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    Ronson’s “Version” Mixing it with Coldplay gets April 16th release

    Craig McLean meets hot young British-born producer Mark Ronson


    Robbie Williams "really knows his stuff, like abstract reggae" but is easily bored in the studio. Christina Aguilera is "definitely fair" when it comes to splitting royalties. Lily Allen's last single, Littlest Things, does not, as many listeners thought, begin with a sample of Radiohead's Karma Police - it's a snatch of a song from the soundtrack to 1970s porn film Emmanuelle. Amy Winehouse wrote the original version of Rehab in less than an hour.


    Coldplay sound good with added jazz horns.

    Spend a morning in the New York attic recording studio belonging to Mark Ronson and you'll discover all these pop-culture titbits. He's the hottest producer du jour, a Zelig-like knob-twiddler who can charge £25,000 per track and has worked on some of the most interesting records of the last year: Williams's Rudebox, bits of Aguilera's Back to Basics album, Allen's Alright, Still, the keynote tunes on Winehouse's Back to Black. The day I visit, he's collaborating with Cathy Dennis and raved-about British newcomer Leon Jean-Marie.


    He's also one of the top hip-hop party DJs in New York, a friend of Jay-Z and Puff Daddy who also played the tunes at the late Notorious BIG's final birthday party. All of which is pretty good going for a British-born, 31-year-old posh white boy.


    In a cramped room up several flights of stairs in TriBeCa, Ronson tells me how Winehouse came up with her demo for Rehab here in his AllIDo ("all I do") studios. Initially, it was a bluesy lament. "The sound was bad-arse [great]," he says, his accent slipping between English and streetwise American, "but it was a slow, shuffling rhythm."


    The idea for the song had begun as they'd been walking back to the studio after a trip to the pool hall. Winehouse was telling Ronson the story "about what happened when she hit a low after her break-up and she was drinking all the time. And she said, 'They tried to make me go to rehab and I was like, "no, no, no".' And I said, 'That could actually be a funny hook for a song.' So she came back and wrote it."


    Then, with the help of a retro Brooklyn funk outfit named the Dap-Kings, Ronson took her "strummy thing" and gave it an "exciting, '60s, Shangri-Las groove". Hey presto: one of the best pop hits of last year.


    Ronson is not, as countless American articles and websites attest, the son of Mick Ronson, the legendary guitarist who played with David Bowie. Nor is he a scion of the Ronson cigarette-lighter dynasty. He is the son of a British model and socialite, Ann Dexter, and the stepson of another guitarist called Mick - Mick Jones of Foreigner.


    He moved to the US from the UK when he was eight, after his parents split. He is well connected: Sean Lennon is a best buddy, he knows Liv Tyler from private school circles, he was engaged to Quincy Jones's daughter.


    Three years ago Ronson made his own album, the supremely entertaining Here Comes the Fuzz. "I was trying to make the ultimate DJ party record," he says, "cramming my three-and-a-half hour set into 40 minutes."


    The follow-up is a different concept. Version is a collection of soul-infused covers of (mostly) British indie classics. Lily Allen sings Kaiser Chiefs' Oh My God with laconic cool. Robbie Williams rediscovers his Northern vowels on the Charlatans' The Only One I Know. Coldplay (God Put a Smile on Your Face) and Radiohead (Just) undergo speed-jazz instrumental makeovers.


    Ronson credits his British background - his dad still lives in the UK - with his enthusiasm for indie rock. "As a hip-hop producer, you're always looking for records, like those Quincy Jones and Henry Mancini records where they would do big-band arrangements of the big hits of the day. And," he shrugs, "I've always liked looking for obscure, abstract covers of pop songs."


    Has he heard what any of the original artists think? "Yeah - because I've changed the arrangements I have to go to them all for approval." Morrissey likes Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before so much, he's keen to work with the guest vocalist, and Radiohead's Thom Yorke loves the new Just. "It's not a slapdash thing," says Ronson. "You hear a lot of love for the songs."


    'Version' will be released in April.


    Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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