Interview: Mark Ronson

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Love him or hate him, Mark Ronson has pretty much collaborated with anyone who’s anyone in the music industry. From legend Boy George to hip hop superstar Q-Tip to the London Gay Men’s Choir, and producing for Amy Winehouse and Daniel Merriweather, Mark Ronson’s telephone book must look like a diamond-encrusted dictionary, which considering his music royalty lineage, you wouldn’t be surprised. However, this London-bred guitar player, DJ and now singer started from humble beginnings, DJing hip hop at some of the seediest joints in East London and steadily working his way up the musical ladder. From his last album Version, which featured a host of covers, to Record Collection under his new project Mark Ronson & The Business Intl, the well-versed style icon has now decided to take a more personal route, as JUICE discovers…

Hey, Mark! How’s it going?
Good, thanks. How are you?

We’re great, thanks. So where are you and what are you wearing at the moment?
I’m in London in the Columbia Records offices, and I’m wearing a black Topman shirt and a black pair of jeans-think they’re Acne.

What’s playing on your iPod at the moment?
Um, what have I been listening to? Give me one second, I can check it and tell you. (Pause…) I’ve been listening to the new Arcade Fire album a lot and to a Swedish band called The Embassy. Jonathan from The Drums told me about them. And I’ve been listening to some old Bananarama and a band called the Congos. I listen to a lot of old stuff.

Are you touring at the moment?
Yeah, we just played our 1st show on Sunday in Belfast and we play our next show in London next week. We’re getting ready to go to a few places that we didn’t get to go to last time on Version because, you know, it was really concentrated on the UK.

So this tour is to promote Record Collection?
Yes, this one’s for my new album and we’ve got a lot of singers from that album like MNDR, Spank Rock, Kyle Falconer from The View and Alex Greenwald. We’re trying to give people as close of an experience as possible to the album. Obviously we can’t have Simon Le Bon and Boy George touring with us all the time, as much as we’d like to. It’s a really great group of musicians and producers that we’ve had so far.

What’s your current obsession?
Just in general? I’m really obsessed with 2 television shows: Mad Men and Breaking Bad, the guy’s got terminal cancer and he wants to make as much money as he can before he dies.

You’ve had so many artists on your albums; who have you had the best collaboration with?
They’re all so different and I really do love so many different kinds of music-from hip hop to indie to afro beat-so there’s not one collaboration that I haven’t liked. I love all the people I’ve worked with for different reasons; you know, you make a song with somebody and it’s almost like you have a bond with them. You have that song together. Somebody like Jonathan from The Drums [for example]; we don’t get to hang out that much but we have 2 songs on my album we wrote together that every time I hear or play it, I think of him. In a good way, I don’t have one particular experience that’s my favourite. Most of them have been pretty good.

Anyone else you’d like to make music with, dead or alive?
Of course, I would’ve loved to make a record with Biggie but that’s not a possibility. The people that I do get to work with, most of the time you meet by fate, you know. I think that way of meeting people and working with them like that seems to have worked so far. I don’t end up chasing other people and I feel like if I work with someone, it’s meant to be.

What’s the best gig you’ve played at this year?
We haven’t played that many so far. There was one we played for Vice Magazine back in July in London that was great. They had a thing with Intel that did a series of events called The Creator’s Project and we played the one in London with the whole band. We also played our 1st show on our tour this Sunday in Ireland. That was probably a highlight to me. I was obviously quite nervous; it’s the 1st show so you have all these nerves, and as soon as you get onstage it all goes by way too quickly. That was a really great experience.

How do you feel about Record Collection compared to Version?
It’s a bit more personal to me because I wrote it myself. I don’t know, I’m really proud of it. I’ve never imagined myself singing on a song. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done and I know everyone has a tendency to say everything’s the best thing they’ve ever done when they’ve finished it, but I’m really proud of it. And the song ‘Somebody To Love Me’, the one with Boy George and Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow, is something that a lot of my other albums have lacked. There’s more of an emotional element in it as opposed to music that you want to hear to go out to on a Friday night, you know.

So you wrote all the songs on the entire album?
I wrote or co-wrote, yeah. Except for the song called ‘Hey Boy’, which Kai Fish from the Mystery Jets wrote.

And Q-Tip’s on it as well!
Q-Tip’s on the 1st single. It’s called ‘Bang Bang Bang’- the one there’s a video for.

I think that’s gone viral.
Cool!

Did Record Collection take a long time to produce, considering all the artists that were involved?
I took some time off between when we finished touring and starting this new record because I needed some time just to get to work with some artists, and just to get inspired again. I was kind of confused on where to go direction-wise. I wanted to change the sound from Version because you know, between Version and Daniel Merriweather’s album and Amy Winehouse’s album, I felt like I had gotten very used to the same kind of arrangements and style. I knew I needed something fresh and exciting. Once I had a bit of a clue about what I wanted to do, we started at the end of July last year. And from July to March of this year, for the most part we were working on the record. Just under a year.

Are you still involved in PETA’s “Please Don’t Wear Any Fur” campaign?
We shot it over a year ago, but I think they still run the ads for about 2 years after that. It’s something that I feel quite close to, that issue.

You made a line of sneakers for Gucci. What would you say is your favourite pair of sneakers, apart from those?
Right now it’s these. They’re not really sneakers; they’re white leather…almost like dance shoes, but they’re not. They’re made by this French company called Repetto. That’s what I’ve been wearing all the time recently.

Do you think you’ll ever come to Malaysia? People love you here!
Yeah, I definitely will. Hopefully, I can come with the whole band. If we can’t do that, I’ll definitely have to come and DJ. I’m dying to come check it out!

Record Collection was released on 27 September. Bang away at www.markronson.co.uk.