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The Many Sides of Guitarist Josh Ramos

The Many Sides of Guitarist Josh Ramos

Josh Ramos – Photo by Alex Solca lo

The Many Sides of Guitarist Josh Ramos

Guitarist Josh Ramos is best known for his participation in The Storm – a band that featured most of the legendary Journey and released two influential AOR masterpieces in the early 90’s.  With an epic career  after the clearing of The Storm, Josh Ramos continues to be imaginative and prolific – culminating in the recently issued My Many Sides released via Frontiers Music Srl.  On My Many Sides, Josh Ramos has found himself working with the likes of Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Harry Hess of Harem Scarem, Danny Vaughn of Tyketto, Joe Retta of Heaven and Earth, Eric Ragno of China Blue, and many more.  Also featured on My Many Sides is a song called I’m Only Human, featuring the final vocal performance of Tony Mills from Shy and TNT.  In this interview with Highwire Daze, Josh Ramos discusses the making of My Many Sides, his work with The Storm, releasing new music in the middle of a pandemic, and other topics of intrigue.  Read on…

First of all, what made you think that now was the time to do a brand new solo album?
Well, when I left Hardline, it wasn’t a good part of me leaving that band. But I just wanted to get back to doing different collaborations with different artists playing my own songs basically and just having more control of me. Not being a puppet – “Oh you gotta play this.” I didn’t want to do that and that’s what was happening in that band – and I was not happy. So that’s why I decided I wanted to do another solo record.

Is there is story to the title My Many Sides – probably the many sides to the music you like.
Exactly. Different fields like little bluesy stuff like the song that Tony Mills sings or the beginning track Today Is The Day with Joe Retta – even the song with Eric Martin – there’s just different sides to my playing. I grew up in Chicago, so besides the rock, I love blues, R&B – I could play all the stuff which I never really get a chance to play – and I still haven’t played enough of it. This is just like a little bit of the other stuff that I play on this CD – My Many Sides. And that’s why it’s called like that.

Tony Mills

This album does feature I believe the last recorded appearance of Tony Mills on the song I’m Only Human. What was it like working with Tony Mills on this particular album and what was he like at the time of the recording?
I had recorded the China Blue CD with him. I never met Tony – I always talked to him on the phone because he was in England – I was here in the United States. So when it came time to having different singers on the CD, I reached out to him. He was already sick at the time, and he said that he was still interested. And we had a really nice long talk at the time. So I sent him two songs and he picked Only Human – he wrote the words too – which was great because then it was really a collaboration. He wasn’t just singing somebody else’s words – these were his words and his feelings and his approach to the song. So that’s what made it special, and I know that three months afterwards he died – and I wanted to know if this was one of the last songs that he worked on. And so I reached out to his wife, and she verified that yes, it was the last song that he recorded. So this is the last song that Tony has ever recorded and played- and his voice!

His voice yes and what an amazing song! So let’s go on to Joe Retta now. Joe is on a lot of tracks on here. This could have been a Ramos/Retta album actually if he had recorded even more tracks. How did he become involved and what made you use Joe on so many songs?
Well he came recommended by Fabrizio Grossi, who is the bass player and producer of my new CD. That’s what the idea was – to have Joe be the singer – singing all the songs on my CD. But then there was a conflict of interest with Heaven And Earth – he was in that band too. They were going to be recording a new CD –and Stuart the guitar player didn’t think that was a good idea for them to be doing a CD and also for him to be doing my CD too. So Joe and I had been talking for several months, and he felt bad that he wasn’t able to do it – but he said “Listen – what I could do is I could sing on some songs and then just get different singers.” So Fabrizio and I talked about it, and he said “Well, okay let’s do it!” He reached out to some of his friends – obviously Danny Vaughn and Tony Harnell. And I had friends that I reached out to that were more than happy to help me out with this. So that’s how that happened. So yeah, Joe was supposed to be the singer on the whole thing. And that’s what it was supposed to be – Ramos/Retta.

My Many Sides by RAMOS

Tell me about the song Forefather and working with Eric Martin on that one.
So my friend Roger Silver – he wrote that song – and he had a demo with Neal Schon playing guitar on it and Eric singing. And when I heard it, I thought “Oh my god, that’s a beautiful song! I think I might want to do that for my CD.” So he gave me permission, but I had to re-record the whole thing again – because the song that Danny Vaughn sings – Fabrizio had that song already with Danny’s vocals – and Danny recorded it like 3 years ago. So we were just able to reuse the track – re-record the drums – and then add my guitars to it – but we kept Danny’s vocal track on there. So, I had to redo the whole song Forefather – and when Eric had a break – I guess he was out on the road doing Avantasia – so when he was back here in town, he put one day aside and was able to record the vocals for me. So yeah, Roger Silver wrote that song – I met him through Neal Schon back in 1986 when I worked with Neal, they were best friends – and that’s how I met Roger.

Tell me about working with keyboardist Eric Ragno on this new album. He was in one of your previous solo albums and you were in China Blue with him.
Right – I was in China Blue and I was also in Hugo/Ramos with him. Basically the one instrumental that I have on the CD – me and my girlfriend were in France last year – driving around, vacationing – and we stayed at a really nice bed and breakfast. We were at the pool overlooking these mountains and vinyards – and we were taking about my CD. And she said, “You know, you’re known as a guitar but on this CD you’re just playing songs and not really playing anything to show you as a guitarist basically.” So that’s when I started thinking – and I called Eric Ragno – and that’s when I asked him “Do you have something that I could use? That I would like to do an instrumental.” So basically Eric and I wrote that song. Eric came in with the keyboard parts, and then they are certain guitar parts that are melodic that I wrote. So yeah, that’s how that happened.

When you look back on that China Blue album you did with Tony Mills and Eric Ragno, what do you think of it now in retrospect?
I liked the songs and I liked Tony’s vocals. And I did it because Eric wanted to bring me in. I didn’t really know of the band at all – I really didn’t even know what bands Tony had sang for. I know a little after that he was involved with TNT after Tony Harnell left. But he said, “Hey, I’m doing this CD for Frontiers with this band China Blue and I would like for you to do guitars.” – so that’s how it happened. He brought me in and I basically heard the songs – I would write the chords and then we would run through it a couple of times- and then I would record the rhythms and then I would record the solos on top of that. It was really interesting. I wanted to work with Tony again, and obviously we were able to put this one song together (on My Many Sides), but it never did happen.

Josh Ramos & Fabrizio Grossi

When you look back on the albums you did with The Storm, what do you think of them now, and do you still keep in touch with anybody from the band?
Yes of course. I still keep in touch with Kevin Chalfant. I definitely keep in touch with Ross Valory. And the other members were Gregg Rolie and Steve Smith. Steve – now that he’s not in Journey anymore – I think he’s back to his jazz thing. And then Gregg I never talk to anymore – he’s been with Ringo Starr – and then recently he was with Journey Through Time with Neal Schon – and they were doing all of the first albums of Journey before Steve Perry joined the band. But I don’t talk to Gregg. The only people that I talk to are basically Ross and Kevin. And I was talking about Kevin that maybe – now that Ross is out of Journey – maybe reforming The Storm with him, me, Ross – well Steve probably wouldn’t do it because he’s happy doing his jazz thing – and Gregg wouldn’t do it because he’s doing his thing. So we would just get a couple of other guys, but yeah – those are the only two guys I keep in touch with.

What do you think of those two The Storm albums in retrospect?
Amazing! I mean, the first Storm album – I was like a fan – my eyes wide open – like oh my god – I’m in a band with Gregg Rollie, Steve Smith and Ross Valory – I mean they were my favorite band back in Chicago. I was in the audience watching them. I loved Neal and I played and played – obviously Neal was one of my influences. And then I moved here – I was in a band called Lamont back in ’83 – and we did a record with Mike Varney. We came here from San Francisco to Chicago and did an album with Lamont. And my other guitar player in the band was Derek Frigo, which went on to be in a band called Enuff Z’Nuff. He died of a heroin overdose in 2003/2004. So yeah, I came here to do that. But yeah, working with Ross and Gregg and Steve Smith – they were heroes of mine and here I am in a band with them – and then we recorded the album at Skywalker Ranch – you know, George Lucas from Star Wars. I mean – I was in a dream every day pinching myself going “Oh my god!” But those are the dreams that you have when you want to achieve something in life regardless what you are. You could be an actor – you could be a baseball player – you could be a dentist – you could be anything! But dreams that you have are what propels you forward if you really want that in life – and I did! So even though I was like in a dream every day, I knew I made it happen because of my perseverance of wanting to go forward to what I wanted in life – to be a guitarist and to work with great artists – and here I’m working with one of my favorite bands – Journey!

Joe Retta

Let’s go back to My Many Sides. What has it been like to release new music in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
Well, obviously I didn’t know when I first started putting this album together. I didn’t know that we would be going through this. It’s really difficult – as an artist, your record something, you put it on a CD or vinyl or whatever – and the next step is to be able to play it live for your fans. And so obviously that is not happening anymore – but what I look forward to is at least to have the CD come out among the pandemic, so the fans at least have a chance to hear new music and hear their favorite singers on my CD – and that’s great!

When the pandemic is all over, would you like to tour in support of this album?
Of course! Obviously if I was a millionaire, I would pay each individual singer on that CD to come on the road with me and do the show. Obviously we would do more songs of each singer, right? But I’m not. But if that happened, I would have to see who was available. I had asked Joe Retta before if he would be interested in doing some shows maybe in Europe – if he would like to come with me and be my singer – and he said yes. But then again, we’re dealt this hard blow with this pandemic, and who knows when it’s going to be safe to play. People just have to understand that they have to do what they’re told to do – the faster they do it, the faster we can get over this thing! Cuz people are ignorant – they still want to go out to beaches and want to still pretend that nothing is happening, so that just keeps prolonging the chance of being able to do anything like that – to go on tour – to go to Europe. I mean by girlfriend live in Hamburg, and I can’t even fly to see her – so it’s hard.

Are you currently involved with any other projects that we haven’t talked about?
No, I’m just waiting for this one to do its thing. And then after that, I’ll see what else I can do. Like I said, it would be nice to put The Storm back together with Kevin and Ross and me – maybe have some other people that are in the industry. I have a lot of friends with names and it would be great to bring them in, but I don’t know – Ross is still going through the aftermath of the whole Journey scandal and I don’t know how that would work. All we really have is downtime. I would like get involved with something else – I just have to see what happens after this. I would love to do another CD like this with different singers too…


Today’s The Day (Joe Retta on vocals)
Unbroken (Terry Ilous on vocals)
Blameless Blue (Danny Vaughn on vocals)
Immortal (Tony Harnell on vocals)
Same Ol’ Fears (Joe Retta on vocals)
I’ve Been Waiting (Harry Hess on vocals)
Moving On (John Bisaha on vocals)
Forefather (Eric Martin on vocals)
Too Good To Be True (Joe Retta on vocals)
Ceremony (Instrumental)
All Over Now (Joe Retta on vocals)
I’m Only Human (Tony Mills on vocals)

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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Frontiers Music Srl Official Home Page

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