Lots of interviews were released around Gorillaz latest album The Now Now. The following is an excerpt of a piece by Jonathan Dean published by the The Times in which Albarn and his creative partner Jamie Hewitt discuss how does it feel to be back.
Asking Albarn about Blur, though, is, while obligatory, slightly dated. This may surprise the British who grew up with the band’s era-defining hits in the 1990s. In the US, however, it is Gorillaz — the singer’s second coming, as a cartoon character — that is his biggest draw.
The new Gorillaz album, The Now Now, is as exuberant as its creator. It is summery, feelgood, the most pure pop Albarn has been. Synth-led, occasionally acoustic, it resembles a solo record — or, to be accurate, a solo record by 2-D, Albarn’s character in Gorillaz.
The Now Now, then, is a pretty record about release, for both fans and writer. “I’m not going to cry, find another dream,” one line goes. Albarn may be furious about many things, but these songs are looking for a solution in escape. He has, typically, been working on another album at the same time, a follow-up to his superb, sad, state-of-the-nation the Good, the Bad & the Queen project from 2007. “Really intense” is how he describes this sequel, and it doesn’t take much to send him into the darker parts of his brain, with quotes such as “prophecy nonsense”, “mind control” and “inward-looking dark fears of Anglo-Saxons” littering my transcript.
Gorillaz, though, is fun. “It’s a childlike approach to writing,” he explains. “I splurge, and keep as much of the splurge in.” He hasn’t listened back to The Now Now, but is as relaxed as any man who has flogged more than 30m records worldwide would be. “I know people like it,” he says, shrugging, “because I go around the world and loads turn up. But it hasn’t made me sit on my laurels. It’s made me work twice as hard, as time is not for ever. Well, time is forever, but…” He laughs. It echoes around. Birds sing. What a way to spend a lunchtime.
Was it hard to keep the original concept of Gorillaz going? “It’s a struggle to convince people to believe in cartoons,” Hewlett admits. “Damon is very famous, and people want to see him, but the whole point of Gorillaz is not that. It always worked better with younger audiences. They like the characters.” What convinced him to continue? “I missed Damon, the most amazing English artist of the past 30 years. We sorted all our shit out.”