You know Samantha Ronson right? Yeah you do. We wanted to get to know her a little better. Not the Samantha Ronson from tabloid magazines, but the one who is a DJ, who comes from eccentric parents and has some talented siblings in twin sister/fashion designer Charlotte Ronson and older brother/music producer Mark Ronson, the one who doesn’t take a moment of her job for granted and has a surprisingly positive while shy attitude. Samantha doesn’t give many interviews, and is somewhat of an introvert, so it was a refreshing surprise that I found myself talking to someone super nice, opinionated, humble, and with an all around fun personality. Who is this girl that was initially turned on to being a DJ not only because of her love for music but because it gave her a private world to live in while being surrounded by hundreds of people, and who sweetly laughs while referring to herself as a hip broken Jew? Read on to find out.
Serial Optimist: Samantha Ronson how are you? What are you doing right now?
Samantha Ronson: I’m actually on my way to Atlantic City to DJ at The Borgata.
SO: How many gigs a week do you play?
Samantha: It can literally be between seven and none.
SO: When you have that full week of sets, or even five nights, do you ever get tired of it?
Samantha: Not at all, I actually really love my job. I can get tired of the travel at times. I don’t even call it travel anymore I just call it commuting.
SO: Do you have a place you can call home?
Samantha: Yes I call my home my home! In L.A. I’m back and forth from L.A. and NYC all the time though.
SO: How did your career as a DJ start?
Samantha: DJing just kind of came out of nowhere really. I’ve always been surrounded by music because of my family and stuff, and my brother had been DJing for a couple of years already, and I guess I was just drawn to it initially because I liked being in the DJ booth and having my own space because I’m social awkward, so I got to be out without having to actually engage with people.
SO: Interesting. That actually makes total sense though. So for some reason when I bring this up, it doesn’t seem to resonate with people all that well, or they don’t get it, or maybe it’s just the famous Harper’s Bazaar shoot, but I see your family being very The Royal Tenebaums-ish. Similarities right?
Samantha: We were just brought up to work really hard. Our household was really fun but if we weren’t doing well in school our mother would ground us immediately. We were brought up to have a hard work ethic. In the summertime we all had to get jobs. But as long as we were working, my mother was never like “you have to be a doctor”, or “you have to be this”, she just wanted us to be happy doing what we were doing but taking it seriously, and they were really supportive in that sense. So I guess having weird, eccentric parents worked out because they gave us a good work ethic to start with and then let us kind of loose in the world.
Samantha: Yeah, that was the main thing. I remember getting grounded once for telling on my sister, and my sister got grounded but so did I for being a tattletale, which was like in the fourth grade. So we learned loyalty at a young age and that is kind of the most important thing in our family.
SO: I think that’s good to learn at a young age. I’m sure that loyalty has been huge in keeping you all so close in such a spotlight and in the industries you all chose.
How did you learn to spin? Was there lots of practicing before you played for a crowd?
Samantha: I didn’t practice before I was in front of an audience because I only had one record player at home. I just ended up bringing records by one night because a DJ who usually works at this place I hung out at didn’t show up, so I just played music. I’m a people pleaser so I was always good at playing for the crowd and always thinking it’s not about me it’s about them, so I kind of learned how to DJ while DJing.
SO: So you don’t play what you want to hear, you always try to play what the crowd wants to hear?
Samantha: I like to mix it up. It can be a bit of a balancing act. But you know I happen to like pop music, so I’m cool with it. At the end of the day it’s cool because I can play pop, but mix in old school hip hop and rock and stuff like that, that’s the kind of shit I love. But I mix that in with Lady Gaga and Rihanna and pop hits.
SO: You were close to DJ AM personally. How did his death affect you, and what kind of effect do you think it had on the L.A. DJ scene?
Samantha: He was a good friend of mine for a very very long time. It sucks to loose a friend. He was the only DJ that if I wasn’t working, I would go and check out, like just hang out and listen to him spin, other than my brother. Him not being here is sad, that’s just a hard question to answer. I just miss him, and he was just fucking awesome.
SO: I felt weird asking, but thanks for sharing that, you answered it well. Tell me about some of your favorite places to play, or countries that have had a big impact on you?
Samantha: My favorite club to spin at is here at Mur.Mur at The Borgata because it’s such a fun crowd. I can get away with playing some really cool shit, and you get people from New York, Philly, Jersey, it’s not like Vegas where the crowd is so transient and they are just there for whoever happens to be there. I feel like people come back and they want to hear what you are going to do as opposed to just top 40 shit.
The strangest place I ever played, as a DJ experience, was in Istanbul. I do a lot of play on word mixes and stuff like that and when you’re playing for a bunch of people who don’t at all understand or speak English; I’ve just definitely had to amend my sets lately.
SO: How do you choose your mixes?
Samantha: I never play the same mixes. I don’t want to be a DJ where if you’ve heard me once you never have to hear me again because I play the same set. I kind of freestyle based on how the crowd is responding. If they’re responding better to 80’s than to Wu-Tang I’m gonna go with 80’s.
SO: Who are you really into right now musically?
Samantha: You know everyone hates on these pop star girls, like Lady Gaga, or this that and the other, and people think they are ripping off this that and the other, but I think Lady Gaga is great. I get it. She’s not 40. I’m 33 years old. So for the kids that weren’t around for Madonna, or whoever else at the time, they get that from her. She’s incredibly talented, she writes great songs, and she’s a good role model in her own crazy way. She allows kids to feel like they can be whoever they want to be and that’s cool.
SO: It is crazy the impact she has. When she plays here in Dallas, the next day the city is kind of buzzing and you will run into parents with tween kids who took them to the concert, and on the one hand the parents are talking about how amazing the show is but then on the other also how great of a role model she is, and it always surprises me a little.
Samantha: Yeah, as much as it’s all very strange and theatrical I really do think she is a great role model. Also, Ke$ha, she fucking sings great pop songs and she’s another great role model for girls because she has a “fuck you” attitude and she doesn’t give a fuck what any haters say, wearing her weird glittery makeup and her weird tribal outfits, and she’s just like fuck you, this is what I do. She might be getting wasted every night, or sing about it but she’s not saying kids go get wasted and get high, she’s just like: do you. I love any artist out there right now that promotes a general understanding of everybody.
SO: Are you fan of any particular indie artists currently?
SO: Do you like the Black Eyed Peas?
Samantha: I don’t dislike them.
SO: I’m going to quote you as “hating” the Black Eyed Peas. Just to mix it up.
Samantha: No no, I don’t hate them at all! They are my friends.
SO: What things separate a good show from a bad show? Is there a point you can tell that a show just isn’t going well?
Samantha: Not because I’m so great or anything like that at all but I just really really really try hard to keep the crowd happy and an eye out for what’s going on, so I do my best to not let it get to a bad point. But you know… I don’t like DJing for hipsters. That never works well for me because they act like they don’t want to hear pop music but when you play cool shit they don’t dance.
SO: Are you a hipster?
Samantha: I’m so not a hipster. I’m like a hip broken Jew. I’m too old to be a hipster. I don’t need to pretend I don’t have a washer and a dryer in my house and I obviously can’t grow a beard so that wouldn’t help my cause.
SO: Yeah hipsters can be super annoying, in so many different ways.
Samantha: Like wearing the ironic t-shirts, and looking down on you because you can afford to buy dinner. I want my car to work when I need to get somewhere, I don’t need to get a beat up car just to be cool. I mean hipsters are like a group, and they look down on people that aren’t like them. I don’t like any groups or people that are like that.
SO: Agreed. So what are you wearing right now?
Samantha: I’m wearing the same thing I wear everyday. I’m wearing a pair of jeans, converse, a t-shirt and a Foreigner sweatshirt. It’s pretty much the same outfit I wear everyday.
SO: Alight. Good to know. I’m going to put a real sexual spin on that for the interview, so be prepared. Like: “When she started describing her converse in slow detail…”
Do you ever get in a “zone” while spinning? You know how athletes can find themselves in the “zone”; do you ever get so locked in with the music and the crowd that it becomes overwhelming?
Samantha: Definitely. Sometimes I get nervous before I start, but once I get focused I have to step back sometimes and make sure everyone is enjoying this as much as I am. There’s always that moment in the night, where I’m just full on in it, and I can completely forget that anyone else is there, and I love that.
SO: How close are you now with your sister and brother? With her fashion career and your brother’s producing career, is it just all about support at this point?
Samantha: Yeah it’s disgusting actually. We are all really supportive of each other. No drama between us. My sister and I are twins, so we’re obviously super close, I always DJ her fashion shows and I always support her with her clothing and she always supports me with my music, and my brother and I are really close as well. He’s actually working on a song for my record. So yeah, we all get along really well, and it’s really nice.
SO: You have a record coming out? Is it all you or is it more of like Girl Talk kind of thing?
Samantha: It’s all me. It’s a rock record. I sing, play guitar, I did a song with Slash, and I have Wale on a track. It’s called Chasing the Reds. It’s coming out this summer, hopefully. I’m in the middle of finishing my deal, so as soon as that happens is when the record will come out.
SO: Did your brother produce it?
Samantha: No. I did it with this guy Jimmy Messer, we worked on the whole record together. Mark’s doing one song. Only because I’m letting him. He begged me, and I was like “Fiiiiine, I guess you’re pretty good, you can.” No I’m kidding! I’m really excited about it.
SO: What gives you kicks in life? What do you enjoy when you’re not working, you have free time, and you can just relax?
Samantha: Well most of the time I’m at home playing. Wearing the headset, talking shit to my friends. Like the biggest loser of all time. Oh and playing pool.
SO: It’s good that you play pool, mix in some exercise with all that gaming!
Do you still get surprised that so many people come out specifically to see you perform, that you have such a huge fan base?
Samantha: YES! It is awesome, and it’s crazy. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have a job. I never won’t not take a picture with someone after a show or whenever, even though I’m surprised that they want to. I’m so appreciative of it.
SO: What’s the biggest misconception about you?
Samantha: I think people think I’m some asshole because I don’t smile every time someone puts a camera in my face, or people think I’m cool but I’m not at all I’m just a big dork. I’m not at all a hater, people hate on me way too much for me to be a hater. I’m more of a positive person than people probably think.
SO: We love the positive at Serial Optimist. Thanks so much Samantha for taking the time and good luck with the new record!
Samantha: Thank you!