Blur singer fights his horrifying ‘inner Sting’
Ever wonder how Blur became your favorite Brit-pop band? It’s probably because its members never settled down. Despite the huge success of singer Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz project, the departure of longtime guitarist Graham Coxon and the worrying news that the band was recording its latest album in Morocco with Fatboy Slim DJ Norman Cook as producer, the British group comes back stronger than ever on “Think Tank”. We spoke with Albarn in Los Angeles, shortly after he lost his passport in Mexico.
Q: What happened to your passport?
A: Well, I don’t know. There’s either some Mexican parading as Damon Albarn, or it’s just disappeared forever.
Q: I can’t believe they let you in the country.
A: It’s kind of eerie how many people were Blur fans in the American and British embassies in Mexico City. It was probably the best place for me if I was going to lose my work permit and passport to do so. I’ve never had such an easy time. It was actually easier getting my work permit back than it was getting back into the country yesterday, where quite unnervingly I ended up spending an hour and a half in a queue at LAX with a flight from Beijing and Malaysia. What was really unnerving was that everyone had a mask on. Every little cough, I was like, “That’s it.” I’ve been to that part of the world a lot, and when anyone gets even a hint of a cold, they put their mask on. It’s not that unusual, but when everyone has one on, I have to say it’s pretty unnerving.
Q: Well, we’ll just have to leave it to a higher power.
Q: What’s this about you guys getting fat and using bongos?
A: That’s what the British press says. They say that I’m fat and I’m bald.
Q: Wait, you have hair.
A: Well, it’s a wig. I’ve had all the flab digitally removed. In reality, I am actually something out “The Heart of Darkness.”
Q: You’re the only member of Blur who doesn’t own his own plane.
A: Yes, I do have that distinction.
Q: What’s keeping you?
A: Well, you know, I can’t even keep hold of my passport, so I can’t be behind the controls of a complex bit of engineering 3,000 feet up. You know, it’s just not going to happen. It’s implausible, basically.
Q: How did you like Morocco?
A: The whole country is mesmeric. I went on a recommendation from some of my fellow musicians in Mali who were playing one of the sacred festivals they have in Morocco every year. And I went up there with a couple of mates, and I was puzzled because it was reminiscent of a Western festival but totally, utterly different. There were 50,000 people, but they weren’t high in the sense that they were drunk or taking drugs. They were totally involved and committed to the music. It was very passionate. I thought, “This is exactly how I want to hear and play music.” So it made sense to go on an adventure. We settled down very well and basically lived there for a month and a half. I was writing lyrics and singing in olive groves. It was a very elemental record. There was no sort of restrictions. It was just how it sounded like in the middle of the desert.
Q: Did you think you might get kidnapped?
A: Well, we were living out in the countryside, and it is Third World, I suppose, but they were among the most honest people I’ve ever hung out with.
Q: It all sounds very exotic.
A: It was just another part of the world. Morocco is no more exotic than the South End in London. I have a problem with the tag “exotic.” In London the route to the studio from my house was slightly different from what it was in Morocco, but I think once you get into the habit of making your own environment part of your music, then you can go anywhere. I wasn’t there to add an exotic flavor. I was there to get to know the culture a bit more.
Q: Is that because you’re turning into Sting?
A: Oh, God. I just read an interview where they said I was fighting my inner Sting. This haunts me because three or four years ago Sting came up to me at some awards ceremony and said, “You know what? You remind me of me when I was young.” It was the most horrifying thing that ever happened to me. I go running every morning now and my mantra is, “I must not turn into Sting.”