60 Second Interview
Best known as the lead singer of Blur, Damon Albarn, 32, is taking a more low-profile role with his latest band, Gorillaz. Created by Albarn and artist/cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz is an animated four-piece – singer 2-D, bassist Murdoc, rapper Russel and guitarist Noodle – whose songs feature Albarn alongside a roster of other performers. The band’s single, Clint Eastwood, is out now.
There’s been a good response to Gorillaz so far.
Damon: I’m pleased with it. It’s nice to be vindicated when you’re involved with something that doesn’t use your own name. It makes me feel like I’m here because I’m here, rather than because it’s Damon Albarn on the label.
A cartoon band. Explain.
Damon: It demands that people use their imagination more than pop music generally allows for these days. If you can believe in figures such as Eminem and Marilyn Manson, why not get your head around something which takes that to
it’s logical conclusion? The whole pop aesthetic is more and more about personalities and you can get carried away with that and end up being let down. Humans are such fragile creatures and the whole nature of celebrity screws you up. Look at all the manufactured bands in the world. Even those that claim not to be are, in some way. Bands such as Coldplay are a little bit too clean to be real. Then there’s Westlife, A1… Gorillaz is about trying to destroy that and take it further, to manufacture something with real integrity. It requires a leap of faith.
You’re not a fan of popstars’ hear say then.
Damon: It’s quite timely, almost part of this weird zeitgeist in pop, but at the opposite extreme to what we’re trying to do. I bet we sell more records in the end.
There’s a Gorillaz gig at the scala in London on March 22.
Damon: It’s the first sold-out gig I’ve been involved in where the band hasn’t got its stuff together yet. It will be like nothing anyone has seen before, which is something we’re trying to carry on the website (www.gorillaz.com).
Gorillaz is a 2-D band, so there’s no chance of them turning up in the local shopping mall.
You’re a father now and will be 33 on March 23. Aren’t you getting a bit old for this sort of thing?
Damon: I’m no longer interested in touring the world and being a pop tart but I love pop music. Pop’s very fickle, but there are always good songs – although there seems to be a lot of cover versions around at the moment. Bands such as
A1 should be banned. They won a Brit, which sends out the wrong message, but it’s an industry thing to sell more records. Blur won four in 1995 which is more than anyone else has in a single night. People forget that.
Your father managed the band soft machine and working the arts. It must have been a fairly liberal upbringing when it came to music.
Damon: When I was in my early teens, I was really lucky because I had bands such as the Specials, who had that fusion of different types of music. In a way, Gorillaz is inspired by their groundbreaking attitude. Terry Hall [ex-Specials singer] sent me a text message the other day wishing us luck, which was luck. If the gig goes well, there will be more live dates this year
– although I won’t be there, as I’m not in the group.
Bandmates Alex James and Dave Rowntree have created something that’s going on board the next Mars probe.
Damon: We recorded some music as Blur for it but I’m not sure what happened to it. It’s their thing. They’re very passionate about it and good luck to them. I’m not involved in that.
There’s always Blur…
Damon: At the moment, I’m working on an album with West African musicians and then there’s some new Blur stuff to demo. I’m coming into my own as a musician. I can play really good stuff for about five seconds but with technology you can make that last three minutes.
There seems to be a lot less pressure on you than in the britpop days. Is Iceland still a place to escape?
Damon: I’ve got a house there, so I have to go out there to make sure the central heating hasn’t packed up. It’s really a fantastic place. It’s partly the escape but it also happens to be one of the most civilised places on the planet, which is important when you consider how uncivilised the world we live in is. And as for pressure, I’m still in the spotlight, it just doesn’t feel like I am and that’s the way I like it.