Gnarls Barkley is the latest project from Danger Mouse, who mashed up the Beatles and Jay-Z on The Grey Album, and has now teamed up with southern singer-rapper Cee-Lo Green. St. Elsewhere, their debut, is an unclassifiable mix of psychedelic rock, hip-hop, and electronic music, all topped by Cee-Lo’s classic soul vocals. The pair already have a No. 1 in England with “Crazy,” whose sing-along chorus you can expect to hear everywhere this summer.
What inspired “Crazy”?
Danger Mouse: Musically, it’s a straight spaghetti Western. It’s the oohs and aahs, the choirs and the strings, and the arrangement. Ennio Morricone is one of my biggest influences. I started making music because I wanted to make music for films.
What is it you like about Morricone?
D: The delusions of grandeur, I guess. And the way he’s mixing in the psychedelic stuff of the time.
Were you trying to make a modern psychedelic record?
D: Exactly. More than the sound, we took the approach of experimentation mixed with melody. That’s what I love about psychedelic music from the late sixties, like the 13th Floor Elevators. Those bands would almost try to outdo each other with the weird shit but still try to have good songs.
Cee-Lo, which soul singers influenced you?
Cee-Lo: My favorite is between James Brown and Sly Stone. James Brown is more famous for moans and groans—Uhh! Get it!—and all that good stuff. But he can actually sing. Sly was the same way. There’s a song called “Just Like a Baby,” and he’s just moaning throughout, which is pretty cool to me.
For the publicity shots, you dressed up in outfits from A Clockwork Orange. Are you big Kubrick fans?
C: I related to A Clockwork Orange in a personal way. I was a bit of a thug growing up. It’s taken some reform for me. Thank God for artistry and creativity as an outlet.
Why did you cover the Violent Femmes song “Gone Daddy Gone”?
D: I heard it on the way to the studio one day, and I thought it could be transformed into something else. I always liked the way rock bands in the sixties, especially on their first few records, would shamelessly cover the stuff they were listening to at the time.
Danger Mouse, you use a lot of cartoon references in your work. Which cartoons do you watch?
D: The only cartoon I watch now is Adult Swim stuff. I love Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Master Shake is my favorite cartoon character of all time.
C: Absolutely, dude.
D: He’s out of his mind. He is the most pompous, arrogant, shit-talking …
C: Cup of soda you ever want to meet.
D: He has the attitude I wish I had more of, basically.
St. Elsewhere, Downtown Recordings, May 9