Damon Albarn performing at the Roskilde Festival in 2010
23 March 1968 |
Whitechapel, London, England
|Origin||Colchester, Essex, England|
|Genres||Alternative rock, art rock, indie rock, alternative hip hop, pop, electronic, trip hop, baroque music, world music, synthpop, Britpop|
|Occupations||Musician, singer-songwriter, composer, record producer, actor|
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, guitar, bass, organ, violin, omnichord, ukulele, recorder, vibraphone, synthesiser, melodica, harmonium, drums, keyboards|
|Labels||Food, SBK, Virgin, Parlophone, Honest Jon's|
|Associated acts||Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, The Black Ghosts, Rocket Juice & the Moon, Kwes, Deltron 3030, Elastica, Kano, Massive Attack, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Martina Topley-Bird, Lana del Rey, Eslam Jawaad|
Damon Albarn (/ /; born 23 March 1968 in Whitechapel, London) is an English musician, singer-songwriter, record producer and actor who is the frontman and primary songwriter of the alternative rock band Blur, as well as the creator of the virtual band Gorillaz.
Raised in Leytonstone, London and around Colchester, Essex, Albarn started learning guitar, piano and violin in his youth. Albarn attended Stanway Comprehensive School where he met with future alternative rock-star, Graham Coxon. After studying Drama and playing in short lived synth pop outfit, Two's a Crowd, Albarn formed a band with Coxon which, after various incarnations, evolved into Blur with additional members, Alex James and Dave Rowntree.
After Blur's debut album, Leisure, and its associated tour received mixed reviews, Blur became influenced by British Classic Rock bands. Mid 1990s releases Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and The Great Escape, helped Blur to achieve mass popularity in the UK, spearheading the Britpop movement.
Albarn founded Gorillaz with Jamie Hewlett in 1998. Gorillaz is a "virtual band" consisting of four animated members: 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. The music is influenced by alternative rock, hip hop, electronica, dub and pop. Although Albarn is the only permanent musical contributor, the albums feature many collaborations from a wide range of artists. Gorillaz are cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band.
Other musical ventures include work with African musicians in aid of the charity, Oxfam, forming part of supergroups (The Good, the Bad and the Queen and Rocket Juice & the Moon) and work on film soundtracks. He is currently working on a solo studio album. Albarn has also ventured into the world of opera with Doctor Dee and Monkey: Journey to the West as well as acting in the Antonia Bird film, Face. Albarn's work has gained critical and commercial success, with many singles and albums which he has been involved with charting at number one, both in the UK and internationally.
Damon Albarn was born on 23 March 1968 in Whitechapel in East London, to Keith and Hazel Albarn. Damon was the couple's first child. The couple had a second child, Jessica, who was born in 1971 and also went onto become an artist. Hazel Albarn, originally from Lincolnshire, was a theatrical set designer for Joan Littlewood's theatre company at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in London and was working on the satirical play, Mrs Wilson's Diary, just before Damon was born. Keith Albarn, originally from Nottinghamshire, was the manager of Soft Machine and presenter of the BBC's Late Night Line-Up. He was also the head of North Essex College of Art, which later became the Colchester Institute. Keith's father, Edward Albarn, was a conscientious objector during the Second World War and was involved in a farming community in Lincolnshire, becoming a peace activist. In 2002, he died after going on a hunger strike.
When Damon and Jessica were growing up, they originally lived in Leytonstone, East London with their parents, who had decided to move there when they had met each other, in order to experience London's wide cultural scene. Their household was described as "bohemian" and their upbringing as "liberal". Albarn often agreed with his parents' views, later claiming, "I always thought my parents were absolutely dead right. I went against the grain in a weird way – by continually following them." His parents primarily listened to blues, Indian ragas and African music. When Damon was 9, he moved to Turkey for three months before settling in Aldham, Essex, outside Colchester, in an area described by Albarn as "one of those burgeoning Thatcher experiments where they were building loads of small estates". The population of the area was predominantly white as opposed to the ethnically mixed part of London which he was used to, and he described himself as "not really fitting in with the politics of the place."
Albarn was interested in music from an early age, attending an Osmonds concert at the age of six. Albarn started playing guitar, piano and violin in his youth and was interested in composing music, one of his compositions winning a heat in the nationwide Young Composer of the Year competition. Commenting on his early musical abilities, Jessica stated, "we both had piano lessons, but I knew Damon had something special. Whereas I'd come home and practise my sheet music, he'd already be banging out his own stuff. He was always free like that, you couldn't contain him, and he's been like that ever since." Damon and Jessica both attended a primary school nearby which, according to Damon, was burnt down seven times in a time period of 18 months by one of the teachers. After both siblings failed their 11 plus exam, they started attending Stanway Comprehensive School, where Damon described himself as being "really unpopular" and "[irritating to] a lot of people". However, he developed an interest in Drama and started acting in various school productions. It was at Stanway where he would meet future Blur guitarist, Graham Coxon, who recalls seeing him act and feeling that he was a "confident performer" as well as a "show off". Albarn's first words directed at Coxon were "Your brogues are crap, mate. Look, mine are the proper sort" as he was showing off his leather shoes, fashionable footwear at the time influenced by the Mod Revival. Nevertheless, the pair went onto become good friends, due to their shared passion for music, particularly The Jam, The Beatles, The Human League, XTC and Madness.
He studied acting at the East 15 Acting School in Debden, but left after the first year. On leaving drama school he worked as a tea boy at the Beat Factory studio. His first band was the synth pop group, Two's a Crowd. Before Blur, he played with The Aftermath and Real Lives.
Formation and Leisure
Albarn along with Graham Coxon met Alex James when they began studying at London's Goldsmiths College in 1988. Albarn was in a group named Circus, who were joined by drummer Dave Rowntree that October. Circus requested the services of Coxon after the departure of their guitarist. That December, Circus fired two members and James joined as the group's bassist. This new group named themselves Seymour in December 1988, inspired by J.D. Salinger's Seymour: An Introduction. The group performed live for the first time in summer 1989. In November, Food Records' A&R representative Andy Ross attended a Seymour performance that convinced him to court the group for his label. The only concern held by Ross and Food was that they disliked the band's name. Food drew up a list of alternatives, from which the band decided on "Blur". Food Records finally signed the newly christened band in March 1990.
From March to July 1990, Blur toured Britain, opening for The Cramps, and testing out new songs. In October 1990, after their tour was over, Blur released the "She's So High" single, which reached number 48 in the UK Singles Chart. The band had trouble creating a follow-up single, but they made progress when paired with producer Stephen Street. The resulting single release, "There's No Other Way", became a hit, peaking at number eight. As a result of the single's success, Blur became pop stars and were accepted into a clique of bands who frequented The Syndrome club in London dubbed "The Scene That Celebrates Itself". NME magazine wrote in 1991, "[Blur] are [the] acceptable pretty face of a whole clump of bands that have emerged since the whole Manchester thing started to run out of steam."
The band's third single, "Bang", performed relatively disappointingly, reaching only number 24. Andy Ross and Food owner David Balfe were convinced Blur's best course of action was to continue drawing influence from the Madchester genre. Blur attempted to expand their musical sound, but the recording of the group's debut album was hindered by Albarn having to write his lyrics in the studio. Although the resulting album Leisure (1991) peaked at number seven on the UK Albums Chart, it received mixed reviews, and according to journalist John Harris, "could not shake off the odour of anti-climax". Albarn has since referred to Leisure as "awful".
After discovering they were £60,000 in debt, Blur toured the United States in 1992 in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. The group released the single "Popscene" to coincide with the start of the tour. Featuring "a rush of punk guitars, '60s pop hooks, blaring British horns, controlled fury, and postmodern humor", "Popscene" was a turning point for the band musically. However, upon its release it only charted at number 32. "We felt 'Popscene' was a big departure; a very, very English record", Albarn told the NME in 1993, "But that annoyed a lot of people ... We put ourselves out on a limb to pursue this English ideal and no-one was interested." As a result of the single's lacklustre performance, plans to release a single named "Never Clever" were scrapped and work on Blur's second album was pushed back.
During the two-month American tour, Albarn, along with the band, became increasingly unhappy and homesick. "I just started to miss really simple things", Albarn revealed. "I missed everything about England so I started writing songs which created an English atmosphere." Upon the group's return to the United Kingdom, Blur (Albarn in particular) were upset by the success rival group Suede had achieved while they were gone. After a poor performance at a 1992 gig that featured a well-received set by Suede on the same bill, Blur were in danger of being dropped by Food. By that time, Blur had undergone an ideological and image shift intended to celebrate their English heritage in contrast to the popularity of American grunge bands like Nirvana. Although sceptical of Albarn's new manifesto for the band, Balfe gave assent for the band's choice of Andy Partridge of the band XTC to produce their follow-up to Leisure. The sessions with Partridge proved unsatisfactory, but a chance reunion with Stephen Street resulted in him returning to produce the group.
The band completed their second album Modern Life Is Rubbish in December 1992, but Food Records said the album required more potential hit singles and asked them to return to the studio for a second time. The band complied and Albarn wrote "For Tomorrow", which became the album's lead single. "For Tomorrow" was a minor success, reaching number 28 on the charts. Modern Life Is Rubbish was released in May 1993 and peaked at number 15 on the British charts, but failed to break into the US Billboard 200, selling only 19,000 copies there. Despite the album's poor performance, Albarn was relatively happy with the band's new direction and started writing prolifically for Blurs next album. Parklife was released in 1994 and revived Blur's commercial fortunes, with the album's first single, the disco-influenced "Girls & Boys", receiving acclaim and chart success. Parklife entered the British charts at number one and stayed on the album charts for 90 weeks. Enthusiastically greeted by the music press, Parklife is regarded as one of Britpop's defining records. Blur won four awards at the 1995 Brit Awards, including Best Band and Best Album for Parklife. Coxon later pointed to Parklife as the moment when "[Blur] went from being regarded as an alternative, left field arty band to this amazing new pop sensation". Albarn revealed that his fame made him uncomfortable however, and that he often suffered from panic attacks.
Blur began working on their fourth album The Great Escape at the start of 1995. Building upon the band's previous two albums, Albarn's lyrics for the album consisted of several third-person narratives. James reflected, "It was all more elaborate, more orchestral, more theatrical, and the lyrics were even more twisted ... It was all dysfunctional, misfit characters fucking up." The release of the album's lead single "Country House" played a part in Blur's public rivalry with Manchester band Oasis termed "The Battle of Britpop". Partly due to increasing antagonisms between the groups, Blur and Oasis ultimately decided to release their new singles on the same day, an event the NME called "The British Heavyweight Championship". The debate over which band would top the British singles chart became a media phenomenon, and Albarn appeared on the News at Ten. At the end of the week, "Country House" ultimately outsold Oasis' "Roll With It" by 274,000 copies to 216,000, becoming Blur's first number one single.
The Great Escape was released in September 1995 to positive reviews, and entered the UK charts at number one. However, opinion quickly changed and Blur found themselves largely out of favour with the media once again. Following the worldwide success of Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, the media quipped that "[Blur] wound up winning the battle but losing the war." Blur became perceived as an "inauthentic middle class pop band" in comparison to the "working class heroes" Oasis, which Albarn said made him feel "stupid and confused". Bassist Alex James later summarised, "After being the People's Hero, Damon was the People's Prick for a short period ... basically, he was a loser – very publicly."
Post Britpop and Hiatus
An early 1996 Q magazine interview revealed that relations between Blur members had become very strained; journalist Adrian Deevoy wrote that he found them "on the verge of a nervous breakup". Coxon, in particular, began to resent his band mates and, in a rejection of the group's Britpop aesthetic, made a point of listening to noisy American alternative rock bands such as Pavement. Albarn grew to appreciate Coxon's tastes in lo-fi and underground music, and recognised the need to significantly change Blur's musical direction once again. "I can sit at my piano and write brilliant observational pop songs all day long but you've got to move on", he said, and decided to let Coxon have more creative control over their new album. After initial sessions in London, the band left to record the rest of the album in Iceland, away from the Britpop scene.
The result was Blur, the band's fifth studio album, released in February 1997. Although the music press predicted that the lo-fi sonic experimentation would alienate Blur's teenage girl fan-base, they generally applauded the effort. Pointing out lyrics such as "Look inside America/She's alright", and noting Albarn's "obligatory nod to Beck, [and promotion of] the new Pavement album as if paid to do so", reviewers felt the band had come to accept American values during this time—an about-face of their attitude during the Britpop years. Despite cries of "commercial suicide", the album and its first single, "Beetlebum", debuted at number one in the UK. Although the album could not match the sales of their previous albums in the UK, Blur became the band's most successful internationally, particularly in the US, helped by the successful single, Song 2. After the success of Blur, the band embarked on a nine-month world tour.
After being impressed with a remix featured on the compilation album, Bustin' + Dronin', Blur hired William Orbit to produce their next album. Released in March 1999, Blur's sixth studio album 13 saw them drift still further away from their Britpop-era attitude and sound. Albarn's lyrics—more heart-felt, personal and intimate than on previous occasions—were reflective of his break-up with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann, his partner of eight years. The album received generally favourable reviews from critics and debuted at the top of the UK charts, staying at that position for two weeks.
In July 1999, in celebration of their tenth anniversary, Blur released a 22-CD limited edition box-set of their singles and in October 2000, the group released the best-of album Blur: The Best of, which debuted at number three in the UK and a Platinum certification of 300,000 copies. Dismissed by the band as "the first record we have seen as product", the tracklisting and release dates of Blur: The Best of were determined on the basis of market research and focus groups conducted by Blur's record label, EMI. Recording for Blur's next album began in London in November 2001. Not long after the sessions began, Coxon left the group. Coxon stated that "there were no rows" and "[the band] just recognised the feeling that we needed some time apart".
Think Tank, released in May 2003, was filled with atmospheric, brooding electronic sounds, featuring simpler guitar lines played by Albarn, and largely relying on other instruments to replace Coxon. The guitarist's absence also meant that Think Tank was almost entirely written by Albarn. Its sound was seen as a testament to Albarn's increasing interest in African and Middle Eastern music, and to his complete control over the group's creative direction. Think Tank was yet another UK number one and managed Blur's highest US position of number 56. The album was also nominated for best album at the 2004 Brit Awards.
In 2005, XFM news reported that the band would be recording an EP, and denied the idea of hiring a new guitarist to replace Coxon. There were also some aborted recordings done in 2005. Overall the band kept low profile and did no studio recordings or touring as a three-piece. After Coxon significantly thawed in regards to the subject of rejoining the band, in 2007 band members announced that Blur would reunite and that they intended to record together first in August, with the date later being pushed back to September, then October. Though the band members finally met up in October, they posted on their website that they had only "met up for an enjoyable lunch" and that there were no "other music plans for Blur".
In December 2008, Blur announced they would reunite for a concert at London's Hyde Park on 3 July 2009. Days later, the band added a second date, for 2 July. A series of June preview shows were also announced, ending at Manchester Evening News arena on the 26th. All the shows were well received; The Guardian's music critic Alexis Petridis gave their performance at Goldsmiths college a full five stars, and wrote that "Blur's music seems to have potentiated by the passing of years ... they sound both more frenetic and punky and more nuanced and exploratory than they did at the height of their fame". Blur headlined the Glastonbury Festival on 28 June, where they played for the first time since their headline slot in 1998. Reviews of the Glastonbury performance were enthusiastic, The Guardian called them "the best Glastonbury headliners in an age". The band released their second greatest hits album Midlife: A Beginner's Guide to Blur in June 2009.
Blur also headlined at other summer festivals, including Oxegen 2009 in Ireland, and the Scottish outdoor show of T in the Park. After the completion of the reunion dates, Albarn told Q that the band had no intention of recording or touring live again. He said, "I just can't do it anymore", and explained that the main motivation for participating in the reunion was to repair his relationship with Coxon, which succeeded. In January 2010, No Distance Left to Run, a documentary about the band, was released in cinemas and a month later on DVD. In April 2010, Blur released their first new recording since 2003, "Fool's Day", for the Record Store Day event as a vinyl record limited to 1000 copies; it was later made available as a free download on their website. No Distance Left to Run was nominated as Best Long Form Music Video for the 53rd Grammy Awards, Blur's first-ever Grammy nomination.
In February 2012, Blur were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music award at the 2012 Brit Awards. Later that month, Albarn and Coxon premiered a new track together live, "Under the Westway". In April, the band announced that a box-set entitled Blur 21—containing all seven Blur studio albums, four discs of unreleased rarities and three DVDs—would be released in July.
Blur entered the studio early that year to record material for a new album, but in May producer William Orbit told the NME that Albarn had halted recording. Blur's official Twitter and Facebook pages announced that the band would release two singles "The Puritan" and "Under the Westway" on 2 July. That August, Blur headlined a show at Hyde Park for the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony.
Blur has announced a tour for 2013. Confirmed countries for the new tour include Hong Kong, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, France, Portugal, Indonesia, Spain, Japan, Finland, Poland, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Hungary  and Norway. Blur headlined the 2013 Coachella music festival and Picnic music festival in Moscow.
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett first met in 1990 when Graham Coxon, a fan of Hewletts work, asked him to interview Blur. The interview was published in Deadline magazine, home of Hewletts comic strip, Tank Girl. Hewlett initially thought Albarn was “arsey, a wanker” and despite becoming one of the band's acquaintances, he often didn't get on with its members, especially after he started going out with Coxon's ex-girlfriend, Jane Olliver. Despite this, Albarn and Hewlett started sharing a flat on Westbourne Grove in London in 1997. Hewlett had recently broken up with Olliver and Albarn was also at the end of his highly publicised relationship with Justine Frischmann of Elastica.
The idea to create Gorillaz came about when the two were watching MTV: "If you watch MTV for too long, it's a bit like hell – there's nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that," Hewlett has said. The band's music is a collaboration between various musicians, Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is broadly alternative rock, but with a large number of other influences including Britpop, dub, hip-hop, and pop music. In 2001, the band's eponymous debut album sold over seven million copies, and featured hits such as the songs "19-2000" and "Clint Eastwood," earning them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request.
Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the singles "Feel Good Inc.", "Dare", "Dirty Harry" and "Kids With Guns"/"El Mañana". Demon Days went five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States and earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006 and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category. In November 2005, they staged the first-ever live performances of Demon Days Live involving many of the artists who had played on the successful Demon Days album, as a launch event for the festival. Gorillaz have also released two B-sides compilations and a remix album. The combined sales of Gorillaz and Demon Days had, by 2007, exceeded 15 million albums.
Gorillaz released their third studio album, Plastic Beach in early 2010, which was received with high praise. In December 2010, the group released an album called The Fall which was recorded over 32 days during their North American tour. The band also appeared on the Snoop Dogg track: "Sumthing' Like this Night" on his album: "Doggumentary".
During November 2011, Gorillaz announced that on 23 February 2012, Gorillaz will release a new line of Converse sneakers designed by Jamie Hewlett. The selection of footwear is carried at Journeys stores in the US and Schuh stores in the UK. Gorillaz will release a new one off single to accompany with the release of these shoes as a part of Converse's "Three Artists, One Song" campaign. On 9 February 2012, Gorillaz confirmed that the single will be called "DoYaThing", and that the two collaborators working on this single will be James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and Andre 3000 of Outkast. 2D will rap for the first two verses, James Murphy will sing the chorus, and Andre 3000 then overtakes the rest of the track with another rap verse. The track is available for free download in Journeys stores by scanning the QR Code on display items. An explicit, 12 Minute long version of the single was made available for streaming in March. Hewlett directed a new Music Video for the single, featuring animated versions of the two collaborators on this track. Murdoc also stated that the music video featured the Gorillaz' new HQ, for which they have abandoned Plastic Beach.
In a recent interview, Albarn talked about the unlikelihood of any future releases from the Gorillaz. His relationship with artist Jamie Hewlett soured when Albarn chose to undercut the role of animation on their Plastic Beach Tour. Albarn later rescinded this claim, stating "When Jamie [Hewlett] and I have worked out our differences, I'm sure we'll make another record." 
Solo career and side-projects
He also released Democrazy in 2003, a collection of demos he recorded while staying in hotel rooms on the U.S. portion of Blur's tour for Think Tank.
In late 2011 Damon Albarn confirmed he is recording a solo album under his name, inspired by "empty club music".
On March 27, 2013 Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's Opera "Monkey" was announced to be re-shown in New York from July 6-28. Damon and Jamie are now confirmed to have settled their dispute and are back in good relations with each other.
Collaborating with producers Dan the Automator, XL Recordings, Richard Russell & Rodiadh McDonald, Jneiro Jarel, DJ Darren Cunningham aka Actress, Marc Antoine, Alwest, Remi Kabaka Jr., Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Kwes, Damon Albarn went to Kinshasa for one week to record an album called Kinshasa One Two. The Congolese band Tout Puissant Mukalo joined them as well. All proceeds will benefit Oxfam's work in the DRC. The album was released by Warp Records. 
The Good, the Bad and the Queen
In May 2006, NME reported that Albarn was working with Danger Mouse on his first solo album, tentatively titled The Good, the Bad & the Queen. However, in July 2006, NME Music reported that those plans had been switched to the formation of a new band titled The Good, the Bad & the Queen. This proved to be inaccurate, as Albarn and other members of the group have indicated that The Good, the Bad & the Queen is the name of the album and not the band itself. The album was awarded Best Album at the 2007 MOJO Awards on 18 June.
The group's line-up is composed of Albarn, former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, The Verve/Gorillaz guitarist Simon Tong, and drummer Tony Allen of Fela Kuti's band, The Africa '70. Danger Mouse produced the album and decided on the final track listing.
The first single by the line-up, "Herculean", was released in late October 2006, and peaked at No. 22 in the UK Singles Chart. A second single, "Kingdom of Doom", and the band's debut album were then released in January 2007. That single fared slightly better than "Herculean", peaking at No. 20, while the album peaked at No. 2 in the UK Albums Chart and went gold during its first week of release in the UK. "Green Fields" was released as the third single from the album in April 2007, just missing out on the Top 50.
On 27 April 2008, The Good, the Bad & the Queen headlined the Love Music Hate Racism Carnival in Victoria Park where they introduced on stage several guests including ex-Specials keyboard player Jerry Dammers. He also worked with Syrian rapper and friend Eslam Jawaad on the song "Mr. Whippy", though the song does not appear on the album it is a B-Side on the Herculean single.
Rocket Juice & the Moon
Rocket Juice & the Moon is the title of Albarn's new side-project featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and afrobeat legend Tony Allen. Albarn has stated that he is not responsible for the name; someone in Lagos did the sleeve design and that's the name it was given. Albarn has claimed that he's content with the outcome, as trying to come up with band names is difficult for him. The band performed together for the first time on 28 October 2011 in Cork, Ireland, as part of the annual Cork Jazz Festival. They performed under the moniker Another Honest Jon's Chop Up!. A full tour is not expected any time soon due to conflicting schedules, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' tour continuing until 2013. Their debut album was released on 26 March 2012.
Albarn has also appeared on other unrelated works. Albarn was asked, alongside Blur bandmate Graham Coxon, to remix the Massive Attack song "Angel" for the single release, in 1998. Albarn then adopted the pseudonym of "Control Freak" for his remixing career. He only ever used the name once in a remix, when he remixed the Blur song "Bugman" as Control Freak for the single release of "Coffee & TV" in summer 1999. In 2011, Albarn remixed Lana Del Ray's "Born to Die" under the name "PDP / 13". The Rentals' 1999 Album Seven More Minutes features Albarn on the track "Big Daddy C".
Albarn contributed backing vocals to a song on Massive Attack's 100th Window, released in 2003. More recently, on Massive Attack's 2010 Heligoland album, he sang on the track "Saturday Come Slow" and contributed keyboards to the track "Splitting the Atom". Albarn also appeared on the Nathan Haines' song "Squire for Hire", however Albarn credited it to Gorillaz' frontman 2D instead. Fatboy Slim's 2004 release Palookaville featured Albarn's vocals on the song "Put It Back Together". Albarn provided the voice-over intro and backing vocals in the song "Time Keeps On Slipping" for the rap concept album Deltron 3030, and featured on the track "Lovage (Love That Lovage, Baby)" for the Lovage album Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. Both albums were produced by Dan the Automator, who also produced Gorillaz' debut album. In 2008, he also produced parts of Amadou & Mariam's fifth album Welcome to Mali.
Albarn also produced soul singer Bobby Womack's third album The Bravest Man In The Universe, released in 2012. He recently performed on Jools Holland's Hootenanny in New Year's Eve, performing track "Love is Gonna Lift You Up". Albarn features on several tracks in the album including The Bravest Man In The Universe, Please Forgive My Heart and Deep River.
Film, theatre and soundtrack work
His song "Closet Romantic" appeared on the soundtrack for Trainspotting alongside an early Blur recording, "Sing". Albarn composed the score with collaboration by Michael Nyman for the 1999 movie Ravenous, and was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Music for his work. He composed the soundtrack to the 2000 Icelandic film 101 Reykjavík. In 2000, he composed the main part of the soundtrack for the crime comedy Ordinary Decent Criminal.
In their first major work together since Gorillaz, Albarn and Hewlett, along with acclaimed Chinese theatre and opera director Chen Shi-zheng, adapted for stage the Chinese story Journey to the West. as "Monkey: Journey to the West", which received its world premiere as the opening show of the 2007 Manchester International Festival, on 28 June 2007 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Albarn wrote the score, Hewlett designed the set and costumes. The opera was Albarn and Hewlett's second collaboration with the Manchester International Festival.
In collaboration with theatre director Rufus Norris, Albarn has created an opera for the 2011 Manchester International Festival based on the life of Elizabethan scientist John Dee and titled Doctor Dee.
Albarn starred in Antonia Bird's 1997 film Face alongside Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle. Albarn was also featured in Gunar Karlsson's 2007 film Anna and the Moods, along with Terry Jones and Björk. Albarn also played Bull in Joe Orton's "Up Against It", a Radio 4 play about The Beatles broadcast in 1998.
In 2005 Albarn, among others, criticised the London Live 8 concert for not featuring enough black artists; among the few included were Ms. Dynamite, Snoop Dogg, and Youssou N'Dour. Eventually the organisers added a separate concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall to the programme in order to showcase African musicians. Albarn said he did not want to perform at Live 8 because he thought it was too "exclusive" and may have been motivated by self-promotion.
Albarn has been a vocal critic of celebrity culture:
"We need to dismantle very significant parts of our culture and really re-examine them. I suppose you start with the celebrity thing... you have to get rid of things like The X Factor immediately."
In 2006, Albarn was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of East London, saying it was "great to receive [the] award from an institution where my dad used to work and which I, as a child, used to think of as that big building with lots of interesting people in".
During the 1990s Albarn had a long-standing relationship with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann. This relationship profoundly influenced his songwriting, notably on the Blur album (1997) on the track "Beetlebum" - said to be about their experiences with heroin -  and a number of tracks on 13 (1999), such as "Tender" and "No Distance Left to Run", said to be about their break-up in 1998. Despite the hardships, the two reportedly remain close friends.
In late 1999, Albarn and Suzi Winstanley gave birth to their daughter Missy, named after Missy Elliott. Albarn described becoming a father as “witnessing a life force" and saying that "it massively changes you. It slowly sort of shaves off the unpleasant thorny bits and hopefully creates a nicely rounded... I don't know, having a kid, you just become far more, inevitably you look to the future far more and, you know, it's desperate sometimes when you have a particularly bad few weeks of the newspaper just reminding you about this is wrong, this is wrong. We've got ten more years everyone."
Anti War Campaigns
After the September 11 attacks, a series of controversial military campaigns were launched, known as the War on Terror. In November 2001, shortly after the Invasion of Afghanistan, the MTV Europe Music Awards were held in Frankfurt, where Gorillaz won awards for Best Song and Best Dance. As Albarn and Jamie Hewlett walked onto stage to make a speech after receiving the latter award, Albarn sported a t shirt with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament logo on it. In Albarns speech, he said "So, fuck the music. Listen. See this symbol here, [pointing to the t shirt] this the symbol for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Bombing one of the poorest countries in the world is wrong. You've got a voice and you have got to do what you can about it allright?"
In 2002, Iraq was under threat of invasion from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland. Opposition from the public led to protests being organised by a number of organisations. Albarn, who has described himself as being anti-war, spoke out against the invasion.  Albarn teamed up with Robert "3D" Del Naja of Massive Attack and worked with Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain to organise campaigns to raise awareness of the potential dangers of the UK's involvement in the war. This included spending £15,000 on anti-war adverts which ran in the NME, featuring quotes from Tony Benn and the former US Attorney-General, Ranisey Lewis. "Each individual has their own opinions about whether war is an answer to any problems." He explained to Sky News, "Personally I think it's a waste of time, but I think more importantly, that it's is an issue that we haven't had any say in. That's why I feel so strongly about it. I don't feel like we've really been given any choice in this matter. I think if you had a referendum tomorrow, Tony Blair would have no choice but to call off the war.” Albarn revealed that originally, many people whom he knew were against the war were reluctant to take a stand, stating "to be honest with you when Robert Del Naja and myself started really stepping up prior to the war it was very difficult to find anyone. And I don't want to name any names because they are people who I respect but they were really, for some reason, very reticent to stand with us. A lot of people who you would now associate with being anti-war at that particular point didn't seem to be prepared to do it."
Albarn was due to speak in Hyde Park on the rally in February 2003 when a million people took to the streets of London in protest at the imminent war. In the event, he was too emotional to deliver his speech. Albarn later revealed that he had "this image of my grandad in his slippers reading the paper, knowing that his grandson had been involved in something which he'd put so much of his life into" and "got over-emotional". He also stated that "it obviously wasn't the best moment to get in that state, when you're at the head of the biggest peace march in the history of this country." Albarn also attended a protest in November where he commented on the diversity of people in attendance, saying that "It represents everybody. It's the voice in our democracy and thats why we should be listened to." Speaking about the experience in 2008, Albarn stated "I think in this case the only reason we went to war was the result of our individual apathy in the end. You know, our inability to really express what was I think was a consensus that this was a terrifying idea and a very badly thought-out one."
- Solo albums
- Democrazy (2003)
- Collaboration albums
- Mali Music (2002) (with Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends)
- The Good, the Bad & the Queen (2007) (with Tony Allen, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong)
- Kinshasa One Two (2011) (as part of DRC Music)
- Rocket Juice & the Moon (2012) (with Flea and Tony Allen)
- Film and theatre soundtracks
- Ravenous (1999) (with Michael Nyman)
- 101 Reykjavík (2002) (with Einar Örn Benediktsson)
- Journey to the West (2008)
- Dr Dee (2012)
Awards and Nominations
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