Are we Humanz or are we dancers?
We caught up with music’s most unruly cartoon band to talk Cher-inspired reunions and new album ‘Humanz’.
After a chaotic five years, with more dramatic happenings than your average episode of EastEnders, Noodle, 2-D, Murdoc and Russel are back with the follow-up to ‘Plastic Beach’. Featuring a massive list of star-studded collaborators – from Vince Staples and Jehnny Beth, to Carly Simon, Graham Coxon, and Kelela, to just scrape the surface – we got the whole Gorillaz gang together to talk everything from Freudian disasters involving whales, to their rivalry with a small kitchen appliances firm.
How are things at Gorillaz HQ?
Murdoc: I won’t lie, getting back together again has been pretty emotional. Not for me. For the others. Russel, Noodle and 2D were overwhelmed to be in my presence again. It was almost embarrassing. But that’s why Gorillaz gel so well. Respect for your betters.
Russel: What’s embarrassing is the Snapchat he sent us all, before we agreed to come back.
Murdoc: Don’t know what you’re on about.
Russel: He was naked, hugging a Gorillaz photo and cry-singing ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ by Cher. It was low, man.
Murdoc: Yeah. Irony, mate. Lost on you Americans.
How is 2D doing after being swallowed – and later regurgitated by – the Mexican whale known as Massive Dick?
Murdoc: The kid’s lucky to be alive. A monstrous beast, that whale. No relation to Moby, incidentally. Scourge of the Pacific. Known as ‘Polla Masiva’ by Mexican fishermen.
Noodle: A whale’s gastric juices must be very healthful and enriching. 2D’s skin has never looked better. More… human, somehow.
2D: It was a scary experience, but sometimes I miss the time I spent with Massive. At night I would go to sleep with my head on his soft aorta, listening to the slow beating of his heart. It was like being back in the womb, just slightly fishier. I cried like a baby when Massive spat me out. Even more when I had to eat him to survive.
Murdoc: Fuck me. Freud would have a field day with you.
And have you all patched things up with EMI after they kidnapped Murdoc and forced him to make a new album?
Murdoc: EMI? They’re long gone, mate. Murdoc Niccals had the last laugh, yet again. When I was incarcerated in Dungeon Abbey, I prayed to the dark lord every night, asking him to help me get my revenge on EMI by taking them apart. And in the end, that’s all it took. That and a £1.2 billion acquisition. Sayonara, wankers.
Russel Hobbs – any forthcoming plans to link up with Russell Hobbs (the small kitchen appliances firm) for a collaborative range?
Russel: Seriously!? You telling me some retail cowboys are getting fat off my name? Do the lawyers know about this?
Murdoc: Chill out, Russ. Just make sure you get your cut. George Foreman did alright with that grill, didn’t he? ‘Course, the bigger concern for you is whether this other Russell Hobbs can play the drums. ‘Cos if he can, plus make us cheese toasties, you’re finished.
Noodle: It is a very real threat. Machines are part of all of us now. That’s something ‘Humanz’ touches upon. Because who doesn’t like cheese toasties?
There are lots of funfair rides at Dreamland – where you’re playing in June. What’s your favourite theme park ride?
Noodle: Not the wildest ride, but I always like the monorail. It makes me feel nostalgic for Japanese innovation. Regrettably, I think we peaked with the Sony Walkman.
Murdoc: Hall of Mirrors. Handy if you run out of booze ‘cos it blurs vision for free. That or the Tower of Terror. They must have named it after my groin.
2D: Dodgems. Before Gorillaz I worked them for two years at Eastbourne Funfair. I sometimes dream of packing music in and going back to that job. Although the last time I tried to leave I was hunted down by Murdoc’s bloodhounds.
Russel: We’re already stuck on an out-of-control roller coaster – it’s called LIFE. Why would I want to make things any more complicated?
Previous Gorillaz albums have a distinct lack of song titles with extra ‘z’s on the end. What changed?
2D: The letter ‘s’.
Russel: EVERYTHING’S changed. We all woke up to a dark new reality. And if you can’t see that, it means you’re one of them.
Murdoc: Sit down, Russ.
Noodle: Our idea was that humans as a species are currently in transition. Becoming something more augmented, more digital. And it’s happening fast. So ‘Humanz’ with a z is like a snapshot of that, a selfie of the human race as it becomes something else.
You’ve all had makeovers for ‘Humanz’, and you’re all looking a bit more three-dimensional these days. Especially on the cover. What’s the secret? Blueberries? Gold-dust in your muesli?
Murdoc: A shitload of botox. Really fills the cheeks out.
2D: I might look 3-D, but I’m still 2D.
What do you think it was like for Jehnny Beth, De La Soul, Noel Gallagher, Vince Staples, and all the other album collaborators having to integrate into the cartoon world to work alongside you… Daunting? Or do you all take these things in your stride?
Russel: Who d’ya think we are – Alvin and the Chipmunks? Wake up, man. You’re all building digital selves that you want the world to believe in. You inhabit the virtual realm almost more than the physical one. And you’re telling us we’re not real?
2D: I like Alvin and The Chipmunks.
You also worked with Carly Simon on this record. Does anybody do it better?
Murdoc: Yes. Madonna