“You’ve got to hear this,” says Mark Ronson clicking at his laptop to play ShortList some demo tracks from his new album Record Collection. He may be famous for his Rolodex of A-list pals, but the freshly bleached Brit-winning producer is clearly most excited about his music. He gave us the lowdown on his latest record while we asked for some insider info on his famous friends, of course…
You’ve ditched the cover versions and trumpets on the new album. Are you worried about a backlash?
Not really, because people are smart and their tastes change. I’ve got no personal vendetta against the trumpet. I’ve been pictured in a magazine smashing one up recently, so there may be a lot of trumpet players I’ve worked with that want to beat me up. I just think it’s good and healthy to move on.
You also sing for the first time. How did you find that?
I haven’t figured out how to sing in front of people yet. It’s pretty horrifying to sing and look at people. But then if you don’t look at them you look weird. Anyone who was in a band before probably started off singing into a hairbrush, but to suddenly do it at 34 is a bit weird.
Boy George is on your new record. What’s it like to have an acid-tongued character like him in the studio?
The acid-tongued thing is not at all bad in the studio. I’ve certainly learned that from Amy Winehouse when we were doing Back To Black because she’s very forthright...
Really? Did you get into arguments with her, then?
No, but [in the studio] you spend all this time trying to be diplomatic when sometimes it’s better to just be like, “Sorry, that’s sh*t.” That’s one thing that Amy does that I learned. It’s handy because instead of spending five hours tip-toeing around something you can just get on. But Boy George was so modest that he wasn’t sure that he’d given a great performance, which is ridiculous because the proof’s there. So he wouldn’t let me play it for him for a really long time — I don’t think he knew how good it was.
Obviously you and Amy had a fruitful working relationship. Are you still annoyed you didn’t finish the Bond theme tune you wrote?
Not really now, but at the time I was a bit upset because as a kid it’s your dream to do a Bond song. Actually, as a kid it’s your dream to be James Bond, then you realise that’s not going to happen. But at the end of the day I didn’t make a track that was particularly inspiring to Amy so we never got it done. Hopefully one day we’ll get another chance to do it, but if we don’t there’s always Johnny English. [Laughs] The theme to Johnny English is my second choice.
Your dad’s an ex-band manager who had a lot of celebrity friends. Do you have any particularly crazy childhood memories?
It always gets a little bit exaggerated because someone will put something on Wikipedia and it becomes public record. There’ll be all this stuff about Mick Jagger and David Bowie coming around to the house, and that never happened.
But you did have a sleepover that Michael Jackson attended. Nudging jokes aside, meeting him must have been amazing…
Yeah, definitely. All kids love Michael Jackson, he had some sort of effect. I would watch footage of him when I was older and you’d see these kids of 12 and 13 who weren’t even born the last time he put out a good album but they’d be screaming and fainting. It’s just so crazy that in some ways he was like this magical Pied Piper.
What was he like in person?
He was just like a big kid. He just seemed like a kid that never really got to grow up.
What’s your strangest personal gig experience?
I’ve had weird stuff thrown at me. You’d think that you’d only get hit with bottles at festivals but it’s quite surprising when it happens at one of your own gigs. You just think, “What?” Kyle Falconer from The View, who sings on our new album, told me he played in Dundee recently and was hit with a glass of p*ss. But he finished the song, man. He totally braved it.
Would you finish the song if you were pelted with stuff?
You have to, man. You can’t pull a Kings Of Leon and walk off.
Finally, is it true that you DJ’ed at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ wedding?
Yeah, but it was five years ago so I don’t really remember. All I remember is feeling the pressure for everyone to have a good time. It’s a wedding so it’s the kind of DJ gig where you leave a bit of your ego at the door. It’s not about putting on some new LCD Soundsystem remix... it’s like here’s Gold Digger [by Kanye West] let’s party.
You played Gold Digger? Did that get a weird reaction?
Oh no! I wasn’t saying anything like that. Laughs Everyone just enjoyed it and got down on the dancefloor.
Mark Ronson is head judge for the American Express My Live Story competition. To enter your live music moment visit channel4.com/mylivestory
Main image: Getty