The decade-old, Myspace-born solo project that took Michael Ramey across oceans still gives him life today.
A little more than 10 years ago, Gahanna native Michael Ramey was adrift, living with his mother while recovering from a bad drug addiction. Blue Revision, the first band in which he'd ever performed live (and one of Alive's Bands to Watch from 2004), had recently called it quits, so Ramey began writing and recording songs on his own under the name Golden Death Music.
On a whim, he decided to put some of his psychedelic songs on social media network Myspace. “I found myself in my mom's house with nothing to do and an internet connection, so I uploaded all this music that I'd only wrote for myself, and the response from other people was overwhelming,” said Ramey recently at a Downtown coffee shop. “Having nothing but time to promote my music, I redoubled my efforts and put everything I had into it.”
Early on, he patterned Golden Death Music after a satirical cult. “Along with the music, I had these writings,” he said. “My uncle got involved in a cult, so, based on that, I did these half-satirical, half-serious writings about the philosophical, existential things that my lyrics sometimes deal with. The problem was, people started to take me really seriously. They started writing me emails and actual letters telling me about their lives — pages and pages, asking me for advice, stuff like that. It scared me to the point where I was like, ‘OK, I don't want to do this.'”
Eventually, record labels Ramey loved came calling and released some of his music. Not only that, but Ramey also met his first wife, Colombian musician Lido Pimienta, through Myspace, and ended up moving to Canada and Colombia to make music with her. Under Pimienta's name, the two scored a record deal and spent a couple years playing shows in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere.
“It was a bit of a commercial project — a mix of Colombian dance music and my depressed, psychedelic-rock thing,” Ramey said. “I got to live my dream for a while, touring around, living off the money you make from tours, playing to large crowds of people who are singing along to the songs.”
All the while, Ramey continued to write songs as Golden Death Music and even opened up for Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab in Colombia. Eventually, though, the relationship between Ramey and Pimienta soured. They tried to stay together for the sake of their son, but the relationship deteriorated to the point that the two couldn't be in the same room together. After the split, Ramey met his current wife, Isabel Corredor, in Bogota and brought her to Columbus about five years ago; they're expecting their first child this year.
While Ramey writes, performs and records all of his music himself at home, there have also been several live versions of Golden Death Music over the years. The current incarnation, featuring Sean Schultz on guitar, Nick Purcell on bass and Josh Weimer on drums, will perform at Milo Arts on Wednesday, March 22.
Though GDM's Bandcamp page boasts two releases from late last year (full-length Form and Truth Frequency and the Hollywood EP), the live show incorporates a song or two from each album in the band's catalog. In concert, Ramey leaves extra room in the songs for psychedelic improvisations.
Golden Death Music's sound has also shifted over time from acoustic, experimental folk to wide-ranging epics with layers of electronic textures, but the project still serves the same purpose it did in the very beginning. It's the primary way Ramey processes thoughts on existential despair and addiction.
“[Addiction] is something I've dealt with, personally, for at least 10 years, and the music has really helped me get through that. It probably saved my life in terms of having that outlet,” he said. “I've had people respond to me about certain songs, saying, ‘I listened to this, and it really helped me get through a hard time.' That has made it really worthwhile. I've been able to go much further with it than I ever thought. I never expected anything, and I got a lot out of it. That's enough reason for me to keep going.”