When In Rome: Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, Jack White and Norah Jones
The current issue of Relix features a cover story on Rome, the collaboration between Danger Mouse, Daniele Luppi, Jack White and Norah Jones. Here’s an excerpt from Alan Light’s piece which chronicles how it all came about…
It’s 1995, maybe 1996. Brian Burton is a freshman at the University of Georgia and an aspiring moviemaker, taking an “Introduction to Film” course. Burton has not yet borrowed the name of the British cartoon character Danger Mouse, or embarked on a career in music that will include his own groups Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, plus production work for Gorillaz, the Black Keys and others, which will establish him as one of the sonic visionaries of our time.
During class one week, the students watch one of the films from Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy— A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly —starring Clint Eastwood, perhaps the best known “spaghetti westerns” to American audiences. The eerie, evocative score by Ennio Morricone—all twangy guitars, floating blocks of voices and mysterious whistling—stops young Burton in his tracks.
“I had never heard anything like that music before,” he says on the phone, during a break from his work producing the new U2 album, and two days before picking up this year’s “Producer of the Year” Grammy award. “It was such a mixture of different things—it had a psychedelic element, guitars and jazz and rock all in one. I was completely blown away.”
Burton’s focus at college soon shifted to music. The first project that he recorded was a soundtrack to an imaginary movie. “I had this idea for a film,” he says, “but I thought maybe it was more possible to make the music that would sound like that idea. The music I wanted to do was very visual stuff, anyway.”
So let this be a lesson to you: Like James Brown once said, don’t be a drop-out. That one film class assignment set Burton on an epic journey which reaches fruition this month with the release of Rome —a collaboration with Italian producer/arranger Daniele Luppi, featuring the voices of Jack White and Norah Jones—that attempts to capture and extend the feeling that he got from those vintage movie scores.
The budding producer began working at a record store, and began researching classic Italian movie music (“and remember, there was no Internet back then”). Meanwhile, in…
…Daniele Luppi, five years older than Burton, had grown up watching films from the ‘60s and ‘70s on state television each weekend, becoming increasingly obsessed with the soundtracks created by Morricone, Nino Rota and Robert Molinelli. But by the time he discovered the drama and power of these sounds, the musicians who had recorded the tracks were no longer in demand.
“These guys were hired by all the biggest composers,” says Luppi. “They even did pop records—they were really kind of an elite in Italy, like [Phil Spector’s top-call session players] The Wrecking Crew. But in the mid-‘80s, as the sound was changing to synthesizers, these people started to feel totally out of place, and they kind of left the scene.”
So, Luppi eventually moved to…
Los Angeles, Calif.
…where he found work writing music for TV shows and films like Sex and the City, Nine and Under the Tuscan Sun. But his heart remained close to the sounds of his youth, and so, in 2001, he attempted his own version of those classic soundtracks.
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