Phil Ramone first became involved in music when he picked up the violin as a young child in South Africa. He later studied at Julliard and established his first music studio more than five decades ago. In 2007, he published a memoir, Making Records: The Scenes Behind the Music, which documents moments in the studio and the art of making records. Ramone graciously spoke with The Miami Hurricane on a variety of subjects.
On where the industry is going:
The music industry body, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, released a report in January which claims that more than 40 billion songs were illegally downloaded in 2008 – 95 percent of all music downloads.
“We need to solve how people would get paid as a songwriter, as a musician, and find the next mode of getting music to the customer,” Ramone said. “I think everyone sitting in that school where you are sitting has a light. Old-fashioned thinking can not survive.”
On working with Bob Dylan:
Ramone said there is a chapter in his memoir devoted to why one can succeed with Dylan by opening their ears and keeping their mouth shut.
“Dylan is a great character in the musical world. He’s very secretive about his life in many ways, and yet he writes about it in his songs. He’s a quiet force in the studio,” he said.
“He’s an instantaneous player; he’s not going to say ‘okay this will be take four,’ and count off and do things… he’ll just dig in and go. It could be the first beginnings of a verse that you won’t hear again for the day.”
On working with the artists:
Ramone said he treats interactions with musicians different than most, in order to maintain the quality of the recording and good coordination between the musicians.
“I keep a lot of people out of the room who don’t belong. If you’re going to have surgery, you don’t want to have the guy on the cell phone talking in the corner of the room,” he said.
Ramone recalled moments working with Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand and others when everything was not coming together smoothly. “There are some incredibly ticklish moments… and then suddenly with brain power and a little bit of luck you gain something that works,” he said.