I was trying to come up with a way to describe Hannes Lackmann’s urgent, high-energy music but the drummer beat me to it with this: ‘Tool meets Herbie Hancock’. The band is RAMEN, their new EP is called The Light and the launch is on Thursday 12 December at Bar 303 in Melbourne. For more details, read on.
What would you tell to a total stranger to get them to come to the album launch?
Ramen create a hypnotic effect vortex of groove for listeners to lose themselves. The audience can expect high level of musicianship, dynamic interplay between each member of the band, who play original compositions which celebrate odd time metres and long rhythmic cycles. Tool meets Herbie Hancock.
What is the RAMEN backstory?
When I was studying at VCA (Jazz & Improvisation) in 2014, I had a composition class with the great guitarist Stephen Magnusson. After showing him my tune, he told me to check out a band called Ronin. That night I listened to their live album, which gave me goosebumps for weeks. Listening to this music was like a meditation, but also energised and inspired me immensely. I loved the way the band used rhythm and accents to create this sound structure that you could be part of, but you also felt completely lost in. I had a similar feeling when I went to Cuba and saw Rhumba being played in street parties and funerals. I wanted to create that feeling with my own music, so I started to seek other people who’d resonate with this sort of thing. The pianist Selene Messinis and I both studied in Cuba together, so we developed a mutual respect for this music. Bassist Matt Hayes and I had been playing in other projects at the time, as with Thomas (Saxophone), and Eamon Roy (Guitar). The name RAMEN tips its cap to the original zen funk master, Nik Bartsch, and his band Ronin. I also like that it has a playfulness about it, and that I came up with it while I was eating noodle soup at Shop Ramen on Smith Street.
What has changed since your previous release?
Since the first EP we have clarified our interpretation of the music and intensified our performance. We still play songs from the old EP, but I feel like we are only starting to get to know them. I want to write and perform music which inspires and challenges me, the other musicians, and the audience. I think that has stayed the same and hope that we can achieve this on some level.
Why did you choose the trio format for this project?
I didn’t necessarily choose for the band to become a trio. At one point Eamon decided it was no longer for him, so he left. We are still playing together in other projects now, and I have the most respect for him and his musical decisions. After Eamon left, I played the end of year recital with the trio format, just to shake things up. I really liked the space we created. I was also wanting to experiment with just having two melodies, and highlighting them with the drums. I think it was Tony Williams who said the drummer’s role is to be a bridge between the piano and the bass. Anyway, it felt good to play as a trio and conceptually it made sense.
If The Light was a movie soundtrack, what kind of movie would that be?
The Matrix but in the ’70s.
What has your musical journey been like?
When I left Uni, I had this big plan to study Nik Bartsch’s music in Berlin at the Jazz Institute. After pouring my heart into a masters application, I was a rejected. Later in the year, I simply emailed Nik, and hey presto, a few months later I was in Switzerland learning from him. Since then, we have maintained contact and I visited him recently to work on tunes and listen music and hang out. I really needed to pinch myself during those trips.
Another highlight has been working with Greg Sheehan. We once were playing odd time grooves until the sun came up, and we noticed that the crickets in the forest started to synchronise their chirping to our rhythm. It blew us away.
It sounds like pseudo-science-hippy daydreams, but I still have a recording of it. We thought it was coincidence, but we experimented with various tempos and had the same result. I haven’t yet checked out the research yet, but Joachim Ernst Berent has discovered some really interesting correlations about plants and vines responding to Indian Ragas. Mind blowing. The trip to Cuba was also hugely influential. I’d love to go back.
What is your greatest aspiration?
To be in flow and create really good music.
Who are your heroes?
In no particular order:James Gadson; Steve Gadd; Dad; Mum; nurses; Tony Williams; Zigaboo Modeliste; Nik Bartsch; Salvador Dali; Van Gogh.
How did you get into jazz?
I got into Jazz initially from my brother giving me a Herbie Hancock CD – I burned it onto my computer and in those days, if you didn’t have track names, they were nameless. I remember listening to ‘Track 1’ and thinking: “what the hell is this crazy 12 minute funk jam?” At the time I was also listening to Shaggy and So Fresh, and this Track 1. Fast forward to after high school, I’d been studying Civil Engineering for a year, and hated it, so I dove deep into Jazz because I new that playing music at a high level is what I wanted to do. I got lessons and practised and absorbed whatever furthered me along that track.
Which tune best describes your current state of mind?
‘Rock With You’ – Michael Jackson