Mark Ronson: New Year’s Star

You could be forgiven for passing Mark Ronson’s too-cool-for-school vibe on the phone off as indifference. That is, until the conversation turns to the Summadayze, Summafieldayze and Field Day-bound producer’s musical tastes and who he’s looking forward to seeing on the festival tour. Then, it’s hard to stop him talking. “I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Araabmuzik, Hudson Mohawke, of course M.I.A. and the Chemical Brothers,” he tells inthemix in the lead-up to the New Year’s visit. “I think this year is a good mix of commercial and underground stuff. I think in the past years it’s been quite commercial, but this time there are a whole lot of great dance acts and some great hip-hop acts.”

But the super-producer’s unsure of what will go into his own set, mainly because he’s been busy in the studio with little-known names like Paul McCartney and Alicia Keys. But Ronson did promise, however, that the vibe of the set will be like “taking a journey through a glorious jukebox of best soul, dance and hip-hop from about 40 years, all put together. But I’m not just going to be playing a golden era set,” he adds. “I’m heavy on a lot of new stuff as well. It will be quite a mix.”

The prospect of coming to Australia over the summer again made his voice light up. “Last time we came to Australia, it was kind of the highlight of the tour up to that point. Australia is great. The weather is great. The crowds are great,” Ronson recalled. “I’ve been record shopping in Melbourne. There are some really great stores there. I love that city.”

Having a strong connection with Melbournian singer Daniel Merriweather, he revealed which other Australians have popped up on his radar. “My favourite record was that Tame Impala one. Then of course I was obviously excited for that Pond record as well.” Ronson also expressed an interest in the unique Australian sound. The most obvious example? Gotye. “Even though I’ve heard that song now 17 billion times, it’s still amazing,” the New Yorker admired. “It was the true, unusual breakout single of last year. Having a song like that on the UK Charts for weeks is just encouraging for everyone.”

The discussion then quickly turned to his own production work. Ronson took a huge leap from his second album Versions to his latest, Record Collection. So will there be another transition with the next one? “I think there will be, but I won’t know until I go to the studio” he told inthemix. “That really won’t start to come until I’ve been in the studio for about a month. Then things will start to take shape. I’ll gravitate towards that one and that will sound good with that one. It’s usually the sonic part will come first in the record.”

For his own albums, Ronson’s been big on collaborations. “It’s always different between everybody you work with,” he says of how he manages working with a wide variety of artists. “Really, the main thing is the song and the artist has to dictate what you do. I never go into anything with a pre-conceived notion. I am lucky to work people who have a strong identity and they also happen to write good songs. So much of it comes from the artists. Doing a track for Nas and Busta Rhymes – you’ll send them a beat and you know they’re just going to do something great. It’s good to have a bit of respect to that artist or band, and what they’ve done up until then.”

But Ronson assures that he does play a major role in the songwriting process. “The sound does come from me. That’s the one thing I do supply. I’m not a principal songwriter – I maybe come with chords and stuff, but melody and lyrics I will leave to the people I’m collaborating with,” he explains. “If I don’t have the sound then, well, I’m a fucking piece of nothing shit.”

Despite working with a banquet of the some of the most influential people in music, Ronson assures us he hasn’t become jaded. “I still feel in that same place of when I was 22 and 23. When I make a track, I want to make some shit that doesn’t sound like anybody else”. Let’s hope he never stops feeling that way.