By Zachary Swickey
Brian Joseph Burton, the man the music world knows and loves as Danger Mouse, turns 34 today, and his many milestones are rather mindboggling. Growing up on the music of Pink Floyd and Portishead, Burton fit right in while living in London, where he moved to make a name for himself as a trip-hop DJ but instead found himself focusing on making hip-hop beats. But it was a moment of true serendipity that led Burton to where he is today.
While cleaning around his apartment and listening to the Beatles’ White Album, Burton came across his a capella copy of Jay-Z’s The Black Album, and inspiration struck. After completing one song successfully and with surprising ease, Burton took to mashing up the entirety of both albums, creating The Grey Album. The result was clearly not exactly legal since it was the music of two separate iconic acts (Burton promptly received a cease and desist letter from EMI), but the mix became a viral sensation and has likely been downloaded millions of times. Burton quickly became a hot-commodity – GQ Magazine named him one of their Men of the Year in 2004, while Entertainment Weekly named The Grey Album their pick for album of the year.
Burton got his next big break when a well-known musician asked him to produce his new group’s follow-up to their critically acclaimed debut album, Gorillaz. We’re talking about Damon Albarn, of course, lead singer of Blur and mastermind behind many other notable projects. Burton would go on to receive a 2005 Grammy nomination for his production work on the finished product, Gorillaz’s Demon Days.
Burton then made a splash in the art world in 2006 when British graffiti artist/prankster Banksy enlisted his services for a special project. Banksy “obtained” 500 copies of socialite Paris Hilton’s debut album and altered the album artwork – including an album sticker that boasts song titles like “Why Am I Famous?” – while Burton swapped the discs with a 40-minute music mix containing various sound bites from Paris herself.