DJ Mark Ronson taps Paul McCartney, Beastie Boys for new documentary

Grammy, Oscar and Golden Globe-winning American music producer Mark Ronson. PHOTO: APPLE

SINGAPORE - For his new documentary that dives deep into music technology, star producer, DJ and songwriter Mark Ronson interviewed a motley bunch of musicians, from living legends to niche but rising names.

Beatles icon Paul McCartney, for example, appears in the same episode as indie singer King Princess. Both discuss the use of Auto-Tune, a widely used but controversial software that automatically corrects singers whenever they go out of tune.

Watch The Sound With Mark Ronson, a six-part series created by Oscar- and Grammy-winning producer Morgan Neville, will premiere on Apple TV+ on July 30.

The idea was to create a series that would be informative for anyone who loves music, Ronson, 45, says in a recent online press conference.

"It's about how sound and technology are really responsible for so much of the music that we love," he says.

Ronson would have no problem assembling both famous and cutting-edge musicians for the series. He is, after all, a Grammy-, Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning studio wizard with both critical and commercial appeal. His string of hits include Uptown Funk, his 2014 track with singer Bruno Mars that topped the charts worldwide.

"Once we came up with a list of episodes, we were like, okay, who are the people that have done the things that are most exciting to us," says the seven-time Grammy winner.

For the episode on distortion, the sound effect that adds dissonance and noise, Ronson spoke to musicians from wildly different genres such as rapper Denzel Curry and guitarist Thurston Moore from the now-defunct art-rock pioneers Sonic Youth.

"When I first heard Sonic Youth's music when I was a kid, it was, like, almost scary because it was so noisy and aggressive. But it's so influential and important," he says.

Ronson adds that Curry was included in the same episode as Moore because he belongs to a new class of rappers using distortion, a tool traditionally associated with rock musicians.

"They discovered distortion because they had no idea what they were doing, it was a mistake and then everybody loved it because it sounded so raw, so they stayed with it.

"So I think it's just about finding the people that really change music and these tools are such a big part of why they do what they do," says Ronson, who picked up a Best Original Song Oscar for co-writing Shallow, the lead single from the soundtrack of 2018 musical drama A Star Is Born.

Ex-Beatle singer Paul McCartney. PHOTO: MARY MCCARTNEY

The series also features old clips of him working with late British singer Amy Winehouse. The pair collaborated extensively, especially on Winehouse's seminal and multi-award-winning 2006 album, Back To Black. "We had a very personal connection. She's obviously one of the most talented people I've ever worked with. Her voice, the songs, the emotion that she put into it, she's great."

Winehouse died at the age of 27 of alcohol poisoning in 2011.

Ronson ends each part of the series with a new piece of original music that he created using the technology discussed in the episode.

The series also features candid conversations with many luminaries from the hip-hop world, from Beastie Boys to Questlove - unsurprising, given that Ronson spent the nascent years of his career immersing himself in the New York hip-hop scene.

Mike Diamond, Spike Jonze and Adam Yauch from Beastie Boys. PHOTO: APPLE

Born in London but raised in New York, he grew up surrounded by music. In one episode, he spoke about how his stepfather, guitarist Mick Jones from popular rock band Foreigner, made a big impact on him.

"He's such a huge influence on me," he says of growing up with Jones. "I still go to his house and, when I'm working on a new piece of music, I'll play it for him. I love him and he is such a big influence."

Ronson also tapped his early days as a budding music journalist while doing the documentary.

"As a kid, I wasn't really, like, an amazing guitar or piano player. I just knew that I loved music and I wanted to be around it all the time.

"So, when I was 12 and 13, I interned at Rolling Stone magazine and then I wrote printed fanzines and I studied journalism in school. So I think I've always had that part of my brain that is just as happy to talk about music, or talk with people that I think are fascinating, as being someone who makes it."

Watch The Sound With Mark Ronson will premiere on Apple TV+ on July 30.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.