Gorillaz Frontman Talks Music Videos, Dance Music

Damon Albarn, the key creative force behind the Gorillaz, isn’t a big fan of the way record labels treated music videos in the past.

“They never really got it together to commercialize video production in the way that they got it together with (songs and CDs),” Albarn said. “I think that was a bad precedent that the musicians just gave away visuals endlessly for nothing.”

Today, music videos aren’t just played on channels like MTV and BET, they’re being sold on iTunes, and have a much larger presence on the Internet. But Albarn says the lack of those kinds of methods in the past is part of the reason why the cartoon-based Gorillaz are around now.

“Our reason for existing was primarily to try and put some new energy into that whole idea of what music and visuals can do together,” he said.

Albarn and his virtual band just wrapped up an arena tour this month, which saw them promoting their latest critically acclaimed disc, Plastic Beach.

The 42-year-old English musician – whose musical credits include Blur and The Good, the Bad & the Queen – talked about the band’s success in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Photo: Andrew Markowitz
Patriot Center, Fairfax, Va.

AP: You’ve collaborated with acts like De La Soul, Bobby Womack, Lou Reed and Ike Turner. How are these unions coming about?

Albarn: It’s quite a lateral process. It just sort of, people arrive in my head. I don’t know. I do my best to contact them. But I don’t write with them in mind ever. I think that would be a disaster.

AP: Who else would you like to work with?

Albarn: Lots of people. I mean, probably most notably Barry Gibb, who I tried to get on Plastic Beach but it didn’t work out in the end.

AP: When you were creating Gorillaz, did you think it would become a success?

Albarn: I don’t think we imagined we’d be playing Madison Square Garden. It was a kind of one-off, fun idea when we started. And then we thought, “Well that’s the end of it anyway.” And then we sort of a few years later just kind of started again and then we thought that was the end of it.

AP: What is it about your music that resonates with listeners?

Albarn: It’s got so much more than conventional pop music because it has this entire multimedia, visual narrative aspect, which is almost impossible to have something like that if you’re just four guys onstage.

AP: Do you listen to music on the radio?

Albarn: No.

AP: Popular music has taken on an electronic, dance sound recently. Why do you think that’s happened?

Albarn: It’s cyclical, you know. It will take a guitar sound probably next spring. And you won’t be arrested if you’re playing keyboards and you’ve got an ’80s haircut. I’m really hoping that the next revival is the kind of Brit-pop revival (laughs). No, I’m joking.

AP: What inspires the music you create?

Albarn: It’s everything. It’s kind of an ongoing search for inspiration. A few days ago I was inspired by a revolving door in a hotel. I was.

AP: So it’s the little things?

Albarn: Definitely little things. It’s when a little thing touches you emotionally that (snap hands), that little glimpse, that little insight into what all the (expletive) all this is about. Those are the moments I find most exciting. Huge, great, big themes are very difficult to encapsulate in pop music.

Click here for the Gorillaz website.