Ceschi Ramos, 31, has many talents. He can fingerpick gracefully on an acoustic guitar while crooning lyrics of his own making. Or he can spit rapid-fire verses over beats he produced himself or with the help of one of his many musical friends. He’s fronted metal bands — Connecticut’s devastating Dead By Wednesday, for example, whose drummer, Opus, is Ramos’ cousin. His eye for spotting talent is formidable; Ramos’ record label, Fake Four, Inc., currently represents alt-pop hip-hop/psych band Child Actor, indie rapper (and current Ramos tour mate) louis logic, Canadian DJ Factor and more than a dozen other regional and local artists.
Ramos’ latest full-length album, 2010’s The One Man Band Broke Up, an inventive mix of conceptual hip-hop and indie rock, was a breath of fresh air, even as Ramos was ruminating on music industry evils and his own anxieties. Since One Man Band, however, Ramos’ recording output has dried up. The grind of touring, the hassles of running a label, even everyday, mundane life-filler stuff has sapped much of his creative energy.
“My immediate plans are to do a series of EPs with different hip-hop producers,” Ramos said by phone as he traveled to a gig in Pittsburgh, Pa. “I don’t know if I’m quite ready to follow up that record in full format yet.”
The anxieties Ramos expressed on One Man Band — fear of failure, disenchantment with the music business — haven’t completely dissipated, but they’ve changed. “They’re probably latent in the back of my mind somewhere,” he said. When he was writing the album, he said, he was also launching and drumming up attention for Fake Four. “And now it seems as though we’re at a place where we’ve gotten a lot of attention and we’ve broken through some of the barriers that I had back then. So maybe I’m a little more optimistic with it. But it’s still the major studio, this mammoth swallowing of all these musicians and spitting them out.”
Between touring and running a business, Ramos has written and recorded less material than he’d like. When he does write, he’ll focus on what’s going on in his life right now. “I constantly write little pieces,” Ramos said. “I’ll be on the road and I’ll write a sentence here or there, and then I’ll put them together eventually into one larger piece, as far as words. As far as music, I work the same way. I write little things on the guitar, or I’ll work on little segments of beats or rough beats and develop them. It’s never an instant process.” His plan is for each upcoming EP to be centered around a different concept; the first, produced by Factor, is “a long EP... almost the length of an album... It’s like a diary kind of thing so far.”
Ramos is still dealing with the loss of his grandmother two years ago. He writes about that. He’s dealing with legal issues — more grist for the mill. “That’s kind of the way I work,” Ramos said. “When I was writing One Man Band, I was going through a lot of darker depression, stuff like that. Obviously it’s a pretty existential kind of record. I think I was at that age also, quarter-life crisis, or whatever you want to call it, where you question everything that’s going around, what your life is going to become. And now I just turned 31. I think every record I make is just a different snapshot of that time period in my life.”
Unlike most musicians, Ramos can play with other musicians, in a traditional band-type setting, or he do it all himself. His first band was started with his brother, percussionist David Ramos (also a founding member of Fake Four), when Ceschi was 14. (The two musicians recently performed a song together at the Connecticut Music Awards in Hartford before a crowd of peers). Five years ago, out of necessity, Ramos started touring by himself.
“It’s so much easier to bring around less equipment,” Ramos said, “and I could get a show in Hawaii or wherever and play there by myself.”
He finds both experiences — fronting a band and playing solo shows, backed only by a laptop — to be equally satisfying. “Sometimes I can get a little bored of one. It can get boring playing by myself for too long. I crave having a band behind me. But really they are both completely unique experiences. And actually I like mixing up the shows a bit, so that I have a bit of both those experiences within one set... Performing solo — there is a really cathartic thing going on there. I look up to stand-up comedians a lot, because they just go up there naked in front of a crowd. I feel that way when I’m just by myself. I can really open up and say all these personal things that I want to say. With a band, there’s a different kind of experience, a communal experience, where you’re sharing this music that you’ve made together. They’re both beautiful things in my life.”
Ramos’ current tour takes him as far west as Minneapolis. He’ll return home to New Haven for an Oct. 24th show at Cafe Nine with Child Actor, louis logic, Sketch Tha Cataclysm and DJ Mo Niklz. The point of the tour, he said, unlike his Warped Tour experience last summer, is not necessarily to attract new followers but to reconnect with ones he already has.
“We have fans in these places that don’t get to see us too often,” Ramos said. “We are going there and sharing this music. It’s not about winning entirely new audiences. That’s inevitable. It happens with every tour... This is more like, ‘Hey, this is special. This is for you guys.’ It’s more of an intimate thing for people who already know about the music. Their friends will hopefully like it. That’s kind of how it works.”
Ceschi & Anonymous Inc., w/ louis logic, Sketch Tha Cataclysm & DJ Mo Niklz, Child Actor. Oct. 24, 8 p.m., $6-$8, Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, (203) 789-8281, cafenine.com.