Interview with Mark Ronson
by Anthony Montenegro
Producer. Internationally renowned DJ. Solo artist. Band leader. Label boss. There isn't much that Mark Ronson isn't involved in. Yet, in between his production work on some of the past year's most acclaimed releases (Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera), he somehow found the time to get into the studio and create an album of his own. Entitled Version, it is a masterpiece of covers re-worked in Mark's own unique and artistic style. Included is the celebrated version of Radiohead's "Just", a club and radio favorite for both American and British DJs, as well as captivating and remarkable versions of tracks from artists as diverse as Coldplay, The Smiths, Kaiser Chiefs, The Jam, The Zutons, and even Britney Spears. The album, hitting U.S. shelves on July 10, is sure to be one of the most fun yet intriguing releases of the summer. Virgin Mobile had a chance to catch up with Mark and chat a bit about his career and the new record:
VM: What ringtones do you have set up on your phone right now?
MR: The Borat Theme Song and "Check Tha Rhime" by A Tribe Called Quest.
VM: Who were your musical influences, and who are you listening to right now?
MR: My list of influences is huge, but Led Zeppelin, the Beasties, Tribe, and The Smiths are some that come to mind. Right now, I'm listening to The Klaxons, Justice, Rufus Wainright and Richard Swift.
VM: How did you get into the music scene, and how were you discovered?
MR: I played in bands from about the age of 14, but I wasn't really discovered until I was DJ'ing in NY hip-hop clubs when I was about 20.
VM: Being a DJ, producer, solo & group project artist, label boss,fashion personality, social jet setter...does the whole of your lifestyle give you a unique position to draw from creatively?
MR: I object to the term "social jet setter" as it's definitely not something that I do, I only travel for work. But, the traveling does give me a sense to pick up music and inspiration from stuff all over the world.
VM: When you embark upon a project like "Version," how do you approach the balance between the integrity of the original work with the inspired vision you have for each track?
MR: I just try to re-imagine the song in my own way but without sacrificing the emotion of the original. It's never an easy thing to do as I don't pretend to know exactly what Morrissey was feeling when he wrote a song like "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before". I can only deliver my own take on it.
VM: Is there a common thread between the tracks you've selected to work with?
MR: They're mostly great melodic British pop songs, with a bit of Britney thrown in for good measure.
VM: Do you prefer creating in the clubs, or the studio?
MB: Probably in the studio.
VM: You've produced tracks for a number of top-tier artists' recent records. How does helping shape other artists' final works tie into your own artistic processes?
MR: I think that I learn something every time that I step into the studio with a talented artist. Most experience makes you better at your craft.
VM: Who have been your favorite artists to work with so far? Which artists would you most like to collaborate with that you haven't yet gotten to?
MR: I've been lucky to work with some extraordinarily talented people. From Rhymefest to Winehouse to Ghost to Lily, I couldn't pick a favourite if I had to. I wouldn't mind working with this guy called Stevie Wonder though.
VM: Everyone has a guilty pleasure band that they're somewhat embarrassed to be a fan of. What are yours?
MR: I'm not embarrassed of my tastes as I'm an unabashed pop music fan. But I guess Phil Collins might count.
VM: What are your expectations for the new record, "Version?" Do you feel that different tracks will have more or less appeal for your U.S. versus U.K. audiences?
MR: I'm not sure as I wasn't even expecting the UK fans to take to it as they did. I hope it works whether you know the originals or not.
VM: How does your live show compare with your studio works? What can fans expect when they come out to a show?
MR: The live show is kind of better than the album. Everyone should come!