Award-winning American producer Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, made a name for himself working with Beck, The Black Keys and Blur's Damon Albarn. Now he's back with long time friend Karen O of New York art rockers fame The Yeah Yeah Yeahs to deliver the ultimate piece de resistance in modern music.
"Karen was busy doing the YYY's albums and our schedules didn't quite allow for much other than this constant conversation that we'd do something one day," says Burton regarding the 10 year period before they united to make Lux Prima.
Latin for first light, Lux Prima resonates with a nostalgic, dreamy rhythm, occasional blues-soaked riffs and pushes the boundaries of experimental music. There's beats and bleeps, guitars and aching vocals; it's triumphant, delirious, confident and exactly what you want from a collaboration – a sense of freedom that comes when two established artists find the time to make music on their terms with no record labels pre-inked policy deal breakers.
The album was recorded at LA's Sunset Sound, which he once owned, but is now run by Mark Ronson.
"There were no record labels telling us what to do, it was just the two of us going in to see what was going to happen," explains Burton.
As far as collaborations go, Burton says it's the only way he knows how to work – and has become better at working with others in the studio.
"Karen and I just did our thing and it led to this," he says.
"At this point in our careers we control what we get to do – having no deadlines, no pending tours – it was the best situation to find yourself in and this is the result."
Hell hath no fury
Karen O, who lives in LA with her husband Barnaby Clay and their son Django, wrote the track Woman as a modern protest song just after the volatile US elections. She also describes it as an ode to her younger self – a shout-out of sorts to the bullies who made her childhood hell.
"You immediately feel the overall power of that song," says Burton.
"It's a timely sentiment given what's happening with the Me Too movement, but really hits the right now about the future being female," he says.
Metal and mice
Born in White Plains, New York, Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton grew up listening to '80s pop music and rock'n'roll with a smattering of hair metal thrown in for the occasional fist pump moment. Cue Poison and Iron Maiden.
He moved to Atlanta, Georgia at 12 – a city known for its devotion to hip-hop. He embraced the genre, exploring soul music and R & B along the way. But it was psychedelic music that really resonated with him.
He used to perform in mouse suits because he was too shy to show his face and did have ambitions to become a comic artist, even naming himself after a British cartoon Danger Mouse which screened from 1981 to 1992 – a parody of British spy fiction.
By the time he released the Grey Album in 2004 – an album adored for the way Burton combined vocals performances from Jay-Z's The Black Album with instrumentals from The Beatles propelled him to cult status. It led to working with Damon Albarn's Gorillaz in 2005 for Demon Days and rapper MF Doom on Danger Doom.
Burton says he owes a lot to Blur's Albarn for taking him under his wing.
"Damon taught much of what I know and allowed me to grow in areas where I didn't know much…Sometimes in your life you get to a point where you need extra confidence from someone you respect to help you and know that you're not nuts for being ambitious. I got that at a really good time and Damon was the one who gave me that nod of confidence," he says.
Behind the mask
As one of the most in-demand producers, he has built a career portfolio many dream of, but for all his achievements, he's still rather hesitant when it comes to recognition.
He's worked with everyone from Norah Jones on her Little Broken Hearts album in 2012 to U2's Songs of Innocence in 2014 and Adele's 25 hit album in 2015. There's Red Hot Chili Pepper's for The Getaway in 2016, Portugal. The Man's Woodstock a year later and last year's Parquet Courts' Wide Awake.
"I need to feel a connection with the act I am collaborating with," he says.
"It's also the only way I know how to work. But once you get past stating the obvious, that you don't like something they're suggesting, that's when you take more risks, avoid embarrassments and find more happy accidents."