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Mark Ronson on missing the Bond theme - `a once in a lifetime situation`

04-Dec-2008 • Quantum Of Solace

It’s fair to say that Another Way to Die, Jack White and Alicia Keys’ theme song for the latest Bond flick Quantum of Solace, is not Mark Ronson’s favourite song, reports The West.

After all, Amy Winehouse and transatlantic producer Ronson, who produced and co-wrote tracks on her Grammy award-winning album Back to Black were poised to record the theme before Ronson was forced to put the kybosh on the studio sessions due to the songstress’ erratic behaviour.

Speaking from his home in New York, the London-born DJ and producer says he wasn’t so much annoyed as worried by Winehouse’s antics.

“That’s somebody I care about,” Ronson says ahead of his first Australian tour with his six-piece group, Version Players.

“I was more worried about her as a person than I was whether we got the Bond theme done or not.

“But, yeah, definitely when somebody offers you a Bond theme, it’s a once in a lifetime situation. (I was) sitting back a bit bummed watching the Jack White video on MTV.”

Two months after pulling the plug on the Winehouse sessions, Ronson did, however, get to do the next best thing to recording a new Bond theme — that was to perform an old one.

In July, he teamed up with his heroes, Duran Duran, constructing a 30-minute medley of their classics (including their 1985 Bond theme, A View to a Kill) using the original multi-tracks and then performing it with the New Romantic icons at a one-off, invite-only show in Paris.

“That was great,” he laughs. “They were the first band I ever had the Smash Hits sticker book for and posters on the wall.

“I’d go to the guy who cut my hair — it must have looked ridiculous — there’s a row of 14-year-old boys waiting to get their hair cut and here I am with a picture of John Taylor. ‘Can you cut my hair just like him?’ ‘No, you’re gonna get the bowl (cut) like everybody else’.”

Ronson speaks in an English accent with a slight trace of the Big Apple. He moved to New York with his mother when he was eight but frequently returned to the UK to visit his father. His mother married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, so his childhood was immersed in music.

He got involved in the New York hip-hop scene but also brought rock records back from the UK, mixing the two during DJ gigs in the 1990s.

After producing a single for soul-funk diva Nikka Costa and providing music for a Tommy Hilfiger commercial, Ronson unveiled his 2003 debut album, Here Comes the Fuzz — a genre-hopping collection featuring guest vocals from Jack White, Ghostface Killah, Mos Def, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Sean Paul and others.

Ronson says the big names on his debut made it impossible to tour. So, when it came to making album number two, 2006’s Version, he decided to work with some unknown female singers on the lead tracks: Lily Allen sang on the remake of Kaiser Chiefs’ Oh My God, while Winehouse added soul fire to The Zutons’ Valerie.

“The songs are the stars of the record,” he says.

“I thought with this record I’d just get people who weren’t famous to come and do these vocals.

“And then, of course, in the six months after we did the record Amy and Lily turn out to be two of the biggest female pop stars in the world.”

And two of the biggest tabloid trainwrecks of recent times.

His sister, DJ Samantha Ronson, has also had her fair share of the spotlight due to her relationship with Lindsay Lohan. Ronson says Samantha, one of nine siblings, is very headstrong. “She started her career because I couldn’t DJ a club one night and she said, ‘Well, I’ll do it.’ They asked her whether she’d done it before and she said, ‘No, but I can learn on the job’.”

How does he stay out of trouble when everyone around him seems to be falling apart?

“I have my fair share of acting like an idiot, too,” Ronson says. “I’m not nearly as closely watched as some of those people. And maybe it’s the advantage of not having success until a bit later on, like being 31 when you have your first hit single.

“At the end of the day, I’m still a producer which is a bit more of a faceless thing.”

And a very hard working one. Ronson says he feels lazy if he doesn’t hit the studio every day — probably the main reason he keeps his nose clean. He’s producing records for Australian R&B singer Daniel Merriweather, US rapper Wale and UK band the Rumble Strips. In the past two years he’s also worked with Kaiser Chiefs, Christina Aguilera, Robbie Williams, Maroon 5 and Adele.

Ronson says he doesn’t seek out collaborators; most of the big names he hooked up through mutual friends or bumped into them at nightclubs or discovered via a demo tape. Stevie Wonder tops his wish list but he’ll continue to work with whichever artists cross his radar.

One of his next projects might see him attempt another reunion with Winehouse. The pair have been asked to contribute a track to a Quincy Jones tribute.

Funnily enough, Ronson got engaged to Jones’ daughter Rashida in 2003 but they have since broken up. While he was too nervous to ask the legendary producer any big questions about music, Jones nevertheless passed on some useful tips.

Ronson has already made inroads into Jones’ total of 27 Grammy awards, winning three trophies at this year’s awards, including the coveted producer of the year title.

“It sits on my mantelpiece and every now and then, I go, ‘Holy s...! How did I get that?’” he laughs. “My stepdad made music for 30 years, sold millions of records and never won a Grammy. The Beatles never won a Grammy, until they put out the Free as a Bird thing.”

Ronson also shared awards for record of the year and best pop vocal album with Winehouse for Back to Black, but says the producer of the year gong was the ultimate reward.

“But it doesn’t give you anything or pay you a monthly stipend,” he adds. “You still have to go and work and do what you do, and just feel that you got to experience that.”

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