Brian Joseph Burton, better known by his stage name Danger Mouse, (born July 29, 1977) is an American musician and producer. He came to prominence in 2004 when he released The Grey Album, which combined acappellas from Jay-Z’s The Black Album with instrumentals from the album The Beatles (also known as The White Album).
He formed Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green and produced their albums St. Elsewhere and The Odd Couple. He produced the second Gorillaz album, 2005’s Demon Days, as well as Beck’s 2008 record, Modern Guilt. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Producer of the Year category. In addition, Burton worked with rapper MF DOOM as DANGERDOOM and released the albums The Mouse and the Mask and Occult Hymn.
On September 29, 2009, Pitchfork Media announced Broken Bells, a collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the indie rock band The Shins. The group’s first album is scheduled for a March 2010 release.
Early life and career
Brian Burton was born in White Plains, New York; he spent much of his childhood in Spring Valley, New York and lived in Athens, Georgia for a long time where his electronica (more specifically, trip-hop) work was released under the name “Pelican City”. He also remixed work by several local artists, including Neutral Milk Hotel and DJ’d for University of Georgia radio station WUOG-FM. From 1998 to 2003 Burton also created a series of remix CDs and records under the stage name Danger Mouse. He use to do sets in a mouse outfit because he was too shy to show his face, and took his name from the British cartoon series Danger Mouse.
While in Athens, Burton took second place in a 1998 talent contest and was asked to open for a concert at the University of Georgia featuring OutKast and Goodie Mob. Afterwards, Burton approached Cee-Lo Green, a member of Goodie Mob, and gave him an instrumental demo tape. It would be several years before the pair made contact again, but the two would eventually collaborate as Gnarls Barkley.
Burton moved to England for a couple of years, living in New Cross in London and working at the Rose pub near London Bridge. While he was in the U.K., he sent a demo to Lex Records, who signed him. Burton’s first original releases under the name Danger Mouse were his collaborations with rapper Jemini, including the album Ghetto Pop Life, released in 2003 on Lex Records. While the Danger Mouse debut was well received by critics, he did not rise to fame until he created The Grey Album, mixing a cappella versions of Jay Z’s The Black Album over beats crafted from samples of The Beatles’ White Album. The remix album, originally created just for his friends, spread over the Internet and became very popular with both the general audience and critics, with Rolling Stone calling it “the ultimate remix record” and Entertainment Weekly ranking it the best record of the year. He discusses his feelings about any controversy the album may have created in the documentary Alternative Freedom. Danger Mouse was also named among the Men of the Year by GQ in 2004 and won a 2005 Wired Rave Award.
The Grey Album also got the attention of Damon Albarn, who enlisted Danger Mouse to produce the Gorillaz’ second studio album, Demon Days. Danger Mouse technically shares production credits for Demon Days with Jason Cox and James Dring. However, these two are engineers, so Danger Mouse was that album’s sole producer for all intents and purposes (though a few songs feature musical contribution from talents such as Ike Turner and Simon Tong). Demon Days earned Burton a Grammy Award nomination for Producer of the Year.
Danger Mouse’s next project was The Mouse and the Mask, a collaboration with MF DOOM (as DANGERDOOM) about and for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The two had previously collaborated on the Danger Mouse remix of Zero 7’s “Somersault”, on the Prince Po track “Social Distortion”, and on Gorillaz’ “November Has Come”. A year later, DANGERDOOM released a follow-up EP called Occult Hymn. The 7-track EP featured new songs as well as remixes of tracks from The Mouse & The Mask and was released exclusively as a free download on Adult Swim’s site.
In 2006, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo (as Gnarls Barkley) released their first album, St. Elsewhere, which included the international hit single “Crazy”. “Crazy” became the first UK number-one single based solely on downloads. He also produced two tracks on The Rapture’s 2006 album Pieces of the People We Love. In August and September 2006, Danger Mouse collaborated with British graffiti artist Banksy to replace 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s album Paris in English music stores with altered album artwork and a 40 minute instrumental song containing various statements she had made.
In January 2007, Danger Mouse produced another collaboration with Damon Albarn on The Good, the Bad and the Queen, along with Clash bassist Paul Simonon, former Verve guitarist Simon Tong and Afrobeat pioneer and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen.
In March 2008, The Odd Couple, the sophomore album of his and Cee-lo’s Gnarls Barkley project, was released. In May 2008, an album with Martina Topley-Bird, titled The Blue God, was released. Martina collaborated on “All Alone”, one song on the Danger Mouse produced Gorillaz second LP, Demon Days. Also released in May 2008 was Replica Sun Machine, an album with the band The Shortwave Set, including a collaboration with Van Dyke Parks and the Velvet Underground’s John Cale, according to British music magazine New Musical Express. NME also reports that Danger Mouse is going to produce The Shortwave Set’s third album.
In collaboration with MF DOOM.
Upcoming releases include a follow-up to Ghetto Pop Life entitled Kill Your Heroes. KYH was scheduled to be released in summer of 2006, but its release has been pushed back to an undetermined date. A collaborative album with Black Thought of The Roots is said to be in the works. He was also working on an album with The Black Keys and Ike Turner. Turner’s death was expected to cancel the album, but The Black Keys and Danger Mouse released Attack & Release in April 2008. Some songs must have been recorded by Turner, however, as a posthumous Danger Mouse produced album is scheduled to be released this year, as well as another collaboration with MF Doom.
Danger Mouse also produced Beck’s album Modern Guilt, which was released in July 2008. In April 2009, he and Helena Costas released an album as Joker’s Daughter titled the Last Laugh. Danger Mouse was also listed as one of Esquire’s 75 most influential people of the 21st century.
Since 2005, Danger Mouse (as a producer as well as an artist with Gnarls Barkley) has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards: Producer of the Year (2005, 2006 and 2008), Record of Year (2006), Album of Year (2006), Best Alternative Album (2006 and 2008), Best Urban Alternative Performance (2006), Best Short Form Music Video (2007 and 2008) and Best Pop Performance (2008) He won two Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best Alternative Album and Best Urban Alternative Performance.
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse were due to release an album in the summer of 2009 entitled Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul (together with a 100+ photo book with photographs by David Lynch). Due to an ongoing dispute with EMI the album will not be released commercially. However, the BBC reported that Danger Mouse plans to release a full illustrated jewel case with a blank CD-R included in it. The CD-R will be labeled:“For Legal Reasons, enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will.”
On November 8, 2009, Paste Magazine named Danger Mouse the “Best Producer of the Decade (2000-2009).”
Together with James Mercer Danger Mouse (billed by his real name, Brian Burton) formed Broken Bells. The project was first announced on Tuesday, September 29, 2009. 21 December 2009 the band informed fans in an e-mail message of the release of their debut single “The High Road”, which was made available as a free download on their official site. The self-titled debut album is due out in the U.S. on March 9, 2010.