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Music Feature: Danger Mouse

A mouse that can’t be trapped

He might be known by the name Brian Burton back in his hometown of White Plains, but most of the world got to know Burton behind the nom de plume Danger Mouse. In this guise, the New York-born artist-producer has had input into some of the more intriguing and unlikely projects of the past decade. Currently teaming up with Shins lead vocalist/guitarist James Mercer on Broken Bells, Burton has cast his creative shadow far and wide:

The Grey Album – With this, Danger Mouse mixed a capella versions of Jay-Z’s The Black Album over beats and samples from The Beatles’ White Album. Originally mixed for friends with a 3,000 copy cap, it quickly went viral on the Internet. Suffice it to say the suits over at the Fab Four’s EMI label were less than pleased, and a flurry of cease and desist letters were promptly sent out to minimal effect.


Gnarls Barkley – During a time in the late ’90s when Burton called Georgia home, he crossed paths with Cee-Lo Green (aka Thomas Callaway) of Goodie Mob and gave him an instrumental demo tape. Several years later, the duo hooked up to form Gnarls Barkley. And while the twosome slyly avoided explaining the origins of the project’s name, they did come up with the 2006 debut St. Elsewhere and its mega-smash single “Crazy,” which everyone at the time covered. Despite being highly anticipated, the 2008 follow-up The Odd Couple did not fare as well.

Gorillaz/The Good, The Bad and The Queen – Intrigued by The Grey Album, Damon Albarn hired Danger Mouse to helm Gorillaz’s second studio album, 2005’s Demon Days. Two years later, Albarn hooked DM into The Good, The Bad and The Queen side-project whose other members were Clash bassist Paul Simonon, ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong and Afrobeat percussionist Tony Allen.

DangerDoom – After working on a few 12-inch singles with mysterious hip-hop artist MF Doom, (aka Daniel Dumile), he and Danger Mouse formed DangerDoom and released 2005’s The Mouse and The Mask.

The Black Keys – Despite the idea of Danger Mouse hooking up with the Akron-born bash-and-stomp blues twosome, DM has in fact helmed the BKs’ last two records, 2008’s Attack & Release and the brand new album Brothers.

Beck – In sharing the production duties on Beck’s 11th album, Modern Guilt, the two musical chameleons came away with a batch of songs steeped in the sounds of late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelia and surf rock.

Sparklehorse – Even though depression ended up having Mark Linkous (aka Sparklehorse), drag his recording sessions out over a five-year span, The Grey Album inspired Linkous to call up and invite Danger Mouse to help him finish up his current project. The resulting Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain ended up being Linkous’ last record before he committed suicide this year. Last year also saw the release of Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul, a collection of songs written by the duo and featuring numerous guest vocalists including Iggy Pop, Mercer, Suzanne Vega and Frank Black.

Martina Topley-Bird – Best known for being the featured voice on Tricky’s landmark Maxinquaye, Topley-Bird turned to Danger Mouse to produce her sophomore effort, 2008’s The Blue God. The album’s first single, “Carnies,” ended up cracking the Top 10 UK singles chart while the B-side of the second single “Poison,” featured Gorillaz on a song called “Soldier Boy.”

Broken Bells @ Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza
17 Irving Pl. 9 p.m. $35. 866-858-0008.
With the Morning Benders

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