Mark Ronson on relaunching his heroes Duran Duran
By Gavin Martin 24/12/2010
Multi-million selling producer and celebrity DJ Mark Ronson is a man in demand. And nowhere more so than this festive season on New Year's Eve. He'll be bringing celebrations to a head with three crosscountry DJ sets taking in Manchester and Birmingham before finishing off in Brixton. "You have to keep the energy higher than you would other nights," says Mark, 35. "I'll also be bringing surprise guests with me."
Ronson, often described as the most connected man in pop - his stepfather is Mick Jones of Foreigner, while Sean Lennon and Michael Jackson were childhood pals - certainly has several highprofile names on his speed dial.
Amy Winehouse, Adele and Lily Allen have all benefited from his productions, and his latest Record Collection album presented a list of collaborators from Boy George to Jonathan Pierce. Mark has also just completed production duties on All You Need Is Now, the 2011 album by his childhood heroes Duran Duran.
His break in the music business came through DJing in hip-hop clubs in New York, the city where he grew up.
"Most of my role models were hip-hop DJs on New York radio," he says. "Stretch Armstrong had a show from one to five in the morning. "I had school so I'd record it and listen to it the next day. It inspired me and taught me what records to play. I was hardcore into hip-hop when I was 16 - a complete love affair.
"I knew I was never going to be a rapper and I didn't know anything about production, so the only thing that could take me into that form of music was Djing."
Although he is the ringmaster at his live shows, it's DJing that gives Ronson stage fright.
"I find if I have no idea of what I'm going to play I'm less panicky when I go on," he admits. "I always get nervous. There's nothing you can do.
"I used to drink a lot to calm the nerves, but if you are drinking you are just dulling your motor co-ordination, and you need that for DJing. Also, I kind of enjoy the feeling of being that nervous - it pushes you to be better."
Ronson will spend Christmas with his girlfriend, actress Josephine de la Baume, and her family in France for the first time.
"My parents split up when I was eight," he says. "So growing up it was always enough to decide whether I would be spending it with my mum or my dad. Spending it in France takes that decision away."
There are still seasonal family duties to be attended to, however.
"I have nine brothers and sisters," smiles Mark, "so Christmas shopping requires a lot of thought and background checking. It's a fullscale covert operation. I'm pretty much cleaned out when I've bought for them all."
Perhaps not so high on Ronson's pressie list this year will be Amy Winehouse. Earlier this year she posted comments that suggested Ronson was taking too much credit for the success of her Back To Black album which he produced. She did subsequently withdraw the comments and Ronson is too diplomatic to get involved in a spat.
"I didn't see what she said," he admits, "but as she gave a full apology two days later I think that to comment further is pointless.
"We haven't been in touch. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether we will work together again."
Not that Ronson is likely to be short of work. But it is the recently completed Duran project that holds a special place in his heart.
"It's the longest I've ever spent working on an album," he says. 'I've never made a secret of letting people know they were my favourite band as a kid.
"It was a big deal to get to work with them, but I didn't want to do it if it was just going to be a mediocre Duran record. "I wasn't even convinced I was the man for the job. But as we got into it I realised that by being such a huge fan I knew what other Duran fans would want from the band in 2011.
"It took such a long time because we spent ages getting the lyrics and melodies perfect.
"Going into it, Simon Le Bon told me not to be afraid to tell him if it wasn't good enough. He said we'd just rip it up and start again.
"Some songs on the album he rewrote four or five times until they were perfect."
As a lifelong fan, Ronson admits he found it hard to adopt the role of taskmaster. "I don't enjoy doing that with any band," he shrugs. "You know, telling them it's time to adhere to some new rules.
"Ideally you don't want to tell your idols this isn't very good. You have to be a little bit of a shrink, use a bit of diplomacy. It takes time, but eventually you just figure out how to do it."
Mark plays the O2 Academy in Brixton, London, on New Year's Eve.
Courtesy The Mirror UK