Mark Ronson Digs Deep Into The Crates The name Mark Ronson may not ring any bells, but you've likely heard his music in one form or another. The multi-instrumentalist has produced records for many famous artists, including Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse.
NPR logo

Mark Ronson Digs Deep Into The Crates

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Mark Ronson Digs Deep Into The Crates

Mark Ronson Digs Deep Into The Crates

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Music producer Mark Ronson's name may not ring any bells with you, but no doubt you've heard some of his productions.

(Soundbite of song, "Rehab")

Ms. AMY WINEHOUSE (Singer-Songwriter): (Singing) They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no. Yes, I've been black but when I come back you'll know, know, know...

HANSEN: That's the song "Rehab" taken from Amy Winehouse's Grammy-winning album "Back to Black," on which Mark Ronson produced several songs. Ronson is also a DJ, guitarist and co-founder of the record label Allido Records.

On his latest and third studio album, "Record Collection," he goes by the moniker Mark Ronson and The Business International. The CD is a clever fusion of hip-hop, rock and synthesizers. And as Dick Clark used to say on the old "American Bandstand" show: It has a good beat and you can dance to it.

(Soundbite of song, "Bang, Bang, Bang")

Mr. MARK RONSON (Record Producer, Singer-Songwriter, Musician): (Singing) Un, deux, trios. Turn it up a little bit more. Bang, bang, bang...

HANSEN: Judging by the eclectic mix of musicians featured on this album, from Boy George to Ghostface Killah of the Wu Tang Clan, Mark Ronson must have quite the varied record collection.

Mark Ronson is in the BBC studios in London. Mark, welcome to the program.

Mr. RONSON: Hi. How are you?

HANSEN: Very well, thank you. Before we talk about the album itself, is yours really a record collection or is it more like CDs and digital downloads?

Mr. RONSON: Well, I started off as a deejay. So over the course of the years, since the mid '90s when I started, I probably amassed may be five, six, 7,000 records. And then this sort of - the digital age kicked in for DJs, where you could get software that you could still DJ on turntables but use your laptop, which is a lot more convenient than lugging, you know, 500 records around the world.

HANSEN: Is there a record you would put on more than others?

Mr. RONSON: I like, like the late '60s and early '70s, like the recordings just have this amazing warmth to it, whether you're talking about the Stevie Wonder or The Band or Miles Davis. And theyre almost like comfort food for me or something.

HANSEN: You're breaking some ground personally here. You sing on the title track, as well as on the song "Lose It in the End." This is the first time you've actually sung on an album?

Mr. RONSON: Yeah, pretty much.

(Soundbite of song, "Lose It in the End")

Mr. RONSON: (Singing) Yeah, I said too much again. Yeah, I pushed too hard again and I want to start, but when always lose it in the end...

I wrote a song "Lose It in the End" with this singer Jonathan Pierce, who's in a band called The Drums. And at the time, his band was - had like just starting out and had all of these like indie kind of credibility. And his band was worried that if you sang on my big ugly, glossy, pop project that it would make them look un-cool are something.

So I just ended up singing it one night. I just thought, well, Ill just give it a shot. And the sort of kind of vocal that it needed to be a sort of '60s, somewhere in between The Turtles and I guess The Monkees and The Zombies. They kind of - I think I kind of managed to like squeak out what was necessary on the track.

(Soundbite of song, "Lose It (In the End)"

Mr. RONSON: (Singing) Stupid once again. You wanna be my friend and I'll push too hard again. Always lose it in the end. I don't know. How I can let you go. How will I let you go - go, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

HANSEN: You were born in the U.K. but moved to New York City when you were young. You went to the Collegiate School. You went to Vassar College. You attended New York University. What did your parents think when you decided to DJ in New York clubs?

Mr. RONSON: My mom, when we moved to New York, she was by the standards of American - the parents as my, you know, kids in school here was incredibly strict, you know. And my stepdad was in the band Foreigner. So like, its funny because with my stepdad, they didn't really understand what DJing was, 'cause is not like it is now with, you know, turntables outselling guitars in record shops. Back then it was still like - it was a very much like an art form that belonged to, you know, to hip-hop.

And I remember at one point like whereas usually your dad, if you were playing music, he will be like: When you going to go back to law school? My stepdad, because he was a guitar player, would be like: Well, when you going to, you know, put that turntable down and go back to your guitar? Like some kind of weird perverse version of that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song "Record Collection")

Unidentified Man: Es-ki-boy: Mark Ronson. Put this one in your record box, ah ha...

HANSEN: Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran is featured on the song "Record Collection." How did you end up collaborating with him?

Mr. RONSON: Duran Duran were actually my first favorite band as a kid. Like, I remember, you know, you have certain songs that you like and then there's suddenly one band that's just your favorite band, and it's one that you've got the lunch box and T-shirt and, you know, you are fully psycho, you have Duran Duran bed sheets.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RONSON: And I just played a gig with him three years ago. And it was quite an honor. I was asked to open up for them and then help them arrange their set to do something clever, and sort of challenge them to play almost like a mash up of some of their songs and other songs. And so we did that project.

And then while we were recording my album, later I asked Simon if he would sing the chorus on this song. And Simon doesnt usually, you know, sing other people's stuff. He writes all his own lyrics. But he just liked the hook and he agreed to sing it.

(Soundbite of song "Record Collection")

Mr. SIMON LE BON (Singer-Songwriter, Duran Duran): (Singing) I tell you what it is on my mind. Whoa-oh. I only want to be in your record collection, whoa-oh, ah. I only want to be in your record collection, whoa-oh, ah. And I'll do anything it takes just to get there...

Mr. RONSON: People ask, I guess because of the Boy George being on the record and Simon, am I obsessed with the '80s or is there some kind of ironic thing going on? And it's just - in my DJ sets in New York, I was always with my crowds, I was always lucky enough most of the time to play quite a varied said. And people, you could take them on a ride. You didn't just have to play hip-hop if you're playing for a hip-hop crowd.

And, you know, I might play Ghostface Killah record in the same set as a Duran Duran record on the same night as the Michael Jackson record. So to me, they all exist sort of in the same musical universe. And it is surreal to be in a place to be able to record some of these people that you really grew up with, and you love so much.

HANSEN: You're listed as playing guitar, percussion, keyboards, drums, bass on this record. I mean, when did you first start playing music? What got you into it?

Mr. RONSON: My first instrument was the drums. And my parents, let's say they liked to have a good time. So I'd wake up in the middle of the night and there would be like a hundred people and loud music blaring out of the living room. And I would just come downstairs and sort of post up in front of the speaker and play air drums. You know, I was just obsessed with drums.

And so one time, someone I think was over and said, oh, you should get that kid a drum kit. So I got a mini kit and that was my first instrument. And then I switched around a lot. There was never something that I was especially great enough at that it showed there was a clear path. Like, okay, I should stick with this, you know? So I kind of moved around.

And I think that's why it wasn't until I found my feet as a producer, sort of in my mid to late 20's, that I even knew when I was supposed to be doing in music. Like I played guitar in bands when I was a kid, but then also like I interned at Rolling Stone and I wrote for heavy metal fanzines, and then I started DJing.

I think the main thing was that just as long as I was around music in a way, like I sort of didn't mind what I was doing.

(Soundbite of song, "Somebody to Love Me")

HANSEN: As a music producer, how do you keep it new? Sometimes do you feel like you've heard everything before?

Mr. RONSON: I knew on this record I had to do something different for me, but I didn't know what it was. And I just thought I would just get a bunch of like these old '70s analog synthesizers, some kind of rare ones, and just start playing as a band in a room.

(Soundbite of song, "Somebody to Love Me")

Mr. RONSON: (Singing) I want somebody to be nice. See the boy I once was in my eyes. Nobody is going to save life....

And we weren't really striving to make something that nobody has heard before. But I guess when you're combining the influences of all these people and all the different musics that they love - by Im saying all these people, I mean the four or five of us that set up in a room for a month in Brooklyn just writing all these initial tracks. And you've got people that love Afrobeat and Kraut rock and hip-hop and synth, '80s stuff.

And I guess that all gets put together into this kind of pot that hopefully it becomes something new. It's almost like although there all different colors of Play-Doh. And like hopefully, when you like shove it all together in this one ball at the end, it's like it becomes its own color and it's not so obvious that you can go, oh, I know they got this from that and they got that bit. Maybe it becomes its own sort of unique combination.

(Soundbite of song, "Somebody to Love Me")

Mr. RONSON: (Singing) Dear Mr. Lonely, how much could you know me...

HANSEN: Mark Ronson's new album is called "Record Collection," and he joined us from the BBC studios in London. Mark, thank you and good luck.

Mr. RONSON: Thank you very much.

(Singing) And I lost what it was in the teenage dust of a Downtown Romeo...

HANSEN: You can hear more songs by Mark Ronson at

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.