Danger Mouse Rome to be released on vinyl through Third Man Records

Posted on 15 May 2011
By Pierce King
  • Share:

As an unknown American musician Brian Burton spent years pulling pints in London and soaking up the atmosphere of seedy New Cross.

But in the past few years as Danger Mouse has enjoyed more adventures than his 80s comic alter ego, producing artists such as Gorillaz, Beck and U2, and scoring a worldwide number one in 2006 with Crazy as half of Gnarls Barkley with Cee Lo Green.

Burton is known for being a speedy worker, but his new album, Rome, took five years of painstaking effort to complete.

Recorded in the Eternal City as a self-financed labour of love, Rome reunites musicians who appeared on the much-loved soundtracks of the 60s and 70s Spaghetti Westerns.

With new compositions and contemporary singers such as Jack White and Norah Jones it makes for an album based around retro elements that sounds excitingly fresh.

Burton, 33, first heard the Italian composers who inspired Rome at University as a film student, particularly Ennio Morricone’s scores for Sergio Leone films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in America.

He said: “That music jumped out immediately and I found it so inspiring – the mix of funk, jazz and classical music. The first music I ever made on my own in my dorm-room was fake Italian movie soundtracks.”

On Rome, Danger Mouse’s Penfold is Danielle Luppi. He added: “Growing up, I was immersed in Italian film music, especially the crime and sexy films of the Seventies.

“When I left Italy to live in the States, I moved away from it, but began to realise that this belonged to me. It was my musical culture.”

In 2004, Luppi made a loving homage album An Italian Story. Danger Mouse was beguiled when he heard it, mistaking it for a compilation of original film sountrack music, rather than a 21st-century re-creation.

Together they launched a plan to work with the musicians that had performed on the films of the Italian golden age. Their plan, said Burton: “got more and more specific. We wanted to work at the same studio, with the same musicians and even the same microphones.”

The duo began to record for the album in Rome in October 2006, booking Forum Studios (formerly the Ortophonic Studios) founded by, among others, Ennio Morricone.

By 2009, Burton and Luppi had an album of aching romantic and melancholy tracks, with lucious choirs and orchestral backing. But they had always envisaged the project as half instrumental and half sung and began thinking of singers to complement the music.

Burton invited Jack White to sing the male part. Jack remembers: “I’d been touring with my band The Raconteurs and we were more or less on the same circuit as Gnarls Barkley.

“Brian played me this lush, beautiful soundtrack. Months later he asked if I could sing something on it. I had all 12 pieces and would drive around Nashville singing melodies into a hand-held recorder with the music on it, seeing which ones worked and coming up with lyrics.”

From this process, some darkly romantic songs emerged, such as Two Against One (‘I’m already fighting me, so what’s another one’) and The Rose With a Broken Neck.

Jack added: “What was new for me is that usually I’m playing an instrument when I sing, so I had more freedom, and this opened up a new door. I did various versions and let Brian mix them, which was a relief because I usually have to do that.”

Third Man Records is putting out a vinyl version of the record on Jack’s boutique Nashville label. He says: “It sounds insanely good on vinyl.”

After recording Jack’s tortured, soulful vocals, the only thing remaining was to find a female singer. “We thought we needed an everywoman type, and I thought of Norah Jones, as she has such a beautiful voice.” added Burton.

Powerfully melancholic song, Black, features Jones’s sultry vocals and is slated as a single.

Rome is released by Parlophone tomorrow – listen to the YouTube album trailer here