Samantha Ronson knows how to be the life of the party. The songwriter and DJ from California continues to spin records with appearances all over the world.
She has a very talented family, to boot. Her brotherGrammy-nominated Mark Ronsonis a star in his own right, and has made several albums of its own and produced artists like Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. Her twin sister, Charlotte Ronson, is a fashion designer. The Ronsons' mother married Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, creating a musical household.
She released the album Chasing the Reds on her own label Broken Toy Records with such guests as rapper Wale and rocker Slash. She appeared in the videos for artists like Usher and N.E.R.D. as well as her own brother's video for "Ooh Wee."
Windy City Times stayed up late to talk to the music innovator one night at The Underground for a recent disc jockey gig.
Windy City Times: Hi, Samantha. You are located in Venice, Calif., these days?
Samantha Ronson: Yeah; I live out on the West Side.
How do you like it?
Samantha Ronson: I love it. It is Santa Monica but it is right on the border so I call it Venice because it feels cooler. I walk everywhere so it is convenient.
How did you get involved in the DJ scene in the first place?
Samantha Ronson: It was 15 years ago. I always loved music and one night the DJ didn't show up at the place I used to hang out at. I was asked to go on last minute. One thing led to another!
Did you start out with records?
Samantha Ronson: I did all vinyl for seven years but I still use vinyl with the Serato equipment.
Who are you listening to these days? You like the new Lily Allen song?
Samantha Ronson: [Sings] "It's hard out here for a bitch!" I love her. My brother worked with her years ago so I met her back then. She is so clever. When she speaks her sarcasm, wit, and melodies are fantastic.
It sounds like a different road for her to go down with this one.
Samantha Ronson: I listen to lyrics first when I listen to songs. She is saying that women are selling themselves too short. It's a good message!
Samantha Ronson: The Arctic Monkeys record is bonkers!
You have spun at so many private parties for celebrities. How was Ellen DeGeneres?
Samantha Ronson: She is so awesome. I've been doing parties for her over the years. She loves music so much that it makes her one of my favorite people to spin for. She loves to dance and have fun. I definitely sweat when I DJ for her.
How is your brother?
Samantha Ronson: He's great. He was actually just staying with me for a few weeks and working on his new record. I stayed with him in London this past week. He's fucking amazing, just lovely and inspiring.
He's humble but I hate using the word humble because there is no reason anyone shouldn't be. Working with different people in music I wonder about their egos sometimes. We are not curing cancer, there should be no ego!
My brother is really good at personifying what music is really about.
Your sister is in fashion.
Samantha Ronson: Forever yeah.
What a talented family.
Samantha Ronson: Well, we work really hard. [Laughs] That is what we do. We ain't getting no sleep!
What are you working on right now?
Samantha Ronson: I just did a remix for Natalia Kills.
She's a doll. We just met up at the club.
Samantha Ronson: You did? She just came up to me at a party in London. I had never met her but I did a remix for "Saturday Night" on her new record. I told her I loved her record and she said that she had been playing my remix at the last few shows she had been playing at as opposed to the original. I felt so validated and it felt great.
I think I heard that remix when she played at Spin Nightclub recently.
Samantha Ronson: Awesome!
What else are you doing right now?
Samantha Ronson: My main focus is writing songs for other people. I worked with Madison Beer. She is a young girl that Justin Bieber signed. She is amazing, sweet, and lovely. She has a beautiful voice. She's mature for her age but still acts like a 14 year old.
When are you coming out to the gay bars to perform?
Samantha Ronson: When I am not under contract at these venues. When I come to town it is always to work for somebody else. That's where I have to go for the night.
What's in the future for you?
Samantha Ronson: I just worked with the Trevor Project and Adam Shankman last year. He directed Hairspray, Rock of Ages and is a choreographer. He's an amazing human being. He got me involved. It is basically setting up hotlines for kids that are suicidal. It is not always in the major cities but the suburbs where they really need our help. That is my favorite project I am working on.
That's a great project.
Samantha Ronson: I just did an event the other night in New York about bullying. There were athletes there speaking out. I just think bullying is so foul on any level. Coming from a family with a lot of kids we bullied the shit out of each other.
In some ways I think kids should get bullied on some level because society can't have everyone saying how great they all are but when it is based on who you are and things you can't change I think it is really important to speak out about it.
What do you think of artists who use derogatory words in their lyrics?
Samantha Ronson: Here is my issue with Eminem: He is trying to justify the use of the F-word. He says that when he grew up battling this and that they used it. I am sure there are 90-year-olds thinking it was okay to speak about Jewish people using derogatory terms. People do it with Asians. We live in a different time now so I don't think it can be justified. It is crazy. Just because Eminem says it does not make it right. It makes people feel bad. You want to call someone the F-word because they are lame? Then go fuck yourself, man! People need to learn better.
It is a tough word for me because it was used a lot in my generation.
Samantha Ronson: I get called "you fucking ugly dyke" and the ugly part bothers me the most. That is like calling me "fucking ugly Samantha." I hope they feel better for throwing that out there. It is like someone calling me a "kike" because I am Jewish. I think we are in an age where people should be held accountable for the things they say.
Do people bully you on Twitter?
Samantha Ronson: I get some of that but I usually just correct their grammar, like "Your an ugly dyke" and there is no apostrophe R E. They need to learn how to spell...
You could write a song about that.
Samantha Ronson: When I am making music I like to get a message across. I wish it wasn't coming from a place where I'm a minority. It has more of an impact when it is a straight person telling people that it is not alright to treat others that way. Sometimes I wish I had the voice without being pigeonholed into saying something because I am a lesbian and it is politically correct. When can I eat Chick-fil-A?
We have to keep taking a stand about it until they change their policies.
Samantha Ronson: I was struggling with my identity when I was young there wasn't anyone to look up to that wasn't butchy or rainbow flag flying. It is a different time now and I think it is important for people to take that stand and tell people that it is okay to be whomever the hell you are!
To book Samantha Ronson, go to skamartist.com and follow her on Twitter @samantharonson. Visit www.theundergroundchicago.com for more artist appearances.