By Marlon Regis
HHS: What was your main goal in putting out, Here Comes The Fuzz?
Mark Ronson: “On a bigger scale, Here Comes The Fuzz, I just think like a lot of hip hop and R&B, and new music right now, is kinda like very clean and it’s like keyboard-sounds and stuff. This is a little bit dirty, a little bit more off, a little bit live music. So I just thought that it kinda works for the name of the album.”
HHS: You’re trying to say something like most DJ/Producers, without taking too much of the praise or focus, what is it?
Mark: “Yeah I definitely like haven’t been one that needed to be in the spotlight, like ‘look at me I’m so and so.’ It’s just more about, with this record, I just came up with a lot of tracks that I liked, and then I decided once I came up with who I liked and which artists I’d like to go after or collaborate with and put on the record. A lot of people know me as a DJ as well too and know I play a lot of hip hop, but I also like to mix it up with a little bit of the classic R&B and Soul, little bit of Rock, a lil’ Dancehall, whatever it is. I wanted to do all that on the album but it’s harder, because when you’re djing you have 3 hours to do all these things, but on an album you have 50 minutes.”
HHS: On this debut album for you, just like your resume of past productions and song-writing projects, there’s a nice variety on display – not just one genre. Do you think in time, possibly in the near future, this approach will become almost a commonality rather than a rarity?
Mark: “I think so, I think there’s still classic records that you love and they’re all one genre, like Nas’ Illmatic or….just like your favorite straight hip hop records, your favorite straight rock records. I think they’re definitely more people trying to bridge it. You have like the Neptunes – N.E.R.D. is like they’re vanity side project that has a mixture of all these things. The thing I think turn people off to it, was when like people are like just doing it to do it, like I didn’t mind that song with Limp Bizkit and Method Man, but like when it’s the heavy metal stuff with just the rappers yelling over it, that’s not really mixing genres to me, that’s just making noisy music. To mix genres you really have to do it like in a way that it works, that it’s fun, that it’s funky! Especially that it remains important that it’s still funky.”
HHS: I get the feeling that being a New Yorker with your ear to the street from an early age, you subconsciously breathe hip hop, while all the city’s other musical influences were just too hard to ignore. After all, hip hop lead to the branching out of so many other genres we take for granted…why not just specialize in one though?
Mark: “I grew up in England, so in England the radio is a lot more varied. Like the Sean Paul song on the album, I sampled from “Uptown Top Ranking.” Yuh see “Uptown Top Ranking” is like a classic dancehall song that a lot of people knew in New York. In England, it was a huge hit song that went to No. 1 on the pop charts over there – totally different story – in England, you could have like a Rock song at No. 1, and then they’ll re-release Bill Withers “Lovely Day,” and that’ll go to No. 1 after. It’s just a bit more like, if it’s good, it could go in the top ten. That definitely helped a lot, my dad listened to all sorts of music and then coming here to New York, it’s really like New York is such a hip hop town. Also, I grew up playing guitar and in bands, then I switched to Djing when I really got into hip hop, and I kinda combined both a little bit.”
HHS: With so much to be proud of in your career, how do you manage to keep your ego subdued when producing and allowing other artists to shine over your work?
Mark: “I don’t know, I really never had ego, because I’ve really never done anything that I think is really truly great yet, or that I deserved to be like walking around… actually, I don’t think that anyone deserves to be walking around like they’re better than anyone else. But say someone like Outkast, I can understand that they wanna turn down some autographs because they’re just reached that level and they probably done it the whole time. Like me, I’m always like, OK great, I’ve managed to be successful as a DJ, but that’s not really what I wanna do, what I always wanna do is play music, so now I’ve got to make a record. So now it’s like, OK great but now what I really wanna do is like produce this…yuhknow what I mean….Everytime that you’re reached some sort of notch, there’s always something you’re always looking up to attain. Plus my upbringing, my mother always taught us to be super polite, I never wanted to do that ego shit.
HHS: I once read someone say, “I feel uncomfortable being in a room full of blacks, and also feel just as comfortable in a room full of whites – I prefer the whole mix.” Would you describe your comfort zone in music, along these same lines?
Mark: “Yeah, definitely. Especially when you Djing a club, I could play for a strictly hip hop crowd and still rock it, but it’s almost like Djing like I have one hand tied behind my back. What makes me special, or at least different, is that I still mix all those genres. If I ain’t doing that, you’re not getting the full Mark Ronson. So, I really like Djing for like a mixed crowd because you get all the hip hop kids going but everybody loves hip hop anyway. So you have a mix of everybody enjoying it, but then you could throw in a rock joint and you’ll get some of the white kids that grew up on rock going and their energy is kinda contagious. Then you throw in some crunk new hip hop record like Lil’ Jon, that maybe as much as the white people don’t know yet, they see the energy from the hip hop kids, and that’s contagious, so really you just have like a great melting pot. When hip hop started in New York, some odd 30 years ago, you had Bambaattta and Kool Herc and Flash playing a Rolling Stones record next to a Sly & the Family Stone, or next to an early hip hop record and that’s how hip hop grew into that anyway. When they did it, they were the first to do it, it was amazing and so original. I’m just trying to hopefully carry on a little bit of that attitude. The open-mindedness to everything.”
HHS: On this album, what idea-then-turned into reality can you best describe by using one of the songs as an example?
Mark: “I would say it was like the Sean Paul song (“International Affair”). When I first stated that track, I was trying to take little elements. I was trying to make a dancehall record, which isn’t really something that I knew. I’d rather leave that stuff to a Jeremy Harding or whoever it is, that really makes great dancefloor dancehall records. So I decided, I’ll just make my hip hop record version of this, then I’ll take little samples from the “Uptown Top Ranking,” turn it to a hip hop beat, which is what I’m good at, and see if Sean likes that. So I ended up doing that instead, and he liked the track. He was in there writing, then had to go back to Jamaica, then he came back. By the time he came back, his video was on TV. When he came back the third time, he was signed to Atlantic and he was in the Top 10. Then I had my home girl Debi Nova at the studio, and she kinda wrote the hook, and as soon as he heard a girl’s voice on it, he got even more excited. So originally through me, trying to figure out how the track was, then hearing Sean get on it, Sean writing the hook, then hearing the girl on top of that, then finally getting Tweet to record that part, it was really fun. It just kinda came together like that, probably a year ago.”
HHS: Could you best describe a scene or a type of crowd you almost get goose pimples for, just before you take your turn at the turntables to spin?
Mark: “Yeah, I just went to do Carnival in London (Nottinghill Carnival). I did the Rampage Sound System, which is a really rowdy kinda like one to do. I did on Sunday and the next day it was like Buju, Wyclef, just crazy! They warned me before: ‘Mark should play hard hip hop, but if he hears gunshots, he should slow it down’ – that’s literally what they’re telling me before I even get to London. So I look out, and we climb up to the top of the scaffle thing, and Mos Def is there. He was in London as well. He had told me he’d come with me and get on the mic. So we get on, and I kept thinking these kids have never heard of me, and they’re gonna be like, who the fuck is this guy? And I’m looking down and it’s like more than 3000 kids in the middle of the street. And they introduced me on the mic like, ‘I’ve got my man all the way from New York,’ and the crowd’s like ‘Yeahhhh!!’ – and they continue. ‘And he brought a really special guest along, Mos Def!’ The crowd was like, ‘ROAARR!!!’ They’re all stamping for Mos Def, and we got on and rocked it! Anytime you see that electrifying crowd, that’s ideal.”
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