Born and raised in the small city of Girona, it wasn’t until Marc Ramirez moved south to Terrassa, near Barcelona, to study Multimedia that he discovered the sounds and scenes that would define his adult life. It was here, on the outskirts of Europe’s dance-music melting pot, that Ramirez underwent something of a conversion. Going out to clubs like Moog and Razzmatazz, and influenced by groups like Orbital and The Chemical Brothers, Ramirez began to draw on the production skills he had learnt in college to write his own tracks.
Humble beginnings, perhaps, but it wasn’t long before Ramirez started to get noticed. Playing his homemade tracks at private parties led to a residency at a club in his hometown and with that, the opportunity to not only rub shoulders with international DJs, but to press his demos into their hands. Taking the artist name ‘Dosem’, Ramirez was soon putting out releases on labels such as Antirtmo, Sino and Tronic, and seeing his records getting supported by figures such as Joris Voorn and Henry Saiz. In the space of a few years, Ramirez had not only released two artist albums and more than twenty EPs, but in the process established his own take on mainroom tech-house thunder.
Yet, recent months and years have seen Ramirez’s sound shift away from his techno roots, with the house music elements of his repertoire coming to the forefront of his productions. A string of more house orientated 12”s on Coyu’s Suara imprint are set to reach their logical culmination will a forthcoming album entitled ‘City Cuts’. Coming out in late September, the record is inspired by the impressions that have been made on Ramirez as he has toured the world as a DJ, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Amsterdam.
I Voice got in touched with Dosem to talk about how being an in-demand DJ has informed his new album, his transition to a more house-music orientated sound and whether he considers himself a DJ or producer.
Although, whilst I have changed how I make music, my style really hasn't changed much.
My music has always had soulful elements and intense rhythms, & I've always liked music that tells stories & has substance...Your previous albums leant towards techno in terms of their sound, but your new album 'City Cuts' has a strong house orientation. What has informed this transition?
When I started [producing] I was very into techno, but at the same time I was listening to a lot of house music, including mainstream stuff. When I got my first residency it was like starting from scratch, I was very young and I had only played music at friends’ parties until then. The owner told I had to mix my style with mainstream music like Daft Punk, Groove Armada, Roger Sanchez. It was a big challenge, but at that time mainstream house music was very different to how it is today. I liked many elements of it, especially the funky basslines and I always tried put this house 'vibe' inside my techno productions. Over the years I've been evolving my sound in quite a natural and unplanned way, trying to mix both styles, and when this album [emerged in the studio] I realised that I was much more into house beats than techno these days. But, there is a moment for everything. When I'm in the club, I feel like I need to play more house-groove-oriented, and when I'm in a big room or in a festival situation, I play more banging stuff.
So it's been a long process of transition.
It's taken ten years more or less. Although, whilst I have changed how I make music, my style really hasn't changed much. My music has always had soulful elements and intense rhythms, and I've always liked music that tells stories and has substance.
Are you still based near Barcelona?
I'm based in Girona, which is where I was born. I lived in Barcelona for a while, but my family and my girlfriend live here, so I moved back. It's quiet and relaxing here.
I was going to ask if 'City Cuts' is a love-letter to Barcelona... but given you don't live there, what city or cities are you addressing with this record?
When I'm in Girona, it's private and personal. But, every weekend when I travel to other cities I take the opportunity to be inspired by those new situations. That is the reason that I made this album, because it is great when you can travel somewhere else. I always try to make time to leave my hotel and walk through the streets, listen to some music, see some buildings. You see people walking around and you think about their lives. You don't know them, but you can imagine what their life is like and you can see an echo of your own existence, your own memories. It's those feelings that inspired me to make this album.
Every weekend when I travel to other cities I take the opportunity to be inspired by those new situations.
That is the reason that I made this album, because it is great when you can travel somewhere else...You said that you like music to tell stories and that comes across very strongly on the album. Even the track titles, such as 'Lost Taxi', seem like allusions to stories or events.
That specific track was inspired by an experience I had in Hong Kong about a year ago. I was walking around for hours with my headphones on, but after a while I lost the trail back to my hotel. I jumped into a taxi and as we were travelling through the city I started to feel really inspired by the cityscape and all the lights. I was suddenly overwhelmed by the thought that I had gone from being just a guy doing some music in a small city like Girona to someone who's performing in Hong Kong. And, I tried to put all those feelings from that taxi journey in that song.
The track is one of the album's most emotive moment, you might even call it 'epic' in its sound. In fact, at 70-minutes long, the whole album is something of an epic. Is this your most ambitious record yet?
I think that it is my most mature album, but that makes sense because each time I produce something new I am evolving my sound. When I started out, I was much more impulsive whereas now I am able to express exactly what I want to express and not rely on tricks. With this album, I have tried to take all my ideas, all the loops that I've made on my laptops whilst on planes, and make something out of it. I feel it really explains how I feel.
Did you approach this album differently to how you did with your previous albums?
Yeah, definitely. My first album, Parallel, which came out on Sino was more like a presentation of my sound and what I do. Then I released my second album, Origin, on Tronic which I worked on with Christian Smith and was more of a techno club album. This third album is the result of two years spent playing with new ideas. I'm trying to show another side to my music.
O.K., I'm going to take a contrary stance with my next question: the tracks are all dance-floor friendly, why not release them as a series of DJ-friendly EPs?
That's a good question. These days, it's hard to release an album. We're in a scene that demands EPs and tracks that DJs can take straight to the club. I don't have anything against functional music or artists that make tracks to make people dance, and part of my music fits within these terms. But I want to mix that kind of music with what I call 'substance' music, that is, music that goes beyond just being a DJ tool. I want my music to make people dance but also to tell stories. That's why I think Suara is the perfect label for my music at the moment, because it crosses over [those boundaries]. I've been releasing singles for Suara for a while and Coyu said to me, “Hey, how about we group some of your new tracks under a project.” He knows that I love to make albums, because the kind of music I like is that which tells stories, and so that's how the album came out about.
I want to mix that kind of music with what I call 'substance' music, that is, music that goes beyond just being a DJ tool. I want my music to make people dance but also to tell stories...Do you consider yourself a producer or a DJ foremostly?
I started off feeling more like a producer, but these days it's more of an even mix. I split my two sides, when I'm making music in the studio I'm making it for myself. But when I'm playing as a DJ, I really try to adapt to the crowd and the people who have paid to have a good time in the club. I have two lives, during the week in Girona as a producer and as a DJ at the weekends.
You mentioned earlier that during your first residency you were asked to play commercial records, do you still feel that pressure to play music that you're not entirely comfortable with?
Sometimes, and this happens less these days, I find myself playing somewhere which isn't a techno or house club, but more like a big event where some promoters decided to do an electronic music party. You can tell that the people there are not into the scene or the music. They're in the club because maybe the club is "cool" and they want to have a good time. That is always a challenge. It's a challenge, because you start to play and people aren't dancing straight away. But then, after half-an-hour or so, if you see that people are getting more into the music and starting to dance, those kind of gigs are great. They make me remember where I started many years ago, I can see a new generation of young people getting in touch for first time with electronic music and I can feel this excitement around. It's great.
In the ten years that you've been playing out, what's the biggest disaster you've had in a club?
The first time I played in Paris I was booked for a live set in Rex Club, which was a very important gig for me. The party was going well, people were dancing a-lot and then suddenly, I don't know how, somebody took one of the USB cables and the music was disconnected. There was five-minutes of nobody knowing what was going on, but eventually we managed to fix it, I started again and actually, the party got better from that point.
And how about the crowning moments of your career so far?
My first time in Tokyo, I played at a very, very good party in Air. Somehow my music is really connected with Japanese culture, perhaps because I watched a lot of manga when I was younger and so the show felt really special. Also, the first time I played my live show at Berghain they had asked me to do a techno-live oriented performance for the main floor. That turned out to be a great party.
Dosem will be releasing 'City Cuts', on September 22nd on Suara Music