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Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn on his bad habits and nuclear apocalypse

Damon Albarn may have started Gorillaz as a cartoon band some 20 years ago, but the project has evolved into something far more interesting. “Humanz,” its fifth studio recording and first new album since 2010, features eclectic guests such as Mavis Staples, Grace Jones and Noel Gallagher. When Gorillaz perform at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 4, the touring act will be joined by underground rappers Danny Brown and Vince Staples. We spoke with Albarn, 49, former lead singer of the British pop band Blur and a restless creative spirit, before the group’s headlining set at this year’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in August.

Q: I imagine you must be the most difficult person at home because you can’t sit still.

A: That is something my partner cites as one of my major faults. And as soon as I do, I get ill. Read More

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Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn survives despairs of Brexit and xenophobia with ‘Humanz’

The latest Gorillaz record may feature epic, up-tempo party songs, but that isn’t stopping frontman Damon Albarn from fretting about the future.

“I default to the apocalypse,” Albarn tells the Daily News matter-of-factly as he sips a flat white in the lobby of the TriBeCa hotel where he’s staying. “And I suppose I have this deep, English melancholy.”

Gorillaz are in town for a headlining spot at The Meadows on Saturday night, a performance that kicks off a U.S. tour. The set is expected to heavily feature songs off their new album “Humanz,” and Albarn hints that a slew of special guests are set to appear Saturday night.

While Albarn admits that performing the new album “feels joyful on stage,” “Humanz” was written and recorded under a dark cloud. Read More

Behind the scenes with Gorillaz

Humanz, the fifth album from virtual band Gorillaz, is released this week. We talk to Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett about their working relationship and the benefits of being a cartoon

The new Gorillaz album began with the idea of a party, a party for the end of the world.

“When we started making the album, a year and a half ago, we had this idea that we discussed with everybody who came on board: we said, ‘imagine in the future, Donald Trump becomes President of the United States’,” says Jamie Hewlett, the art side of Gorillaz. “At that time it was such an absurd idea. So we were laughing about that and Damon was saying, ‘there’s a huge party, a global party, not to celebrate but to commiserate’. A party to celebrate the end of the world.

“Because this is what we do nowadays – when something bad happens, we just all get fucked,” he continues. “This is how we deal with things. So imagine the party … and imagine the hangover the next day. This was the place that we wanted to start at.” Read More

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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

Damon Albarn ready for a big crowd bath

At the end of the cell waves, it is a Damon Albarn of excellent mood that we join, still impressed of the performance of his band, in Toronto, July 10: “it was epic, one of the best gigs I ever have given”.

This confirms his wish to put Gorillaz back on track after a seven-year hiatus. Disputes with Hewlett had led the two men to take a break. Then, finally, they came closer and decided to dive into Humanz, a festive album, but encamped in a dark epoch, politically. As is the case with each of the group’s albums, Albarn has shaped it with an impressive list of guests including Vince Staples, De La Soul, Grace Jones, Mavis Staples, Popcaan, Benjamin Clementine and Jean- Michel Jarre. A portion of the artists accompanies Albarn on tour, including in Quebec, but on this, Albarn himself has trouble knowing who will be with him, so many evenings follow each other and are not alike …

It surprises you how much Gorillaz, despite its experimental or daring side has joined and continues to reach so many people?

I am particularly pleased. It will be a very large audience in Quebec City and it will be a real test for me to see if I can communicate all this to such an imposing crowd. I played in front of big crowds before, but it will be the biggest for us to date. I hope we will be up to it. We have succeeded great musicians like the Who – it’s an honor because they inspired me greatly when I was a child – and Kendrick [Lamar], which is certainly the hottest thing on the planet. But we’ll be ready! Read More