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Ramses 3000: “I just wanted to let go of all expectations and ideas and just see what would happen”

Photo Credit: 碗uri Hiensch

Dutch producer and multi-disciplinary artist, Yannick Verhoeven, has spent years refining his craft in the music industry. Whether it be as part of the music collective: Cairo Liberation Front, or founding his own festival called Eurabia, he’s proved himself to be visionary in alternative dance music and honing an ability to find hidden talents across the Middle East and Africa. Now, under his Ramses3000 solo alias, the artist is set to release his debut album Nadja – named after André Breton’s iconic novel centered around the French surrealist movement.

EG caught up with Ramses3000 to learn more about the drop of ‘Nadja’, the inspiration behind the release, his trips, views on Westen culture, the state of the scene, and more.

EG: Hi Yannick! Welcome to EG. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. Where are you based right now? How have you been?

Ramses3000: Hi, thanks for having me! I’m currently based in Tilburg, in the south of the Netherlands. I’m doing good, had a crazy ass summer so I’m kinda rehabilitating from that.

EG: So, now that summer’s just about officially over. What have been some of your highlights?

Ramses3000: So much! The pinnacle was definitely my release show at Into The Great Wide Open. This festival takes place at one of the Dutch islands called Vlieland (aka Vliebiza) and the nature over there is wonderful. Over here, I launched my live set for the very first time, which was obviously quite exciting. Also performed on stage with my Sierra Leone friend Mash P and the French poet Maud Sztern, who were both featured on my new album. It was yeah, what can I say… magical.

Alongside some solo DJ gigs, I also toured a lot with my friend Coloray, as I’m playing synths in his live band. We did some crazy shows over here in the Netherlands, like Lowlands festival and Wildeburg. It has been quite a ride.

EG: By the way, congratulations on the release of your debut LP ‘Nadja’! You must be very excited to share this one. What has the initial reception been like?

Ramses3000: Yeah it has been wonderful! Been working on this album for the last two years and to have it finally come out, it’s been really grateful. Had a lot of fun making this record and it’s amazing to see so many people have fun about it as well. I kinda tend to make an album that’s a bit more focused on vibes, chilling with friends instead of dancing (as during quarantine I was mostly listening to jazz and ambient). In the end, I still hear a lot of DJs play this music, so I’m quite surprised honestly.

EG: We’ve heard ‘Nadja’ was inspired by a particular literary piece. Could you expand on that? In which ways would you say words transpire into music?

Ramses3000: Yeah, so the album is inspired by ‘Nadja’, a book published in 1928 and written by the French writer André Breton. This book can be seen as the author’s attempt to describe surrealism as a way of life. The book is kind of floating between dream and reality, similar to the music of the album.

The book came to my radar after I visited an exposition and saw a photo of the French poet Robert Desnos, which is featured in the book. In this photo, you can see Desnos is in a state of half-asleep, a state of mind he used to write his poems to get to his subconscious and on the way came to new, and unexpected findings. He referred to this technique as “écriture automatique” (‘automatic writing’); writing without a preconceived idea, a form of free expression of the unconscious without correction by reason. I recognized this state of mind while working on the early demos of ‘Nadja’. I didn’t want to think about any concept or idea to record, just wanted to let go of all expectations and ideas and just see what would happen if I turned on a couple of synths and opened a new Ableton file. That’s why the music is looser and based on improvisations, creating a more playful and organic sound.

Second, the photo of Desnos half asleep also reminded me of myself, working in the studio till late, where I also became in a weird state of mind. After digging, I found out that Desnos wasn’t the only one who was experimenting to find new ways to get to his subconscious. In fact, there was a whole movement of artists who found new ways and techniques to make art.

At the same time, ‘Nadja’ is also a love story about a guy being captivated by a girl, having intimate moments with her, and in the end trying to live his life without her. During the process of recording this album, I went to similar stages with a girl, which felt like common ground. As I have been through several relationships myself, I knew these phases won’t last forever, and as I believe recording music is a perfect way to capture these moments, I tried to immortalize these.

“He referred to this technique as “écriture automatique” (‘automatic writing’); writing without a preconceived idea, a form of free expression of the unconscious without correction by reason”

EG: There are 7 collaborations on ’Nadja’, which showcase hidden talents across the Middle East and Africa. What drove you to explore non-Western cultures?

Ramses3000: As a music nerd myself I’m always digging into new forms and expressions of music and these days I think the most interesting developments are definitely not happening in the Western world. I also think that most Western media have got mainly their eye and earn and Anglo-Saxon culture, hope that will change one day.

Before Covid took off, I had the possibility to visit Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone as my friend Mash P invited me to his hometown. As he’s a well-known musician over there he introduced me to so many different cool artists which you can hear on my album. To experience the culture with my own ears and eyes has definitely made a big impact on me.

EG: This is also the first time you use your own vocals on your tracks, most notably on ‘At Ease’ and ‘Citadelle’. What compelled you to do so this time?

Ramses3000: I didn’t really do this on purpose, but it just felt like a logical thing to do, as I’ve been discovering several musical instruments over the last ten years, and at one point, I thought it would make sense to explore my own voice as an instrument. For years I’ve been working with a lot of great vocalists, so they all, one by one, inspired me to work with my own vocals and write my own lyrics.

EG: Inspiration…is it necessary, or overrated? Do you have any particular routine to “get in the zone” when in the studio?

Ramses3000: I see myself as a lucky guy that I feel inspired all the time, which can be caused by some new music I’m playing, a book I’m reading, or an exposition I’ve visited. So I can’t say it’s for me that hard to get in the zone. I’m more having problems wanting to do so many different things in so little time, that it’s hard to fit everything in a lifetime.

EG: How do you keep entertained when traveling? Have you come across any good movies, books, or albums lately? What have been some of the places that have left a mark on you?

Ramses3000: During traveling, I can’t say I’m easily bored, I can enjoy myself quite easily by looking out of the window. Combining this with music is obviously great. During my most recent trip to Yerevan in Armenia, and Tbilisi in Georgia, I really enjoyed listening – for example to Hinako Omori’s ‘a journey…’, ‘Chicago Waves’ by Carlos Niño and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, and John Carroll Kirby’s recent album ‘Dance Ancestral’.

Concerning books, a couple of months ago, I did a residency at a monastery, surrounded by nature, next to a nursing home. I studied the effect music has on our brains. Previously, I made music to escape reality. These days I’m more into creating music to relieve stress, in the tradition of for example Jon Hassle, Brian Eno, and Laraaji. I tried working on music that elderly people can enjoy too. In this period I’ve recorded a lot of music, which can be categorized as ambient, new age, and neo-classical stuff.

EG: What does a regular Monday in the life of Ramses 3000 look like? And a Friday?

Ramses3000: Monday morning I’m mostly trying to shake my Monday blues by heading to my studio in Tilburg, my hometown. These days it’s a lot of press concerning ‘Nadja’. As well as doing some stuff around the Intercept music label which I’m running with three friends (Coloray, Axefield, and French II) and I’m currently preparing a new exposition I’m opening this month, with some of my latest collage work. On Monday evening I always try to eat healthy food (beans!) to compensate for (most of the time) not so healthy weekend before.

On Friday I often have to prepare what’s coming for the weekend, as I often got live shows or DJ gigs. For live shows, I have to rehearse with other musicians, for DJ-gigs I’m behind my computer searching for new tracks to play or selecting some older music. If I’m free on a Friday night I would definitely go out for a beer with friends, go to a show, or a club night.

“As a music nerd myself I’m always digging into new forms and expressions of music and these days I think the most interesting developments are definitely not happening in the Western world”

EG: By the way, what are your thoughts on the current state of the scene? What would you like to see more and less of?

Ramses3000: I think a lot has changed in recent years. I’m happy to see that diversity is becoming a major theme at events and labels and seeing some different genders and people from different cultural backgrounds on stage. I hope we can see this more often in the coming years.

Unfortunately, I don’t always see this in the audience, and with pricing going up, I hope cultural events will be available for everyone and not only the lucky few…

EG: What’s next for Ramses 3000? What particular milestones are you looking forwards to now?

Ramses3000: I’ve got lots of ideas for the follow-up to ‘Nadja’, which I’m starting to record in the coming period. Also for 2023, I hope I can share the stage more often with my collaborators, Mash P and Maud Sztern. In the short term, for the upcoming months, I’ve got some new DJ gigs lined up, which I’m also looking forward to doing.

EG: Thank you so much for your time, Yannick! We wish you all the best for the future.

Ramses3000: Thanks for having me and keep supporting music! Music journalism is underrated <3

Ramses3000’s ‘Nadja’ LP is out now via Intercept. Stream and buy here.

Follow Ramses3000: Instagram | SoundCloud | Spotify 

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