The producer behind Uptown Funk tells Jimi Famurewa about dance DJs and guns in the studio
Your No1 single Uptown Funk infamously launched on The X Factor. Was that weird for you?
Yeah, I was freaked out, because I was like, “What the f*ck, a version of the song has come out before mine? Is this gonna be a problem?” I spoke to the label, and everyone just decided, “F*ck it, let’s release the song now.” My first reaction was that my stomach went, but I thought, “Well I can’t be mad at anyone for doing covers, because I had a good two or three years off them.”
You went on a Deep South road trip as part of recording the new album. Any memorable moments?
There was some pretty great stuff, a lot of comedy. We went to the Delta – basically the ground zero of the blues – and nearly got robbed late at night.
Are you good at dealing with potentially scary situations?
As long as you don’t try to be hard or more down than you are, you’ll be OK. There have been times when I’ve been in a studio and everyone has come and put their guns on the table. That’s a little f*cking crazy.
Is it true P Diddy once gave you $100 while you were DJing?
Yeah, in the late Nineties. I always think it’s better not to take the money, because then people expect something of you. So I said, “Oh, no thank you.” Eventually he said, “Take the f*cking money,” and threw the bill. He gave me his number and I was so flattered that I framed his number above my turntables with the $100 bill. Then a couple of months later, I couldn’t find enough money to get a pizza, and it was sad, but I took the $100 bill. Then, about 10 years later, I had a party after I’d won the Grammys. Diddy came and I told him this story. He gave me another $100. And the next day, I was taking a taxi to the airport and I realised I didn’t have my wallet, and I had to pay with the $100. I have a pretty good racket going.
Are you at all envious of wealthy EDM DJs?
I’d rather have memories of playing New York hip-hop clubs than be a millionaire EDM DJ playing Vegas, because that’s not the music I like. People aren’t there to dance, they’re there to reward themselves, spoil themselves. It’s like going to a really nice spa.
Were you feeling the pressure on this album?
I knew it had to be great. It’s been four and a half years since Record Collection, but I’m not an idiot, I knew the world wasn’t holding its breath for a new Mark Ronson album. Having the world not give a sh*t about you is a good place to make a record. You feel like you’re hiding away.
What do you make of U2 and the rise of surprise albums?
When the album is great, it’s amazing because it’s like a sneak attack. But U2 are so big they have to almost trump the last thing they did. Like, the next one has to be a moon landing – which they could probably pull off.
Uptown Special is released on 19 January