Gnarls Barkley hits No. 1 on music charts around the world

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Gnarls Barkley — Danger Mouse, left, and Cee-Lo — play the Virgin Festival on Toronto Island this Saturday.

Cee-Lo and danger mouse are very, very tired. In fact, the duo who compose the hip hop, electronic, funk-fusion group Gnarls Barkley seem ready to fall fast asleep in this Toronto hotel room, but are quick to apologize for a series of random yawns and eyes that look ready to shut at any moment.

Their fatigue is no surprise given Gnarls’ appropriation of the No. 1 spot on music ranking charts the world over and the ensuing fan and media frenzy to uncover the secrets behind their debut disc, St. Elsewhere.

“I would say it’s causing a moment of clarity for artists and executives alike,” singer, rapper, writer and producer Cee-Lo, a.k.a. Thomas Calloway, says of the album’s mash-up of musical influences.

“Music is initially about belief and (the album) will compel belief in possibility again, which is great for all shapes and forms of artistry.”

Cee-Lo and his partner, producer-musician Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton), best known for his Grey Album on which he dubbed Jay-Z’s Black Album rhymes over The Beatles’ White Album, have been touring and performing incessantly to promote their collaboration.

Their work bore fruit in April when the song Crazy became the first single on the U.K. charts to reach No. 1 based on download sales alone.

But after nine weeks, Gnarls Barkley asked for the song to be taken off the charts because they felt it was being overplayed.

“(Radio stations) are not trying to play the same stuff over, they’re just trying to reach more people and in the process you can kind of mess up something you have,” Danger Mouse says of the track’s constant airplay. “It’s a little bit of a trade-off, but sometimes it’s really easy to tell when enough is enough.”

The two first met when Danger Mouse approached Cee-Lo, then a member of Atlanta-based Dirty South hip-hop movement founders Goodie Mob, at a University of Georgia talent contest in 1998 and slipped his future collaborator a demo tape.

Years later the two would join together to create the eclectic St. Elsewhere.

“There was a lot of stuff that was done and these were the instrumentals he picked to write to,” Danger Mouse says of the duo’s decision to work together. “They were specific and that’s where we met halfway which was what came out musically.”

Adding to their rise in popularity has been an enigmatic name — which has nothing to do with former NBA star Charles Barkley, but rather a bored Danger Mouse mixing celebrity names with the word gnarly — and interesting live appearances including a gig at this year’s MTV Movie Awards dressed as Star Wars characters in costumes borrowed from director George Lucas.

While the duo have gained legions of fans via the Internet, it’s somewhat ironic that Danger Mouse’s name was made with the Grey Album, which was distributed for free and eventually stopped due to the artist’s unapproved use of White Album samples.

But the two are whimsical when the issue of illegal downloading and that of paid downloads eventually usurping hard CD sales, is raised.

“As far as the music is concerned, the music itself is about the cream rising to the top,” Cee-Lo says.

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