Ten Questions With Lee Ramirez

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(Chuck is the guilty party that asked Lee these questions, I just posted them.)

1. What’s up ? Tell us a little bit about yourself and do you have a myspace address so the readers can contact you?

Lee RamirezHey guys!  Wow….2009.  Let me 1st say that I hope everyone has a killer 2009!  For those of you who don’t know me….My name is Lee Ramirez.  I was living in Evansville but as of January ’08 I moved to SW Michigan.  I will be entering my mid-life crisis here in January as I celebrate my 40th birthday at the end of the month.  I have been playing bass guitar since I was 15 and was fortunate to be a part of the tri-state live band scene from 2003 till early 2008 with a local Evansville band called Akacia.  I am married as of July ’08 and have a 10 y/o daughter who is a self-described “mini-me”.  I do have a myspace page…..but to be honest…I don’t get on there very often…so if anyone wants to contact me… samoandude@hotmail.com .

2. You were one of the founding members of the band “Akacia”. How long were you with them and how did you guys come up with the name?

I would consider Mike Blemker and Charlie Dicus to be the “founding members”.  They were both in the band “Exosonic”.  A good friend, Aaron Crosby of Musician’s Den fame,  was keeping an ear to the ground for me cuz he knew I was looking to hook up with a good group of guys.  He called me to let me know of a group of fellas that were looking for a bass player.  I tried out for Exosonic back in the fall of 2002 when their guitar player (Travis) was heading to Indy for a new job.  Charlie was playing bass at the time and was considering going back to guitar.  I think it was in Febuary 2003 that they called and said that I was in.  We played a couple of gigs as Exosonic, then decided that a name change was needed.  I can’t remember how EXACTLY we came to land on the name Akacia, but the infamous Iron Maiden song, “22 Acacia Avenue” did play a large part in the decision.  So….I was a part of Akacia from early 2003 till January of 2008.  Good times…..

3. You are a badass bass player. Who are your heroes and what made you to decide to start playing?

This is a bit of a comical story.  Back in 8th grade, a bunch of us that were in junior high school  “band” (I played tuba btw…..lol), decided that were were going to get a group together and perform a song for the school variety show.  For some reason…I volunteered myself as the guitar player.  Now mind you, I’ve never played a guitar in my life, outside of plucking around on an odd acoustic here and there as a curious 13 y/o would.  I borrowed an old Fender Jaguar look alike from an older guy at church, and without an amp….went to the 1st “band” practice.  Now….here I am….never strummed a chord….plugged in with sheet music in front of me…and my mind was racing on how the hell I was going to pull this off.  Not sure if it was sheer panic, or a momentary burst of brilliance, but as the band was playing around me and I squint to make it look like I was lost in the sheet music in front of me, but I noticed a bass clef at the beginning of the piece.  This isn’t music for guitar!  This is music for BASS!!  Whew…..saved!  My bold, and totally conjured claim to be able to play guitar was still a secret.  To my surprise, the mother of one of the members came to my side and exclaimed….”why you’re right….this is for a bass guitar….I’ll have one for you tomorrow…” *gulp*  I don’t know how to play bass either……  The stomach churning feeling of the previous day was back as I put the bass on and attempted to look like I knew what I was doing.  To my own surprise, as I hunted and pecked my way across the fretboard “searching” for notes that sounded like they belonged with the music that was being played around me, I was able to pick those notes out and remember where I put my fingers to make those notes.  Granted, the whole endeavor was complete bullshit on my part, but we were able to get thru the song, and it sounded half decent…for a bunch of 8th graders.  From that point on, I was hooked…..cuz it came easy to pick out the bottom end.  My biggest influence where bass is concerned would have been….and still is….Steve Harris of Iron Maiden.  That signature triplet of his, or the “horse gallop”,  was one of the defining things that made Iron Maiden’s sound what it was.  The man was a monster….and he brought bass to the front of the stage and showed that even the bass could be nasty.  Then came the likes Geddy Lee, Cliff Burton, and BEEFCAKE THE MIGHTY!!!  Something about that low end, keeping the foundation.  I’ve always considered myself as a broad shouldered guy, willing to help carry a heavy load….cuz that’s what Samoans were put on this earth for….to move heavy shit!  Plus when you have someone like Akacia’s drummer, Joel, to lock in with…..it’s a thing of magic.  I appreciate the props….but a “badass bass player”?  Man…. Joel and I worked very well together….and without him, I was just another brown guy pluckin strings.  As my mentor and friend, Jim Gaines would tell me……uhhhh…well…..he would just brow beat me and threaten to break my fingers if I played past the 5th fret on the neck…..LOL!  Love ya Cat!

4. What type of gear do you use?

That Samoan DudeAt present, I have my one and only bass…..a Spector Rex Brown Signature 4 string with the holoflash finish.  I always put GHS Infinity Steel strings on it (….yea….the cool red ones!!).  Early on with Akacia, I was using a Peavey BAM210 combo and if needed (which was ALWAYS…lol), an extension cab that was an Ampeg 410HLF.  In 2005, Aaron Crosby of Musician’s Den called me at work and let me know I needed to come by the store at lunchtime to check out the Genz Benz stuff they were thinking about carrying.  There was a rep there and stuff to demo, so I ran over to see what was up.  I talked to the rep for a little while and played thru one of the 212 neodymium cabs and a 600w head that they offered.  I liked the sound I was getting, but the line was a bit out of my price range…..needs and wants….every musician’s burden!!  So I filled out a comment card and left to go back to work.  Low and behold about 3 months later, I get a call at 9am at work…..some guy at Genz Benz tellin me that I won the “Ultimate Bass Rig”.  My response?  “Ok….who is this really?”  I won their 1200w tube hybrid head and 2 410XL cabs.  Friggin AWESOME!!!  Been my mainstay ever since!!

5. You used to gig quite alot here in the Evansville area, got any “high” points you wanna share with us?

The homeless benefits with Bullocks!  Those were a blast.  I wasn’t very involved with the 1st, but the 2nd and 3rd when we had them out in the street……would get there between 10am and noon and be there till 4am.  Absolute kick ass time!  But I would have to say that playing with the guys during the Freedom Festival down on the riverfront.  Granted….the times weren’t exactly “prime-time”, but it was still killer to be on a stage like that, with the guys that you call family.  Especially when we were up there with the guys from Nocturnal and Six Hills Giant!!  All jammin together….15 guys running around the same stage…..classic!  One of my fondest memories with Akacia…..were we all were brothers that day…..  I have made a ton of friends and met some really great people while I was a part of Akacia.  Those relationships…..by far…..are the greatest high!

6. And going along with the previous question, any “low” points?

The needless drama that seems so to rear it’s ugly head from time to time.  I am the first person to welcome some friendly competition, whether it be with a rival band, or even between bars.  But there are times when egos get in the way and things start to turn personal.  It’s one thing to be proud of what you do and your ability to do it…..you don’t need to step all over someone else in an attempt to get that point across.  One lesson I learned at a very young age…..no matter what u do….or how well you do it…..there will ALWAYS be someone out there that can do it better.  The scene in the tri-state area….we are really a big family!  Granted….it’s dysfunctional as hell…..but a family!  Treat each other with respect and honor, and the whole scene will benefit for it!

7. Do you have a favorite club that you really enjoyed playing at here in the Evansville area?

Most every place that we played was great for their own reasons, but I would have to say that it’s a toss up between two places.  Lanhucks in Evansville….and Late Nights in Jasper.  Lanhucks…well….if you’ve ever been there…..then you kinda know what I mean when I say….it’s intimate…LOL!  We ALWAYS have a great time when we are there.  Dancing on the tables….the really dark corners where anything can happen….and normally does!!!  What Happens At Lanhucks….Stays At Lanhucks……unless someone has a camera   MUAAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  And let’s not forget the one….the only….PAM!!!  She RAWKS!  Worth the trip just to see her.  Late Nights is…well….in a word….WILD!  Those Jasper folks know how to party.  It was really kinda strange how the local wildlife over there took to us right from the 1st note, and made us feel at home ever since!  Great bar….and the bar staff is killer!  Even the bar owners are super cool and great to work with.  …and from personal experience….their service bar is GREAT to play on top of….just gotta watch out for the ceiling fan!!

8. What’s the club scene like at where you are now living up there in the big city of Cincinnati?

Well….I gotta level with ya…..I’m currently living up in serious snow country.  SW Michigan to be exact.  Was considering heading Cinci way but was drawn to the great white north instead.  Go figure……a Samoan in the snow….whoda thunk it?  The scene up this way is a little different in that it’s quite a bit smaller that E’ville, and that the original scene has more influence here.  South Bend Indiana is very close and there are several clubs that showcase coverbands and original bands.  I actually caught StompBox 40 in South Bend a while back.  The town I live in, St. Joseph, is a small town with really only one club that regularly offeres live music.  pFreakshow was there for New Years and they have the likes of Duke Tomatoe play there on a semi-regular basis.  Anything from soul, r&b, rock and blues can be found there on the weekends.  I admit…because of my work schedule…I don’t get much opportunity to head out to the bars….pretty much a home body these days!

9. You share the same last name as Richard Ramirez “The Night Stalker”, the serial killer from the mid 1980’s. Are you related to him?

Ohhhhhh…aren’t you a funny guy!  You know….I’f I had a dollar for every time someone asked that…I’d be able to buy Jim Cauley those flowing locks that he’s always wanted!!  NO…..I am not related to THAT Ramirez clan…..and if you ask me again…I’ll scoop your eyes out with a spoon….

10. And last but not least and not really a question either. Number 10 is called “Shout It Out Loud”. It’s were you get to talk about whatever you want to talk about. So go ahead Lee and “SHOUT IT OUT LOUD!”

I am proud to say that I have met and become friends with some pretty cool people.  Some folks that have been in the scene 3+ decades……some that have just scratched the surface within the last year or two.  As with all things in life, there is a lot you can learn from those that have come before you.  For me…there were guys like Kevin Book…..Nick Hamilton….Mike Mitchell….Chet Harger…just to name a few.  These guys were hangin and bangin in the scene back when I was 21 and bouncing at Neons and Village Saloon.  They had been there and done that….and to sit and just listen to them was an education in itself..(sometimes….more info than I cared to really know!)  There is a wealth of insight that can be shared if you show a little respect where respect has been earned.  Jim Gaines is someone that has been an invaluable, both as a source of insight…a mentor….and a friend.  I consider myself honored to have been able to call the scene in the tri-state, my scene….however short a time span it was.  I was honored to meet and reconnect with those involved in the scene.  Do what you love and love what you do……