By Maritza Manresa
Making music is his passion. It always has been. Growing up in a family of musicians, Ocala resident Ramsees Mechan knew one day, he was going to make music too. Mechan was born and raised for most of his life in Chicago and in 1993 moved to Ocala where he attended Lake Weir High School. “I’ve always been around recording music with my father. My dad composed and played music in different bands while we lived in Chicago,” said Mechan. His father used to take him along when he would play and sign with various bands, as well as when he would go to the studio to record his music.
As he got older, music continued to be very much a big part of his life, actively involving himself in the high school’s music program. “My teacher saw my talents and helped me understand song writing,” said Mechan. That only increased Mechan’s passion for music even more, increasing his desire to pursue a career in music. After graduating, Mechan announced to his family that he wanted to study music recording. “My parents thought I was crazy,” said Mechan. So, to please them he started attending art school. But, his heart was just not in it so he quit art school and enrolled in Full Sail University in Orlando graduating in 2004 majoring in Recording Engineering. “My parents were very upset, but I told them that’s what I wanted to do,” said Mechan. As it turned out, his career choice was obviously the right one for him. Since graduating, Mechan has been busy doing what he loves so much which is making music.
Attending Full Sail was a great experience for Mechan, but it was a lot of work. To be able to get out in the world and “make music” as soon as possible, Mechan enrolled in an accelerated program, completing his degree in 12-months. “It’s a real world education, so there are classes 24-hours-a-day and your classes can be at any time, so you get a taste of what it really is like to work in the music industry,” said Mechan. As much as he wanted to start working with so much of the talent he saw in school, he couldn’t because most times his classes would be during the day and would have lab work at night.
Although Mechan stayed in Orlando for a while after graduating Full Sail, he did his share of traveling to places like New York and Philadelphia to work with various artists in music studios. “After graduating I met a lot of artists, and whatever opportunity I had, I jumped on it – even if it was a small project,” said Mechan. It was tough at the time but he was persistent and his efforts paid off. While in New York he had his first big break in the industry. He had the opportunity to work with Roc Nation, LLC, an entertainment company founded by Jay-Z. More specifically, with this company Mechan had the opportunity to produce a song for an up-and-coming artist at the time called Tiffany Martinez, who was being mentored and groomed by singer, producer, and song writer Andrea Martin. Andrea Martin has written hit songs for famous artists such as Toni Braxton, Monica, and Angie Stone to name a few. “This was a great opportunity for me because I got to work with a great team of people and met all kinds of famous people,” said Mechan, adding that from this project he made a lot of contacts which later resulted in great opportunities for him.
In fact, Mechan ended up working with many of the song writers from Roc Nation. On many occasions Mechan actually had song producers contact him asking him to work with them. Working one-on-one with the artists, Mechan would come in at the developmental stage of the production and worked as a music engineer getting the perfect song out. He would get to the recording studio where he had an artist with a certain amount of songs, and a time frame to work with, “And this is how artists are born,” said Mechan.
Other opportunities opened up for Mechan through his mentor and friend, Bruce Swedien who is also an Ocala resident. “Bruce was so instrumental in me getting work. He was a great mentor who saw my talent and pushed me along. He is considered the best in the world and for me to have spent that much time with him has meant the world,” said Mechan. He had to work hard to prove his work and gain Swedien’s trust, but it was all worth it. “He is very old school – he is one of the guys who helped pave the way on how we record today,” said Mechan. He recalls after graduating from Full Sail, a close friend told him about Swedien, with whom he maintained a close friendship. Swedien had worked with Michael Jackson and would be a great contact to have. So, Mechan’s friend and his wife invited him to a lunch at their house where Swedien would be in attendance. With a big smile on his face Mechan recalls after having a great lunch, Swedien asked him if he had any questions regarding the industry seeing he had just graduated with a Recording Engineering Degree. But, he immediately added if he wanted to ask about a job, he did not have any jobs available. Still, Swedien and Mechan exchanged phone numbers. Shortly thereafter Mechan moved to New York, but even while in New York Swedien and Mechan would touch base from time to time.
After having spent some time working in New York, Mechan moved back to Ocala and immediately contacted Swedien and asked if he could be of any help in any of his projects. Swedien responded, “Do you want to help me cut some records?” That marked the beginning of a wonderful, long lasting working relationship. In fact, the feeling of admiration and respect goes both ways as Swedien recognizes Mechan talent when he said, “Mechan has a very musical approach to his work.”
In May, 2011 Swedien wrote, “Mechan … not only is he great at what he does but, it always is a pleasure working with him!! After mentoring him for these past years he has definitely grown into his own and has a lot to offer at such a young age. His talent is extraordinary and I can say I am proud to call him not only a great businessman but a great friend, very dependable, respectful, and honorable … he is like my adopted son.” Swedien’s knowledge, experience, and contacts have been instrumental in Mechan success. In his long career in the music industry Swedien has worked collectively with Jim Peterik, member of the band Survivor and co-writer of the famous song, Eye of the Tiger.
Additionally, Swedien has worked with personalities such as singer and song writer Siedah Garrett, who co-wrote Man in the Mirror as well as singing the duet, Just Can’t Stop Loving You with Michael Jackson.
“I absolutely loved working in the studio with Ramsees,” states Garrett. “For singers, it is important to have engineers who are fast and accurate so that we maintain our momentum and energy level and never lose focus.”
One of the biggest projects in which Mechan collaborated with Swedien was on a one week workshop called In The Studio With Bruce Swedien which was held several times during the year, for approximately four consecutive years. The workshop was on how to compose music – what it is like to make music, and such. “People want to learn from the best and Bruce is the best,” said Mechan. The workshops were always full with people coming from all around the world and the feedback was always very positive. “For over a week we worked very closely developing the workshop, it was a great experience,” said Mechan. From there, he took over all the logistics of the workshops, managing the event on a day- to-day basis and making sure things ran smoothly. Mechan estimates having had close to 15 successful workshops. Then, from the workshops Swedien came up with the idea of writing a book based on how to compose and such. Once again, Mechan was by Swedien’s side and was very instrumental in the development of the book titled The Bruce Swedien Recording Method. In fact, he was interviewed and featured in the book, and according to Mechan, having been part of this book has helped his career immensely.
Mechan’s accomplishments have been many but among them, one of his favorites is the mix he did for the song, Moves Like Jagger performed by Peter Hollens and Savannah Outen. Another project Mechan treasures greatly is his work with singer KG-Omulo, an old college friend. “KG was enrolled at Full Sail for web design, but we ended up doing our own album in our apartment,” said Mechan.
Omulo is originally from Kenya, Africa and his music was totally different as he tried to incorporate his African roots into the music along with some funk. When Omulo started working on his third album, he started sending Mechan content and then asked him to produce the album for him. “Producing the album was a challenge,” said Mechan, adding the biggest challenge was trying to rearrange all the rhythms Omulo wanted and making them work. Omulo wanted funk and soul in his music and wanted horns in the African way which ended up producing, according to Mechan, a crazy sound. The project was a challenge even for the musicians. ‘’We had all that content and had to mix it – but it worked and that’s why he was such a success, because it was a refreshing sound,” he said.
The album Mechan has produced was something totally new, crossing different music genres and styles. It took approximately a year to complete the project and was then submitted to the Grammys, on what is called the first Grammy ballot. The song received five Grammy nominations on that first stage of the nominations. From that first run, the album received nominations for best producer, best engineer, best urban contemporary album and best vocal performance.
Additionally, out of approximately 18,000 albums submitted, the album also made the first cut and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Best World Music Album. Omulo has nothing but praises for Ramsees stating, “ He is like family and a great friend. He has been invaluable to me, definitely a great producer. He knows how to make something sound good and is able to work with people from all over – like me coming from Kenya. It was because of him, I was able to raise my culture through my music. He was able to bring the sound of my music alive.”
Mechan talent has given him the opportunity of not only working with people from different cultures here in the States, but has also taken him off the mainland to Hawaii as well as abroad to work in other countries. He has traveled to South America and Paris to produce and mix records. His versatility and willingness to work with the different genres of music has opened up many doors for him. ‘’At the beginning I only worked with R & B and pop, but now I work with ill kinds of music,” said Mechan.
He has recorded and mixed funk, rock, live bands, and of course hip hop and R & B. Seemingly to be deep within his thoughts, Mechan talks about how much music has changed in the last several years and how he does not mind trying different things – music with good groove and a good flow, whatever catches his attention, he will work with as long as it is good adding, “Good music is good music and bad music is just that, bad music.”
Since versatility is the name of his game, Mechan’s latest project is working with the gaming industry producing the sound for video games. The funny thing, according to Mechan, is early on in his career he talked about getting in the gaming industry but it was not until recently his wishes materialized. “I put it out there to the Universe and it happened,” he said. Mechan is currently working with Seven Gun Games, a local gaming company where he has been in charge of the music for their newest video game.
“It’s different in a good sense – it’s cool different. It is such an awesome creative process,” said Mechan. To him, it is incredibly rewarding to see a game come so alive once the background music has been added. Working with developers and artists, Mechan’s job is to come up with just the right “cool” sound to go with the animation and the character. To him, it is very inspiring to work with such a great team of young guys with such high aspirations who are so driven to do good work. “Money can’t buy that – sometimes the reward of the work done is worth more,” said Mechan.
Talking about the music industry in general, Mechan says it is a hard industry. He has worked with a lot of independent artists whose music is great but there is so much competition. However, he feels when an artist reaches out to him to do the work for him or her, it is important to work with that artist and give it your all. “When you work with an artist who has something special and you see so much potential, to me it’s important to work with them and see them succeed,” said Mechan.
When approached by a band or individual who wants him to do work for them, it is very important to him to understand exactly where they want to go with the production because it is their music – their baby and he feels they are trusting him with it. Thus, for the artists to trust him with their music, not only means a lot to him, but it is also a great responsibility. He likes to connect with the music he will be working with so he can deliver what the artist wants – whether it is mixing, producing, or engineering the music, it has to come out just right if it is going to be successful.
As volatile and unpredictable as the industry may be, Mechan loves it. According to him the industry has changed greatly due to technology (which is not a bad thing) but a matter of adapting to new ways and going with the flow, which has greatly to do with his future plans. Currently having several projects in the making, he would like to do more work in the gaming industry as he has enjoyed it so much. Also, he would like in the not-so-distant future to organize his own music workshops bringing together talents and other relationships he has built throughout the years to help other people get in the industry and hopefully enjoy it as he has. Music has been his passion since childhood and hopes to continue working in the industry he loves so much in as many different facets as possible. Mechan’s love for what he does is clearly evident when he said, “I work by three principles: music, talent and money. But the first two have to outweigh the third.”