Mark Ronson: The Great White Hype

A sky the color of bruised eggplant fades to black as Mark Ronson and I return to his apartment in Manhattan’s West Village. We’ve just finished a dinner of kale and gnocchi at Miranda in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and as we pass Bar Pitti, an Italian restaurant with a sizeable street-fronting patio, one of the waiters hollers, “Marco! Ooh wee—la-la-la-la,” the lyrics to a song from Ronson’s debut album, Here Comes the Fuzz. Another waiter walks out and, making pistols out of his two hands, yells in a soupy Spanish accent, “Bang, bang, bang!” the title of his latest single. Ronson smiles affectionately and, once out of earshot, says, “Can you believe those guys?” He seems pleased by the exchange.

A black border collie named Maude, after Ruth Gordon’s character in Harold and Maude, is waiting impatiently at the front door. Ronson’s high-ceilinged, one-bedroom apartment is not as lavish as one might expect, given his considerable achievements as a producer and musician. Suitcases clutter the hardwood floor of his dining room, its table littered with unopened envelopes that suggest Ronson might be too busy preparing for the release of his new album, Record Collection, to concern himself with electricity bills. In his den, a framed poster for Woody Allen’s Zelig hangs above the couch next to an antique jukebox. Chuck Palahniuk novels and Hip Hotels share shelf space in his vast library. François Truffaut’s French New Wave classic, The 400 Blows, tops a towering pile of DVDs. It’s not all that different from most apartments in Greenwich Village except for a crowded fireplace mantle overrun with awards: a Brit Award, an MTV Music Video award, a GQ Men of the Year award, a Glamour Man of the Year award, and three miniature golden gramophones—the Grammy awards he received for Version, his 2007 album of covers, and his production work on Back to Black, Amy Winehouse’s career-making record. A sober black-and-white photograph of his storied family sits next to them.

Ronson is the son of real estate entrepreneur Laurence Ronson and gregarious society dame Ann Dexter-Jones. (Dexter-Jones later married Foreigner founding member and guitarist Mick Jones, from whom she split in 2007.) At 35, he is two years older than his twin sisters, Charlotte, a New York fashion designer, and Samantha, a DJ based in Los Angeles. Anecdotes from his charmed childhood abound, most of them about decadent parties in London, where he was born and still keeps an apartment, with a rotating cast of boldface names from The Thin White Duke to The Boss. Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was his best friend growing up, and together they had sleepovers with Michael Jackson and carpools with Roberta Flack.

Ronson’s silver-spoon upbringing has always been an easy target for critics, who are quick to attribute his success to his family’s Rolodex. His reaction to these charges alternates between incredulous and wounded. “I’m so tired of defending where I came from—I’ve spent my entire career trying to be taken seriously,” he says. “If you’re out for blood, it’s easy to discredit me by focusing on my family, but I certainly never asked my mom, ‘Hey, could you please call up DJ Premier and find out if I can play Gang Starr’s party next weekend?’”

When he was a senior at Collegiate, an elite high school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Ronson started manning the turntables at trendy Lower East Side dives acrid with the stench of stale beer, giving equal play to the Smiths and Run-DMC. It wasn’t long before he became a regular on the downtown nightlife scene, where he was branded with the double-edged title of “celebrity DJ.” While acknowledging that there is some truth to the label—he was, after all, flown to Italy to provide the music for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ wedding reception—he’s also loathe to embrace it. “I might have even been the person for whom that term was invented, but to me it conjures the image of an it-girl at a party with two iPods,” he says. Unlike, say, Jessica Stam or Alexa Chung, Ronson earned his title, playing music for party-goers long before it meant having his picture taken.

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The stigma against Ronson only worsened when Samantha earned her own loyal following on the dancefloor, which initially rubbed him the wrong way. “I was so irate when she decided to use the family name instead of Li’l Red [the stage moniker she used earlier in her career],” he says. “I was worried we’d put out CDs at the same time, they’d sit next to each other in music stores, and we’d look like the fucking Osmonds.” But during the height of her much-dissected, turbulent relationship with actor Lindsay Lohan in 2008, when Samantha was tarred and feathered on Hollywood gossip websites—blogger Perez Hilton, for example, still cattily refers to her as “SaMANtha”—the negative press brought out Ronson’s protective side. “Life in L.A. really is one big episode of Entourage,” he says, skirting a question about his sister’s love life. “If she’s happy in her relationships, then I’m psyched for her. When she’s not, I’m not.” Pausing for a minute, he adds, “It’s weird, because in England I’m Mark Ronson, record producer. But in America, I’m Mark Ronson, Samantha’s brother.”

On both sides of the Atlantic, 2007 was a huge year for Samantha’s brother. The records he produced for Winehouse and Lily Allen dominated international charts, and Version went double platinum in the U.K. He recorded that album on a tiny budget before signing with Columbia Records, and invited his friends—Winehouse, Allen, Daniel Merriweather, Santigold—to lend their vocals, which certainly didn’t do much to discourage his reputation as the most connected man in music. “I was almost embarrassed by Version’s success,” he says. “I wasn’t immune to its backlash, either. I have thin skin, as do most artists, and so it wasn’t easy—so immediately after the embrace of the album—being written off as the trumpet-y covers guy.”

This month’s Record Collection, Ronson’s followup to Version, will only exacerbate his reputation as pop music’s answer to Kevin Bacon—Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, Boy George, Spank Rock, Q-Tip, and Ghostface Killah all make appearances on the album—but its overall sound couldn’t be further from his earlier work. Ronson was desperate to reinvent himself, and instead of Version’s horn-heavy neo-soul, Record Collection sounds like cosmic synth-disco. “I knew in my heart and in my head that I needed to record original material,” he says. “But I was so afraid that these 12 new songs would then be judged against the songs of Morrissey, Thom Yorke, and Paul Weller that appeared on Version.” It was perhaps because of this fear, and because of the overwhelming number of musicians who “spent days in my sweaty studio in Brooklyn” contributing to the album, that Ronson decided to attribute Record Collection to Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. “To do otherwise would have been disingenuous.”

Electro-pop musician Amanda “MNDR” Warner is the Business Intl.’s breakout act. On “Bang Bang Bang,” she turned a line from a French-Canadian children’s song—“Je te plumerai la tête”—into the anthem of the summer, and, like many of the artists featured on the album, she is effusive with praise for Ronson. “He’s an excellent keyboardist, a great drummer, and an amazing guitarist,” she says. “You can’t fake that kind of talent.”

Rapper Spank Rock, who lends his voice to “The Bike Song,” is slightly less reverent about his friend. “Mark’s kind of dorky, definitely not the coolest guy in the world,” he says. “It was in the studio where, for the first time, I saw a bit of insecurity in him, because he was working through his project and second-guessing himself. Whenever someone opens themselves up, they can either be complete douchebags—‘Listen to this, this is so good!’—or they can be like Mark, and you can watch them cringe.”

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For the better part of July, Manhattan was crippled by heat. But earlier on the day of our meeting, a magnificent and furious storm brought with it a reprieve from the record-breaking highs. It’s a nice night for a walk, and Maude needs some exercise, so we relocate to Washington Square Park, which is thick with jazz musicians and the smell of cheap incense. Ronson, who left his polka-dot–patterned black blazer at home, is now wearing a red T-shirt, tight black jeans, and white loafers.

We run into Ronson’s girlfriend, French actor-musician Josephine de la Baume, with whom Ronson currently co-stars in a Zadig & Voltaire ad campaign. She is on her way to a Korean barbecue restaurant and has little patience for Ronson’s insistence that he’d like to stay in tonight. Small and fiery, she is like a character in a Godard film. When Ronson tells her that he’d rather not sit through Inception—“I just can’t do a three-hour Chris Nolan mind-fuck, baby”—she sighs dramatically, and, pouting, says, “You are so boring!” Rolling her eyes and her r’s, she storms off playfully into the night.

As we continue down the street, I remind Ronson of our first meeting a few years ago, when he was asked to interview the late Malcolm McLaren, a legendary producer-musician who once managed the Sex Pistols, for Thompson Hotels’ in-house magazine, Room 100. Their conversation was scheduled during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, for the morning after Charlotte’s first showing of her eponymous ready-to-wear collection under the Bryant Park tents. Ronson slept through his alarm, missing the whole thing. He managed to get on the phone with McLaren later that day, but the photographer, who was meant to take their portrait together, was forced to artfully combine their images in post-production. I stood in for Ronson in McLaren’s photo. “I really did miss that shoot because I overslept,” he says, revealing some lingering embarrassment at the memory. “But I can’t help thinking that if I hadn’t been out all night getting fucked up I wouldn’t have missed my chance to sit next to Malcolm.”

Ronson and his siblings—there are nine in total, when one factors in step-siblings and half-siblings—were introduced to excess at a young age, despite his insistence that his mother’s approach to child-rearing was almost draconian. When he was 6, Ronson was tucked into bed by actor Robin Williams, who was high on cocaine. One morning, he woke up early to find his father, still awake from the night before, playing chess with Hall & Oates’ Daryl Hall. “When we got to the age that partying became an issue for our parents, it was like, You can’t really talk because you’re getting 10 times as fucked up as I am. Knowing my dad’s struggles with addiction, though, my emotional hangover was often too much to enjoy the drunk.”

Despite glimpses into the rock-star lifestyle growing up, it wasn’t until the release of Version, when Ronson was expected to perform his songs live in front of huge audiences, that alcohol became a real crutch. “I remember my very first gig with Lily in 2006. Before we went on, I was sitting in a corner, shaking so badly that she was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ I’d have a drink to ease the nerves and then my guitar tech would keep refilling my glass throughout the show. Before I knew it, I’d be asking for more whiskey and he’d be like, ‘You just finished the bottle.’” Although he has since tempered his alcohol consumption, Ronson says, “I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy going out. Now that I’m singing I just can’t do much beyond a bit of drinking or smoking the occasional touch of weed.”

Whereas he admits to “not being all there” while producing Kaiser Chiefs’ 2008 album, Off With Their Heads, he says his upcoming work on the new Duran Duran record has helped create some of the band’s best songs to date. “They have a lot to prove this time out,” says Ronson, alluding to the band’s tepidly received 12th album, Red Carpet Massacre, which was produced by Timbaland. “I think Timbaland pulled a bit of a Timbaland, where he shows up for a little bit and somebody else does all the work,” says Ronson. If the band is to be believed, Ronson’s contributions to the as-yet-untitled album are profound. “There was instant chemistry,” says keyboardist Nick Rhodes. “When we started playing, it was like there was electricity in the room. We’ve worked with some remarkable people, but Mark just gets it. Anyone who was foolish enough to question his talent was sorely mistaken.”

It’s late now, and Ronson is tired. He still has to pack for a week-long vacation starting tomorrow night, when he’ll travel to the house he recently purchased in Amagansett, next to East Hampton. But before he leaves, he’ll spend the better part of the day at the photo shoot for this story. Uninspired by his look that morning, the man who went from being a DJ and producer to a legitimate singer will make another drastic change: Mark Ronson will bleach his dark chestnut hair white.

A few days later, I randomly spot Ronson and his blanched pompadour on First Avenue, where he’s stationed behind a glass wall inside the headquarters of East Village Radio, a popular internet radio station. Back from the Hamptons, he looks rested as he introduces “The Bike Song,” which he’ll premiere in just a few minutes on Authentic Sh*t, his weekly show. A crowd has gathered on the sidewalk, dancing to the music while watching him work. Reminded of what Spank Rock told me earlier that week, I just stand there, watching him cringe.

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Photography by Kai Z Feng. Styling by Christopher Campbell.

Damon DeGraff and Yoni Goldberg Have Oprah’s Favorite DJs

Damon DeGraff and Yoni Goldberg are dGi Management. They handle a stable of celebrity type DJs who are the hottest commodities in A-list clubs. However, DJing in clubs is only a small part of what they do. dGI books their talent for Rolex money at corporate affairs all over the world. The landscape has changed and the DJ with a rap who plays rap, house, disco, 80’s and rock, and is often a bold-faced name in the funny papers, is a commodity that can get maximum value with help from proper management. If it’s the right party, chances are dGi has one of their players playing. The music at these events must often appeal to a crowd with a wide range of tastes, so a mashup DJ, with a well-stocked Serato is called for. I’m going to just put up their press release because it really does tell the story.

“dGi Management is a New York based company offering fully integrated talent management and corporate consulting services. dGi Management’s work is offered on a retained or project-by-project basis. dGi Management manages recording artists, celebrity DJs, record producers, and cultural influencers. Perhaps most widely recognized for its unrivaled position in the global DJ marketplace, dGi DJs are staples of the most exclusive parties around the world. These stellar artists routinely play for a celebrity client list that includes Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Prince, Jay-Z, Diddy, Kanye West, Will Smith, Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, Michael Bloomberg, and Shaquille O’Neal. In addition to its celebrity clientele, dGi DJs provide music for the world’s leading fashion labels, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Nike, and The Gap. Their services also extend to industry leaders in media, film, music, and art, including Conde Nast, Hearst, Viacom, Sony, Warner Music Group, Disney, Miramax, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Louvre Museum. Similarly, dGi record producers have established a track record of success, working alongside internationally-acclaimed and platinum-selling recording artists, like Usher, Janet Jackson, Lil Wayne, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry dGi has provided consulting on a wide-range of music, fashion, and cultural initiatives. In particular, dGi has provided consultation services to Fendi, Valentino, Revlon, and ESPN. With an expertise in social and interactive media and unparalleled relationships with event planners, public relations companies, marketing agencies, and celebrities, dGi offers unique insight and forward-thinking strategies to its clients. In addition to its talent management and corporate consulting, dGi partnered with dance music mega-label Ultra Records in 2009 to establish an imprint label dGi Records. dGi Records debut releases are scheduled for late 2010. dGi has been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, Us Weekly, Complex, BlackBook, Spin, and countless other newspapers and publications”

You guys have an agency. You rep DJs. Yoni Goldberg: It’s called dGi Management. And certainly I think we do a few things, but the primary thing that we do is rep celebrity DJs.

List the DJs you rep. Damon DeGraff: The DJs we rep, we do Rev Run, we do The Misshapes, we do Paul Sevigny, we do DJ Ruckus, we do David Berrie, we do Mel DeBarge, we do DJ Kiss, we do DJ M.O.S., and we have a new producer/DJ by the name of Cory Enemy. YG: And we have DJ Rashida in LA.

I saw Rashida in Atalantic City. She was amazing. I gave her a plug a couple months ago, and while I was down there Molly Sims told me M.O.S. was her favorite DJ. YG: Molly Sims was talking about M.O.S. And then Tammy wrote me the next day saying Molly wants a CD or something.

You rep these pretty hip DJs, and music is mostly mashup music? Or what do they call that type of music now? YG: I think they call it open format music. I think by and large our DJs play open format music. But people like Paul Sevigny and The Misshapes I think have a different style than what Tenjune considers open format.

More rock based as opposed to hip hop based? YG: Right. But ultimately I really don’t think we try to put the DJs into a certain genre of music. Our primary business isn’t doing nightclubs that are formatted with a certain sound. Our primary business is doing celebrity parties and major corporate events. And I think each of those have an expectation that the music is customized for them on that night. So it’s very different than someone who is going to play at 1 Oak on Thursday.

When I talk to house DJs, or purist hip hop DJs, and the people who book the kinds of clubs that feature that kind of music, they look at the open format kind of music as not real DJing. They discount it completely. There’s a major disconnect between these two types of clubs. The clubs that play house, the purist clubs, and you could say Cielo and Pacha and the majority of joints where open format is king. When I did that big event at Mansion for the New York Night Life Association ,which you helped me with the house heads saw no value in the guys playing open format. How do you speak to that? DD: I think to be honest, it’s on the individual and what they like and what’s their preference. There’s always been the difference in DJs. Meaning there’s always been the Grandmaster Flashes that were the originators of the hip hop style. There’s always been the really big house guys who have done their thing in their way. And I think what we did with the DJs that we represent is created a niche where you can mix the two. If you look at say dance music, it’s becoming more popular within the open format clubs. Or there’s some hip hop guys who are now getting on dance records. I think music as a whole is just merging into itself. There’s still the purest form of it, but to be honest, it’s up to the individual. YG: Purists always discount alternatives. I don’t think Jean Georges thinks Italian food is the same as French food. I don’t think that a baseball historian thinks of golf as something as significant within the American fabric as baseball.

You think that the difference between house music and open format is that profound? Like golf and baseball? Is it that much of a different thing? YG: No, but it’s an explanation for why a purist would find an alternative to be something less.

Indulge me: in the 60s, when I started going out to clubs, it was rock and roll—classic rock. In the 70s, disco changed everything. It was this unbelievable breakthrough in music. In the 80s, new wave, punk, and hip hop started to happen. And at the end house and electronic started coming in. These were genres. Was there a new genre in the 90s? 2000’s YG: I think alternative was pretty significant, maybe not in clubs.

The 90’s saw open format ,I think that’s when it really started. Is open format a genre? And if it is, what is the next genre of music? YG: It’s not a genre of music. It’s a style of DJing, but it grows out of changes in how people listen to music.

Well in the 50s we had folk, and the beginning of rock and roll. Has there been a genre of music since AIDS? Since the mid 80s? DD: I think what open format is, it’s the mixture of all of those. And I think there hasn’t really been, probably up until the 90s, when you look at say, Mark Ronson. He was probably the first one to really start the open format trend. From taking hip hop, to rock, to whatever, and not just mashups. Meaning like taking records and making them blend in a way to where everybody, white, black, Asian, you name it, in a spot can really relate to his set.

What’s going on in the culture of America, in the world, that there hasn’t been a real breakthrough or definable genre of music since the mid 80s? YG: I don’t know how to answer that, but I do know part of what makes open format a sound you hear at a lot of clubs today is technology and the way people get their music. When I grew up, and I’m 28, I spent fifteen dollars on a CD. I was going to listen to every one of those rock songs, or every one of those hip hop songs. Now, if you buy your music, you’re buying singles for 99 cents, or you’re listening to the music for free—illegally downloaded, on MySpace, on YouTube—and it allows people to be exposed to a vast and wide range of music. And people can like an electro song without spending fifteen dollars on the album. They can like a hip hop song without spending fifteen dollars on the album.

So it’s exposure and the way music is available. You have a stable of DJs. What are they doing? What is a typical DJ in your stable? What are you guys working on? DD: It’s funny that you mention, I think now besides doing the majority of the celebrity and corporate events, we have like David Berrie just did a deal with Ultra, which is one of the biggest dance labels in the world. We have a single that’s coming out at the end of the summer. DJ Ruckus did a deal with Orchard Street, he put out another single, he has another one that’s coming out.

What is Orchard Street? DD: It’s another label, an Indie label. I think they bought out TPT after whatever problems they had. So they do a wide assortment, from hip hop, to dance, to you name it. We also have a group by the name of party crash, which is Cory Enemy and DJ Ruckus. They have a group called Party Crash where we have a single coming out on Chuckie’s label Dirty Dutch this summer, a really incredible record. And then we have Cory Enemy, who is probably the most insane producer/DJ that you’d ever want to meet. Like literally. But he’s already done a remix for Oh My God, he has the new Katy Perry single remix, got a bunch of other records that are going to come out soon. I think aside from just the celebrity side and the event side of things, I think we’re definitely starting to move our clients into say a more artist and producer realm.

Back in the day, when I was booking DJs, I used to say when a DJ truly becomes a producer, he becomes less of a DJ. Because as a producer, he looks for a certain type of sound. And that sometimes translated nights where he’s only playing music that agrees with that sound. And the sets for many of these famous DJs became fairly monotonous. Is this something that could happen for open format DJs? YG: I think it could happen, but I think it’s challenging to be an open format producer. You can’t produce every single genre of music. I guess unless you’re Rick Rubin. You speak about producers and their DJing becoming monotonous, David Berrie used to DJ at the hottest clubs in New York and around the country five or six nights a week. He was the most in demand club DJ in America. And he stopped to become a house producer and a house DJ. And he stays at home, and will work 36 hours in a row producing house music. He just had his debut at Pacha last week in New York, he’s headed to Pacha Ibiza this week. But I can say in Berrie’s case, it certainly has not made his performance monotonous. I think his background as a DJ, and establishing himself first as a DJ, before establishing himself as a producer, which is the opposite of many house artist, makes him a far more exciting and thrilling house DJ when he performs than most of the people who play at Pacha.

These are all great DJs, and they’re all social DJs. Every one of the people you mention who I know, are extremely club social. Do they have to play, in your mind, a club gig now and then just to stay in touch with it? DD: I think totally. I think always, even going back to the origin of open format with Mark Ronson, you always have to have to the clubs to keep you edgy and keep you fresh. Because a lot of times with the events, the music that you’re playing is not so club-oriented. So if you want that to be a huge part of who you are and to keep your skills on point, you kind of have to.

Otherwise you’re just playing what’s expected from the corporate client. Do the DJs understand that or do you have to drill it into them? DD: They understand it. I think that’s what makes us the best at what we do. Because we understand from A to Z what has to be done from the client to the clubs.

I interviewed DJ DB the other day. And DB was talking about how hard it is as a DJ to make money these days. He basically needs somebody like you. Most DJs, even the established ones who have been used to getting gigs for this much money, even though there’s all these clubs and a world wide audience, with the expenses of travel and all that they need to do corporate events. DJs cannot survive, or should not be able to survive too well, unless they are Tiesto or Roger Sanchez. For the DJ coming up, they need an agency like you, don’t they? Because they need to barter their way with corporate money. This is new. YG: I think the reality is, most DJs don’t really fit into the corporate DJ landscape that Damon created. DD: Because when you look at when this was created, I looked at it as the DJ being an artist. And when you look at any artist from Madonna, to Lady Gaga, to Jay-Z, to Kanye, to anybody, it’s the music aspect, which I think is a large part, but it’s also the marketability.

The visual. All your guys have charisma, they dress well, and they have pride in their appearance. And so the visual is very important. YG: They’re very good looking. DD: So that’s pretty much how we look at it. I think visual, charisma, how you deal with the client is a very huge part. And then to come back to your point, and not to pat ourselves on the back, but I think with any manager, or agencies, or anything, it’s how that person represents the artist as well. Because people don’t want the representation to be some guy who doesn’t really care. You always want to make the client feel 200% comfortable. So whenever they call, their experience from the first interaction to when the DJs going home, it’s a comfortable experience. YG: Steve, too, I don’t think you get established as a corporate DJ when you’re trying to make your way and having trouble paying bills by DJing at clubs. I think you graduate to doing the corporate and celebrity stuff.

Would you groom a DJ? If you see a hot girl, or a good looking guy, who has all the basic stuff, is there a school for this? Would you take people in the future, as your business grows, and train them to be part of it? YG: I see our business growing by seeing the artists that we represent grow. I hope very much that their careers grow to the point where it’s difficult to take on new DJs and train and groom them. I want Berrie to be DJing all over the world, every day, like a Roger Sanchez or Tiesto. I hope that creates a situation where we don’t have the means or time to groom DJs.

I used to book DJs, and I remember a thousand dollars to Frankie Knuckles or David Morales was a lot of money back then. Now DJs get six figures? What are the highest prices your DJs get? Are they getting fifty thousand dollars for some gigs? YG: Yes.

Are they getting more than that for some gigs? YG: Occasionally.

You’re booking your DJs all over the world, how are you picking the spots? Is it more important to be in” the “ spot? Or is it just at the end, man this motherfucker is giving me a hundred grand. YG: I think we’ve always looked at our DJs careers as building a career and not a short-term situation where were trying to get the most money every night. Depending on the job, and this goes for New Years and every other night, I think we evaluate all of the factors, a leading one being money, but a secondary one being the relevance of the job or the impact that the job has on their career.

You named about nine DJs. How many will you end up with in a year? Will it be twenty? Are you comfortable with growing the DJs you have, or having more DJs? YG: We’re not a booking agency. How does your agent mantra go?

Right. It goes mosquitoes, leeches, fleas, cockroaches, rats, agents . Agents are generally frowned upon. They’re traditionally looked upon as some of the lowest forms of life. YG: We are not agents. We’re managers. In managing these artists, we book a tremendous percentage of their jobs. But ultimately, what I like about what I do and the way I identify myself, is by managing the artists and helping to build and grow their careers. One of the ways we do that is through the jobs we book. But whether it’s March 13th or December 31st, we’re always trying to find the jobs that make the most sense for our artists to grow their careers. And obviously money is a part of that, but it’s not the only part.

What about Hollywood. DJs for film and soundtracks. Are you there yet? I wouldn’t say any major motion pictures, but we’ve definitely been involved in supplying music for various things like fashion shows. I think the DJing part is the main source, but to go back on what Yoni said and to answer your question, in terms of growth I think we’ve always been a tight-knit company. Like a velvet rope of the elite. And I think what we’ve always wanted to do was always have the best of the best. It’s almost like private school and public school.

Defining the word “best” is really difficult. Best means to you a person who has a lot of qualities. DD: You’re right, I should say best for what we’re looking for. In some other peoples’ eyes who we have might not be, and that’s their opinion.

What you’re saying is you can have this great DJ, but he’s really not personable, hes not friendly, and he punches the clock and leaves. This guy would not be interesting to you. So the best means, this guy may be the best DJ, but he’s not well rounded enough to be part of your stable. Intern Alice Urmey interjects: When you’re selecting one of your DJs for an event, do you take into account his style? Or does he conform to the event he’s playing? Do your DJs vary enough in style where you would pick one artist for a certain event because of the type of event it is? YG: Fortunately we’re in a position where very often people are calling for a specific DJ because the DJs we represent are very recognizable. That said, when we’re approached open-endedly about a job, I think we do try and make it so that the job and the DJ fit. And I think part of that is our recommendation. But of course part of it is the way the DJ plays on that night. I don’t know that I would say we conform to what the event wants but I think we customize the sound to best fit the event.

Tell me about Ruckus. What’s the rumpus with Ruckus? YG: Ruckus is the most in demand celebrity DJ in America. A few years ago, Ruckus was living in Atlanta and would get good jobs here and there. His career has really exploded. He’s one of, if not the most gifted DJs I’ve ever heard. Incredible personable, incredibly good looking, manages his relationships unbelievably. He’s booked through May of 2011 now.

May of 2011? Every day? YG: There are very few open days.

Do you travel with your clients? DD: Depending on the jobs. YG: I’ll be in Chicago with Ruckus on Thursday and France with him next week.

Does he maintain an apartment? Or does he just live in hotels? YG: Yeah he lives in LA. DD: He lives in LA but he’s hardly ever there. YG: I mean he doesn’t keep a car there or anything. DD: For instance we’ve partnered him with Rev Run, and they have a really awesome show. We’re doing a bunch of festivals this summer in Europe with a bunch of really big house DJs. Everybody from Fatboy Slim, to Calvin Harris, Martin Van Buren, David Berrie is on that as well. So again, we’re branching out into doing a bunch of other stuff. I’m doing some dates in London and Croatia.

I remember Rev Run back in the day, Run DMC and all that, he’s new to you guys. He wasn’t with you last time we talked, was he? YG: I think we were maybe beginning the process.

What is the demand of Rev Run? What kind of crowd is drawn to Rev Run? He’s a really wonderful person, he’s really fun. YG: I think what makes Rev Run so attractive is he’s relevant to a wide audience. They’re sixteen year old white girls who love his show on MTV, and there are sixty year old black guys who think he’s the greatest rapper of all time. And there’s a lot of space in between those two. His music appeals to a tremendous amount of people, and his TV show and twitter has kept him in the spotlight for a younger audience as well.

Do you manage all of the social media for your clients? DD: I think from the beginning we’ve always done pretty much everything for the clients. We’ve been somewhat agent, manager, publicist, whatever it takes to really get the job done because at that time there wasn’t that style of DJ. It was either like the straight hip hop guy who his cousin managed him because that’s just what they did, or it was the big house guy who had the agency. So I think in creating that field, it was new. So we had to be there every step of the way for everything, and it’s just kind of carried on with how we create and handle our business. I guess with the new forms of social media and all these other things, that’s like being a publicist at this point. Magazines are few and far between. YG: I think this gets back to the difference between management and being an agent. Sunday night I was up rewriting Ruckus’ bio, I think I must’ve emailed it to you at 5 in the morning. Last night I was on the call with a magazine in Manila at 2 or 2:30 in the morning. We were on the phone yesterday with a guy who designs MySpace pages for 90 minutes. I don’t think agents do that. We have our hand in every aspect of the artist’s career, including the music that they make. To me that’s exciting to watch and help them build their entire career rather than just commissioning the job.

When was the eureka moment when you guys realized that this was a business? YG: I was in college, Damon must have figured it out. DD: I’m trying to think of that exact moment. I remember the exact point, we did this Armani exchange party on Broadway. And it was New York Magazine, Armani Exchange, and celebrities designed these jeans. I don’t know if it was fashion week or something, but you had everybody from Wyclef to you name it. And Mark was DJing and I was there all suited up and feeling great, and I was just meeting everybody. And in my mind I was like, man it’s at least ten clients in here that I do business with already, either just on the phone or whatever, and I think at that moment was just clarity and saying man we really have something special that were offering these people. Because nobody else was really really doing it. I think at that point I had to look at it as it’s a business. Because if not, and I think a lot of times people think oh it’s just DJs, and I remember people used to say to me, you think you’re just going to manage DJs and that’s going to make money? And I’m like well I’m in it, so I see it and I feel it. And I see one, how corporately people react to the DJs because what we’re giving, but also when they were in clubs. Or even when they were out you would see how the club kids or how whoever would react to what that is. And it was almost like man, we have something special.

You keep mentioning Mark Ronson. YG: Mark was Damon’s first client. DD: Now Mark’s producing and doing whatever. To give a quick back history, I started dGi like ten years ago. Mark was my first client. Then we brought on Samantha, then we brought on Beverly Bond, and DJ Cassidy. And that was the original four people that we had. And then I think from there we just grew the business. So hence a lot of the references to Mark was because that was the beginning. When Mark was doing four or five jobs a night, there were no other DJs. I think even that point too made me realize it was a business, because there was a demand for something and you didn’t have enough to supply it. So I had to be the supplier for the people.

Mark helped immensely with my career. He was my regular DJ at Life. AG: How much were you paying him?

I think 500 bucks. Maybe 1000 AG: Were you commissioning the club stuff? DD: It think I was just coming in then. I think I was very young then. I was working for this other company.

Well Mark could’ve gotten a lot more money someplace else, but that’s really at the time what we could pay for that job. I think everyone else was getting 300 by the way. AG: Did you do Spa? I think he saying Paul was getting 800 dollars or something and Mark was getting 1250 or something. And Paul said none of the DJs could believe that Mark was getting 1250. Obviously Paul went on to DJ for a lot of money.

Yes at Spa Paul was promoting as well. And Mark was a promotion in himself. The thing about Mark was not that he drew more than anyone else, which he did to some extent, but he drew more girls than anybody. The girls came, and they would be standing around the DJ booth and it was just this phenomenon. When you booked Mark Ronson you just had women all over the place. He was hot. Everybody knew he was the next big thing. DD: And he was a really excellent DJ, especially in terms of that format. Because nobody else at that time was giving you hip hop, rock, a little bit of salsa.

Mark Ronson Dyes His Hair Platinum Blonde

Yesterday, Mark Ronson bleached his hair. The Grammy-Award winning musician and producer was in the midst of being shot for our September issue when Martial Vivot, BlackBook’s go-to stylist and proprietor of the sophisticated but unstuffy Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes salon, suggested Ronson go bleach-blonde at some point. Ronson was keen on the idea, and said he’d make an appointment to get it done when he returned from an upcoming trip. When Vivot mentioned he could color him right then and there, Mark excitedly consented. Video of Mark Ronson’s transformation after the jump.

Video by Kirk Larsen

Mark’s decision to completely change his look on a whim inspired BlackBook’s fashion director, Christopher Campbell. “When you’re working with celebrities,” Campbell says, “you’re always looking for ways to change their appearance while still maintaining their spirit. Mark’s move to bleach his hair, creates a new look for him while still reflecting his iconic style.”

Industry Night at Highbar

Industry Night at Highbar has gotten my attention. Tonight, they’ll screen the Rolling Stones movie In The Park, which shows the return of the Stones to concert making after a couple-year hiatus. The concert took place under a cloud of grief, just a few days after the death of ex-Stones guitarist and founder Brian Jones. Jones left the band just a short while before filming began under confusing circumstances. Some say he quit; while others say Mick Jagger and Keith Richards pushed him out because he’d become a drug-addled waste of space left in the dust, musically. He was perceived as a liability. He was found drowned in his own swimming pool. Was it a suicide or accident?

There was another movie that explored this. That movie, Stoned, paints an awful picture of the events preceding Jones’ demise. A reported 1993 deathbed confession by an assistant, Frank Thorogood, says it was murder. A gig held in London’s Hyde Park in July 1969 quickly became a memorial for the fallen rocker. Mick Taylor was debuted as the new lead guitarist. A quarter million people reportedly saw this concert, which also featured King Crimson and a slew of others. Accounts tell of an uncharacteristically disorganized Stones concert with few highlights. A little over a month later, Woodstock would happen and a half a million would show and everyone would play… except for the Stones. In response, they put together a gig that December at the Altamont Racetrack in California which was supposed to be a sort of West Coast Woodstock. It didn’t turn out real well. That concert, with its murder and chaos, was featured in another flick, Gimme Shelter, by the Maysles brothers, who also gave us Grey Gardens. The year 1969 is ancient history for most, even for me. It’ll be interesting to see this moment in time when the world’s greatest rock band was redefining itself into the act we’re familiar with. Mick Jagger was born on this date, July 26th 1943. He’s celebrating his 67th birthday. Happy birthday, Mick!

Tonight off-work club employees are to bring their employee ID or pay stubs for drink discounts at Highbar. Tommy James will DJ. Next week the movie will be Snatch, the week after Clockwork Orange followed by The Wizard of Oz. You get the idea. If they serve popcorn, I’ll be there every week. Doors open at 5pm and the movie starts at 9. I ate at Aspen Social Club (ASC), and proprietor Greg Brier joined me the other night. Yes, for those who ask me to disclose, my firm designed it. I found it to be delightful; the food and service better than ever. Greg recently sold Amalia/D’or and closed the original Aspen on 22nd street. Highbar and Aspen Social are doing very well, and that makes me happy as he’s one of the industry’s good guys. His bringing downtown sensibility to midtown twirl has found a niche at Highbar and ASC.

Speaking of good guys, I spent Sunday brunch with bon-vivant-turned-restaurateur Patrick Duffy, who continues to amaze me at B.E.S. If you haven’t been, you should, as the scene is fabulous, the food to die for, and the design breathtaking. And no, I didn’t do it. The brunch attracts all the unusual suspects, the movers the shakers, the creatives and some moneymakers. The salmon eggs benedict is transcendent. I also like Tuesday nights there. All the swells come for dinner pre-Patrick’s weekly party at The Box.

Terry Casey — ex-Le Royale — is throwing Tuesday night events at Harem on Laguardia Place. With Terry it’s all about the music, and he likes to mix it up. I asked him to describe Harem. “Harem really feels like a loft space and has a nice relaxed vibe, unlike most spaces I found. It’s Loft Space Meets Hooka Lounge. Me and Alexander are rez DJs and hosts are Rachel Landry (bday Girl), Kelle Calaco, Victor Medina-San Andrés, Jake L, Mike De Guzman and Avery Noyes.” Tomorrow he’ll have the least known of the Ronson/Jones clan, Alexander Dexter Jones, DJ’ing. He’s the brother of Mark Ronson, Samantha and Charlotte Ronson. I’ve never met a Ronson or Jones I didn’t like, and I always appreciate their talent. He’ll be joined by Roxy Cottontail and there’s a live performance by Fire and Reason. It figures to be a good time for those looking for something off the familiar bottle/model path. Harem is at 510 Laguardia Place, just off Bleecker.

Registration Now Open for The Creators Project

Ever since the short-lived dream of All Points West died, New Yorkers have been waiting for someone or something to stand up and deliver a summer music lineup worthy of their esteemed tastes. Leave that to Vice, who, in partnership with Intel, launched the Creators Project. To celebrate the launch, they’ve put together an all killer, no filler lineup for an event at Milk Studios. The building takeover goes down on June 26, with sets by Interpol, Mark Ronson, Gang Gang Dance, The Raptrue, Sleigh Bells, Die Antwoord, Neon Indian, Salem, and very special guests. That’s not to mention DJ sets by XXXChange, Golden Filter, and others, with short films by Spike Jonze, Animal Collective, and more. Oh, and it’s all free with registration, which, guess what, is now open.

‘Vice’ & Intel Launch the Creators Project

Last night at Milk Studios saw the debut announcement of the Creators Project, a massive worldwide digital arts event put on by Vice and Intel. It’s easily the most ambitious thing Vice has ever attempted in terms of event packages, and that’s saying something. Curated by Mark Ronson among others, the stellar cast of participating talent covers artists and creative nerds coming together for events in New York, London, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Beijing. The launch event–in New York, also at Milk, on June 26–promises a total takeover of the building for a variety of panels, installations, and of course parties in the inimitable Vice style. Quite likely to be among the summer’s top events in this town.

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Vice’s Shane Smith works the room. Photo: Bryan Derballa.

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Spike Jonez and Mark Ronson talk about baseball and tae bo. Not really! Just tae bo. Photo: Bryan Derballa.

Lady Gaga Counsels Mark Ronson On How to Be A Pop Star

For Lady Gaga, actual singing has always been a very small part of the pop star persona, not that she doesn’t have pipes. Which is why the thought of Gaga dispensing sage singing advice to former-friend-of-Winehouse Mark Ronson–someone whose body of work is most noted for producing other singers–makes all the sense in the world. So what was her advice? Encourage intersex rumors? Wear wild hats? Nope, it’s simpler than that.

Ronson told the BBC, “We were working in the studio and I started singing and she said, ‘Take some lessons’.” Burn. But leave it to Ronson to know his limits: “I started going last July and then I just went every week.” Ronson and Gaga have been friends for a while, with the former acting as the latter’s tour guide back in 2009 when Gaga visited London. Meanwhile, he still contends that Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, which included the following hit that incidentally foretold her demise…

is his pièce de résistance. “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” Which could be what also caught Rihanna‘s ear. The pop princess is now eyeing a collaboration with Ronson too.

Where Celebs Go Out: Wes Anderson, Emmy Rossum, Charlotte Ronson, & More

At Lucky magazine’s Lucky Shops:

● KATRINA BOWDEN – “I love Café Mogador in the East Village. It’s Moroccan, and they have these great fish and chicken kebabs and really cool dishes and olives and bread. It’s really good. And they have this fish soup that’s amazing, on special sometimes.”

● ANA ORTIZ – “I’m a very local person right now because I don’t have a lot of time away. So there’s this really groovy little place across the street from me called the Speak Low bar and it’s in Dumbo in Brooklyn, and it’s just underneath Rice. It’s a really funky, hip little bar. And they have the most delicious cocktails. As soon as I was able to drink after giving birth, I went down there. They have the best martini I ever had!”

At The Fantastic Mr. Fox press day:

● WES ANDERSON – “There’s a place in Los Angeles called Nishimura that’s a sushi place. That’s a great place. I would recommend that one.”

At launch party for Yoga Wii by Dreamcatcher Interactive Inc.:

● ANJA RUBIK – “Right now — it changes, of course — right now, I’m addicted to Matsuri. It’s a Japanese restaurant in the Maritime Hotel. I just love the food there. It’s incredible and the atmosphere they create there is so beautiful. I love it there. I love the Cipriani’s uptown. I love it. The food is so great. And it also has an incredible atmosphere. Da Silvano is great. Bar Pitti is amazing. It has Italian food, which is fantastic. I love Gobo. It’s all this organic food, vegetarian. It’s on Sixth Avenue near Eighth Street or Seventh Street.”

At Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars:

● SIMON DOONAN – “I love Il Cantinori. It’s around the corner from my house. The risotto primavera is killer!”

● EMMY ROSSUM – “I really like David Burke Townhouse. I love that lollypop tree that comes out at the end. There’s like a cheesecake lollypop tree. It looks like a lollypop, but it’s a ball of cheesecake on the end of stick and it’s in this holder that makes it look like a tree. I really like eating sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, at like 4am.”

● TOMMY HILFIGER – “Rebecca’s in Greenwich, Connecticut. Incredibly delicious. It’s simple, but it’s really, really high-quality food and always well done — consistent. It’s prepared very well.”

● MARK RONSON – “My favorite restaurant in New York is, probably, Gino’s uptown on 60th and Lex. The angel hair with the secret sauce. They call it that. ‘Cause when you’re a kid, and anyone tells you something’s secret, of course, you like think it’s amazing. In the whole word, I don’t know. I wish — I’m really good at answering these questions, but not on the spot.”

● DITA VON TEESE – “I love going to London to eat. I love China Tang at the Dorchester because I love the Art Deco Chinese interior. I love the Wolseley in London. And I’m not familiar with New York restaurants. It seems like they’re ever changing, so …”

At Purgatorio pop-up club:

● JOSH LUCAS – “Oh, the old school — Raoul’s is one of my all-time favorites. And there’s a place right down in my neighborhood, called Broadway East, which is a really interesting new kind of organic, sexy restaurant I like a lot. Also, down by my place, Les Enfants Terribles, you know that place? A good, little fun one. Those are my three that come to mind immediately.”

● SIMON HAMMERSTEIN – “That’s a hard question. I kind of like the 18th floor of the Standard — the bar on the 18th floor. I think he’s done a really good job with that.”

● CHRISTIAN SIRIANO – “In New York, I love the Cooper Square Hotel. We have dinner there a lot, hang out there — really, really fun. But, like hang out, hang out spots — where do we go? Oh, Bagatelle, very fabulous. I’m pretty low key, so I feel like — my couch, that’s where we go to hang out and have a party.”

At Motorola’s party for Droid phone with Verizon service:

● PATRICK HEUSINGER – “I just went to Delicatessen for the first time. I really enjoyed that. We watch Sunday and Monday football at Brother Jimmy’s on the Upper West Side. Yeah, it’s great. We’ve been going there since I was in college because I went to college here in New York, too. And then, I go to the bar, Niagara, on the Lower East Side a lot. That’s one of my haunts. I probably go there once a week. One of my best friends works there, so — it’s on 7th and Avenue A.

● JUDAH FRIEDLANDER – “I don’t drink or anything. I’m a role model for children. But I do eat. The place I really crave is called Sarajevo. It’s in Astoria — Bosnian owners. It’s basically Yugoslavian food. Awesome. That’s the place I crave more than any place. Cevapcici is the main thing. It’s kind of like ground beef and lamb on skewers, and you serve it in this fresh, homemade bread. And there’s this spread called Kajmak. It’s kind of like a sour-cream spread, except a million times better. And then you put ajvar on it, also, which is a like a tomato, red pepper, eggplant spread. And then you put raw onions on it, and you’re in heaven, baby! And you got power! And you’re ready to kick ass! It’s good stuff. The other thing they have is stuffed cabbage with tomato sauce, which they call sarma. It’s in Astoria. It’s on 34th Avenue and 38th Street. It’s so good. That’s my favorite food. I like all the ethnic, little take-out type places. Those are my favorite places.”

At launch of fashion game Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS and DSi:

● CHARLOTTE RONSON – “I love Bar Pitti on 6th Avenue. It’s nice and easy. You can sit outside when the weather is nice. You always run into someone you know. For movies, the Anjelika is nice. It’s clean. I’m drawn to movies that play there. In London, I love Holland Park, Kensington High Street — great area with lots of good shops and walking distance from my parents’ home. La Famiglia is a great restaurant.”

At launch party for Scupltz shapewear and legwear:

● ROBERT VERDI –Le Singe Vert on 7th Avenue. It means the Green Monkey. I was born in ’68, the year of the monkey. I love it. Novita, on 22nd Street, off of Park Avenue. It feels very insider; the food is fabulous. There’s a scene, but it’s not sceney. Da Silvano, because I feel like a big schmaltz when I go there ’cause I’m treated better than I really am. He’s really sweet. I’m very good friends with his wife, Marisa, who treats me like family. Since I grew up in a restaurant family, it’s a feeling I like to have when I go out to eat.