It’s not easy to throw Mark Ronson for a loop. Having produced such varied acts as Amy Winehouse, Duran Duran and Nas, he was eager to get involved in a fish-out-of-water musical experience like “Re:Generation,” the new film which pairs producers with unlikely musicians.
“I came from being a hip-hop DJ in New York, starting off in the ’90s and that’s what you did, you brought genres together,” says Ronson. “That has always appealed to me.”
For his part, Ronson brings one of his favorite backing bands, the Dap-Kings, to New Orleans to create a jazz song with Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste.
“We were all pretty much just going into it with Zigaboo as a complete hero of all of ours,” says Ronson. “The way he plays drums and his drum breaks from the early Meters stuff are pretty much the DNA of hip-hop and funk, and we were all excited beyond belief to play with him. And he still plays and sounds like he did on those records that we grew up listening to!”
Elsewhere in the film, DJ Premier visits Boston to work with the Berklee Symphony Orchestra, Skrillex works with the surviving members of The Doors in Los Angeles, The Crystal Method go to Detroit to work with Martha Reeves of the Vandellas and the Funk Brothers, while Pretty Lights struggles to create something country with LeAnn Rimes and Dr. Ralph Stanley.
“I saw it in the trailer that there’s a little tension and some serious culture and generational gaps going on, and I’m a little bit concerned that our thing is going to seem a bit boring,” says Ronson, whose composition really does seem to come together quite organically. He says a key to the kinship was hanging out.
“We all just learned a lot and had a great time down in New Orleans,” he says. “We went to this kind of alternative scene bar where like 80 percent of the dudes had full face tattoos and they were playing this music called bounce, and we just absorbed all of New Orleans, not just its traditional culture.”
DJ Premier may have had the assignment that was least similar to what he regularly does. The hip-hop producer, known for his work with rappers like Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, had to create a piece of classical music. “I really enjoyed having the chance to learn something new,” says Premier. Granted access to classical greats, Pree- mo sampled various compo-sers to piece his ideas together. Then he collaborated with Berklee professor Stephen Webber, who transcribed the samples into written music. “Working with everyone on this was just dope,” says Premier.