Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn on Tech Anxiety and the Magic of Partnerships.

Few musicians have stayed as interesting for as long as Damon Albarn. As the frontman of Blur, he helped define the sound of ‘90s Britpop. With Gorillaz, he achieved the impossible of mixing hip-hop and rock in a way that didn’t suck (and in cartoon form, to boot!). With eclectic projects like The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Dr. Dee, and Rocket Juice & the Moon, he’s proven what’s possible when an artist stops worrying about his audience’s expectations.

Yet, somehow, Albarn’s latest album, Everyday Robots, is his first to be released under his own name. It’s a subtle, often somber collection of electronic-tinged songs that explore (among other things) technology, loneliness, and the relationship between technology and loneliness. WIRED spoke with Albarn about his creative process, his gadgets, and why he lets someone else run his Twitter account.

WIRED: How early in the process of making Everyday Robots did you come up with the album’s overall concept?

Albarn: The title song was one of the earliest I worked on, and I guess the concept for the full album formed around it as I began working on other songs. The concept came out of me thinking about whether technology has brought us closer to ourselves or further away from ourselves. 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

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I’m totally overrated.

With Blur and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn played at the top of the charts, with world music and opera, he convinced even the most skeptical critics. Now the 46-year-old musician released “Everyday Robots”, his first solo album. A conversation about his childhood, love songs and ambition.

During a visit to Damon Albarn’s studio in west London you can already see on the interior that here an energetic artist lives: hanging on the wall the map of Mali, on the shelf an instrument built from an oil can, and the coffee table shows an excerpt of the route of London Underground.

Damon, here is where the magic happen?

Sometimes. On a good day.

Down at the entrance there is a bookcase where the last three books are about occult philosophy, have you actually read them? Read More

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How did you get on a Luc Besson film?

By a call! I knew some of his films, and some of Eric’s music. Luke called me, offering me to work with him for “Lucy”. We had lunch together, then I saw some scenes and I said yes immediately. I felt potential. But my inspiration for the song is very abstract. I was on a plane returning from the Sundance Film Festival and there was a whole group of Mormons on there… They all had a sticker with their name, and one of them was ‘Sister Rust’. It was obvious: Scarlett Johansson made a trip into the unknown with “Lucy”, similar to the total and complete faith that Mormons have in their religion.

It is surprising to see you in a French production. Instead, I imagine you in the studio with Ken Loach …

Well, I love Ken Loach and his science fiction. Loach never asked me anything. All musicians are seeking for new collaborations, new ideas. Why would I say no to Luc Besson?

Is it more complicated to write a song for a movie rather than for an album?

For a film, I tell you, the connection between the song and the images is quite distant. I went to the studio Eric Serra owns in the Seine. He took me to dinner because there was nothing really ready at that time. Then he played me some things. It has a sound of its own, which is really Besson. And I was interested on being a member of the team, not to be at the front. For once. I’ve experienced the same sensation when I was planning my opera “Dr Dee”. And now, between gigs, I write the soundtrack for a film. It is exciting… 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