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Mark Ronson and I were seated across from each other in his control room, which was a few degrees warmer than the rest of his lofty Soho studio space, casually adorned with framed platinum records. “The equipment heats up the room,” he said, gesturing languidly towards the keyboards and monitors cosily stuffed into the space. The place was softly pulsing with a lightly mystical kind of energy, exuding an old school feel where things are still done by hand.
According to Ronson – Grammy-winning producer, DJ and Audemars Piguet’s newest brand ambassador – a recording studio is not entirely unlike a watch factory. “You go to places like the AP headquarters in Le Brassus and see the work that goes into preserving this beautiful art form so it doesn’t disappear someday,” he explains. “Much like the guy who fixes my old tape machine from the ‘70s.” The concept of passed-down expertise is crucial to Ronson, who has built his career – 7 Grammys and counting, plus one Oscar – learning from and paying homage to the musicians that preceded him. That attitude is what makes him exactly the sort of artist Audemars Piguet, a company built on 154 years of craftsmanship, wants to work with. That, and the fact that he’s been rocking a vintage gold 1980s Royal Oak for the past decade.
“I was at this bar in Paris, and there was this Serge Gainsbourg-looking guy wearing a similar watch,” he recalled. He approached the guy, and used what he calls his “butchered” French to enquire about the piece. He tracked one down soon after that initial encounter. Ronson, of course, was one of those cool guys then, and is now. Some things do change, though: when we spoke, he’d swapped his goldie for AP’s new Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin, released this spring. (He enthusiastically took it off for me to try on, and I will say it’s light as a feather.) Commenting on this partnership, Ronson is careful to give credit where it’s due: “Jay-Z was obviously a little ahead of me, having collaborated with AP all the way back in 2005.” The Hova mention got him musing on the very start of his DJ career: “It’s crazy, but next year will be 30 years since I started DJing in 1993. I was 17 years old,” he marvelled. “I’ve actually been thinking about that time quite a bit, lately.”
Ronson came up idolising Studio 54 and the Roxy, clubs that dominated the scene in the ‘70s and the ‘80s. He remembers always feeling like the crowd he ran in was just a runner-up to all that, a sentiment every recent generation can relate to. “Today, kids are coming up to me being like, you grew up in the ‘90s?!” Biggie and Wu-Tang and Jay-Z to them are what Motown and Woodstock were to Ronson and his friends. He speaks of that era with reverence, saying that no matter who he’s working with in the studio, the music from his early club days spinning hip hop records always informs the process.