Archive

2006

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Jamie Hewlett is sitting at his desk in a basement studio in west London trying to define his job title. “Ummm … artist? Yeah. I’m an artist,” he says.

Hewlett is one half of Gorillaz, the virtual “zombie hip-hop” pop group he formed with Blur frontman Damon Albarn in 1999 and which has sold over six million records worldwide.

With Albarn writing the music, Hewlett created the band’s four cartoon characters: vacant frontman 2D; bandleader and bassist Murdoc Nicalls; African-American drummer Russel Hobbs and ten-year-old Japanese guitarist Noodle. He also oversees all the Gorillaz’s visuals, including promo videos and DVDs, merchandising, the high-tech “live” gigs and the gorillaz.com website.

Hewlett was a widely respected cartoon artist before Gorillaz, having created the seminal Tank Girl strip, which was turned into a Hollywood movie when he was just 23. But the success of Gorillaz has taken him to another, slightly surreal, level: he is part of a globally famous rock group, yet he shuns the limelight and is happiest scribbling painstakingly at his desk at Zombie Flesh Eaters, the Shepherds Bush studio he set up to handle the Gorillaz work. Read More

Success is all a bit of a blur

Damon Albarn’s face has become part of the musical landscape since his run of hits with Blur began in the early 1990s.

He’s gone behind the scenes for his role in the cartoon band Gorillaz, yet he’s still the unofficial human face of the group.

Which is why it’s so surprising when Albarn, smiles and reveals something missing when we meet: his front tooth. He’s coy about exactly how it was extracted. Read More

Encounter with Gorillaz in New York

Typed out and translated by 2-J on gorillaz-unofficial. The original article is in French.

In two albums, the group has laid out its eclectic universe, which lies somewhere between cosmo-pop and manga animation. Behind its success, the genius of Damon Albarn.

Gorillaz concerts look like a Beneton advert. A Chinese zither player, a black choir, some mixed race ‘Hip-Hoppers’, and a little white guy, at the back, behind his piano. A guy called Damon Albarn, 100% British, every inch of him the fair Anglo-Saxon. This spitting image of a young Dutronc formed the band Blur in the 20th century, then Gorillaz after that – a weird concept fed on cartoons, new technologies and diverse musico-ethnic mixes. It’s he who wanted this tonight, a total art event more risky than a skateboard on an ice rink. Nobody forced him to do it. He could have stayed in the cold in his Albion, remained in jeans and kept his hair long, putting out the tunes for the Girls & Boys, keeping up his ingenious rehashing of the Kinks, Jam, Beatles and dawdling over that money-making formula. Except he didn’t, this guy wanted to play. He went crazy for Africa, recorded an album Mali Music with Tounmani Diabate, founded a Soul and resissues record label (Honest Jon’s), became infatuated with the work of Jamie Hewlett (creator of the comic Tank Girl) before becomming part of a virtual duo with him, to which the name of a monkey was attached. The predictions were that he’d fail, but he succeeded in every way. Read More

Words: Bart Cameron, Sveinn Birkir Björnsson and Paul F. Nikolov

Known to sniff out BS from a mile away, Kristján Kristjánsson is one of the most respected journalists in Iceland. On January 5th and 6th, Kristján attacked celebrated musician and long-time proponent of Iceland and its culture Damon Albarn, only to follow up with a soft-edged interview with controversial Minister of Industry Valgerður Sverrisdóttir.

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Damon Albarn has been taking America by storm with his cartoon band. But, he tells Andrew Purcell, the latest Gorillaz album may be the last. How could they top it?

There are ghosts at the Apollo. Bobby Byrd holds his master’s cape, the amateur night regulars bawl and shimmy, and Fats Gonder asks: “Are you ready for Star Time?” But the hardest-working man in show business doesn’t hear him. Damon Albarn is listening to the voice of a man who has witnessed the apocalypse. It’s the voice of Dennis Hopper, and he can’t remember his lines.

The atmosphere inside Harlem’s most famous theatre three hours before the gig is relaxed and happy. Hopper is describing the end of days from the pulpit, rehearsing with the band for the first time. He preaches fire and bitter winds. He misses his cues, but the musicians never flinch. Read More