Interview with Mark Ronson at IMS Ibiza 2010

June 10th, 2010 - 8:00 am Posted in IMS 2010, ims2010, Mark Ronson | Comments (0)

The Third Ibiza International Music Summit (IMS) came round as ever to coincide with the first big summer opening parties in the beach bars and clubs. The respectably later starts to each day’s panels were really most welcome given the heat and the palpably more laid back and confident vibe of this year’s event. Once again, the Gran Hotel in the marina was the mothership for the daytime events, with evening sessions at Grial and Pacha, and the grand finale event on full moon up in Dalt Vila.

For me the act that will feel the most pressure is the one who carries the week’s finale gig through sunset and into the rising full moon night and weekend, effectively warming up the medieval ramparts for the summer season. This year the job went to Mark Ronson who, just before heading up to Dalt Vila to face his music, was increasingly feeling the heat. We managed to grab a few minutes alone with Mark after his keynote interview with Pete Tong. Mark was somewhat panicky so we tried to reassure him all would be ok. After all , we told him, he would be playing not only to relaxing IMS delegates but also to quite a lot of local music lovers, many of whom would be coming up specifically to see him. Whoops… Head in hands, his trademark frown appeared. He seemed like a rabbit in the headlights. It was sweet. He was taking his role really seriously.

You just keep heaping on these fucking expectations. Everyone keeps saying ‘are you ready for Dalt Vila?’ and I’m like ‘Fuck!! I don’t know…it is a really big deal to play there, and its such a brilliant location and especially as the sun’s going down.

It is a brilliant location. I point out that it’s probably the perfect place to play a whole new set, because here the crowd will know the difference; and because it’s sunset *and* full moon it will all be really intense up there in the ancient fortress. The words ‘full moon’ though set him off again.

Why do you keep saying these things?  I feel like I’m going in-fucking-SANE. To be totally honest when my last record Version came out I had a set that I knew would always kill it, but because the new record’s only just finished I haven’t quite worked out that set, and I don’t want to play the Version set because that’s stale now. I think I’ll just improvise and hopefully it’ll be ok. I just didn’t realise it was such a big deal, this gig.  That’s amazing though.  It’s really nice to play to a familiar sort of crowd, but it is also about turning other people on. You know, the English people here they know me, so there’s a comfort level there. They can come hear me having probably heard me play before, and it’s exciting to play for the kids too, and for people that are going to maybe hear your thing for the first time and, hopefully, like it.

He’s been here before. Indeed he headlined at Ibiza Rocks a couple of years back. He has his own style, reflected in his excellent sartorials, his warm and endearing relationship to everything he touches on and his music tastes, which say total street dude one minute, and great big softie the next. Now he’s weighing up where to set the dial for tonight’s crowd.

Each crowd in each place is like its own little enclave, that’s the thing. I’ve played Pacha on a Friday night where its super-Euro, like Italians coming in to hear your music and trying to figure it out. Then you can play in Eden or something in San Antonio, where it’s like playing Manchester, and that’s nice too. This is the mecca of dance music. People really come here to have a great time unless you really fuck that up for them.

One of the things Ronson has said in his audience interview with Pete Tong earlier that had caught my interest was how much he loved Duran Duran. So much so that in 2008 he re-worked the band’s catalogue with them, live at La Cigale in Paris at a one-off gig. I asked him where this had come from?

From when I was a kid. I can’t remember what the first Duran Duran track I discovered was but I definitely remember loving The Union of the Snake, and Seven and the Ragged Tiger. That was one of the first CDs that I ever owned in fact. Then The Reflex. When I was nine, with the very first band that I was ever in at school, we played at the school talent show. We played Wild Boys and it was a fucking catastrophe. We only rehearsed once. We just thought it’d be cool, ‘oh we’ll just plug in electric guitars and perform, and it doesn’t matter’.  We got the biggest screaming at from our teacher, she said ‘you were an insult to everybody!’ But the Duran thing is kind of amazing. To be able to get to a situation where you’re making a band sound like music that you loved when you were a kid, to get them to revisit and reclaim what they did so well.
Ronson’s production credits include Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, Ghostface Killah’s More Fish, Kaiser Chief’s Off With Their Heads, Lily Allen’s Alright, Still, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Osirus and Robbie Williams’ Rudebox.  So I’m sure a few producers feature in his hero list.

Well yeah, and today I’m way more knowledgable because you get to study all the records and you get behind the people that you love. I definitely looked up to Phil Spector, but I really really loved Rick Rubin back then, because when you’re a kid and looking at someone that iconic…I mean he could be in a children’s book, like Where’s Waldo because he’s just so interesting.  I loved the Beastie Boys, The Black Crowes, Slayer. LL Cool J. And then I loved hiphop, Dre and DJ Premier who was definitely my favourite producer. Pete Rock. I mean they’re all amazing.

I had my own studio for a little while too, but I was on the road so much it just didn’t make sense me paying like crazy New York rent so I gave it up. The studio where I recorded my new album is a friend’s place in Williamsburg in Brooklyn. We kind of just set up shop there for six months. It was the first time I worked there but it did become my favourite because it’s got an amazing vibe. He just made it himself and you can tell it was made with love. It was like somewhere that The Band might have recorded at in 1972.  It actually looked to me like old footage of The Band in Woodstock, it’s got that kind of vibe to it.  I mix in London with an engineer called Tom Elmhirst. Someone recommended him for the Amy Winehouse record and since then I pretty much go to him.

Calmer now, I think, I ask him what he would do if it were the end of the world. He’s going to go one of two ways – the craziest party ever, with him performing at his favourite world nightspot or…He opts for the ‘or’ scenario.

Easy. I’d wanna be with my girlfriend. I don’t even know if I’d want to perform. I’d just feel like staying in and snuggling for the last 12 hours or whatever. Probably watch Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm and try and get my mind off the fact the world’s going to end…

Two hours later, after he’s been spotted backstage up in Dalt Vila by our cameraman intensely finishing off his set preparation, he delivers a magnificently eclectic and heartfelt set to the appreciative lunar congregation and by the end he is having a thoroughly good time.  “Thank you so much! This has been totally fucking awesome!” he tells the crowd, and closes out with a new track featuring Boy George before he lets Sasha take over for the late set.

by Helen Donlon and Frank Fabian

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