Yes, sure, Mark Ronson is one of the most successful and sought-after producers in pop music today, but there was a time when he was also one of the pioneering DJs of an exploding Las Vegas nightclub scene. “In the mid-2000s before the EDM explosion happened, I had a residency at Pure Nightclub,” Ronson says of the legendary Caesars Palace spot where Omnia now resides. “It was myself and Stretch Armstrong and DJ AM, and we had just started to bring in other DJs from New York and LA. I was good friends with AM, and he definitely broke the door down with open format.”
While EDM was taking over the clubs, Ronson, who released his own debut album in 2003, was busy creating his own label, working with Amy Winehouse and Robbie Williams and racking up awards and nominations. Ironically, now that he has won a Grammy, an Oscar and a Golden Globe in recent months for his work with Lady Gaga on “Shallow,” he’s got a pair of new Vegas club residencies at Park MGM.
How did your gig at On the Record come together? I love [DJing], but the EDM thing is not really my sound or what I do, so I never really spent that much time in the clubs there lately. But one DJ I used to play with in New York and back in the day, Mighty Mi, told me about the counter-programming they were doing at On the Record, how it was soulful and a smaller venue and you don’t have to play as many big-room records, and I just trusted them. It sounded like a good time. I was wrapping up my album and going around with Diplo doing some Silk City gigs, and that really got me back into having fun DJing again, too, and playing house music again.
And you have that Lady Gaga Enigma crossover thing happening at Park MGM. Yeah, it’s nice that there are some Gaga fans who know me. Her fans are so loyal and sweet; if you did something good with her, they are your fans, too. It feels like the right fit.
She’s another artist with whom you’ve worked who fits into the superstar category. Is your process of collaboration the same no matter who you’re working with? I think musically and sonically I’m always completely malleable for each artist, but one thing that stays the same is the mindset going into each project. How do I take what’s special about this person and amplify those traits by a thousand? When you’re working with people like Gaga and Bruno [Mars], those talents speak for themselves, but it’s always about how can I make the best possible record with this person, and sometimes being a therapist or cheerleader or dad or whatever it takes to get that great performance and get them and their fans excited.
When is your new album, Late Night Feelings, coming out? I believe it’s early June. The next single is coming out [this] month. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever made, and I’m super excited about it. I hope it doesn’t sell seven copies, but even if it does I won’t care, because I know how good it is. It’s definitely the record I’ve worked the hardest on.
Is it really all sad bangers? I think I just didn’t have any choice. Those are the only kinds of songs coming out that had any meaning. Every now and then I’d try to write something groovy and fun, and then I’d listen to it the next day and have no connection to it. On my records, up until now, it’s always been, “I’m a DJ and this should be fun, so let’s come up with a cool beat and someone write a riff.” This is the first time it’s not like that. It’s more about, “Let’s start with something that has emotional resonance, then figure out what the right beat is for it.”
You’ve talked about a tour with a giant broken-heart disco ball, a sad bangers dance party. Maybe you could do the first heartbreaking pool party in Vegas? I would worry that the Goths won’t like all that sun.
MARK RONSON At On the Record: April 12, 10:30 p.m., $30-$40. At JEMAA the NoMad Pool Party: April 13, 11 a.m., $20-$30. Park MGM, 702-730-6773.