Archive

2008

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‘I was the Fool-king of Soho and the number-one slag in the Groucho Club, the second drunkest member of the world’s drunkest band. This was no disaster, though. It was a dream coming true.’ For Alex James, music had always been a door to a more eventful life. But as bass player of Blur – one of the most successful British bands of all time – his journey was more exciting and extreme than he could ever have predicted. In Bit of a Blur he chronicles his journey from a slug-infested flat in Camberwell to a world of screaming fans and private jets – and his eventual search to find meaning and happiness (and, perhaps most importantly, the perfect cheese), in an increasingly surreal world.

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The coolest record label on Earth

Blur’s Damon Albarn curates the Honest Jon Revue at Avery Fisher Hall

Blur frontman (and Gorillaz faux-frontman) Damon Albarn is not a fan of world music—or, at least, the term. “Never call it that,” scolds the singer, calling in from London. “It’s kind of like ‘the world is flat’ sort of mentality. We musn’t ever say ‘world music.’”

Albarn is, in fact, a big fan of music from non-traditional sources (we hope that’s a fair term, Damon), including West African folk, Columbian samba and 1930s delta Blues—all released on his own record label, Honest Jon’s, named after an influential Portobello Road record shop of the same name. Read More

Gorillaz become ‘Monkey’

Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett and I stand on the balcony of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden where the huge stage work on which they have collaborated is now performing, looking at flames roaring out of the pavement grille five floors below us. A restaurant kitchen is on fire.

“That’s bad down there. It’s about to explode any minute,” Albarn observes, with the air of a man who knows his underground fires. Flames are shooting up a couple of metres and surrounding shops have been evacuated. Shouldn’t we move back a little? “Maybe,” says Albarn over the empty street, “but I kind of like the danger.”

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Monkey Magic

From an opera to an animation and a record and maybe even a band, Monkey has evolved. Paul Morley enters the ever-changing, always inventive world of Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn.

On the idea that things must have a beginning being due to the poverty of our thoughts.

Eleven endings to a piece of writing about the musician, realist and fantasist Damon Albarn and his creative sidekick and fellow conspirator, the graphic artist Jamie Hewlett. Read More

I’ve always felt close to monkeys

“I SWEAR by it,” says Damon Albarn, handing me a steaming hot mug of pungent, green-black liquid.

I take a tentative sip. Mmmm, not bad. Nettle tea is a surprisingly good brew, probably the ideal tipple for unravelling the mysteries of China.

I’m sitting in Damon’s (relatively) small office/studio in his (relatively) new West London HQ which he shares with creative partner Jamie Hewlett.

There’s a piano, a small keyboard, a rather old-fashioned soundboard, a small sofa and a big window overlooking the quiet street below. This is Damon’s musical playground. Read More