Danger Mouse is a man of many talents — producer, musician, songwriter. He was one half of Gnarls Barkley, is one half of Broken Bells and has produced albums from everyone from the Black Keys, U2, Beck and Norah Jones. It also feels as if Danger Mouse has been around for a lot longer than he actually has, and he’s also older than really is as the versatile producer turns 39 on July 29. His career took off when he dropped The Grey Album, his mash-up of Jay Z and the Beatles in 2004, and if you told me that Danger Mouse has been in our lives for only 12 years, I’d tell you that you were crazy. No pun intended.
The main reason why it feels like Danger Mouse has been around longer than he actually has is largely because the dude has kept busy. As a result, the best way to approach a retrospective look at his career so far is by starting at “A” and taking it from there.
A: Athens, Georgia
Danger Mouse lived in Athens for a while in the late 1990s and early 2000s, releasing trip hop remixes under the name Pelican City, which is really as cool of a name as Danger Mouse is. He DJ’d at the University of Georgia’s radio station WUOG-FM, remixed an album by Neutral Milk Hotel and eventually started releasing remix CD’s and performing as Danger Mouse in 1998. That same year he came in second in a local talent show and, as a result, played a show at the University of Georgia where he opened for OutKast and Goodie Mob, which included singer CeeLo Green. Danger Mouse introduced himself to CeeLo after the show, giving him a demo tape of some of his work, thus sowing the seeds for what would become Gnarls Barkley.
B: Brian Burton
Dude, it’s his real name.
Arguably Danger Mouse’s most popular and most successful song, “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley won the Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in 2007 and was also nominated for Record of the Year. Rolling Stone named it the best song of 2006 and “Crazy” was added to their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, coming in at number 100. The music for the song was inspired by old Spaghetti Western film scores, and “Crazy” includes a sample from “Last Man Standing” by Gian Piero Reverberi and Gianfranco Reverberi, which appeared in the 1968 Spaghetti Western Django, Prepare a Coffin.
D: Danger Mouse
The British cartoon series from the early 1980s where Burton got his stage name from. The show was rebooted in 2015.
E: El Camino
El Camino is the second of three Black Keys albums produced by Danger Mouse. The first was 2008’s Attack and Release and the third, 2014’s Turn Blue. The album was anchored by two chart-topping singles, “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling” and went on to win the Grammy for Best Rock Album. Danger Mouse is listed as a writer on all of the album’s songs, something that the band wrestled with before accepting it.
F: Five years
That’s how long it took Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, an Italian composer and arranger, to make Rome, their Spaghetti Western album. The album, released in 2011, features vocals by Norah Jones and Jack White and the music was played by musicians who played on original scores by Spaghetti Western legend Ennio Morricone, who most recently provided the score for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained.
G: Gnarls Barkley
Consisting of Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green, Gnarls Barkley released two albums, St. Elsewhere in 2006 and the Odd Couple in 2008. The duo started working together in 2004, collaborating on the song “What You Sittin’ On,” released by Lex Records. That song was followed by a tune on the 2005 Danger Doom album, The Mouse and the Mask, “Benzie Box.” Around 2010 and 2011, Green repeatedly talked about a third Barkley album, but nothing ever materialized.
H: Helena Costas
Costas is a Greek singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. She teamed up with Danger Mouse for Joker’s Daughter, releasing one album together, The Last Laugh, in 2009.
I: Ike Turner
Danger Mouse was all set to produce a collaboration between Turner and the Black Keys, but the project was derailed by Turner’s death in 2007. The material they recorded sat on the shelf for a bit, but was eventually finished, titled Attack and Release and released by the Black Keys in 2008.
J: James Mercer
The Shins’ frontman first met Danger Mouse back in 2004 while both were at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. They hit it off and pledged to work together sometime in the future. Four years later, it happened and they became Broken Bells. The duo started working together on the down low at Danger Mouse’s house in California. The band’s self-titled debut album was released in March of 2010. A second album, After the Disco, was released in 2014.