Type ‘RAMP Recordings’ into the search box on discogs. Go on. Please...? Their roster reads like a veritable who’s who of modern underground dance music. From the label’s beginnings it’s strived to do something different – in the first instance it was a vehicle for hip hop artsits like MF Doom collaborator Count Bass D and Kan Kick to house their full length experimentations in sound – and with releases from iconic producers like Zomby, Ras G and FaltyDL, along with singles from people like Shortstuff, Slugabed, Clouds, TOKiMONSTA, Nochexxx, Hypno, Bad Autopsy and Teeth, the label’s carved itself a reputation without ever confining itself to a particular niche.
Admittedly, it’s kind of hard to expect something from RAMP. There may have been a glut of dancefloor structured records, but they all approach the medium in a completely different way and for every smiling, jump-up ‘Break Off’ by SBTRKT there’s a blunted beat sketch by Ras G or a compilation of lesser known Scandinavian synthesizer funk music. It’s a petering balance and it’s one that magically never seems to even itself out. The label’s successful offshoots PTN and 4th Wave are much more streamlined in their direction, but with RAMP it’s um… a little bit different.
“RAMP is all over the place,” label owner Tom Kerridge agrees graciously; “even the more linear dance music it releases is pretty haphazard. It probably most reflects how I am as a person, and the way I listen to music. When I started PTN and signed Hackman & Doc Daneeka, I saw it as my opportunity to do something more organised - I gave myself the opportunity to step out of myself when I want to, and it's been really liberating.”
Kerridge’s endeavors have bought his empire to a lot of people’s attention. His artists repeatedly sing his praises and it’s refreshing to see someone in a position of power be so visiably excitable when it comes to new music. Ahead of RAMP’s debut collaboration with FABRICLIVE (their Room Three takeover occurs on Friday 2nd December) he made us an incredible mix that features a wealth of forthcoming material from his artists so excitedly we sat down and quizzed Kerridge about his motivations…
“I started RAMP as there wasn't anything else in the world that really made me happy. I was doing a fine art degree, which as much as I love art, just didn't hold my attention. I worked my way through various jobs, again, nothing really sparked my imagination or excited me. The only thing in my life I had which inspired me was pawing through records, DJing, listening to music, going to clubs, and excitedly telling my friends that Derrick May is the best human being ever.”
So, what were the beginnings of RAMP? I mean, you started releasing hip hop albums from people like Count Bass D et al. What prompted you to start the label and what prompted the stylistic shift to more dance(floor) stuff, do you think? ”I started RAMP with hip hop because there seemed to be a lot of stuff out there that was incredible, but didn't have a home. Dabrye was on Ghostly, Madlib - Stones Throw, but there were a stack of people who just seemed to float around who were, to my ears anyway, phenomenal - so I tried to build them a little home. I later found out the reason why (cough!) those artists didn't have a home, but it was the start of the label and my first experiences in the music industry. ”I've always been a fan of dance/house/whatever you want to call it. The first music I started DJing with was deep house, and I have held on to my unhealthy teenage obsessions with Kenny Dixon Jr, Carl Craig, Matthew Herbert and Pepe Bradock until today.”
”There was never a moment I decided to 'go dance', I just started to notice more and more music coming out of the UK that I thought was wicked, music that didn't have a home, music I wanted to help put out there. All of the house and techno artists I loved were already established and didn't really need some kid trying to sully their careers with his grubby mitts. Artists like Zomby and Rustie who first really grabbed me, then Clouds, FaltyDL - this all started in 2006, so not long after I started RAMP. I was still (and am still) working with artists like Ras G, who I think are a direct continuation from what Count Bass D and Kankick were doing 5+ years ago, so I don't think too much has changed in some respects.”
Zomby – Strange Fruit [RAMP011]
From talking to a few of your artists you have quite a tight relationship with them. Is that important for you?
"Becoming close with my artists is unavoidable. They are giving you a part of themselves when they deliver a piece of music, you have to try and understand what they have created, and help them present it to the rest of the world in a way that other people can comprehend and enjoy. If you spend your days speaking with people, it's inevitable you will end up close. Also, most people I have worked with are well cool, so it's an absolute pleasure to call them friends.”
I read somewhere that you always encourage the artists on your labels to produce full length artist albums. Why is it that important for you?
"Speaking purely from a fan's point of view, I fucking love albums. Singles are fun, but I don't want to run another boring dance label churning out single after single. There is a world between a crackly and offensive Dance Mania 12", and a body of work like 'More Songs About Food & Revolutionary Art' in which I am trying to place my labels. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm getting closer than ever.”
There’s no real set style for RAMP… what are you looking for in the artists you work with?
“Originality. If not stylistically, it's in the they way they present their tracks. That goes for anybody I sign across any label I work with.”
FaltyDL – To London [RAMP018]
And with 4th Wave too, where do you draw the lines?
“While with PTN we are trying to present bass music at its cleanest, purest and most linear form, Fourth Wave was me trying to do a Detroit label, minus the Detroit artists. Definite influences are Transmat's offshoot Fragile, and Planet E - and very specifically how Carl was running it in the mid to late 90's, when he was using the same visual identity to release music from Moodymann, then a few months down the line, releases from Ibex or Recloose. While I suppose it's all 'house' or 'techno' or whatever you want to call it, I just can't think of anything coming out of the electronic music world at that point that was so different, and how Carl tied it all together was so incredible. That's the magic of 90's Detroit I suppose, most people are completely caught up in it. If you are not, you should probably go and throw on some dusty Red Planet records.”
Something I admire about Ramp (and PTN) is the care taken in artwork. Can you tell us a bit about the different pieces and the process of having an artist put something together for you?
“I've always been big into design. Just as I trawl the internet for new music, I do so for designers, illustrators and painters. I love different people's take on the world. Very basically the process is - I have tons of illustrators and designers bookmarked or saved somewhere, if I hear a piece of music I am planning on releasing I think relates somehow to an artist I have seen, I commission them to design the sleeve."
Clouds – Timekeeper (Ras G Remix) [RAMP013]
With so many projects in the works at the moment, where do you see Ramp and all other sub-labels going in the near future? Any plans to start anything new up?
“The near future is all about albums. Hackman's is coming close to being completed, there’s just a little bit of polishing left to do. It's going to be massive. Gerry Read's debut is ready – I’ve literally just finished compiling it with him. It's a ridiculous progression from his recent trilogy of 12”s for Fourth Wave. Hugely excitingly, Red Rack'em's next album will be on RAMP, I've already heard a lot of the tracks. I'm not sure I can describe how excited I am by it without using absolutely appalling language. I want my mum to read this interview, so I'm saying nothing more about it.
“I’ve just signed a mini album and a full length album from Cupp Cave, who released a wicked EP on Vlek a few months ago you should all check out if you haven't already (especially ‘Mind Bones’) - his first RAMP release will be in January. Dro Carey is working on a few more bits and there’s more from Presk. I’m bullying a few of my other artists to get albums finished up.
“I'm not planning on starting anything new up as I have enough (/too many) labels already. However, frustratingly I have just been outed as the person behind Ashes, which is the label I set up a few months ago. I was trying to keep it secret, but there we go. Ashes is me messing about with proper deep house, which was the first music I got into when I began DJing. Already have albums signed from Benjamin Brunn (who did the first EP), unknown New Yorker Alexander Moses, and a few other things up my sleeve too. Visually, everything on Ashes is done by Franski, a horrendously talented painter I found from Belgium you should look up. The label is named after the farm my Dad ran before we lost him to cancer a few years ago.
"Lastly, doing a couple of 'best of' compilations - 'RAMP 50' is a CD of highlights from the back cat of RAMP, and 'BRAiNMATHs' is the first 10 releases on BRAiNMATH compiled on CD & digital, including stuff from Untold, James Blake, Zomby, Roska - many of which have been vinyl only up until now. Both will be out early 2012.”
Catch Tom DJing back to back with Gerry Read in Room Three at FABRICLIVE on the 2nd December.
Tom Kerridge – FABRICLIVE x RAMP Recordings Mix Tracklist:
1. Adaptation Intro
2. Julio Bashmore - Ensnare (TK Edit) [Futureboogie]
3. Gerry Read - Legs (Kevin McPhee Remix) [Fourth Wave]
4. Marcus Mixx - Without Makeup (Ron Hardy Remix) [Let's Pet Puppies Records & Tapes]
5. Even Tuell - Close Dancin' [Musik Krause]
6. Gerry Read - Give Myself To You* [Fourth Wave]
7. Vakula - Track 3 [Unthank]
8. David Alvarado – Beatuification [Peacefrog]
9. Red Rack'em - All Alone*[RAMP Recordings]
10. Presk - Hesitate* [Fourth Wave]
11. Hackman - Untitled* [PTN]
12. Mosca - Dom Perignon (TK Edit) 
13. Dauwd - What's There [Pictures Music]
* denotes an exclusive track, not yet heard or released outside of this mix.