“If you watch MTV for too long, it's a bit like hell,” reflects Gorillaz cofounder Jamie Hewlett. “There's nothing of substance there! So, we got this idea for a virtual band – something that would be a comment on that.” Gorillaz was formed by Hewlett and Damon Albarn twenty years ago in their shared West London flat. Although the two artists are the band’s only permanent members, they’ve had countless collaborators splash about the ink works, including the likes of De La Soul, Lou Reed and Mark E. Smith. This ever-shifting ensemble gives room for infinite possibilities; every release a cosmic collision of textures, beats and reference points. There are few artists as creatively enriched as Gorillaz.
Using the characters 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Hobbs as their muses, they’ve gone onto release five studio albums. As the band bends and twists with new music, line-ups and collaborations, so do the lives of Gorillaz’ fictional band members. So, what’s the latest in the world of 2D and co? After last year’s release of Humanz, lyricist Murdoc was banged up in jail, supposedly for a crime he did not commit. In the swell of Murdoc’s absence, previously squandered 2D then took the band into his own hands and crafted The Now Now, Gorillaz’ latest studio album. Now Murdoc’s out again, free, alive, fit and well – and he seems to have changed his tune. Cool Brother chats with frontman 2D to discuss.
Gorillaz – Tranz, from their latest album, The Now Now
Woody Cecilia: How did it feel being the leader of the pack while Murdoc was out of the picture?
2D: I knew it would be a big adjustment for Noodle and Russ, so I made myself a sheriff badge out of kitchen foil so they would respect my new authority. It didn’t work, so I cranked it up a notch with a toga and a crown, but they still ignored me. In the end, I stopped telling them to do stuff and things ran a lot smoother after that.
Woody: Murdoc always seemed like a bit of a bully anyway! Did you feel partially relieved while he was behind bars?
2D: I felt free, like when someone lets a balloon go and it drifts up above the clouds. It was really nice, floating along and peering back down on the world. But I flew too close to the sun which was dangerous, because I was also in a flight path and got sucked through a jumbo jet engine. Just like that IKEA guy. Metaphorically speaking.
Woody: And now heʼs out! Whatʼs the story – is the band back to its original positions? Has Murdoc taken over again?
2D: It’s really weird, he’s being… nice. This morning he hugged me! And without sticking an ‘I hate you’ post-it to my back or putting fox bait in my trousers. I don’t get it, it’s making me very nervous.
Woody: The Now Now came about pretty quickly. Was this the plan or did it just happen?
2D: The thing about Now is it doesn’t hang around very long. It’s like happiness – as soon as you’ve got it, it’s gone. You can’t hold onto it, no matter how much you try. So, we had to make the album quickly before Now was Then. Which it is now.
Woody: What made you decide to debut the album in Japan?
2D: Actually my idea was to debut it in Clacton-on-Sea, ‘cos it’s nice and also my aunt lives there so we could stay in her spare room. But Noodle preferred Japan. A good leader always listens to his people.
Woody: Have you got any good stories from working with Snoop Dogg on The Now Now?
2D: Snoop sometimes used to hang his coat on me. It was heavy and smelled like pesto. I'd have to stand still for hours until he needed it again. Luckily, the side job I had as a human statue in Covent Garden last summer prepared me for it.
Woody: Oh, that’s handy… And so how did Tranz come about?
2D: It’s really difficult to describe my process. But, basically, I sit down at my synth and press the buttons until it sounds good, then I push record. Then I have some crisps. And the whole process repeats.
Woody: Youʼve worked with everyone! Mark E. Smith, De La Soul, Danny Brown, to name a few… Who else would you love to collaborate with?
2D: I think it’s good to be surprising and work with people no one would expect, e.g. Oprah Winfrey or maybe the lady behind the pastry counter at Greggs.
Woody: Iʼve heard many varying rumours about this, so letʼs settle things once and for all… How did you lose your eyes?
2D: They’re not gone, I still have eyes. They’re just a bit messed up after several life-threatening head injuries. I can see pretty well, let me demonstrate by describing your face… it’s a sort of round, fuzzy haze with cotton wool on top and a few blobs of candy floss in the middle. That about on the money?
Woody: Um, suuuure. Whatʼs the first thing you do when you wake up?
2D: I check my pulse to make sure I’m still alive, then hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
Woody: Fancy talking us through a day in the life at the Gorillaz HQ?
2D: Every day is different. Sometimes nothing happens and I just stay in my room making origami balls (you just scrunch them up, no tricky folding needed). Other days, a demon comes out of the toilet and tries to take over West London. It’s nice to have a bit of variety, really.
Woody: Which fans do you reckon are more hardcore, your 2Disciples or the Queenʼs?
2D: My 2Disciples have recently disbanded, but they were pretty hardcore back in the day. (A few days ago). One of them even got a tattoo of me. Luckily it was henna, so I’ve faded away now. Just like Neil Young prophesied.
Woody: Name one thing that might surprise us about you.
2D: I pack heat. Deep Heat. It’s a muscle soother you rub in. ‘Cos these are dangerous times, lots of loose paving stones and uneven surfaces. I actually apply it every morning before I go out, head-to-toe. So if the worst should happen, I’m ready.
G-TIME IS NOW! 2D, Murdoc and Noodle have teamed up with G-Shock to re-imagine three different variations of the classic 'Origin' DW5600 watch, while drummer Russel's customised watch is a take on 'The King' GX56 style. Each limited edition piece encapsulates the band members' personalities with bespoke detailing and individual packaging.
The GORILLAZ x G-SHOCK watches launch in store and online in two drops:
Murdoc and 2D’s watches will be available on 15th November 2018
Russel and Noodle watches will be available on 15th December 2018
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