Ramp is, at this time, both a band and a person, I suppose. That person is me, Irfon-Kim Ahmad. I started Ramp, however, as a band.
Back in the day (I have a terrible sense of time, but let’s say “the day” in this case is around 1988 or so), I began to fiddle with sound. I’d been an avid music lover for a long time, and I’m not the sort of person who easily enjoys a thing without trying his hand at also creating it. I had taken piano lessons as a child, played first recorder and then tuba in elementary and highschool band (although I never mastered either, really), had an electric guitar but never really learned it and even briefly had an accordion, although I only attended one lesson — the teacher scared me away. A big part of it is that I wasn’t really a fantastic stupid. Maybe if I’d have been born later I’d have been diagnosed with ADD or something of that sort. I prefer to think that I hadn’t really found my calling.
What happened then was that I played with tape for the first, and very nearly last time. I used segments of Skinny Puppy’s “Dig It,” recorded over and over themselves and mixed, remixed and mashed together using one of those monoblock plastic stereos from Sears, a headphone-to-tape adapter, and a dual-deck ghetto blaster that you could force to play both tape decks simultaneously. The result is probably unlistenable. I’m not sure that I still even have it anywhere (although it wouldn’t surprise me). However, something about that experience just clicked for me.
From there I rented first a Korg DSS-1 and then an E-Mu EMAX sampler. I wrote my first song on the DSS-1, using a sample built from the wonderful, lush synth sound at the beginning of Dead Can Dance’s “Severance” and layered over that, the infamous drum loop from the beginning of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” and an astoundingly irritating loop from a recording of a speech at a Mosque, in which the Imam states: “Let every soul look to what it has put forward for the future.” I ended up finding much of its interface inscrutable and after a month I swapped it for the E-Mu EMAX, which the rental place had a manual for. On that I composed another song that actually has a name, although I can’t recall it off the top of my head just now and as opposed to the previous song, it was an actual composition rather than simply a slightly planned improvisation. I used the Arco Strings patch, a real, live Roland MPU-401 MIDI interface card and a copy of Master Trax Pro for DOS. I *think* it was running on an 80286 PC. Heady days.
However, the songs I worked on tended a little toward cacophany, so I enlisted the help of James Drage (later of Ota Prota, SIL2K and other projects), who was my friend with the most impressive musical pedigree. We had a good workflow, where I would brainstorm ideas into a corner and he would fix them, or he would brainstorm ideas and I would kind of nod and not do a lot. I also finally stopped renting instruments and managed to acquire an E-Mu EMAX II sampler. That period of time culminated in a live show in Windsor in a hall that used to be a bowling alley. It was all last-minute and we had almost nothing written. We improvised a lot of it, but there were many other performers involved as well. It was an exciting experience, to say the least, and I couldn’t have asked for a better cap to the highschool garage-band phase. Although I only found out the name we performed under at the show after the fact (and it’s too embarrassing to print here), this was about the time that James and I chose the name “Ramp,” as well.
This is where I’m supposed to write about how I got serious, enrolled in a music programme, got some bit work scoring for film, joined a band in the big city, whatever. In actuality, although I composed almost an album worth of never-completed material over the first eight months of University, for the most part that was where life, anxiety and a tremendous fear of working without James to back me up kicked in. There was a hiatus of over a decade where everything sat. In the back of my mind, music was still my true calling, but what skill and training I had atrophied. The EMAX II stayed hooked up for a long time but was rarely turned on, and then as the places I lived in became more pressed for space, it began to mostly be in corners or even closets.
Around 2000 or so, facing the end of the millenium, the rapid approach of my 30s, a couple of post-university years in a full-time job that paid the bills and very little lasting creative output to my name, I decided to revamp my studio and give it another try. To say it was a slow start is being generous. The EMAX II had broken down and I went through a few changes of gear, buying an E-Mu Planet Earth module, an E-Mu E4X sampler, a Roland JX-8P to use as a controller as well as a whole bunch of supporting equipment, but I was also infatuated with BeOS at the time and plunked a lot of energy and resources into getting set up for music on that platform. Eventually that whole situation imploded and I moved to the Mac, composing a few songs with that studio before deciding to take a whole different approach. I sold all the equipment, sad and a little guilty to see it go with so little use (the Planet Earth and E4X are both truly wonderful units and I have great nostalgia for the JX-8P) and used that money to finance a completely software-driven studio, which I’m still using (after many updates) to date.
Since roughly 2003, I’ve been gathering a little momentum, composing here and there when I can and learning how to do it all all over again at the same time. This site was launched in December of 2006, when I had finished the main writing and much of the mixing for Peristalsis and had begun working on Orchard Days. My biggest hope is that I can get things up to speed such that I can get a fairly steady set of releases out there between new material and finally officially releasing completed work. For those that read this far, thanks, and I hope that you enjoy the music.