It’s not every day a 21-year-old Audio Production degree student gets to engineer a No 1 UK hit - especially with international recording stars Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.
But that’s exactly what SAE Institute London student Ricky Damian is being congratulated for right now - he’s credited for his work on the superstar’s Uptown Funk smash hit that dominated the No 1 slot in the UK charts for a record-breaking 7 weeks. His credit reads Youngblood Ricky Damian.
When Ricky who was studying in his final degree year at SAE London left his home in Treviso, near Venice and flew to England, little did he know where his SAE Institute education would lead him.
So how did he end up with the classic dream job engineering for Mark Ronson on Uptown Funk, a smash hit that reigned as the Billboard Hot 100’s No.1 for 13 weeks making it the longest-leading single in the Hot 100’s entire history.
Uptown Funk was also named, Best British single at this year’s Brit Awards in London and number one single and album in the UK charts?
Ricky explains, “My idea of studying at SAE was simple, I decided to invest in my future, I wanted to be the best - my ambition and passion was to become a producer/engineer, I really wanted to be the best."
"It was towards the end of my course, I was doing my dissertation when I got a call from my lecturer Carlos Lellis saying, “ I have this big job! I’m not going to tell you who it is unless you tell me your going to get it – He tells me its Mark Ronson."
“I try to be cool– but I was super excited. I discovered later that I was a selected from a number of candidates from other universities. It was a combination of the interview process and being in the right place at the right time.”
This was Ricky’s proudest moment, describing it as “The big one, working with Mark is something I never expected to happen but had always hoped for such people.
I was lucky enough to jump up a number of steps to be able to work for him– I’ve since met so many people I can learn from.
“When I left Italy, my dream was to work at Abbey Road Studios. I was lucky enough to spend a week there working for Mark; he scored the music for a movie called Mortdecai starring Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor among others. I was doing quality control, editing and overdubs."
“The senior engineer working on the soundtrack for Mortdecai was Peter Cobbin whose credits include The Hobbit and Harry Potter."
“I was lucky enough to have credits on two songs. Miles Kane, best known as co-frontman of the Last Shadow Puppets collaborated with Mark on Mortdecai, sings one of them.”
Mark Ronson added: "Ricky's knowledge of vintage tape machine and outboard gear is unparalleled in anyone I’ve ever met anywhere near his age. As an engineer, he's been an integral part of making my studio a much better place to record and create.”
Ricky’s thoughts on the Uptown Funk video that’s had an impressive number of views on YouTube - over 500,000,000 to date as well as being the most streamed track over 7 days, notching up over 2.3m views.
“The video is very funny – positive and funny, makes you happy. I have friends who listen the song everyday - it gives you positive happy feelings. Added Ricky”
Ricky’s introduction to music was at the early age of 6 when his mother encouraged him to take guitar lessons; saying, “You might as well try” which continued until he was 18.
Inspired by Queen, Ricky explained “My music teacher introduced me to Queens Greatest Hits; Somebody to Love and Bohemian Rhapsody tracks left a lasting impression on me, I was studying jazz and blues at the time but dropped that for rock -Brian May was my hero."
“My dream would be to meet him or David Gilmour – I saw Queen live recently, Brian May is better than ever, he’s amazing, I was blown away. Rock is my favourite genre, I will die with rock and roll”
Ricky had some sound advice for someone about to leave 6th form, ambitious for a career in the music industry “First of all, don’t expect to do cool stuff – so many people say they want to be an engineer – I was always saying, it would be enough for me to make the coffees somewhere that was relevant”
He described how studying for a 2-year Audio Production degree at SAE Institute London helped shape his career, “For me teachers are number one, Davide Brandi my tutor, he was so kind to me and helped me a lot in my 1st year. When I got the job with Mark, he told me he was so proud of me."
“The more you put in, the more you get out. It’s not just about the college its about yourself and how much you put into it, I put in 200%, it makes sense - at the end of every lecture I would stay for an extra hour asking Davide more questions."
“When you’re at the campus enjoying it, make the most of it – it makes good sense to give 200% effort - lets make life harder now to be better in the future – use the studios as much as you can, where else would you find the great collection of gear that SAE Institute has."
“I was always in the studios, mixing and recording. You don’t get to work on a Neve or SSL console everyday. Access to the gear at SAE is great – it’s a privilege for young guys like me. – It’s about doing something we love."
“I would have morning lectures, and then in the studio recording and mixing, anything from 24 hours to 3 days was the longest time I spent, including sleeping there. They are amazing facilities."
“To be honest, that’s how you cut your teeth, having access to consoles like SSL that cost a fortune – at the same time it can be overwhelming.”
Ricky’s tutor at SAE London, Carlos Lellis said, “From his first days at SAE, Ricky made it clear that he did not want to be an average student and that he would not be happy by simply completing coursework satisfactorily.
“He developed at an accelerated pace during his time at the college and now shows all the attributes that make a good young professional, striking a solid balance between academic performance and practical skills”.
Ricky’s dissertation demonstrates his passion for audio production. He’s written 9,800 hundred words on a tool that he’s developed allowing easy AB comparison of sound equipment, which enables the listener to choose a specific piece of kit that can be controlled by an app.
What do his parents think about his success? “My parents are super happy, they were kind enough to help me financially with my degree course” added Ricky.
As for his future plans and ambition, Ricky was crystal clear, “Still to work for Mark Ronson for sure - the great thing about working for Mark is, you get to know amazing people, work on amazing music and get amazing credits.”
And finally, the classic closing question for Ricky. If you were stranded on a desert island, which disc would take with you?
Without hesitation Ricky replied, “One album, something I will never be tired of listening to, it was the album that changed my life; The Wall by Pink Floyd – dying, listening to that would be fair enough. – It’s the album that brought me closer to recording.”
Credits for Ricky Damian
- Uptown Special - Youngblood Ricky Damian
- Uptown Funk - Additional Engineer
- Daffodils – Engineer
- Action Bronson - Mr Wonderful - Engineer (Brand New Car, Baby Blue)
- Mortdecai - Recording Engineer
Story: Steve Hartley