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mark ronson interview
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Thou shalt not…As Mark Ronson takes a breather from producing the stars (Aguilera, Winehouse, Lily Allen) to release his own covers album, Version, he gives us the rundown on being a successful producer/DJ/label owner. And a famous son, or not. Here is the gospel according to Mark Ronson:
1. Don’t let your star guests pick their own covers.
“The only one I gave a choice to was Lily (Allen), but that was just between (Kaisers Chiefs’) Oh My God and Queens Of The Stone Age. Robbie (Williams) is a geek like me and if you get two geeks together trying to come up with a song to cover you’ll take seven years to decide. I’d get a text at 3am saying we should do Mad World by Pluto Shervington. I only remember it because the name was so ridiculous.”
2. But be prepared to make exceptions.
“The only person I let pick a song I hadn’t heard before was Amy Winehouse. She’s such a jazz-school singer in the true sense of the word that I knew it had to be something that came from her.”
3. Pick something from outside your box.
“It couldn’t be anything that had a beat already – so Fools Gold or Unfinished Sympathy were out.”
4. Don’t be afraid to take on the best.
“If you’re going to do an album of covers why not pick the best songs ever? Just and Stop Me are probably my two favourite songs of all time and coming straight out with them, it does seem like tackling the two most sacred cows in British music.”
5. When DJing, don’t be eclectic for its own sake.
“It has to be seamless. You’ll go out and hear things like Living On A Prayer and Sweet Child Of Mine, tracks that have no place on a dancefloor. I used to play Back In Black and Honky Tonk Woman, classic b-boy anthems, and songs where you can hear the black music element.”
6. DJ for yourself as well as the crowd.
“In my first five years my attitude was this is what I do, it’s my job to make people dance. So short of playing music I didn’t like, I thought as long as they’re enjoying it, who cares? And then after a while I found my thing, what I wanted to be known for.”
7. Never forget you’re a musician first, a businessman second.
“I haven’t made a single dollar off my label (Allido). I came across Rhymefest and Daniel Merriweather and really liked them, and thought I could help them with their careers. I spent so much time trying to get the label off the ground that I neglected my music and it was making me miserable. I never want to be Russell Simmons, I want to be Rick Rubin, so I had to step back and let my partner handle the label.”
8. A celebrity DJ ain’t something to be.
“I got known for this thing of being a celebrity DJ. I hated being the person that term was coined for, but during one year I played so many parties where all these famous people were in New York, I went from small underground hip-hop clubs to trendy superfly things. It sucked, and I had to stop doing them. You can’t just say yes whenever someone waves a wad of cash in your face if you want to be taken seriously.”
9. Don’t fret that everyone thinks your Mick Ronson’s son.
“I don’t know why it keeps coming, but I love Mick Ronson (Bowie’s guitarist) anyway, and I just found out he wrote all the string parts for Life On Mars. I was going to make my album sleeve like Aladdin Sane, just me in the make up.”
10. Stars prefer hearing their songs covered in a completely original way.
“It’s probably quite flattering to hear someone has painstakingly paid attention to your chord changes and arrangements, and put a whole new version together. Not to say Chris Martin is eagerly waiting for me to cover one of his songs, but it’s probably more exciting than hearing a 17-year-old four-piece indie band do it. Or maybe it isn’t. He said yes, anyway, but maybe he hates it. Maybe he just wants more money.”
Mark Ronson – Version, released 16 April 07 on Sony Columbia.
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