British DJ and producer Mark Ronson tells Lydia Jenkin about his links to New Zealand.
2012 has been a pretty good year for Brit DJ-producer Mark Ronson. The suave, well-connected and well-bred music-lover (most of his siblings are writers, DJs and fashion designers, and his stepdad is Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones) did a few bits and pieces like collaborating with the Royal Ballet, and was given the task of creating the London Olympics theme song for Coca-Cola. He also produced Rufus Wainwright's acclaimed album Out of the Game, and Bruno Mars' latest Unorthodox Jukebox - which was released this week, with lead single Locked Out of Heaven already selling more than a million copies worldwide and climbing charts everywhere.
Yet Ronson is modest about his achievements.
"It's been a good year, but it's weird that it's nearly over. I feel like I've got to the end and I don't have much to show for myself, it's gone by so quickly. But I am happy with the things I've been involved with, definitely. The Olympics was great, just being in London and getting to run with the Olympic torch, that was kind of a crazy thing to grapple with.
"I also really enjoyed working with Bruno Mars and his crew, Jeff Basker and Emile Haynie.
I'm really proud of the end result and I think it's some of the most exciting, progressive music that I've been involved with."
Froms Wainwright to Mars is quite a leap but Ronson has always been a man of varied tastes and talents, who can see the common threads and ways to bring fresh elements to each artist he works with.
"I guess everybody from [US hip-hop duo] MOP, to Rufus, to Ghostface [Killah], to Bruno, the people that I've worked with are always from completely different backgrounds, and I grew up having a huge affinity for so many different genres of music - from Duran Duran to Public Enemy to Guns N' Roses to Wu Tang - that's why I end up working with the people I do. And Rufus, he's a master craftsman and songwriter, cult of personality, and working with him, it was definitely challenging. But it was really gratifying to be able work on songs that are that rich and complex."
But when Ronson phones from West London to have a chat about his upcoming international tour and performance at Rhythm and Vines, he's not producing or writing, he's simply sitting in a basement, trying to construct his DJ set - something which he still spends a great amount of time on, because even though DJing is his bread and butter, he's still very passionate about it.
"I want to keep a mix of giving the best of what I do, but also staying new and fresh. It's really different when you're travelling and touring because you only have one chance to make a great impression. I've wanted to come down and play New Zealand for such a long time too - it was one of the first places that my last single, Bang Bang Bang, really jumped up, and my mother grew up in Auckland. So there are a lot of reasons I want to play there, and I'm just trying to make sure that it'll be really, really, really good."
He won't be drawn on any particular tracks that are currently on high-rotate in his set but you can be sure if you've heard any of his own albums, or those that he's worked on before, you'll find something to like.
"I'm going to play a good deal of my own productions and things, and then a mix of other tracks I love, maybe even a bit of polka."
He may sound deadpan, but DJing at festivals is something Ronson loves dearly - he sees it as the ultimate outlet for his music fandom.
"I guess I'm still a music obsessive at heart, and I'm probably as much of a fan as I am a creator, probably even more so a fan to be honest. I'm mostly just trying to put something together as unique and interesting as I can."
In fact, he loves it so much there's only been one New Year's Eve in the past 20 years when he hasn't been behind the decks in front of some sort of crowd.
"I'm not quite sure what else I'd be doing. I'd probably have an iPod in my hand anyway, I'm not sure if I know how to be a normal person on New Year's Eve, actually."
He's hoping to have enough time to check out a few of the other acts on the bill - Tame Impala and Hudson Mohawke in particular - and also spend a bit of time in Napier if he gets half a chance.
"I worked with this amazing trumpet player, Michael Leonheart, on the Rufus Wainwright record, and he had this one amazing, art deco-looking cornet or trumpet that he'd got in Napier. And he explained the whole story, how it was levelled by an earthquake in the 30s, and rebuilt as an art deco city, and I've been completely fascinated with it ever since, so hopefully I'll get there."
Who: Mark Ronson
What: Performing at Rhythm and Vines festival
When: December 30, Rhythm Stage, 10pm-11.30pm
Previous work: solo albums Here Comes the Fuzz (2003), Version (2007), Record Collection (2010), plus he's produced albums by everyone from Amy Winehouse and Adele to Duran Duran, Ghostface Killah and Black Lips.
- TimeOutBy Lydia Jenkin Email Lydia