The Hot Press Cover Story: Damon Albarn
The world sat up and listened when sometime Blur frontman Damon Albarn revealed that he had taken heroin as a creative boost. In an exclusive interview he talks about chemical inspiration, his growing spirituality and how he and Noel Gallagher came to bury the hatchet – and not in each other.
Damon Albarn is none too pleased about having to talk to Hot Press. It’s nothing personal; the former Blur frontman isn’t especially keen on doing any interviews today. Which is rather unfortunate because, with his debut solo album, Everyday Robots, about to be released, his label has lined up a full day of press and promotion.
Our location is 13 Studios, his personal recording facility situated deep in the bowels of west London. A Swedish TV crew and a German journalist have just departed the building, leaving yours truly as Albarn’s final-face-to-face of the morning. After he talks to me, he has a series of phone interviews to do with publications as far afield as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and America.
As a veteran star who’s hardly hungry for publicity at this stage of his illustrious career, he’s not especially thrilled at the prospect.
“No reflection on you, mate,” he says, shaking his head apologetically. “I’ve just got a piece of music in my head that I’m fucking itching to get out.” 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
Gorillaz leader Damon Albarn won’t sit still
In the 16 years since Gorillaz released its self-titled debut album, the virtual, alternative hip-hop band’s co-creators, Blur musician Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett, have wrangled an impressive, wildly diverse roster of music’s biggest talents into their genre-defying orbit. A freewheeling spirit of experimentation colors the band’s work, and over a handful of boundary-pushing albums everyone from Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg, to Bobby Womack, MF Doom and members of the Clash have been charmed by its allure.
Now a few months removed from the release of “Humanz,” the band’s first new album since 2010 — a typically bold effort featuring intrepid contributions and unexpected artistic combos, most notably Mavis Staples and Pusha T on the moody “Let Me Out” and Carly Simon and Colombian-American indie-pop singer Kali Uchis on “Ticker Tape,” Albarn says he’s come to view the process of assembling a Gorillaz album as resembling a contemporary courtship process. Read More
A virtual band in a realised dark fantasy
Being a virtual band was always part of the sales pitch of Gorillaz, the pairing of the Blur musician Damon Albarn and the illustrator Jamie Hewlett, which has been releasing hip-hop-influenced concept albums since 2001.
Being a virtual band was always part of the sales pitch of Gorillaz, the pairing of the Blur musician Damon Albarn and the illustrator Jamie Hewlett, which has been releasing hip-hop-influenced concept albums since 2001. Read More
‘We may be getting to old for Gorillaz’
Murdoc, 2-D and the rest of the cartoons are the virtual band’s official members.
But in reality Damon and Jamie Hewlett are the driving force behind the collaborative project.
Jamie, who designs the visuals, said: “We will be 50, we can’t continue doing this thing seriously for very long.
“Can you imagine the kids in 20 years when they discover that Gorillaz is hiding two senile old 70-year-olds?”
With a current roll call including Vince Staples and Danny Brown, Jamie can see a future of the band without himself or Damon as Gorillaz were always intended to be faceless.
Jamie added: “It is the essence of the rest of the Gorillaz story, even if it is not ours necessarily.” Read More