver, John new o and Simon O’Shine. Many more coming, but I can’t tell yet!
TU: Before you began your solo career in 2009 you were part of a duo called Bas & Ram well known for hard & energetic Trance. What made you part ways and did you ever imagine yourself becoming so successful on your own?
R: We were already together for fourteen years. We started at a young age and we had a great time we did a lot together. It was kind of getting a little bit hard. The vibe and feeling was over between us and when it’s over you don’t play nice together anymore. It was just time to move on. Bas was more into the house and I wanted to be just solo full on trance for me. Trance has always been my number one. It was a natural thing to split up and start over again. Of course every beginning is hard, so it took me a few years to get back on track and know which style I wanted to do. I was lucky with RAMsterdam that in 2009 it was already a big hit. It helped me to boost my profile in a big way. It was of course very welcomed after being solo for six months to get a track like that.
TU: Was it scary to start out on your own?
R: Yes of course, because you come from regular gigs where you’re well known and you have to start over again, hoping you can do it by yourself. It’s hard work to find your own strategy and your own profile – especially music wise because I didn’t know if I wanted to do only uplifting or something between and that kind of took me two or three years to find out what I really wanted . Now I know: full on uplifting.
TU: Was there ever a point where you wanted to try a different style of trance or dance music?
R: Yeah, the last few years before my wife died I did a little bit. Everyone went down on uplifting and it was getting less popular with fewer productions and I was thinking maybe I should do more tech-trance with a slower BPM. I did a lot of tracks like that, but my heart was never in it. I made it and it was fun but I didn’t even play my own tracks. I was thinking “what the hella are you doing? Am I following my heart, or doing what people are supposed to do because the genre was going that way?” After RAMelia I was fully sure that I had to do what my heart said, and I have to make the trance that I love instead of what the trance community thinks I have to make. For me it was an eye opener. Just follow your heart and do what your passion is.
TU: Do you remember which trance track made you fall in love with trance?
R: I fell in love with the first trance track that came along. I don’t remember which one it was. I’ve been hooked on trance since day one. I think it was around 1995 when it really started to evolve, but it was already number one for me.
TU: You mentioned earlier you are working on your upcoming album Forever Love. Are there any other big projects that you are working on are you mainly focusing all of your energy on the album?
R: Mainly on the album now, because it will be a double album. One for listening and one dance for dance tracks. Acoustic versions and break beat versions as well, and everything between 132-140 bpm. A lot of vocal tracks including a new Susana track, one with Andy Moor and Christina Novelli, Stine Groove of course, Fisher and probably with Chris Jones and a collab with Sean Tyas and Standerwick. Yeah – lots of collabs coming and we’ve already starting releasing singles! RAMore is the first one and now we will release a single every two months until we release the album.
TU: Have you set a date?
R: Probably by the end of March or beginning of April we will release it on Grotesque.
TU: To close off, what’s the best way for a fan to support RAM?
R: Showing the love to the album is great of course, but for me it’s enough that people show dedication and love the music. If you see when I’m playing my own tracks, you see the dedication and love in their eyes- they really feel it. They’re genuinely in love with the track and the music you make. That’s the biggest gift you can get as an artist or producer.
Thank you RAM!
Stay up to date with RAM by following him on social media and be on the lookout for his new artist album ‘Forever Love’!
Interview Conducted by Erika Razzo