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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

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It’s the end of the world, and they feel fine…

When Damon Albarn started to think about reactivating his great collaborative project Gorillaz after a seven-year break, he knew he wanted to make an album about “pain, joy, urgency.” But first he had to mend a broken partnership with visual mastermind Jamie Hewlett. Dorian Lynskey finds them reunited and taking aim at brexit, trump and the whole darn world.

Ten years ago in, an online post that went viral, an American woman named Andrea
Donderi divided people into Askers and Guessers. Guessers, she wrote, won’t ask for what they want unless they’re pretty sure they’ll get a yes, so they often hold back. Askers, on the other hand, will request anything because they don’t mind if the answer is no. Damon Albarn is pop’s Asker-in-chief. Each time he’s making an album with Gorillaz Gorillaz his constantly mutating , his constantly mutating collaboration with artist Jamie Hewlett, he decides which voices will suit the songs and tries his luck. This time Sade politely declined; so, after an entertaining monthlong email exchange, did Morrissey. Dionne Warwick passed for the second time because the lyrics conflicted with her religious sensibilities. In the past, Barry Gibb and Engelbert Humperdinck have also given Gorillaz the bum’s rush. Albarn never minds.
“I don’t take rejection personally,” he says cheerfully. “The more people you put your
arms around, the better it is.” Read More

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Scans

The Fab Four

We meet Blur on our second sortie into France, this time at a festival in Rennes. There are dozens of music festivals dotted around in Europe: next summer we will drive to ones in Italy and Denmark and Norway and one in Spain, where we’ll sit and watch Iggy Pop crowd surf from a giant stage in the foothills of the Pyrenees. But today it’s northern France and there they are, the fab four: Damon, Alex, Graham and Dave. I think, as a courtesy, to start things off on a friendly footing, it might be nice to go over and say hello. Blur have asked us to support them on a UK tour and the dates are just a few weeks away. I spot them lined up against a wall wearing matching bower boots and Fred Perry shirts, bottles of beer clutched in their hands.

“Hi,” I say, “I’m Louise, good to meet you. We’re going on tour with you lot.”

They don’t say anything. They are silent, this little gang, surly and still and suspicious: Mr. Blond, Mr. Brown, Mr. Spectacles, Mr. Ginger. Finally, after a long time, time enough to scuff my heels and wish I’d stayed put on the other side of the venue, Damon sighs and says something like: ‘Yeah, right.’ Read More