Exclusive Q&A: Mark Ronson

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Rolling Stone recently toured producer Mark Ronson's SoHo studio, which just looks like a neatly organized New York office until you find your way into a back room stocked with recording equipment, old records and a huge recording booth. The purpose of this visit to Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen's producer's abode: To get the "LDN" on his latest remix -- the controversial one that's been both highly praised and sharply criticized (and he's only released thirty seconds of it online so far): Bob Dylan's "Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)."

How did this Bob Dylan remix project come about?
[Someone from our record company] told me he was gonna put out Dylan's greatest hits [with a] remix of a tune from the Sixties for the bonus. I've just been OD-ing on Dylan for the past two years after I saw Don't Look Back and No Direction Home. There are only two people that if I listen to them for too long at a time I start crying and become an emotional wreck. And that's Dylan and Stevie Wonder. So I started obsessively listening to everything. I definitely didn't want to do "Like a Rolling Stone" or "It's All Right, Ma," because it's just too much to take on a song that's that much in the sort of cultural conscious. And I just thought it would be great to do "You Go Your Way." The song already has an amazing groove to it, like the drums and all that stuff that's going on. It's almost like this New Orleans Second Line-type drumming.

What was your recording process like?
They gave us the original four-track recording of the song. But because it was from the early Sixties, it was that style of recording where everyone's playing in the room at the same time. There wasn't just an a cappella of Dylan. There was bleed from the drums coming in, and guitars. The only thing I could really do was make everyone [in my studio] play much louder over the song so it would drown out all the stuff. And I had to make it quite busy, a lot of percussion to cover up all the other stuff going on in the back of the track. I thought I would keep the vocal and do a really kind of soulful Southern Memphis-style funk arrangement over it and see what happens.

Has Dylan heard it?
Yeah, he heard it. I think they had a couple people trying [to do remixes]. So I was sort of auditioning for it almost. Dylan has never allowed anyone to do a remix of one his songs before, and on top of it, he has the most amazing taste. So you know he's not just gonna approve some bullshit remix where someone slapped a drum beat over one of his songs. He finally heard it about two weeks ago and approved it and then we mixed it. The two approvals I've lost sleep over were Morrissey's for my "Stop Me" cover and definitely the Dylan approval for this remix.

Have you had like a phone conversation with him? Have you been working with Dylan directly?
No, I still never got to talk to him. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to meet him. I saw him in concert in Wembley two months ago. It's too much to meet somebody like that sometimes. I met Stevie Wonder once. It's really hard when you're meeting those people who are just such giant culture personalities and such huge influences and intimidating talents. You just get verbal diarrhea and make a fool out of yourself.

How did you approach the remix? Obviously you have a sound, but did you want to impose your aesthetic on the Dylan track or did you envision something more?
I'm a big fan of the Band and I think the Band are one of the most rhythmic bands ever, like there was so much groove on Levon Helm's drums and Robbie Robertson's guitars and I just kind of imagined what that song would have been like maybe if he had recorded it in the studio with the Band in '71 as opposed to doing it in Nashville in '65, or whenever he did it. I didn¹t want to make it like, "Oh check it out, Bob Dylan goes hip-hop," that would have been really cliche.

Did you feel at all hesitant to take on the project? What do you say to someone who thinks you ruined a Dylan classic?
I'm under no illusions that it's better than the original. It's just another approach to that song. There's always gonna be people who cry sacrilege. There are people who tried to cut the power cable when he played in the Newport Jazz Festival in '65, when he went electric for the first time. There's always gonna be people who attach to the original. I like to think that I did something interesting and cool with the track.

Have you thought about doing this live with Dylan?
Yeah, I mean, it's come up. That's just a pipe dream at this point. That would be cool as fuck.