There is a lot to say about Mark Ronson, Ex-Pat NYC based British musical auteur. Internationally renowned as one of the worlds finest DJs, favoured by the decadent fashion cognoscenti, the hip hop elite and anyone in general that likes to party, add to that list; uber-producer du jour, solo artist, band leader, loving father to a beautiful black border collie named Maude, label boss etc, all far too much for most hectic jet setting humans to fit into the everyday.
You may be familiar perhaps with his version of Radiohead’s ‘Just’ – the re-jigged, recorded and layered with added hip hop beats, soulful progression, funk ballast and vocals courtesy of Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet that rocked the airwaves and dancefloors around the world. ‘Just’ was a catalyst in the conceptualisation and creation of ‘Version’ - a visionary new album that sees Mark taking on some of contemporary pop music’s big hitters in a similar vein. Using his own unique re-interpretive style, Mark has set out to demonstrate pop voyeurism and experimentalism are not alien forms. ‘Version’ is a positive, never derivative, journey through the art of the song…with added horns thrown in for good measure.
The album sees him joined by an array of singers; including the irrepressible musical talents of Dirt McGirt aka ODB (R.I.P) spitting verse on Britney’s ‘Toxic’, Robbie Williams nailing The Charlatans’ seminal ‘Only One I Know’ as if it was his own, in fact making it his own, and then there is his friend Lily Allen on a phenomenal interpolation of The Kaiser Chiefs ‘Oh My God’.
Here you’ll also find a bustling funk-tified cover of The Jam’s ‘Pretty Green’ sits alongside thunderous mixes of Ryan Adam’s ‘Amy’, and Coldplay’s ‘God Put A Smile On My Face’, both bringing crescendo and euphoria to the melancholy from which they were born. Elsewhere, Telecaster in hand, a la Steve Cropper he re-constructs a new version of Kanye West’s ‘Touch The Sky’, reuniting it with it’s original form courtesy of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Moving On Up’, before climaxing into Kings Of Leon’s ‘Pistols Of Fire’, Kasabian’s ‘LSF’ and The Smith’s seminal
“I never realised how much growing up in England affected my taste,” he comments. “When I was younger I listened to those seminal hip hop records like late 80’s/early 90’s Def Jam catalogue and LL Cool J’s, ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’, but Blur and the Wonder Stuff, and The Brand New Heavies were there, too. With my first album, I had all these people like Mos Def and M.O.P guesting. This time its not about that. Despite the big names, it’s about the songs…The songs here are the guest stars.”
“I guess from a DJ stance I’ve always tried to skip genres and incorporate different styles, from rock down to hip hop. With ‘Version’ I’ve taken these songs that I love and turned them into Motown/Stax 70’s versions. I keep the utmost respect and appreciation for the original songs I use. I’m just trying to find something in it, add something to the arrangement or change a groove. It’s not like I’m thinking it’s a shit song that I can make good, it’s more like it’s a great song and I’m now going to make it bounce.”
“I started DJing in '93 in downtown NY clubs, for whom-ever had five dollars. At some point, I got good and started to build a nice rep. That was just before hip-hop got really commercial, and then the fashion world decided hip-hop was zuper-cooo-el, so I milked that for a bit, I do a lot less of that now. Music is too important to me to be known eternally as that “celebrity DJ guy”…I do still love DJing and you can hear me most Fridays on my east village radio show and regularly with my boys at YOYO in London, one of the best clubs around.”
Mark released his own massively acclaimed, shamefully ignored and criminally unworked debut solo album ‘Here Comes The Fuzz’ in 2003 through Elektra Records, right before the label imploded. It included the worldwide smash single ‘Ooh Wee’, which featured Ghostface Killah & Nate Dogg’s unique stylings, and saw him appear on Top Of The Pops (R.I.P). In the wake of the label/album’s demise, it is as a producer where Mark has found his rhythm and sound.
Few producers could boast as prolific a schedule over the past 12 months as Ronson, putting his own record aside now for just one minute – there’s also the small matter of producing tracks on forthcoming new albums by Christina Aguilera, Robbie Williams, Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Domino (the best female fronted dubby indie rock band you haven’t heard yet), his Allido protégés Rhymefest & Daniel Merriweather amongst others, whilst previous production credits include scoring the soundtrack to Jay-Z’s Fade To Black film, the final ODB studio recordings, high profile remixes of Air and Jiggaman’s ’99 Problems’, plus work with Outkast, De La Soul, & M.O.P to name but a handful.
In the mould of his hip hop luminaries, messyrs Carter & Coombs (Jay Z & Diddy), Ronson is also fast becoming a “BUSINESS MAN, not a business man”. His label Allido Records, formed with partner Rich Kleiman, has just released ‘Blue Collar’, the debut album from Grammy winning Chi-town rap sensation Rhymefest, with Australian wunderkind Daniel Merriweather (That’s him killing it on ‘Stop Me’, like Otis Redding on E, jamming with Johnny Marr and the Bar-Kay’s) and the soundtrack to ‘Half Nelson’ (“a really good movie with Ryan Gosling”) to follow in the next 12 months. He is the current face of DKNY but doesn’t talk about that stuff at all.