Mark Ronson looks to have cleared up that whole Amy Winehouse unpleasantness. But he narrowly avoided another tricky situation with his other recent studio charges, Duran Duran.
Speaking before his MTV Presents Belfast gig, the producer told Beehive that the cover of his new Record Collection album nearly took his Duran obsession a little too far.
“The cover is a play on record sleeves and there’s a homage to Rio,” he said. “I think I’ve been working with Duran for so long and they made me feel so at home, that I actually kind of forgot that I wasn’t in Duran Duran. So when I saw the cover, I thought ,’F***, I completely stole Rio’.” Will Duran sue? ”They were kind of OK with it.”
The Duran album that Ronson produced, out next year, directly inspired Record Collection’s atmospheric synth-pop, a reaction against the “cheesy horns” of his award-winning Version covers LP.
He said: “Going in to the studio with Duran Duran was a big influence, spending all that time with Nick Rhodes getting the keyboard sounds right. I wanted to find a way to use that stuff on my record. Quite often it’s like a warm blanket, childhood thing those sounds. I did grow up on them.
“There’s also Afrobeat influences on the record. We’ve done the Western, James Brown side of funk for so long on Version, we were just looking for something different.”
There’s a bit of Ashes To Ashes on the album too. Would he consider adding David Bowie to his list of illustrious collaborators? Ronson is wary: “I’d never say never. The thing about working with Amy and Duran or people like that is that they are such heroes.
“It was so exciting to get to work with Duran. But I’d rather not work with them at all than make an average Duran Duran album. You just get in the studio and see if there’s chemistry and if you’ve got the thing that can help them.”
Next week Ronson begins a nationwide tour of independent record stores to mark the album’s release and he promises that he’ll even work behind the counter. He doesn’t want the old school record shop to die.
"When I was old enough to buy records I went to Tower Records in New York and Beat Street in Brooklyn to buy 12 inches to DJ with. They’re all sadly closed down now in New York. I liked that High Fidelity thing of going in to a record store and asking the counter guy what’s hot. I called the album Record Collection, and I got everyone on it to list their top ten favourites and we’re stocking these records in the shop for the day."
“It’s weird because vinyl sales are going back up each year even though record sales are going down. Hopefully people who love and care for music like that will keep those shops alive.”
An indie kid at heart, despite his club credentials, Ronson’s album gives co-writing credits to Charlie Waller of the Rumble Strips, Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs and Dave McCabe of The Zutons – all bands who have struggled through the great guitar music crash.
Ronson says it will turn again: “English pop music went through a very heavy indie band phase for a while and now it’s kind of going through a pop phase.”
He’s happiest playing guitar, keyboards and syn drums at the back of the stage behind his new Business International line-up, which included guest star Boy George in Belfast.
He said: ”It’s difficult to keep everyone on the tour because George, MNDR, Rose Elinor Dougall and Alex Greenwald all have their own careers going on. But I enjoy playing with these people so much, I’ll play as long as they let us.”