April 7, 2005 -
Cartoon Gorillaz Put A Muzzle On Danger
Mouse, Damon Albarn
interview questions, deferring to the animated
AUSTIN, Texas — Damon Albarn is smarter
than you might think.
Not that the Blur/Gorillaz
frontman's acumen is in question, but
conceptually the idea of a "virtual
band" seems rather silly. However, there's a
crafty motive behind the animated members 2-D,
Noodle, Russel and Murdoc.
"Talking about [the music] is
something that [the band] likes to do,"
Albarn said with a rehearsed and evasive smirk.
"I don't think they appreciate us stepping
on their turf as it were. They think I'm
delusional anyway, so anything I say can't
possibly be right."
While Albarn may use his animated
characters as a shrewd machination to avoid
explaining his personal and musical intentions,
what can be gleaned from the cagey
Gorillaz is that their new album Demon Days,
due May 24, is an opaque affair, both musically
"Gorillaz make dark pop; that's
what they always set out to achieve," Albarn
said. "The whole album kind of tells the
story of the night staying up during the
night but it's also an allegory. It's what
we're living in basically, the world in a state
The most obvious difference on their
sophomore offering is the absence of Dan
"The Automator" Nakamura as the acting
musical producer. Instead, Albarn reached out to
Danger Mouse based on the strength of The Grey
Album, which turned heads last year when it
seamlessly and illegally meshed the Beatles' The
White Album with Jay-Z's The Black Album.
"[The Automator] wasn't busy,
the [project just] needed a slightly different
approach," Albarn explained. "Danger
Mouse, in my opinion, is one of the best young
producers in the world. I think the last record
was a lot more simplistic. It was virgin
territory animated hip-hop, reggae,
stroke-rock, Latin rock there's a lot more
intricacy with this record."
For Danger Mouse, a.k.a. Brian
Burton, a longtime Blur fan, the feelings of
admiration and respect were mutual. "It was
a no-brainer when there was interest there [from
Albarn]," Burton said. "I heard demos
of the new record, but the biggest part was
getting the chance to be a part of something
that's so strong you just gotta jump on
it. I had a very up-and-down year [in 2004], but
it was definitely a big up when I got a chance to
[work with Gorillaz]."
Like their debut, Gorillaz's Demon
Days boasts a cast of colorful characters
that aren't animated, including Booty Brown from
the Pharcyde ("Dirty Harry"), outré
rapper MF Doom ("November Has Come")
and a bizarre cameo appearance by Dennis Hopper,
who contributes a solemn spoken-word piece
("Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's
But don't expect Albarn to reveal
how the odd pairing took place. "I really
feel that the band are going to be pissed if they
see me talking about them, you know? And they're
a lot funnier than me," he said.
What does speak for itself is the
pulsing hip-hop rock of first single "Feel
Good Inc." The cut features De La Soul and
its shadowy Cloud City-like video ups the ante
for visually stunning animated clips. In keeping
with their theme of dispensing with the old, this
time the Gorillaz created their clip without
original band animator and "Tank Girl"
creator Jamie Hewlett.
"I think it's a big step up
from the last videos," Albarn said.
"The influences range from classic 'Scooby
Doo' to [Japanimation house] Studio Ghibli. It's
got a lot of different textures to it."
While neither Albarn nor Burton
would divulge any details about the next Blur or
Danger Mouse albums, they did reveal that an
alternate collaboration may be in the works.
"We might be working together again this
year on something which I started in Lagos, in
Nigeria, last year. It could be quite fantastic I
think," Albarn said, noting the record would
be different from the world-beat Mali Music
project he released in 2002. "It's
definitely Afrocentric, but it's more of a
country-soul record, actually."
A North American tour with "all
the characters" is being planned for the
summer, but having already cleaned house just two
discs into their career, will Danger Mouse be on
board for the Gorillaz's third offering?
"It's not really up to us, is
it?" Burton said with a laugh, claiming the
fickle animated characters could easily change
their minds once again.
"It's too early to tell,"
Albarn said. "Success and things can
inevitably ... You know, look at the Game and 50
Cent. That could easily happen to us."
To watch the short interview with
Damon Albarn and DJ Danger Mouse,