Photo courtesy of Musicisentropy.
For a recording artist looking to produce creative work with all the dynamism music has to offer, there’s no safer bet than hiring the 2011 Grammy award-winning Producer of the Year, Danger Mouse. The reclusive American musician – a.k.a. Brian Joseph Burton – proved his genre-bending propensities when he burst onto the scene in 2004 with The Grey Album, a mixtape viral release mashing The Beatles’ The White Album with Jay-Z’s The Black Album. He only meant to put out 3,000 copies, but the masterpiece quickly became a worldwide sensation Since then, he’s worked with every artist under the sun, in every sector of the music business – pop, indie rock, jazz, rap, Italian classical, and soon-to-be U2.
A brief timeline of Danger Mouse’s impressive resume goes as follows:
2004 – Leaks The Grey Album onto the web to instant acclaim
2005 – Produces the Gorillaz’ Demon Days
2005 – Collaborates with rapper MF Doom for The Mouse and the Mask under alias Danger Doom
2006 – Forms Gnarls Barkley, a duo with Cee Lo Green, and releases their first album, St. Elsewhere
2006 – Produces The Rapture’s Pieces of the People We Love
2008 – Produces Beck’s Modern Guilt
2008 – Releases second album with Gnarls Barkley, titled The Odd Couple
2009 – Collaborates with The Shins’ James Mercer for eponymous album, Broken Bells
2011 – Produces Rome, an album in collaboration with Italian composer Daniele Luppi and featuring vocals from Norah Jones and Jack White
And those are only the highlights for this unknown musical genius, who rose up the ladder off a mixtape he toyed around with in his studio.
While his work with U2 began in 2010, it looks like their album together won’t be released until later this year. Caught up in the Broadway debacle surrounding Spider-Man along with an international tour, the pop group fell understandably behind schedule. In an interview last year with Rolling Stone, Bono said, “Our drug of choice in this band is doing really difficult things… The expression is to bite off more than you can chew.”
The article also points out, “It wasn’t until early this year that the group abandoned the idea of getting an album out before the end of the tour, after working on separate sets of songs with Lady Gaga producer RedOne and Danger Mouse.”
Danger Mouse also has a second project in the works with Jones, an album titled Little Broken Hearts, to be released this spring.
As a producer, Danger Mouse seems to make impeccable choices, his taste wide-ranging yet particular, and almost always generating solid reviews. Despite such flexible creative style however, the notably shy musician rarely gives interviews and plays shows with his back to the audience. Born just outside of New York City, he began his stint in the industry performing with a mouse mask over his face, and can barely address his crowd on stage but to say “thanks.”
In one rare interview with MTV news back in 2004, Danger Mouse describes his impetus behind The Grey Album, and what else he may consider down the line, as far as mash-ups go.
“A lot of people just assumed I took some Beatles and, you know, threw some Jay-Z on top of it or mixed it up or looped it around, but it’s really a deconstruction,” he said. “I was obsessed with the whole project, that’s all I was trying to do, see if I could do this… My whole thing with this was I didn’t want to mess up the Beatles song either. I don’t want to disrespect the Beatles. A lot of people thought it was sacrilege in the first place. I knew that would be something, but I didn’t know it was going to be [distributed] on a wide scale. I knew my friends wouldn’t think it was sacrilege, so I just made sure it was something I would dig myself.”
Adds the producer, “Someone asked me if I would ever use Joni Mitchell’s Blue album with Weezer’s ‘Green Album’ or R.E.M.’s Green and make The Turquoise Album,” Burton said, smiling. “While that’s funny to say, it could be interesting if I sat down to do it.”
Nevertheless, it seems the artist has upped his scale over the past eight years. From mixtapes to Grammys, Danger Mouse leaves the door open for surprise in his immense career to come.