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2017

It used to be front page news

Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn on hanging out with old Britpop nemesis Noel Gallagher and the band’s first album in seven years.

MOVE over Meg, it’s time to introduce you to Mystic Damon.

When Mr Albarn started work on the new Gorillaz album, his “dark, twisted fantasy,” he gave a vast array of collaborators a specific brief.

“Imagine if Donald Trump won the US presidential elections,” he told them. “How would you feel? What would you do on the night of the result? “Would you go out and get battered or would you just stay at home watching the news?”

At the time, the former host of the US Apprentice was still the noisy outsider. Yet by last November, when the album was pretty much complete, The Donald was headed for the Oval Office.

Prophetic Damon offers a wry smile when he considers what he set out to achieve with Humanz, the fifth Gorillaz album . . .  suddenly more relevant because of the incumbent with the sandy comb-over. Read More

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Gorillaz almost broke up in 2012 — here’s why they didn’t

As the virtual-band superstars prepare to release their fifth studio album, Humanz, the group’s co-mastermind Damon Albarn, 49, discusses the challenges of holograms, guest wrangling, and drinking on the job.

In 2012, you said Gorillaz might be done. What changed?
DAMON ALBARN: Oh, we think that every time. [Laughs] Jamie [Hewlett] fell in love with a French girl and moved to Paris, and I was terribly hurt I’d lost my friend. It’s like a marriage, these creative partnerships. But luckily, our kids have grown up together, so we didn’t lose contact completely. And we just sort of found all the bits of the porcelain vase we’d smashed on the floor and stuck it all back together.

You’re known for recruiting amazingly eclectic guests, but Humanz has more female artists than usual: Carly Simon, Mavis Staples, Grace Jones…
I wanted it to be more balanced. Because if we were going to call the record Humanz, I had to. On the last record, we had people like Bobby Womack and Ibrahim Ferrer and Ike Turner who, musically, are patriarchs. I wanted to work with some matriarchs. Read More

Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher on the Making of Gorillaz’s ‘We Got the Power’

It’s been seven years since Gorillaz last released a proper album, which isn’t that long considering all the labor that goes into one. Though it’s meant to seem like the work of four fictional cartoon characters, the business of actually making their latest record, Humanz, their fourth, fell as always to illustrator Jamie Hewlett, who creates the visuals, and Damon Albarn, who produces the music and wrangles the guests. For “We Got the Power,” the upbeat anthem that closes Humanz, those guests included D.R.A.M., Savages front woman Jehnny Beth, and, most intriguingly, Albarn’s former Britpop nemesis, Noel Gallagher. I spoke with Albarn, Gallagher, Beth, D.R.A.M., and Hewlett about how the song came together for the next issue of New York. Here’s an extended version of those interviews.

Damon Albarn

So we’re here to talk about just the one song — “We Got the Power,” the last track on Humanz.
This song has its own unique story and had many different manifestations before I arrived at the final version. It’s one of those songs that attracted the mercurial attentions of my record label. Not that I ever do what they say, but sometimes you can present them an entire body of work and they become obsessed with that one particular tune. Read More

Damon Albarn Talks Gorillaz’s Star-Studded New LP, Blur’s Future

Damon Albarn can easily fill an hour with stories of how he seeks, wrangles and records the motley armies of guest vocalists, players and contributing producers that pack the Blur singer’s periodic albums of apocalyptically charged hip-hop, credited to the cartoon-avatar quartet Gorillaz. On a recent afternoon in his New York hotel, a few weeks before the release of Gorillaz’ fifth album, Humanz, Albarn – who launched the animated band in 1998 with fellow Englishman, illustrator Jamie Hewlett – rhapsodized about an encounter in Chicago with the American gospel-soul queen Mavis Staples, who delivers the emergency wail in Humanz’ “Let Me Out,” and revealed that rappers De La Soul hijacked the track “Momentz” from Albarn’s original choice, comedian Dave Chappelle. Albarn also confessed that he produced Carly Simon’s surprise appearance on the deluxe-edition track “Ticker Tape” – with the Latin hip-hop singer Kali Uchis – by phone and Internet. He and Simon have never met. Read More

Damon Albarn of Gorillaz on How a Dark Fantasy Became Reality on ‘Humanz’

Being a virtual band was always part of the sales pitch of Gorillaz, the pairing of the Blur musician Damon Albarn and the illustrator Jamie Hewlett, which has been releasing hip-hop-influenced concept albums since 2001.

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And yet with “Humanz,” the fifth Gorillaz album and the first since 2010, Mr. Albarn found himself at the center of a decidedly real-world conundrum. To unify the album and its many collaborators, he tried to imagine an apocalyptic event — the election of Donald J. Trump — and the possible reactions to it. Then he convened some of the most vibrant talent in hip-hop, R&B, house, reggae and more: the pointed rappers Pusha T and Vince Staples, the nimble singer Peven Everett, the dancehall tear-jerker Popcaan, the early house music innovator Jamie Principle, the soul legend Mavis Staples and many more. Read More

Damon Albarn on Why Gorillaz Edited Out Every Reference to Trump on the New Album ‘Humanz’

For all the official guest stars that Gorillaz leader Damon Albarn corralled for the group’s fifth album, Humanz — Pusha T, Vince Staples, Kelela and Danny Brown among them — the most riveting cameo is unlisted: Noel Gallagher, former co-lead of Oasis, bitter ’90s rival of Albarn’s other band, Blur. Twenty years ago, Albarn and Gallagher were trading potshots as Britpop kings; in 1995, Gallagher famously wished Albarn would “catch AIDS and die.” But in 2017, both are pushing 50 and uniting on “We Got the Power,” on which Gallagher sings backing vocals. “We’ve got the power to be loving each other,” they declare, “no matter what happens.”

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