Saturday, April 14, 2007

Interview to John Manuel of Ramp

Everything started about 1964 when you met Lady Shores and you formed the Regals, Tell me about those times? What inspired you?

Just performing for people was a high interest, a feeling inside that would never go away, like something I was meant to do. Inspiration was James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Wes Montgomery even. Those times were fun when you were able to play and maybe get paid for it! There were many
bands, called Band and show back then, and most were pretty good. It was fun, but
the greatest inspiration was seeing or hearing pros and wanting to be one also one day.

Then in 1969 you won the “Battle of Bands” and a whole lot of instruments and a recording contract. Everything went well and then the Spinners took over your rhythm and horn section and a new era was born.

Right. What a rush.

After the Spinners joined Atlantic, you left the Band and returned to Cincinnati and with the experienced gained you formed the “Saturday Night Special” who were the archetypes of the Ramps.

Right, wanting to form a group that blended jazz with soul and funk. Classy music.

How much influence did Bernard Pretty Purdie have on your drummer style?

Quite a bit. He was a legend, and showed interest in me. He always allowed me to play his drums and I learned from how he tuned them, played them, and was such a precise drummer and bandleader after King Curtis died.

You then met Roy Ayers who gave his contribution to the birth of the Ramps.

Right, we opened a show for him and he really dug us.

How did “Come into Knowledge” come about? Is it true that ABC didn’t much promote that record contributing thus to the break-up of the Ramps?

Roy signed us to his production company, as we must have had a sound, vibe, look and the personnel he wanted. He produced us for ABC/Blue Thumb Records. We were on a label with after a new President took the label over, Steve Deiner. We were devastated, not understanding how such work was not being promoted.

I am a big fan of Roy Ayers and you can hear his influence on your album. What was his contribution to that record?

Roy is a Master. It is no secret that I loved his sound before ever meeting him. His influence was reflected in our music when we opened for him that night, and I believe he felt it. My bandmates were absolutely the right people for what we were doing, and he knew it too I believe. For it to come together was not only a dream, it was surreal, divine, and I realized the power of our Creator when it happened. I do not speak on this feeling much associated with hooking up
with Roy, but I tell you it was awesome to see it unfold. We felt, and still feel, very special, and meant to deliver a sound and style of message to all who will listen.

What do you think to the fact that thanks to those styles (Hip Hop/Acid Jazz) which began at the end of the 80’s, many bands have been rediscovered and bought back to their well earned fame?

I think it is fantastic, and testament to all that good music that came before. It is said that there is really nothing new, just a re-work of what was laid down before. We really appreciate being brought back.

I too discovered the Ramps thanks to the A Tribe Called Quest single and thanks to a few white label compilations that I played during my first DJ sets in the long gone
early 90’s…Now, after so many years, it’s even possible to find reprints of your album. What do you think of this rediscovery?

Great, great great. Now there is a cd.

And Lp reissue too ( I say ) ....

I know that you recently reformed and played at London’s Jazz Café. What effect did
it have playing for a whole new generation of listeners that very much appreciates
your style?

It was heavenly, and we loved experiencing young fans singing our lyrics,
as well as seeing our generation come out to support us. Many times we are told that
we need new music for fans to want to see us. At the same time, our experience in London and the e-mails I get daily from all over the world from young and older, suggests that fans want to see us perform even the 1977 music because they have not seen us do it before. It is magical to perform those songs, and fans beat on the floor and walls screaming for us to stop the song and start over. Wow!

interview by Alessio Berto
Pictures curtesy of John Manuel
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