Passing Them Off As Gorillaz

A promoter in St. Petersburg, Russia, caused a stir with EMI’s local label and attracted criticism from regional newspapers by advertising a performance from three U.K.-based DJs as a live show by Gorillaz.

The monkey business started when Jet Set Holdings put a show ad in Ne Spat! entertainment magazine billing the act as Gorillaz, used a logo based on the sleeve of the band’s debut album and also used the backing track for the act’s “Clint Eastwood” hit in radio ads.

This upset SBA-Gala Records, EMI’s distributor in Russia and Belarussia, which knew the “virtual” band wasn’t playing live within its territory and prompted it to put out a press release attacking Jet Set’s business methods.

According to Russian media reports, Jet Set is checking if anything in that press release breaks the section of the country’s criminal code that deals with libel. Defamation, libel and slander is a criminal (as opposed to civil) offence.

SBA-Gala didn’t seem fazed by the hint at legal action.

“We welcome the suit – let them go ahead,” company marketing director Maria Yezhukova told the St. Petersburg Times. “It could well end in court. We gave the contact information for the promoters to EMI and they will start dealing with it themselves.”

The band contracted to do the shows was the U.K.’s Phi Life Cypher, featuring MCs Life and Si-Philli and DJ Nappa. The act is only connected with Gorillaz in the sense that it did a remix of “Clint Eastwood” and also appeared on a Gorillaz track called “The Sounder,” which came out on a Japanese-only B-sides album. The act also supported Gorillaz on a tour of Japan.

When SBA-Gala Senior International Marketing Manager Olga Leontyeva first questioned Jet Set’s advertising two weeks before the March 3-4 shows at Moscow Infinity and the company’s own St. Petersburg club, it put out a statement claiming Gorillaz has changed its name to “Phi Life Gorillaz.”

It included a biography that was a mix of Gorillaz and Phi Life Cypher background material and claimed the act coming to Russia was “Phi Life Gorillaz” and that they are “the one and only live lineup of the virtual Gorillaz.”

Although Ian Taylor from the Manchester-based Faze 2 agency, which cut the deal for Phi Life Cypher to go to Russia, insisted the correct name of the act was clearly printed on the contract and there could be no confusion – and has supplied Pollstar with faxed documents that appear to support this – Jet Set is insisting it has papers that give it the legal right to advertise the act as “Phi Life Cypher Gorillaz.”

The company also said it was prepared to show these papers to any publication that wants to see them.

The St. Petersburg Times said it has asked to see them but hasn’t had any response. A similar request from Pollstar didn’t fare any better.

The Russian paper also said Jet Set has previously misrepresented “performances,” including an appearance by DJ Phil Hartnoll, a DJ set by former members of Orbital that was billed as “a full live performance” – with the act apparently reforming for a special “one off” – and a DJ set from two members of Gus Gus that was sold as a live show featuring the entire band.

At press time, the St. Petersburg Times said it hasn’t received any notice of a libel action from Jet Set.