Tim Mosenfelder, Getty Images It just wouldn't have been a complete hippie…
- Posted on Apr 20th 2011 3:00PM by Jenny Charlesworth
"A couple of my friends invited me over to his house when they were house-sitting before I even met Mark," singer-guitarist Cole Alexander tells Spinner.
"We were going through his Grammys and so my friend poured some champagne into the Grammy cup and we started drinking out of it. It was like the fountain of youth but the fountain of Grammy -- like, I knew when I tasted out of there, I was going get me one of these, like, 'We gotta work with this guy.'"
Most people would get up in arms about some rowdy musician using their golden gramophone as a champagne flute but Ronson -- who's produced acts such Duran Duran, Adele and Amy Winehouse -- isn't exactly most people. He's the guy who welcomes a human skull into the recording studio and suggests his clients forgo conventional instruments in favour of pounding on slabs of raw meat.
"It was actually innovated by a guy named Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers, but it was Mark's idea to incorporate ribs," says Alexander. "If Mark needs a f---ing dead Mexican hooker by 4PM to have as a drum piece then Mark gets it -- any equipment he needs, he gets."
But Ronson wasn't the only one making demands. Black Lips put in their own peculiar requests while making their sixth studio album, the most highly publicized one, of course, being the presence of Ronald Cornhands -- well, his dried up skull, at least.
"There's speculation that it's this dude named Ronald Cornhands," says Alexander of his new sidekick. "In New York City, there's a place on the Lower East Side and they handle obscura antiques. That's where I got it. They have their own reality TV show. Have you ever seen 'Pawn Stars'? It's like that, but with f---ed s--- like skulls and baby coffins."
If Ronald sounds like another wild stunt from a band who've seemingly made it their mission to offend people with their envelope-pushing antics, you might be right. Still, you may not be giving Black Lips enough credit.
While the skull -- lovingly dubbed the fifth member of the band -- makes a cameo in the video for new single 'Modern Art' and is pictured on the album cover, it was also used as a creepy echo chamber during the actual recording of the disc. It's a little demented, sure, but maybe this is about musical innovation rather than just shock value.
Then again, maybe not.
"After 10 years [together], we're more immature and more amateur," Alexander proudly proclaims. "People think we've grown up but we haven't grown up at all. We've just been perpetual kids -- that's our passion, that's what drives us.
"I was 15 for years, now I'm 19," he says with a smirk, shaving nearly a decade off his actual age.
"I'm, like, 21 -- have been for years now," quips lead guitarist Ian St. Pé, already into his 30s.
Though eager to prove their stunted maturity by cracking jokes about the video currently in the works ("It's a double entendre, see, the song is 'New Direction' but it's also Nude Erection," jokes Alexander.), Black Lips still can't obscure the fact they're seasoned pros and calling the shots when it comes to their career.
"We shot the video in New York, and were flying around against a green screen with trampolines. We haven't seen it yet, but if we don't like it, we'll can it," says St. Pé. "With this video, we specifically kind of let out more of the reins. It feels good to do that. But it still comes through us, like with working with Mark Ronson."
"We're driving the car," says Alexander. "They just make sure we don't crash it."