Gorillaz members circa Phase 2
|Labels||Parlophone/EMI, Virgin/EMI, Warner Bros. Records|
|Associated acts||Blur, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Rocketjuice and The Moon, Monkey: Journey to the West, Deltron 3030, Massive Attack|
Gorillaz are an English virtual band created in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. This band is fronted by four animated members: 2D (lead vocals, keyboard, and melodica), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar and drum machine), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). These members are completely fictional and are not personas of any "real life" musicians involved in the project. Their fictional universe is explored through the band's website and music videos, as well as a number of other media, such as short cartoons. The music is a collaboration between various musicians, with Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is an amalgamation of genres, with influences including rock, alternative, Britpop, trip hop, hip hop, electronica, indie, dub, reggae and pop.
The band's 2001 debut album Gorillaz sold over seven million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request. Their second studio album, Demon Days, released in 2005, went five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States, earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006 and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category. The band has won numerous other awards, including two MTV Video Music Awards, an NME Award, three MTV Europe Music Awards, and have been nominated for nine Brit Awards. The combined sales of the Gorillaz and Demon Days albums had exceeded 15 million by 2007. The band's third studio album, Plastic Beach, was released in March 2010. Their latest album, The Fall, was released in December 2010 as a free download for fan club members, then in April 2011 as a physical release.
The future of the project was once under speculation due to the status of Albarn and Hewlett's friendship; however, both have sorted their differences and stated that the project will continue at some point in the future.
- 1 History
- 2 Live performances
- 3 Creative directors
- 4 Discography
- 5 Tours
- 6 Awards and nominations
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Formation and early years (1997–1999)
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett first met in 1990 when Graham Coxon, a fan of Hewlett's work, asked him to interview Blur, which was a band both Albarn and Coxon had only recently formed. The interview was published in Deadline magazine, home of Hewlett's 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 along 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. Hewlett said, "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.". The band originally identified themselves as "Gorilla" and the first song they recorded was "Ghost Train" which was later released as a B-side on their single "Rock the House" and the B-side compilation G Sides. The trio of musicians behind Gorillaz' first incarnation included Albarn, Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator, who had previously worked together on the track "Time Keeps on Slipping" for Deltron 3030's eponymous debut album.
Phase One: Celebrity Take Down (1999–2003)
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The band's first release was the EP Tomorrow Comes Today, released in 2000. The band's first single, "Clint Eastwood", was released on 5 March 2001, reaching No. 4 in the UK. It was produced by hip hop producer Dan the Automator and originally featured Luton-based rap group Phi Life Cypher, but the version that appears on the album features American rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, known on the album as Del tha' Ghost Rapper, a spirit in the band's drummer Russel Hobbs. The Phi Life Cypher version of "Clint Eastwood" appears on the B-side album G Sides. Later that same month, their first full-length album, the self-titled Gorillaz, was released, producing four singles: "Clint Eastwood", "19-2000", "Tomorrow Comes Today", and "Rock the House". In June 2001, "19-2000" charted at No. 6 in the UK, and the song was used as the title theme for EA Sports FIFA video game, FIFA Football 2002.
The end of the year brought the song "911", a collaboration between Gorillaz and hip-hop group D12 (without Eminem) and Terry Hall about the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile G Sides, a compilation of the B-sides from the Tomorrow Comes Today EP and first three singles, was released in Japan on 12 December 2001 and quickly followed with international releases in early 2002. The new year also saw the band perform at the 2002 BRIT Awards, appearing in 3D animation on four large screens along with rap accompaniment by Phi Life Cypher. The band was nominated for six awards at the event, including Best British Group, Best British Album and Best British Newcomer, but left the award show empty-handed.
In November 2002, a DVD titled Phase One: Celebrity Take Down was released, giving the phase its name. The DVD contains the four Phase One promos, the abandoned video for "5/4", the Charts of Darkness documentary, the five Gorilla Bitez (short vignettes), a tour of the website by the MEL 9000 server and more. The DVD's menu was designed much like the band's website and depicts an abandoned Kong Studios. Rumours were circulating at this time that the Gorillaz team were busy preparing a film, but Hewlett said that the film project had been abandoned, "We lost all interest in doing it as soon as we started meeting with studios and talking to these Hollywood executive types, we just weren't on the same page. We said, fuck it, we'll sit on the idea until we can do it ourselves, and maybe even raise the money ourselves."
Phase Two: Slowboat to Hades (2004–2007)
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On 8 December 2004, the band's website reopened with an exclusive video entitled "Rock It".
The album Demon Days was released on 11 May 2005 in Japan, 23 May in the United Kingdom and Australia, and on 24 May in the United States. The album debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, but fell as low as No. 29 in just seven weeks.
The third single was "Dirty Harry", which had already been released as a promotional single earlier that year. It was released in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2005. On its first week, it charted at No. 6. The release of the single raised the album once again back up to the top 10. The fourth and final single was the double A-side, "Kids with Guns"/"El Mañana". It was released in the UK on 10 April 2006. Unlike its Top 10 predecessors, "Kids With Guns" / "El Mañana" reached No. 27 upon its release in the UK. A week later, the single had fallen out of the Top 40 in the UK (see 2006 in British music). By the end of 2005, Demon Days had sold over a million copies in the UK, making it the UK's fifth best selling album of 2005. Demon Days has since gone five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States, triple platinum in Australia and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. At the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards in Miami on 28 August, Gorillaz won two awards for "Feel Good Inc.", including the award for Breakthrough Video.
Gorillaz performed "Dirty Harry" at the 2006 BRIT Awards in London, and the band was nominated for Best British Group, and Best British Album (Demon Days). Plans were unveiled for Gorillaz to go on a "holographic" world tour in 2007 and 2008. The cartoon members would be shown as virtual characters on stage using Musion Eyeliner technology, giving them a lifelike appearance on stage. The virtual characters were first used at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards on 3 November 2005 and again at the 2006 Grammy Awards on 8 February 2006 with the addition of a virtual Madonna, where the band played a pre-recorded version of "Feel Good Inc."
In 2005, a set of Gorillaz figures were released by Kidrobot to coincide with the release of Demon Days. Two variations of the set were released, known as the Red and Black editions, and a limited edition Noodle from the music video for "DARE" was also released.
Three new sets of Gorillaz vinyl figures were released in 2006. The Basic set which was limited to 60 000, was released on 16 October 2006 and the 2-tone, limited to 1000 and White edition which was limited to 4000, sets were released on 2 November 2006.
The Phase Two: Slowboat to Hades DVD was released on 30 October in the United Kingdom, and 31 October in the United States. The official Gorillaz illustrated autobiography, titled Rise of the Ogre, was released on 31 October 2006 in the United Kingdom, and 2 November in the United States. D-Sides, a compilation of B-side and remixes, was released on 19 November 2007 in the UK and on 20 November 2007 in the US.
Hopes for a Gorillaz film were revived in 2006 when Hewlett stated that they would be producing the film on their own. American film producer and The Weinstein Company co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, was said to be collaborating with Albarn and Hewlett. In a September 2006 interview with Uncut magazine, Albarn was said that the band "has been a fantastic journey which isn't over, because we're making a film. We've got Terry Gilliam involved. But as far as being in a big band and putting pop music out there, it's finished. We won't be doing that any more."
On 24 October 2007, the official Gorillaz fansite announced that a documentary film about Gorillaz, titled Bananaz, would be released. The film, directed by Ceri Levy, documents the previous seven years of the band. The film was released online on the Babelgum website on 20 April 2009 followed by the DVD release on 1 June 2009.
Phase Three: Escape to Plastic Beach (2008–2012)
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Albarn said "I'm making this the biggest and most pop record I've ever made in many ways, but with all my experience to try and at least present something that has got depth." The album features guest performances by Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Gruff Rhys, Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Kano, Bashy, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, sinfonia ViVA, and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music.
On 18 January 2010, it was announced that Gorillaz would be headlining the final night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on 18 April 2010. The first single from the album, "Stylo", featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def was made available for download 26 January 2010.
In October 2010, Damon Albarn announced to the media that he would not let the cast of Glee cover the band's songs, claiming that the music on the Fox network's TV show is a "very poor substitute for the real thing". This statement led most people to believe that Gorillaz had been asked by Glee producers to lend their music to the show, which they had not. Albarn responded to the confusion with a laugh and said "and now they definitely won't."
On 8 December 2010, Albarn confirmed via an interview that a Gorillaz album recorded on the American leg of the Escape to Plastic Beach tour will be released to download for free exclusively to paying fan club members from the Gorillaz website on Christmas Day, 25 December 2010.
On 18 April 2011, Gorillaz announced the release of their own version of the iPad app iElectribe, by Korg - which features loops and samples taken from The Fall as well as other samples. The new Gorillaz version features a Gorillaz designed and styled interface, and is customized to generate Gorillaz samples from their album The Fall and includes 128 new sounds created by Gorillaz and 64 ready-to-use pre-programmed patterns from Gorillaz, Stephen Sedgwick (Gorillaz' engineer) and Korg. There have been noted problems with the app's availability outside of the United Kingdom. The app was based on Korg's Electribe: R device app.
On 9 February 2012, Gorillaz announced "DoYaThing", a single to promote the Gorillaz-branded Converse shoes that were soon to be released. The song would be part of Converse's "Three Artists, One Song" projects, with the two collaborators being James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and André 3000 of Outkast. The track was available for free download on Converse's website, and in Journeys stores by way of scanning a QR code. An explicit, 13 minute-long version of the song became available for listening shortly after on Gorillaz.com. Hewlett returned to direct the single's music video, featuring animated versions of the two collaborators on the track.
Band hiatus (2012–present)
In April 2012, Albarn told The Guardian that he and Hewlett had fallen out and that future Gorillaz projects were "unlikely". Tension between the two had been building during phase 3. However, in an interview with The Independent, Hewlett said he and Damon had many individual projects and that it was appropriate to work on them separately.
On 25 April 2012, in an interview with Metro, Albarn said he had worked out his differences with Hewlett, that he was confident that they would make another record. On 24 June 2013, Hewlett stated that he and Albarn plan to someday record a follow-up to their 2010 album Plastic Beach. Hewlett also confirmed that a new Blur album was in the works, and that work on Gorillaz would not continue until the Blur album was finished.
In 2013 during the group hiatus, while hosting a show for BBC Radio 2, Albarn and Paul Simonon played a previously unreleased Gorillaz track called "Whirlwind", which was used in a teaser trailer and was intended for Plastic Beach.
In April 2014, Albarn told The National Post that he "wouldn't mind having another stab at a Gorillaz record." Two months later he reported that he had "been writing quite a lot of songs on the road for Gorillaz". On 19 October 2014, Albarn told The Sydney Morning Herald that he was planning to release new Gorillaz material in 2016.
In March 2001, Gorillaz played their first show at the Scala in London before embarking on a UK tour later that Summer, with one date in Paris and two in Japan. During this tour the live band played behind a giant projector screen which covered the whole stage, on which was projected various visuals and images created by Hewlett. After taking a short break over the holidays, the tour resumed with a North American leg in February 2002. Upon arriving in America, the band's bassist, Junior Dan, was apprehended and arrested by American authorities on drugs and firearms charges from several decades ago. He was replaced for the remainder of the tour by Richard Occhipinti.
From 1–5 November 2005, Gorillaz played a 5 night residency at the Manchester Opera House in Manchester, England. The event was filmed by an EMI film crew for a DVD release, Demon Days Live, in late March 2006. It was later announced that an American version of the event would take place from 2 to 6 April 2006 at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. Within an hour of release tickets were sold out. The 6 April show was filmed for a live webcast at MSN Video. Palladia (then known as MHD) also broadcast an Apollo Theater show in HDTV on 31 December 2006.
In March 2010, Gorillaz began a short 6 date tour as "rehearsal" shows for their headlining slot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The shows were open exclusively to Gorillaz Sub Division fan club members and featured no visuals whatsoever. These performances were the bands first public performances in four years. Gorillaz headlined the final night of the Coachella Festival on 18 April 2010 as their first proper, full show of Phase 3. On 27 April they were the main guests on Later... with Jools Holland. In addition, Gorillaz played a two-night residency at London's Camden Roundhouse (29 and 30 April 2010). Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash performed guitar and bass respectively with the band and more than once in the evening chords from The Clash song "Guns of Brixton" were heard as a subtle reference to their presence.
Gorillaz kicked off their first ever world tour in October 2010, with some preceding festival dates in the Summer, such as at the Byblos Festival in Lebanon, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, the Glastonbury Festival in England and one show at the Citadel of Damascus in Syria. The Escape to Plastic Beach Tour took them across North America in October, Europe in November, and finally through Australia, New Zealand, and with one date in Hong Kong in December. During the final show of the tour at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on 21 December 2010, Albarn announced that it would be their final show with the Plastic Beach line up.
Awards and nominations
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