New Haven-based record label Fake Four Inc is marking its 10th anniversary through celebration, retrospection and introspection. Fake Four was started by Ceschi Ramos and his brother David in 2008 and became so much more than a business; the brothers are acknowledging this milestone with a show on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Three Sheets New Haven on Elm Street.
The celebration is part of Three Sheets’ and artist Lipgloss Crisis’s ongoing monthly series Art in the Back, Music in the Front, and will include art and artists that have helped Fake Four become as well known for its visual artistry as for its musical offerings. For Ramos, the two are indelibly intertwined.
“That’s why Fake Four started. I looked at it at first like a big art piece,” said Ramos. “It started with my brother needing to release a record. I got us a distribution deal and a manufacturing deal and got some financing from two other labels. They helped us actually start — Squid’s Eye in Ohio and Grim Image in California. They’re both defunct now but they gave us a jump start.”
The label eventually became a place for Ceschi to create recordings for himself as well as others.
“I take a lot of time with my records, but I have a lot of talented friends. I have my brother and a whole family of talented friends, so ever since then that became my main art piece,” Ramos said.
Ramos’s art piece eventually became an intricate web of other art pieces from all over the country and beyond. Some of those artists will be showcased at the event on Saturday, right in the city where it all began.
“This is our 10th anniversary celebration,” said Ramos. “We did a concert tour earlier in the spring, but this show is focused on our art in addition to the music. So we’ve got a bunch of artists coming from all over the states and Canada that have worked with our label over the past decade. They’re coming here in person or sending art, and it’s going to be really cool.”
“One of the special guests is going to be Gregory Pepper,” Ramos continued. “He comes from Ontario. He’s one of my favorite songwriters as well. He’s also on the label and has been on the label since we started. He does tons of visual art for us and will be for the next album as well…. One of the other artists is coming from California, Jon Nagel. He’s my oldest friend. We’ve been friends since grade four. I spent my childhood in Berkeley so he stayed there and went to California College of arts. He’s a great illustrator. I used to draw a whole lot too when I was young. Jon and I came up cartooning together. We would copy each other’s styles. He became the visual representation of what our band” — that would be Anonymous, Inc. — “was back when we started, when we were little kids really. I am so happy he’s coming down. He has a whole bunch of new work coming out.”
Brooklyn-based artist Derek Weisberg did the cover of Ceschi’s Broken Bone Ballads. “He’s a sculptor,” Ramos said. “He’s making a lot of noise in New York now in the art world.
Waterbury-based Heather Wik is a tattoo artist. “She did a bunch of stuff during the Indiegogo campaign when I went to prison. She did a bunch of artwork and prints ... and she’s done stickers for me and other cool stuff.”
The show will also feature artists closer to home, like Andrew Perkowski from the New Haven-based Blackunicorn Studios. “He’s done a ton of work with us, everything from posters to album covers to t-shirts,” Ramos said. “He’s going to be doing some special stuff, and he made some special prints for the show.”
Many others that have created art for Fake Four will have work in the show, but won’t be in town, such as Andy McAlpine, who is based in Amsterdam.
“He’s actually doing the design on my next album, and he’s done a lot of designs for Fake Four – posters and record designs,” Ramos said. “We’ve been working really closely together. He’s a good friend.”
Chuck U of Minneapolis is another artist who Ramos said “has done a few awesome things for our label. He’s doing awesome work out in Minneapolis and is a muralist as well.”
Ghostshrimp, based out of Vermont, is “one of the people we’ve worked with the most ever. He’s most known for working on the TV show Adventure Time. He did all the background art for that show and a lot of the design for that show.
He’s done a ton of stuff for Fake Four so we’re going to be showcasing that.”
Jamie Varda from Moodie Black is another Minneapolis based artist featured at the show who does “a darker kind of goth influenced cartoonish surrealist style” according to Ramos.
And then there’s Michael Crigler “who was our art director for many years. He travels a lot but is mostly based in Northampton,” said Ramos. He is more of a psychedelic and Native American influenced artist. He’s amazing. They are all pretty amazing.”
On the musical front, in addition to Ceschi and Anonymous, Inc. — the band made up of the Ramos brothers and Max Heath — there will be five other musical acts, including the aforementioned Gregory Pepper sharing music that Ramos described as “experimental indie pop.”
New Haven-based DJ MoNiklz, who Ramos refers to as his “right hand man,” is also a major part of the evening and of Fake Four as well.
“He always holds it down” said Ramos about MoNiklz. “He’s such an important part of this music scene, and I would say underground hip hop in general right now especially on the east coast. He also DJs with Billy Woods and Elucid often, who are holding it down for New York right now on the weirdo hip hop angle.”
Two other musical acts coming in from out of state include Paranoid Castle — “one of the staples of Fake Four,” according to Ramos — and a rapper named Kirby Dominant from Oakland, Calif. who is also produced by Fake Four regular Factor Chandelier. “They’ve done some really classic tunes that remain classic tunes for the history of the label,” added Ramos.
Another act, Mestizo, “has been rapping for a long time” and is “a very well respected rapper from Oakland but also spent a lot of time in Chicago and L.A. and is now in Philly,” said Ramos. He and his band The Heavy Twelves have just released a ten-inch record on Fake Four “that’s definitely turned some heads,” said Ramos. “It’s real heavy, distorted kind of hip hop. but very psych influenced and lyrically profound and technically amazing. They’re dope.”
Ramos spoke excitedly about another performer for the night with whom he has been working more with recently.
“Siul Hughes is the youngest artist and one of the newest artists we are working with. He inspires me really deeply. He just gives me this burst of energy, and I feel like I might do the same for him. He can keep up with me technically and musically, and he can sing. He’s on the title track of my next record, doing backing vocals, just singing my lyrics, but he’s very prominent. I’m sort of presenting him to the world with this next album, and then he’s made a masterpiece that I can’t wait to show people. He’s making some of the best music of his life, and it’s pretty exciting. I think a lot more people are going to be paying attention to him next year. We have to do it right because a lot of people just put their music out, and it’s excellent, but if you don’t have a bit of a plan to get it in front of the most eyes and ears it may not happen. We are developing him a plan. It’s going to happen for him.”
Ramos then asked me about myself and my art. We spoke about the first time I saw him perform, at Cafe Nine back in 2015. I reminded him that I wasn’t really part of this story. He begged to differ.
“Put yourself in there” he said. “I like reading about people. I want to know you and how you know who Siul Hughes is and who I am and who Mo is. You’re local. You see our shows. We see you there. We like that you’re there. It means something to us.”
With all of this talk about the art and music of Fake Four I did not want miss talking to Ceschi about his own creative process. As far as visual art goes he told me he “draws occasionally” now. “I did a few hand drawn record covers for collectors that specifically requested it, and I’ve had requests to do paintings recently but I’ve had to say no because I’m too busy with music. That’s what I put my ten thousand hours” he said with a laugh, “into music.”
And into Fake Four of course, his main art piece, of which his own music is a part and which he hopes to bring to a larger audience in 2019.
“There came a time around Broken Bone Ballads (released in 2015) that I really was like, damn, I just got out of prison. I haven’t been focusing on my own stuff,” Ramos said. “Now I’m just like, ‘all right, next year it’s just these records. It’s my year next year. Broken Bone Ballads was the start of that, the start of the focus, and I went super hard for the last three or four years, and now I’m going to be smarter about it. I’m going to go less hard and much bigger.”
“Bigger” means not one but two records coming out in 2019. “The first one is called Sad Fat Luck and it’s sort of like the closest I’ll ever come to making a glossy pop record, even though it’s extremely subversive music. Then there’s a companion piece called Sans Soleil. That is more my eulogy to an underground rap scene that has pretty much been dismantled by drugs and death and money and broken friendships and it sounds very underground. It’s also a eulogy to friends, and it’s also kind of a eulogy to another America…. I’ve never believed that America was great, but it’s kind of like rest in peace, you know … it’s very political.”
Both are produced with Factor Chandelier out of Canada. “He’s my partner in crime,” said Ramos, “and we’re just making the best music of our lives I think.”
The release show for those albums is set for April 5 at The State House — “New Haven gets it first,” he added — and then release parties are planned “all over America,” with the tour then continuing to Europe in July.
Some details are known about the release show and tour. Others are still in the planning stages.
“I have a vision for it” said Ramos. “I have a new band, a touring band that I’m working with. It includes a vibraphone, sometimes a stand-up bass, a bass clarinet, woodwinds … it’s not super specific yet, but it’s happening. I already have the vision. We’re already talking about rehearsal and planning things for the release tour that will take up most of next year, which includes even more.”
He then stopped talking and smiled. “Keep an eye out for that release party. There will be a musical after party, top notch groups playing … keep an eye out.”
“I’m excited. I’m on fire right now. The brain is on fire. The ideas are right there,” Ramos added. “I just want to step it up and stop making excuses for myself and my career, and just do it. I’m gonna do it.”
But first, an anniversary show, where he and Anonymous, Inc. will “focus on older material” and celebrate Fake Four’s bounty of talent and friendship.
“All of the artists on the label, I’m friends with. It’s made up of people that I want to spend time with all the time. They are all amazing,” Ramos said.
“Art in the Back, Music in the Front Presents Fake Four Inc. 10 Years of Art and Music” at Three Sheets New Haven is this Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. and it is free. For more information please see the event’s Facebook page. For more info about Fake Four Inc. and its music and art please visit the label’s website.