Thursday, 3 November 2016

“Covering songs never made any sense to me” – Interview with Dominik Ramelsberger

One of those really gifted singer-songwriters that pull the audience’s attention like a magnet as soon as they play their first chord is Dominik Ramelsberger, solo-artist from Traunstein. I was lucky when I accidentally saw him at Cord’s Open Stage in Munich for the first time and even luckier, he gave me the following interview – some insights in why there is nothing higher than the live feeling on stage, nothing more exciting than singing in various languages and nothing more boring than covering from others. Pure musical spirit from Bavaria!

Make sure to check out his Facebook page as well as his videos (e.g. Gfei fo da weid or Reiß di zam or One more booth)

Thanks for the good talk, Dominik! And for you, my dear readers, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy

Singer-songwriter Dominik Ramlesberger

Dominik, when did you start making music and what are your musical influences?

If you ask my Dad, it was always my destiny to become a musician. He announced my birth to his friends with: “A guitarist will be born!” He is a hobby musician, he has a daytime job, but music is about the biggest thing in his life. Apart from his marriage. He always wanted me and my two brothers to be musical and he sometimes sang with us, but there was no pressure.
It is not easy to say when I really started my “career”. As a child I had little interest in learning any musical instruments, I loved singing, performing and making up songs, but learning to play other people's songs and musical notes seemed incredibly boring to me.
When I was about fifteen years old, my dad gave me his old, first ever guitar. At first I didn’t really like it, playing was pretty hard. Also covering songs never made any sense to me.
As soon as I knew some chords, it became better. Now I could just write songs that were harder to play in order to improve my guitar playing. I actually was never much satisfied with my songs though and I very seldom wrote them down.
When it comes to my influences, I have to admit that I am probably one of the worst music fans who ever existed. I mean there are a lot of musicians I have a deep respect for, but I can not name them or their oeuvres consistently. I am just not good at that.
Also my biggest influence is probably my Dad, who has folders full of songs he wrote and who, as a child, I always wanted to be like.
But then of course, as a teenager I was sure I would never be like my parents. And I liked hip hop, heavy metal and electronic music - which my Dad never cared much about. He likes Jazz mostly. But if you are a musician, I think, there is only good music or bad music - you don’t really care about the genre.
Most important to me is a nice groove. And something weird in it, something interesting, like a strange dialect or accent or language or a special instrument or sound.

So what are the inspirations for your songs’ lyrics?

Breakups mostly. But also fear. Like, when I am afraid of something, I write a song to comfort myself. That should probably also work, when I am looking forward to something but most of the time it is fear, I think.

So far you are a solo artist. What are your reasons for not founding a band? Would you feel limited in your creativity and freedom to perform whatever tunes and text you like?

Well, it is hard work. To form a band I mean. Unless you have a lot of friends who are musicians too, which of course you can never have enough of :).
I used to have bands with my friends back in the days, but we were never that good and for the most part I think I was the only one who took it serious.
And yes, I would feel limited in my creative freedom. I am very, let’s say, “unstable” when it comes to my taste in music. One day I’d love to play in a rock band, the other I like Jazz better or I want to try something completely new. But I mean, if the band is good, it is probably worth it.

Dominik Ramelsberger

You perform some of your songs in English and some in Bavarian Dialect - do you have a favourite “language” for each of your songs’ styles (eg. ballads in English and the faster stuff in Bavarian)?

That's a very interesting observation. I am a language enthusiast, indeed. My lifetime goal is to speak seven languages. I do speak English, French and German, also some Italian but not very good. If you count Bavarian as a language, I am at five right now!
I started to write songs in English. The fact, that I was exploring a foreign language while producing poetry with this, always seemed quite appealing to me. But English is also a very musical language and has a great vocabulary.
With Bavarian it’s quite the opposite. Some years ago it was considered really old fashioned and backwards thinking if you spoke dialect in Munich, but I always loved it. It is my mother tongue, I grew up speaking and hearing it and it just feels the most natural to me. This might also translate when I write music.
The great thing about it is, when it comes to poetry, many words offer variants in pronunciation. In Bavarian dialect you “vocalise” the l’s for example, but every region in Bavaria and Austria has their own way of doing it. The small differences of the way in which people - and also myself - speak, always fascinated me.
The one problem with Bavarian is, that many of my friends do not speak nor understand it. When I write a song, I always have someone in mind who I sing it for, this can be someone fictional or someone real. I don’t really think about what language is better for which song, it’s all about the imaginary audience. I tried to write some songs in French for example, but my imagined French audience is very strict, and none of them is any good actually.

You played a number of live gigs already, filled with enormous musical talent and passion (if you ask me!) - still you “only” have 80 fans on Facebook and apparently no homepage - how come? Would you call yourself an “offline” talent?
Yeah, might be. But also, I am just really bad at promoting myself and don’t really like doing it. I mean, I am probably as addicted to the internet as everyone else in our generation, but it does not feel revolutionary and fresh anymore as was the case seven or eight years ago. I mean I remember it felt really important when we created our first MySpace fan page with my band back then....
Maybe five years ago I was like “look at all the good stuff happening on YouTube! I wish real live was that exciting”. Now that changed completely for me. But it was a process I guess. Becoming part of the singer-songwriter scene in Munich played a part in it. Travelling also was important.
Sometimes I miss living in the present I guess. Everyone seems to always need to record it on their phone, if they live through something extraordinary. That might also be why I do not enjoy recording as much. I certainly prefer touring and playing small gigs. I really want this right-now-right-here feeling that only a live gig can deliver for me.

What are your musical plans for the Christmas season and for 2017?

I am playing one gig on November 11th in the Nax bar in Innsbruck. It’s a program where me and my dad play songs of mine and of his, that was pretty cool last time.
And there’s a Brettl Broadway coming next year on January 18th. That is an evening for Bavarian music, organised by a singer songwriter friend of mine, Dane Diredare. The last one I played was in spring this year and it was really good. It was with Veronika Hörmann, who is truly amazing and Hundling - also pretty good. So I have huge expectations for the next one! But you never know with those singer songwriter evenings everything is possible, it might be really bad, I will try my best at least.
The rest of the time, I am going to play open stages in Munich occasionally, Friday night live in Cord, International Songwriters Evening in Heppel und Ettlich and WeltBühne in Eine Welt Haus. Really looking forward to all of it!