We skyped every member of Gorillaz.

On its surface, the band’s new album Humanz is one of the most energetic party records of the year – but as 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel tell us, it was the in fact a product of blackmail, manipulation and strife.

Gorillaz’s new album Humanz is a party record for the end of the world, an apocalyptic dream that turned out to be not so far from reality. The album’s political undercurrents are lifted up by a host of collaborators – from De La Soul to Grace Jones – that could only ever come together for the end of days. Meanwhile, joyous accompaniments, tinged with an almost chaotic abandon from the band, feel at once rooted in the now and dragged kicking and screaming from some distant, alternate timeline.

With this in mind, then, you might think that everything was peachy in Gorillaz’s camp – but you’d be wrong. While Humanz might sound like a project created by a bunch of mates who’ve put aside their differences and come together for the music, it’s actually a product of blackmail, manipulation, and a complete disregard for people’s boundaries, both personal and musical. Read More

Gorillaz’s Murdoc says he’s “almost entirely” free of both fear and super-gonorrhea.

In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.

Murdoc Niccals is a bit of a hell-raiser. Although some might say the Gorillaz bassist is just a Keith Richards-inspired cartoon character drawn by Jamie Hewlett and voiced by Phil Cornwell, he actually has a fully formed backstory, from his birth in Stoke-On-Trent at a sanatorium “for the sick, the needy, and the incredibly bored” to his years spent on an around-the-world bender. Lately, he’s been pretty busy doing press for Humanz, the latest Gorillaz record, and prepping for the band’s first North American tour in seven years. Fortunately, he was able to take a few minutes off to sit down and answer The A.V. Club’s 11 Questions.

1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be and why?
Murdoc Niccals: The rest of my life stuck inside a TV show? Sounds like some kind of Orwellian fucking nightmare, mate. No, thank you. And if you did try locking me away, I’d smash my way out like in The Truman Show. ’Cause you can’t cage this animal. No one shackles Murdoc Niccals. No one except Madame Flesch, my dominatrix. Couldn’t escape her shackles if I tried. She’s got some pretty hardcore gear, lot of vintage Cold War stuff. I actually spent a month in an isolation tank she got from the KGB. Absolutely harrowing. Top holiday, that. Read More

In new Gorillaz album, dark political vision comes true

Creating the latest album of his virtual band Gorillaz, Damon Albarn had what he considered a dark, sci-fi vision — Donald Trump as president of the United States. Then it came true.

“I wanted to make a kind of science fiction record. But more a social fiction, sort of anticipation,” said the Britpop icon best known as the frontman of Blur.

“There were several options and I chose the worst case scenario,” he told AFP over a meal on a visit to Paris. “I wanted to make a social fiction record, but reality hit.”

Gorillaz has been an outlet for Albarn’s more experimental side, breaking free from guitar pop to explore trippy, futuristic sounds. Created in 2001, Gorillaz is a virtual band with four fictional members — 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle. Read More

‘Do I find myself beautiful? Yes, clearly’

After releasing twenty albums (eight with Blur, five with Gorillaz, two solo, five with various collaborators), travelled Africa with Malian musicians, opened a bar in Reykjavik, composed two operas (including the exceptional Monkey : Journey to the West), and adapted Alice in Wonderland in a musical comedy, here’s Damon Albarn, seated with one leg folded against him in the room of a Parisian palace, with baggy trousers and a brown jacket. Who else in the world can boast of rock and hip-hop with separate bands simultaneously?

Just arrived from New York, the 49-year-old British singer is preparing his big comeback with Jamie Hewlett. After five years of silence and rumors of separation, the fifth album of the “virtual” band created by the Tank Girl cartoonist and the singer of Blur is stripping. Inspired by the election of Donald Trump, Humanz is a electro-soul-hip-hop-funk-pop party for the end of the world. A pressing, sensual and frightening album, mirroring the human emotions felt in an apocalyptic world. Meet an indefatigable creator.

You have invited twenty-four artists for this album, including Grace Jones, Jean-Michel Jarre, De La Soul, Benjamin Clementine …

It’s a real orgy! (Laughs) Actually, I got carried away! I kept coming up with new ideas, with new people … I actually called 40 people, but no everything worked out. Read More

‘We fight over everything’

As Gorillaz release their new album, Humanz, the duo discuss Brexit, predicting dystopia, and how they made up after not speaking for three years.

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On the top floor of his west London studio, “13”, Damon Albarn is sitting at a small wooden table that his dad made sometime in the 1970s. In front of him are a glass of nettle tea, some freshly squeezed juice in a union jack mug and a single cigarette. He’s in a good mood, and he is talking about Gorillaz, the cartoon band that he formed with Jamie Hewlett almost 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, he is not being clear. I’ve just asked him if the music that he makes on the new album – soulful, urban, with contributors including Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Jehnny Beth and Benjamin Clementine – marries up at all with Hewlett’s drawings of 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle, the cartoon members of the band. Read More

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