Gorillaz Biography

A unique phenomenon, Gorillaz is best described as a multi-national virtual hip-hop group comprising the fictional characters 2D (vocals/keyboards), Murdoc (bass), Russel (drums) and Noodle (guitar). The prominent brains behind the formation of the outfit were Blur’s lead singer Damon Albarn, producer Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura, and the cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, creator of the cult Tank Girl. The Gorillaz’ refreshing take on hip-hop and electronica was a revelation. After November 2000’s debut Tomorrow Comes Today EP, the real breakthrough came with the following year’s UK Top 5 hit, ‘Clint Eastwood’. Equally sinister and humorous, the song’s lasting imprint proved to be Albarn’s carefree ‘sunshine in a bag’ vocal hook. A fine remix by Ed Case introduced the song to lovers of UK garage and also crossed over to the US charts. The catchy ‘19/2000’ was equally successful, and like its predecessor featured a high quality video which benefited greatly from Hewlett’s input. Gorillaz made great use of the Internet to promote their fictional crew, with their homepage offering a wealth of animated trickery. Their self-titled debut album encompassed a broad spectrum of musical influences, with lo-fi, hip-hop, dub and punk the most prominent, with the Buena Vista Social Club’s veteran Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer guesting on ‘Latin Simone’. Other contributors included rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Kid Koala, Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto, and Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Tom Tom CluThe group mastered the problem of live performances by remaining hidden behind a screen, ensuring that they stayed part of the animated scenery.

Despite the enormous worldwide success of the album, notably in the USA, the Gorillaz was put on hiatus after the release of a b-sides compilation and a remix album in 2002. Albarn reconvened the project at the end of 2004 after fulfilling a number of solo and Blur commitments. Although Hewlett returned to provide animations, infamous ‘mash-up’ DJ Danger Mouse took the place of Nakamura as producer. Collaborators on the long-awaited Demon Days included De La Soul, Deborah Harry, Martina Topley-Bird and Shaun Ryder. Released in spring 2005, the album spawned the hits ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘Dare’ (featuring a memorable cameo from Ryder) and ‘Dirty Harry’, and broke into both the US and UK Top 10. Albarn launched a series of spectacular live shows in November 2005 at Manchester’s Opera House, featuring cartoon projections, guest artists and backing from over 80 musicians.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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