Take one look at Ronald Magness and you’d have no idea that this man is a Grammy Award-winning and one-time Oscar-nominated producer. Having worked with names such as Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and The Who, one would think that he’d wave off an invitation from a student journalist for a profile piece.
But Ron, as he is fondly called, is anything but reluctant. We agreed to meet at his house in Kilburn Park – with the presence of his wife, Yana, and mother-in-law, Mrs. Zongorova. He has been in London for almost 30 years and is the owner of Studio 999, his UK-based operation, located one block off Abbey Road and White House Recording, a residential recording studio in Texas, America, where he resides with Yana for four months every year.
We started off the conversation with how he began his career in music. He said: “ I started with my band, The Felix, in 1967 playing music similar to what the Rolling Stones were playing at that time.” He added that they played together for the next 10 years when he decided to go solo. It was at this time that he started his career in producing music and working with bands like Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls.
When asked since when did he started playing music, he answered: “Ever since I could remember.”
“All my family members have always been musically inclined. My mother plays the piano, my brother plays the guitar and sings, and my sister plays and teaches the piano.”
Ron also said that his work in London started “by accident”. When he came to London some 30 years ago, he did an album entitled The Balls and produced music at the West End. “A lot of people here liked what I did, so I stayed for three more years when I got an envelope from Her Majesty’s Inland Revenue saying that I owed them 160-days worth of taxes.”
With advice from his accountant and some of his business partners, he purchased a house to get the tax exemption. Twenty years later, he opened his studio and has been managing it since then.
Now, at the age of 62, having released some 300 songs, he explained that he has done “not a lot of work”. His latest work was producing a song for the movie Hisss, which is based on an eastern myth of a snake woman who is able to take on human form.
Ron also talked about how the music industry has progressed during the 44 years that he has been in this business.
“I must warn you that I don’t have a good opinion about this. Once upon a time, if you wanted to make music you’d have to be an actual musician. But now it just seems that if you have a computer, you just take somebody else’s song, know three notes and not have to know music, and still manage to be a star!”
There are some contemporary bands that he truly admires such as Greenday , The White Stripes and the Black Eyed Peas which he points out are really good singers and amazing at putting on a show.
“After all, showbiz is all about putting on a good show.”
We wrapped up our conversation with a piece of advice he has for aspiring musicians and people who want to go in to the music business.
Ron believes that for anyone who wants to go into music as a career, they’ll have to treat it as a career.
“Too many young people go into music and after a year of not making it, they just give up.
“I’ve worked in this industry for 44 years and I can say that it involves long hours and I’m still doing it. Just like any business or career, you never ever give up.”