Ronson:old-school black music meets retro Brit-pop

rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts
edited July 2007 in Strut Central
July 10, 2007Hey, Mr. D.J., Follow Those Rock Star Dreams NY TIMESBy MELENA RYZIKOn Sunday afternoon at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mark Ronson did his usual thing: he brought his laptop and some records and D.J.ed a party.But he was nervous. ???I don???t know if I???m a big draw around these parts,??? he said from the V.I.P. area before the show, surveying the 1980s-fashion-loving hipsters. ???My crowd doesn???t wear the funny-colored sunglasses.???At first audience members ??? indie rock fans who turn up in droves for weekly concerts at the pool ??? were more interested in taking photos of him than dancing. (This was especially true of the row of young women who seem to hug the stage at his every show.) But about halfway into his 30-minute set, as Mr. Ronson, in his standard garb ??? spotless white shirt, skinny jeans, scuffed Fred Perry sneakers, bedhead ??? spun old-school hip-hop and new hits, people began to move. By the time he played ???Stop Me,??? a song from his new album, the crowd was singing along. Tomorrow night, at the Highline Ballroom in Chelsea, he will try to repeat that effect, with a twist: a real, live band. Having to win over a crowd is new for Mr. Ronson, 31. For nearly a decade he has been an It D.J. of the fashion and media world, spinning a dance-floor-friendly mix of hip-hop and rock for Tommy Hilfiger parties, movie premieres and boutique openings. Once a Hilfiger model himself, he lived the glitz, too, hanging with Diddy and Jay-Z and dating models and society types. Last year he might have reached the apotheosis of celebrity D.J.-dom when he spun at the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, held in an Italian castle.But lately Mr. Ronson has been reaching for new heights, as a producer and solo artist. He worked with Lily Allen on ???Littlest Things??? from her popular debut, ???Alright, Still,??? and helmed six of the songs on Amy Winehouse???s hit album ???Back to Black.??? They feature what could be described as the emerging Ronson sound: old-school black music (Motown or reggae or funk) meets new-school black music (hip-hop beats and rhymes) meets retro Brit-pop. ???Version,??? his second album, is out today on RCA/Allido. In Britain, where the CD was released in April, ???Stop Me,??? a cover of the Smiths??? ???Stop Me if You Think You???ve Heard This One Before,??? rose to No. 2 on the singles Top 40 chart. A few weeks ago 8,000 fans danced and sang along as Mr. Ronson played with his 12-piece band at the Glastonbury music festival in Somerset, England. Could this rock star D.J. actually become a rock star?He certainly hopes so. ???I don???t want to be D.J.ing when I???m 40,??? he said in an interview at the SoHo office of his record company, Allido. ???It???s always been more important to make my own music.???And now he is, sort of: ???Version??? is an album of covers, with songs by the likes of Britney Spears, Radiohead and Coldplay refashioned with the Ronson sound and sung by guest vocalists including Robbie Williams, Ms. Allen and Ms. Winehouse. Mr. Ronson doesn???t sing (much), but he plays some of the instruments: keyboards, bass, guitar and drums, a few of which he tackles onstage.???I always joke that I would be fired if it wasn???t my band, because I???m the least virtuosic member,??? he said in his chummy trans-Atlantic accent. His demeanor is equal parts urban private school entitlement and Woody Allen self-deprecation; he was born in London and moved to the Upper West Side when he was 8. He now lives downtown with his girlfriend, Cosi Theodoli-Braschi, an artist, and a pampered mutt, Maude. He retains some party-boy traits ??? ???I don???t do anything of any value until after, like, 4:30, 5 o???clock??? in the afternoon, he said, stirring a cup of tea with a pen ??? but he is a fastidious, hard worker. At 13, he invented a post as a rock critic for a school paper so he could troll downtown clubs with the approval of his mother, the party page fixture Ann Dexter-Jones. Four years ago he started Allido with a partner, Rich Kleiman. Despite occasionally collaborating with pop stars like Christina Aguilera (???Hurt???), his ambition is to develop new artists. ???They???re so excited about discovering their sound for the first time,??? he said. ???That???s quite intoxicating.???His finds for Allido include Daniel Merriweather, an Australian singer who does the soul-like vocals on ???Stop Me,??? and Wale, a Washington rapper; both are touring with him. ???He???s always had this sort of art-first approach to everything he does,??? Mr. Merriweather said. ???You never feel like you???re making music for any other reason.???Despite his well-connected musical provenance ??? he???s the son of Laurence Ronson, a Mick Jagger buddy and real-estate entrepreneur, and a stepson of Mick Jones, the Foreigner guitarist ??? Mr. Ronson struggled to break out on his own artistically. His first album, ???Here Comes the Fuzz??? (2003), full of star-studded hip-hop remixes, tanked in the United States; his first producing effort, the funk singer Nikka Costa???s ???Everybody Got Their Something??? (2001), had disappointing sales. And transitioning from buzzy D.J. to unknown label-founder proved difficult.He said that for four years he was ???basically self-funding the label,??? playing uncool gigs ??? ???like for Martha Stewart???s Christmas party.??? At the studio, ???I thought I could be like Russell Simmons from 10 to 5, and then Rick Rubin from 6 to 11,??? Mr. Ronson said. ???I was actually miserable and I wasn???t making any music that I thought was any good.??????It is possible to squander any sort of buzz,??? he added. And good will. ???Blue Collar,??? a 2006 album he helped produce for the Chicago rapper Rhymefest, sold poorly. In a recent interview with Sohh.com, a hip-hop Web site, Rhymefest complained that Mr. Ronson ???kind of bailed on me.???A year-and-a-half ago Mr. Ronson began to worry that he would never have a hit. So he decided to stop D.J.ing ??? ???it pollutes your ear,??? he said ??? and reluctantly ceded Allido???s business end to Mr. Kleiman, vowing to just make the music he liked. Voil??: Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen and ???Version.??? Mr. Ronson was pleased, sort of.???I???m not the type of person to get really excited and stop to smell the roses,??? he said. When ???Stop Me??? hit No. 2 in the Britain, ???everyone???s going, oh, da-da-da, how exciting, isn???t that great?,??? he said. ???And I was just thinking, like, what number it???s going to drop to next week.???It???s a savvy choice to protect himself from his own expectations by making a covers album. ???Version??? is ???more of a producer-arranger type record, not that far from what I would do if I was working on somebody else???s record,??? he said. Given that it???s prestocked with radio-friendly alt-rock staples and British hits (he???s always had more traction there), it???s also a canny advertisement for his skills behind a mixing board. If he can???t be a rock star, he can at least be a rock star producer.???I think he???s proved that he???s got the chops,??? said Ocean MacAdams, vice president of MTV News. The Ronson sound ???does feel very right now.??? Whether that will last is hard to say, but he???s a ???Version??? fan: ???It???s a really fun summer record.???And Mr. Ronson is touring all summer to promote it. But ???I???m not expecting wild adoring fans,??? he said of his American concert debut tomorrow. He tried to keep a recent New York D.J. gig, at the small West Village club Love in May, ???quiet.??? The actor Danny Masterson was there, Ms. Allen danced on the stage, and a pair of Japanese tourists had him pose for countless photos. This is as quiet as Mr. Ronson gets. But the Highline show is very much a Mark Ronson party, complete with famous special gu
ests. ???I texted everyone madly, saying I???ll send you my private jet,??? he said. Cue self-deprecation: ???Everyone knows full well I don???t have a private jet.??? Still, Robbie Williams said he might fly in.

  Comments


  • tripledoubletripledouble 7,636 Posts
    thats my boy. havent quite followed his career trajectory or any of his projects, but for a high society staple, he is salt of the earth. Hope the new record is britblackalicious!

  • Young_PhonicsYoung_Phonics 8,041 Posts
    OLD SCHOOL BLACK MUSIC VALIDATED!

  • FatbackFatback 6,746 Posts
    I always thought these Mark Ronson threads were about the David Bowie guitarist. Mick Ronson. Who I also get mixed up with the Mott the Hoople guitarist. Mick Ralphs. And then Mick Ronson plays on that Ian Hunter solo record too. I played that record today. It's alright.



    Anyways, I like how they talk about what he was wearing first and foremost.

  • DocMcCoyDocMcCoy "Go and laugh in your own country!" 5,921 Posts
    Has this album only just come out in the US? It's been fucking everywhere in the UK for months now - bars, coffee-shops, clothing stores, music beds on TV - damn near inescapable. Personally, I think the concept is better than the execution for the most part, but when it works it's pretty good. Ronson's media-friendly hipster-socialite image hasn't hurt in terms of getting exposure. He's done an officially-sanctioned remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" for a forthcoming Dylan anthology/best-of project, and on the press release, he was described as "the UK's hottest producer", even though he grew up, and made his name, in the US. I thought this was pretty funny.

  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts
    Has this album only just come out in the US? It's been fucking everywhere in the UK for months now - bars, coffee-shops, clothing stores, music beds on TV - damn near inescapable. Personally, I think the concept is better than the execution for the most part, but when it works it's pretty good. Ronson's media-friendly hipster-socialite image hasn't hurt in terms of getting exposure. He's done an officially-sanctioned remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" for a forthcoming Dylan anthology/best-of project, and on the press release, he was described as "the UK's hottest producer", even though he grew up, and made his name, in the US. I thought this was pretty funny.

    yeah the album is by no means big right now in the US.

  • soulmarcosasoulmarcosa 4,296 Posts
    I got a promo 12" with four songs from the LP. It's the definition of tepid.

  • CosmoCosmo 9,767 Posts
    Has this album only just come out in the US? It's been fucking everywhere in the UK for months now - bars, coffee-shops, clothing stores, music beds on TV - damn near inescapable. Personally, I think the concept is better than the execution for the most part, but when it works it's pretty good. Ronson's media-friendly hipster-socialite image hasn't hurt in terms of getting exposure. He's done an officially-sanctioned remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" for a forthcoming Dylan anthology/best-of project, and on the press release, he was described as "the UK's hottest producer", even though he grew up, and made his name, in the US. I thought this was pretty funny.

    yeah the album is by no means big right now in the US.

    It was just officially released yesterday though, and it's getting a lot of push. That Myspace thing isn't hurting his profile either.

    Good for him - that's my dude. Really a great guy and deserves everything he gets. He's worked hard as fuck for so many years and is also really talented, and the whole "being a son of" whomever (although it has worked for his benefit) has really overshadowed the real things that people should have allways been focused on.

  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts
    Has this album only just come out in the US? It's been fucking everywhere in the UK for months now - bars, coffee-shops, clothing stores, music beds on TV - damn near inescapable. Personally, I think the concept is better than the execution for the most part, but when it works it's pretty good. Ronson's media-friendly hipster-socialite image hasn't hurt in terms of getting exposure. He's done an officially-sanctioned remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" for a forthcoming Dylan anthology/best-of project, and on the press release, he was described as "the UK's hottest producer", even though he grew up, and made his name, in the US. I thought this was pretty funny.

    yeah the album is by no means big right now in the US.

    It was just officially released yesterday though, and it's getting a lot of push. That Myspace thing isn't hurting his profile either.

    Good for him - that's my dude. Really a great guy and deserves everything he gets. He's worked hard as fuck for so many years and is also really talented, and the whole "being a son of" whomever (although it has worked for his benefit) has really overshadowed the real things that people should have allways been focused on.


    it's a shame there's so many sons-and-daughters-of-celebs with zero talent out there trying to break into the music biz (think: rod stewart's son). it makes sons-and-daughters-of-celebs with actual talent inherently suspect.

  • asprinasprin 1,765 Posts
    I'm a supporter of his work and tune in to his radio show as often as I can. East Village Radio got Fridays on lock with "The Let Out" and "Authentic Sh!t".

  • dayday 9,612 Posts
    I saw dude murder it in Miami a couple years ago. He played a set of early 90's Hip Hop classics verse to verse to verse in a huge club and had everyone going nuts. I was all set to get my hatt on, but he definitely proved me wrong.
    I'm glad he's getting his.

  • Young_PhonicsYoung_Phonics 8,041 Posts
    DICKLESSCOSMO:

    Check out the first album, there's some winners on there. Especially if you feel like tripping the kufi fantastic

  • "Pretty Green" with Santogold gets plays for days in my bedroom. Can't say I'm totally into the album as a whole, but that's mainly cause I'm not into too many indie rock vocalists. "Ooh Wee" is still that Bony M / Ghostface collabo that kills. I'm happy he's putting in work and I hope he stays busy.

  • DocMcCoyDocMcCoy "Go and laugh in your own country!" 5,921 Posts
    Has this album only just come out in the US? It's been fucking everywhere in the UK for months now - bars, coffee-shops, clothing stores, music beds on TV - damn near inescapable. Personally, I think the concept is better than the execution for the most part, but when it works it's pretty good. Ronson's media-friendly hipster-socialite image hasn't hurt in terms of getting exposure. He's done an officially-sanctioned remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way" for a forthcoming Dylan anthology/best-of project, and on the press release, he was described as "the UK's hottest producer", even though he grew up, and made his name, in the US. I thought this was pretty funny.

    yeah the album is by no means big right now in the US.

    It was just officially released yesterday though, and it's getting a lot of push. That Myspace thing isn't hurting his profile either.

    Good for him - that's my dude. Really a great guy and deserves everything he gets. He's worked hard as fuck for so many years and is also really talented, and the whole "being a son of" whomever (although it has worked for his benefit) has really overshadowed the real things that people should have allways been focused on.


    it's a shame there's so many sons-and-daughters-of-celebs with zero talent out there trying to break into the music biz (think: rod stewart's son). it makes sons-and-daughters-of-celebs with actual talent inherently suspect.

    This is true. In Ronson's favour, he's been grindin' hard over here with that album. He's done a grip of festivals and live shows, and the label have given the album a ton of support. I'm not sure exactly what kind of numbers it's done, but it's been a pretty big hit. The one Paul Nice has done a mix of Toxic which I've been hearing out quite a bit, and there's a good version of QOTSA's No One Knows which was on a b-side over here. He did a version of Touch The Sky which was good too, but for some reason it didn't make the album.

    Some live shit from Glastonbury;


  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts
    DICKLESSCOSMO:

    Check out the first album, there's some winners on there. Especially if you feel like tripping the kufi fantastic

    dude I've heard it.

    I was just saying he is much bigger star in the UK than the US.

    which is obvious.

  • Young_PhonicsYoung_Phonics 8,041 Posts
    DICKLESSCOSMO:

    Check out the first album, there's some winners on there. Especially if you feel like tripping the kufi fantastic

    dude I've heard it.
    .

    but have you listened to it though?



    You sound mad and don't party much

  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts


    You sound mad and don't party much

    I only make it to King Most shows, so, yeah my exposure to fun and other people is pretty much nil.

  • Young_PhonicsYoung_Phonics 8,041 Posts


    You sound mad and don't party much

    I only make it to King Most shows, so, yeah my exposure to fun and other people is pretty much nil.

    shall i drop "party photo" 'plex 'phors on yee?

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,032 Posts
    I got a promo 12" with four songs from the LP. It's the definition of tepid.

    Is "Valerie" on there? If so, I need that. Holla.

  • AserAser 2,351 Posts
    this could be a continuation of the amy winehouse thread(s). If you dug that album, chances are you'll be into "versions" also. Personally I am a fan, he is doing really good pop music.

  • DongerDonger 854 Posts
    If you dug that album, chances are you party a lot (are really coked up) and you'll be into "versions" also.

  • mannybolonemannybolone 15,032 Posts
    this could be a continuation of the amy winehouse thread(s). If you dug that album, chances are you'll be into "versions" also. Personally I am a fan, he is doing really good pop music.

    I liked parts of "Versions" but it was real hit or miss to me.

    The Smiths song is terrible. The Radiohead cover is cool.

  • I got a promo 12" with four songs from the LP. It's the definition of tepid.
    Yeah, it's pretty bad.

  • ayresayres 1,452 Posts


    Good for him - that's my dude.

    name dropper!




































  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts


    damn y'all make him sit at your feet and shit? that's cold...
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