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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

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Blur were one of the most popular bands of the Nineties — everywhere except here in America, where most mainstream listeners know them as the “woo-hoo!” guys thanks to their lone U.S. hit, 1997’s “Song 2.” But their stateside reputation has grown over the years since their 2003 split, and next week, Blur (who returned with a strong new album, The Magic Whip, last spring) will play their biggest American non-festival gigs ever, at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl and New York’s Madison Square Garden. Frontman Damon Albarn called from his London home to talk about why he both loves and hates getting back together with his old bandmates; his plans for a new album with his most successful non-Blur project, Gorillaz; and more. “I’m on my sofa, and I’ve just put dinner on for my family,” he says. “Hopefully, it will cook while we’re talking, and my multitasking genius will transcend this Tuesday evening.” Read More

“It was very cathartic,” Damon Albarn says of his solo album Everyday Robots, slated for release on April 29th. Away from his various bands, including Blur and Gorillaz, Albarn cut 12 tracks that explore a range of his influences, from early childhood to the pitfalls of modern technology. It’s a haunting, hypnotic collection of songs, floating through the ether of memory. Albarn called us from his London studio to talk about it.

Does it feel different doing a solo album?
It’s got my name on it and I wrote the songs, but Richard Russell [producer and head of XL Recordings] was a fantastic editor and did a lot of the atmospheric stuff, so in a sense it’s not entirely my record. It is my narrative, and my voice and my songs.

I started off giving Richard a lot of songs, 60 or 60-plus — he had the editorship. Hence a song like “Mr. Tembo,” which I never would have considered recording, because I put that in my “songs I write for other things,” like for kids’ birthdays, or in this case, it was for a baby elephant I met in a place called Mkomazi, in Tanzania. It was recently orphaned and walked onto this aerodrome; the people I know took it in and called it Mr. Tembo. I was there, and I met this little elephant, and he was very sweet. I sang it to him. It was recorded on a phone, and in a light-hearted moment, I put it on a list for Richard. He said, “I’d really like you to try that,” so I did. Read More

Blur Get Introspective On Their New Album

By David Sprague

It’s a crisp, clear morning in New York’s Central Park, and for a change, Blur frontman Damon Albarn is able to appreciate having his feet planted on American soil. While the 27-year-old singer has explored the park’s paths on previous visits to New York, he spent most of those hikes in blue funks heightened by a steady Walkman-fed diet of mope-pop guru Scott Walker. Today, however, Albarn is positively effusive, whistling a chorus of “Tea For Two”, even breaking into a brief soft-shoe as he exists the door of his label’s midtown offices. “I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve been happy to be in America,” says Albarn, who used to exhibit his Yankophobia in sullen displays of attitude that made journalists tremble and brought at least one record company operative to tears. “In the past we were obstinate,” Albarn says. “Now we’re looking for ways to translate, as opposed to demanding people understand us on our own terms.” Read More

Blur find a stripped down U.S. sound

The mosh pit at K-Rock’s Dysfunctional Family Picnic, in Forest Hills, N.Y., is packed with rowdy teens and testosterone-addled frat boys. Plastic water bottles fly through the air, and bare-chested ruffians slam-dance themselves into a violent frenzy. Two years ago, a crowd like this would have eaten Blur alive: Jaunty, theatrical songs about feeding the pigeons and drinking at the pub just don’t cut it with kids who claim grunge-wannabe’s Bush as their favourite British band of all time.

Blur, however, have changed. Following four albums of whimsical pop, their latest release, simply called Blur, is looser and more stripped down than their earlier records, fueled by the same kind of ragged experimentation as American indie-rock bands like Pavement and Sebadoh. In fact, Blur’s 30-minute set in Forest Hills shows few traces of the group’s Brit-pop roots. Vocalist Damon Albarn, wearing baggy blue pants and a pair of Converses, hams it up with spastic karate kicks and rock-star leaps while the rest of the group – guitarist Graham Coxon, drummer Dave Rowntree, and bassist Alex James – keeps the rhythms churning behind Albarn. Even Blur’s Eurodisco hit, “Girls and Boys,” is delivered with the raw fury of the Ramones, and when the band launches into its seismic MTV staple “Song 2,” the crowd members explode, bouncing off one another like billiard balls and drowning out the group with “whaaa-hooo” shout-alongs. Read More