Ransom Price's Mike Discusses Band's Record Debut

Punk rock act, Ransom Price has been hard at work writing and recording for their debut full-length album "My Kidnap Money". Mike Ransom the song writer/guitarist/vocalist says that this album confronts poignant issues such as depression, stress, marriage, raising kids and managing the work/life balance.  "I felt captive to some really negative feelings for a really long time, and I think this album really captures that.  Writing it was a definite catharsis for me; and the album is named for the price I paid, and the price those around me paid, before my eventual escape from those feelings." Having said that, Mike Ransom himself discusses this release and all it details, including some insight into the band and their plans ahead.

1. How did your band form?

Mike: The band was formed in 2012 by veteran musicians Mike Ransom (guitar/vocals) and Chris Mazure (drums), originally with just one goal in mind: to record and release a benefit single.  It just kept going from there.  Ransom was formerly the guitar player and singer in '90s punk band Point Blank, and Mazure was the drummer in Endless Sacrifice.

2. Tell us the brief history of your band.

Mike: In December 2012 my (Ransom's) father-in-law passed away after a year long battle with lung cancer.  When he was sick, I wrote a song for him as my way of expressing to my father-in-law how I felt about him, his illness, and what would happen when he was gone.  After he died, I wanted to record the song, called "West from El Paso", and release it as a single to raise money for lung cancer research.  At the time, I wasn't playing in a band so I kinda had to scramble.  I knew Chris (Mazure) was a drummer because I worked with his father, so I managed to talk him into playing drums for me on this project.  We rehearsed "West from El Paso" a few times, recorded it in a single afternoon, and released it January 19, 2013 on Unable Records.  From sales of that track we raised well over a thousand dollars for the Lung Cancer Foundation of America.

People seemed to like the song, and reacted favorably to the band.  A lot of people were asking when our next release was coming.  Of course, I hadn't really thought that far ahead, and didn't really have a plan, but I did have a TON of material written.  I pitched it to Chris.  He seemed to really like the songs, we were having fun playing together, so we figured we'd just keep the project going.  We set our sights on releasing a full length album.

3. What's the story behind your band's name Ransom Price? Does the name actually have to deal with an actual ransom and what is the price?

Mike: I'm glad you asked because I'm really proud of this!  My last name is Ransom and my wife's maiden name is Price.  Because the original goal of the band was to release the benefit single in memory of my wife's dad, putting our name's together seemed like a no-brainer.  The fact that our two names together happen to make a really great band name, while meerly a coincidence, speaks volumes about us being a punk-rock-match-made-in-heaven.  ALSO, when I was in Point Blank many years ago, people always assumed that Ransom was my stage name; seemed a good name for a punk rocker I guess.  I figured naming the band Ransom Price would just help add to the confusion.

The other big reason that I love this name is because of the subject matter of our album.  The entire My Kidnap Money album is based upon a REALLY dark 2 year period in my life.  I was really struggling with depression, at times barely holding my marriage together, and things just seemed like they were falling apart all around me.  I felt like a prisoner to my own emotions.  The Ransom Price, or My Kidnap Money, was having to hit rock bottom before I could recover.  The price I paid was enduring a total breakdown, totally unravelling emotionally, having to experience that pain.  Only once I did that could I truly understand why I was feeling the things I was feeling, learn to deal with them, and move forward.  So the band, and the album, are definitely aptly named.

4. How do you describe your sound to people who ask you what your band sounds like?

Mike: I tell people that we are a punk band.  I generally compare our sound to 1990s Green Day and to bands like Screeching Weasel, The Queers, The Bouncing Souls and even the Ramones.  I'd say we play simple, straight forward, un-pretensious punk rock.

5. Who are your influences and heroes (music-wise)?

Mike: As you can probably hear from the music, I absolutely love Green Day.  I grew up on Green Day; can't get enough of them.  American Idiot is arguably the best album ever written, period.  With that said, I tend to listen to Kerplunk or 39 Smooth more often, but that's just what I grew up on.  I love it!  Anyway, I'm also a huge fan of Screeching Weasel, The Queers and Mr. T Experience.  Actually, I'm a huge fan of just about every band that was ever signed to Lookout! Records.  And being from NJ, I'm also a tremendous Bouncing Souls fan.  They are such a great band, and have now been together for over 25 years, and just keep putting out outstanding music.  I'd say all of these are my musical heroes, and that all of them have been big influences on me.

6. What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)

Mike: The songs on the My Kidnap Money album are all about a very specific 2 year period in my life.  The album is structured in a way that tells a story from start to finish, but the songs still make perfect sense out of context and can stand on their own.  Some of the songs deal with my descent into serious depression ("Radar Contact Lost", "Enough is Enough"), while others are about my crumbling marriage and our successful efforts to put it back together ("With You", "Under Tow").  I'll leave it at that because I want people to take away their own story, their own message, from these songs; I don't want to color their perspective too much.  I think everyone can relate to each of these songs in some way, even if it's not exactly the way that I had intended when I wrote the song; and that is important to me.  With that said, I think it will be pretty clear to anyone who listens to this album all the way though, what exactly my songs are about.

7. Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)

Mike: Yes, definitely.  I write all of the lyrics and the music.  Generally, I write lyrics first.  Writing is therapy for me sometimes; my way of getting my emotions and feelings out in front of me where I can get a little perspective, so I tend to write lyrics quite a bit.  Sometimes I can only write a line or two, then I set it aside and come back to it later, sometimes weeks or months later.  I'll collect lots of these fragmented lines, kinda like random thoughts, but I write them all down in a notebook.  Then at some point, it just all comes together.  Something clicks and I can finally combine these "one-liners" into a song, into a full formed thought and story.

Other times, though, I can just sit down and write an entire song, lyrically, in just a few minutes.  Sometimes it just all flows out at once.  While my lyrics are simple, and the writing not-at-all complex, each and every one of the lines is important to me.  I feel them; I believe them.

After the lyrics come together they'll sit for a while until I feel inspired to pick up the guitar.  Once that happens, I'll just mess around with different riffs and progressions until I find one that works for that particular set of lyrics.

8. When did Unable Records come into the picture? Are you happy with what they have to offer?

Mike: Well, Unable Records came into the picture long before Ransom Price.  I am actually the founder and managing partner of Unable Records.  I formed the company back in 2007, and we have since dramatically expanded.  It is, of course, very convenient to have a label around to support your pet projects like Ransom Price.  And YES, I'm very happy with Unable Records!

9. How does "My Kidnap Money" vary from past work?

Mike: This album is different from anything I've done in the past.  Back in the 1990's I was in a band called Point Blank and we put out about 35 songs over the course of a few years.  I wrote a lot of those songs, and while many of them were decent, I never felt an emotional connection to them like I do with this project.  I think a lot of that is due to the continuity of this album; the story from start to finish, and also the emotion and heartache that fueled these songs.  Like I said before, writing this album was therapy for me, so I think this is just a lot more meaningful that anything I've ever done before.  I don't know if anyone else can see that in this album, but I sure can.

Also, in the past I wrote all of my songs alone.  For this album, my wife co-wrote two of the songs.  She's my best friend and the love of my life, and obviously played a huge role in the ultimate recovery from my depression.  She endured an immense amount of pain as she rode that roller-coaster with me, and I felt that it was really important for her to write some part of this album with me.  Turns out she's a damned good song writer.

10. Has anything happened since your previous works, that you feel will influence the mood or lyrical content, on this release?

Mike: See the previous answers.

11. Did the band have any definitive goals they were shooting for before the recording process began for this album?

Mike: Not really, no.  We just knew that we had some pretty good songs to work with, and wanted to make sure that we got them down on tape in a way that conveyed my story effectively, yet was still entertaining.  At the end of day, we just wanted to make a good punk rock record.

12. Are you using any new instrumentation you've never used in the recording process before?

Mike: We didn't use any unusual instrumentation.  After all, we're punks; we don't know how to play anything unusual.  We did, however, use a decent amount of sound effects on this record.  I think the effects allowed me to tell a little bit more of the story; allowed me to expand on certain things that were maybe left unsaid in the lyrics.  They also served to very effectively set the stage for the songs, to help get the listener to understand the emotional place I was in when writing a particular song.

A lot of the time, the music is tied very closely with the sound effect.  For example, the song "Fire Escape" starts with the sound of a fire engine approaching.  Once the song starts, there is a guitar part that plays throughout the verse, fairly low in the mix but audible, that is meant to give the impression of a fire alarm sounding.  I'm kinda proud of this one, because I think I definitely nailed what I was after; I think my sense of panic and hopelessness is conveyed quite clearly in this song as a result.

13. Do you have any favorites you would like to mention?

Mike: If I had to pick one favorite song off of this record, I think I'd have to say "Drink".  This is one of the songs that my wife co-wrote with me, and it is a hopeful song, an upbeat song.  I think it's fun and a good punk rock song.

14. What are the expectations for this album?

Mike: I can honestly say that I have no idea what to expect with this album.  I don't know if people will like it or hate it.  I don't know if anyone will hear it.  All I can say is that I'm happy with the finished product, and that it served its purpose for me.  I hope that people listen to it and like it.  I hope that people can relate to it.  I hope that people understand my story.  Really though, I have no idea what to expect.

15. What are your upcoming plans for this year?

Mike: We're gonna promote the hell out of this record!  Beyond that, who knows?

16. If there's anything you'd like to add, say, please do so now.

Mike: I encourage people to check out this album.  I put a lot into this record and I sincerely hope that people will get as much out of it.  I recommend listening through the tracks in order - but any way would work too!

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