‘Do I find myself beautiful? Yes, clearly’
After releasing twenty albums (eight with Blur, five with Gorillaz, two solo, five with various collaborators), travelled Africa with Malian musicians, opened a bar in Reykjavik, composed two operas (including the exceptional Monkey : Journey to the West), and adapted Alice in Wonderland in a musical comedy, here’s Damon Albarn, seated with one leg folded against him in the room of a Parisian palace, with baggy trousers and a brown jacket. Who else in the world can boast of rock and hip-hop with separate bands simultaneously?
Just arrived from New York, the 49-year-old British singer is preparing his big comeback with Jamie Hewlett. After five years of silence and rumors of separation, the fifth album of the “virtual” band created by the Tank Girl cartoonist and the singer of Blur is stripping. Inspired by the election of Donald Trump, Humanz is a electro-soul-hip-hop-funk-pop party for the end of the world. A pressing, sensual and frightening album, mirroring the human emotions felt in an apocalyptic world. Meet an indefatigable creator.
You have invited twenty-four artists for this album, including Grace Jones, Jean-Michel Jarre, De La Soul, Benjamin Clementine …
It’s a real orgy! (Laughs) Actually, I got carried away! I kept coming up with new ideas, with new people … I actually called 40 people, but no everything worked out.
And with a plot twist worthy of Game of Thrones, you invited Noel Gallagher, your enemy from the 90s, to sing along with you on the last song of the album!
To be honest, I didn’t know what to do with him at first. He is one of the kings of Britpop to use your analogy with Game of Thrones, but his universe doesn’t fit too much to the project. We are very good friends now, but it was still weird to find myself singing “we have the power to be loving each other” with him, whereas we have spent years at war! So, I also invited Jehnny Beth [the singer of Savages] and Graham Coxon, to the song: with the four of us, it sounds better.
Do you feel sometimes like a stereotype?
DAMON: It happens to me when my 18-year-old daughter points to my trousers and says that I’m trying too hard to look cool and it isn’t working … I spend my time trying to and she criticizes me all the time, but it was quite useful for this album: her remarks contributed to give it some youth. Finally, it’s still not easy when your children tells you that you are not cool.
It must be exhausting to be a sex symbol!
When I was young, I was very pretty. Today I am handsome, I prefer that. It’s not easy to be pretty. When I was a child, I usually was mistaken for a girl. I was vulnerable, the other children were hated me and beat me. I was very concerned about what people thought of me. I felt the power of attraction, thanks to my looks, and it was disconcerting to see how easy it was for me to sleep with women. I’ve always respected women, I was educated that way. I really love them, so I’m very glad they like me too.
Do you still consider yourself handsome?
Do I have to do the false modesty thing? No? OK. Do I find myself beautiful? Yes, clearly. But not every day! (laughs) With the right angle and the right light, I am still pretty handsome.
You are interested in contemporary African art …
When I went to Kinshasa, I was really touched by an artist who built robots with bits of scrap … I prefer animist art to contemporary art. I don’t like the galleries too much, I buy in the markets. My house looks more like a flea market than a museum! I have a large collection of masks from around the world. They frighten me, they amuse me … I sometimes put them on to frighten the children. Or in the bedroom! (Laughs)
Are you afraid of dying?
Before, I was terrified by death. I had daily anxiety attacks during which I felt I was dying. Today, I still have moments of neurosis, but it does not hount me any more. I’m much more balanced.
But you work like crazy!
I’m afraid of losing the opportunity to get up in the morning and be able to do whatever I want.