2D of Gorillaz Dishes on His Gap Year and Makes Us a Playlist

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Gorillaz are up to something. As in, up to a new album. After re-joining social media, the fab-foursome of 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel revealed to the world just what the hell they have been up to in the years since their last album, 2010’s excellent Plastic Beach. In so many words, they have been up to a truly bizarre set of solo adventures.

And as strange as each of their individual journeys have been, none are quite as strange as the one embarked upon by lead singer and keyboardist, 2D. His visual story revealed a tale of woe and loss that involved a giant whale, starvation and going on his first-ever gap year.

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Murdoc’s Guide to Britain1477915817370-gorllz

An exclusive interview with the leader and bass player of the Gorillaz, about booze, Brexit, Ringo Starr and ‘Carry on Matron’.

Something is stirring. It’s been four years since Gorillaz released their last record, The Fall, and four years since the band were sent spinning off in disparate directions. Russell blown sixty-times his size, 2D nearly becoming whale food, Noodle battling demons-turned-mafia-dons in Tokyo and Murdoc… well.

Since their last record, Gorillaz chief songwriter and bassist Murdoc Niccals has been through the wars, a little more than usual at least. After finding himself stranded on the titular Plastic Beach – a remote island seemingly miles away from civilisation – Niccals was surviving, just about, with nobody but the cyborg version of Noodle for company. However, when the island was besieged by pirates, he was forced to escape on a small rusting submarine. Following an ungodly stretch of time, submerged and without toilet facilities, he was eventually forced to surface – only to be greeted by the Battleship Ringo, a huge sea vessel owned by EMI. The multinational record company proceeding to take Niccals aboard, back to London only to imprison him in a dungeon beneath Abbey Road. So, yeah, it’s been a hell of a year. Read More

Caturday Grooving with Russel from Gorillaz

With whispers circulating of an exciting new album by Gorillaz we snared some time with the enigmatic Russel Hobbs from the group. An exceptional dude, who’s lead an extraordinary life. When he’s not being possessed by dead rappers, growing to ten times his regular size and being celebrated as a modern day Gulliver in Pyongyang, he’s behind most of Gorillaz’ dopest beats. This week he’s soundtracking your Caturday with an exclusive playlist, sharing the secrets of his inimitable style showcased in a bespoke portrait by Jamie Hewlett and telling us why the Devon Rex is his favourite feline.

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A Syrian Symphony: Behind the scenes of an emotional musical reunion.

When their home country was torn apart by war, the members of the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians were dispersed around the world. Last month, they were brought together again for brief tour, aided by Damon Albarn. The BBC World Service went behind the scenes of the rehearsals.


The Q Factory, a hip rehearsal space in east Amsterdam, is the unlikely venue for an emotional reunion.

Here, 50 members of the Syrian Orchestra for Arabic Music have gathered to rehearse for their first concert together since civil war tore their nation apart. Many of them have not seen each other for five years.

“I cannot describe how it felt when we finally met again”, says singer Mais Harb. “There were lots of tears, lots of hugging, lots of happiness.”

Harb lives in Damascus and was lucky to get a visa permitting her to play this tour – which takes in Amsterdam, Glastonbury, London, Istanbul and the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

“It is sad though”, says Firas Sharestan, who plays the qanun, an instrument that could well be part of the harp family, yet has 76 strings.

“We have these 10 days and afterwards everyone will go back to where they were before, and nobody knows when we will meet again.” Read More

Starting in 2000, filmmaker Ceri Levy joined Gorillaz behind the scenes from their first days as a band all the way to their 2006 concerts in Manchester and Harlem. The documentary he assembled with this footage, titled Bananaz, is an amazing journey through many key moments in Gorillaz history, including the recording of Gorillaz and Demon Days. Today you will have the opportunity to ask him questions about his work on Bananaz!

What was it like working with them?

That’s a tough question straight off! It was a really fun experience for so many reasons. Firstly no one had a clue how popular it would be or just how fun it would be. It was a commitment to an idea that made it grow and grow. And as for Jamie and Damon, hopefully Bananaz shows just how funny both of them can be. Sometimes people don’t realise what a sense of humour they have and I hope the film got that across

Bananaz especially showed a lot of Jamie and Damon just doing their thing however random or crazy. And are they really as down to earth as they seem?

Musically everything starts with Damon. He invariably makes tracks and then invites his guests to work their magic on it. That is how it used to be it may be different now. But he is brilliant in the studio as he gives everyone the space they need to create their own vibe. As for the visuals that’s Jamie’s area. He is just such a superb draughtsman. And yes they really are as down to earth as they seem! With maybe the odd pop star moment! But no they are very centred, focused and down to earth.

How did you become involved with Gorillaz? How was the idea of the band pitched to you initially? And what were you thinking as you saw the whole idea of a cartoon band come together?

I became involved with Gorillaz as I had been a friend of Damon’s for many years. We met the night Blur got signed to a publishing deal as a friend of mine signed them. i.e. Smiffy! We worked a lot on Blur projects and I produced a film called Starshaped for them as well as promos and live vids etc. The idea of the band wasn’t pitched in any way. I used to go round with coffees first thing in the morning and one morning they told me about this idea they had, which was Gorillaz. They thought they were insane, I thought so too and we decided to document it! And the rest as they say is history! I think I realised it was something special the moment Ibrahim Ferrer walked into the studio with his Cuban posse. I kept thinking this is one of those special moments in life. Read More

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The Good, The Bad, and The King

Playing at Toumani Diabaté’s Festival Acoustik Bamako, Damon Albarn becomes an honorary royal?

Damon Albarn’s picking up an OBE in March. But before that, on January 31, he was granted the status of a local king in Mali and has a new name, Makandjan Kamissoko. It’s quite some honour, and was made by the country’s leading griots, hereditary musicians who are the guardians of Mali’s ancient history and songs.

Griots don’t forget, and they had taken note of Albarn’s commitment to the country, coming back here at a time when the Foreign Office advise against “all but essential” travel, after the terrorist attack on a luxury Bamako hotel in November, in which 20 people were killed. Read More