In case you’ve missed it in your local newsagents, here’s Q magazine’s June 2017 cover, which features an exclusive Gorillaz design by the band’s co-creator, Jamie Hewlett, now reconciled with Blur frontman Damon Albarn.
The collector’s issue, on sale now, comes ahead of the new Gorillaz album, Humanz (due for release 28th April 2017) and includes Damon Albarn’s first interview in two years.
Jamie Hewlett should need no introduction to downthetubes readers: his first comics work was with Alan Martin and Philip Bond, crating a fanzine called Atomtan, which brought him to the attention of Brett Ewins, and led to the creation of Tank Girl for Deadline in 1988 – the anarchic strip about a teenage punk girl who drives a tank and had a mutant kangaroo for a boyfriend. The strip, now published by Titan Comics, proved instantly popular and quickly became the most talked about part of Deadline.
Hewlett’s eccentric style proved popular and he started to work with bands such as Senseless Things and Cud providing covers for record releases. By 1992, Hewlett had become a major creator in the comics industry, and one of the few to break into mainstream media. He had worked with writer Peter Milligan on “Hewligan’s Haircut” in 2000AD. He was also involved in providing covers and art for Shade, the Changing Man, also written by Milligan for DC Comics and drew the Tank Girl mini series for Vertigo.
Gorillaz is the most successful virtual band ever, fronted by four wildly talented but totally disparate characters: pretty-but-vacant singer 2D, satanic bassist Murdoc Niccals, Japanese guitar prodigy Noodle and amiable man-mountain drummer Russel Hobbs.
Formed in 2000, their eponymous debut album was released to wide acclaim and five million plus sales the following year. Gorillaz introduced the world to the animated four-piece, with lead-off single Clint Eastwood scoring a massive hit worldwide, and the band’s astonishingly inventive promos becoming a fixture on music television everywhere. Gorillaz.com, the band’s online hangout, attracted anything up to half a million visitors a month.
Second album Demon Days was launched in May 2005, and spawned the hit singles Feel Good Inc., DARE and Dirty Harry. Demon Days was produced with the help of Damon Albarn and Danger Mouse, and features a stellar roll-call of guests including Ike Turner, Dennis Hopper, Neneh Cherry and De La Soul.
Gorillaz were crowned Best Group at the MTV Europe Awards 2005 and in 2006 received five Grammy nominations and two Brit Awards nods. Live shows include a mind blowing performance with Madonna at 2005’s MTV EMAs, and two rapturously-received five night runs at the Manchester International Festival and New York’s Harlem Apollo. Demon Days has sold six million albums world wide.
Humanz, the first Gorillaz album for six years was recorded as a response to the “world going f****** nuts” and inspired by the surprise election of Donald Trump as US president, its creator, Albarn, tells Q magazine.
“The three tenets for this record were pain, joy, urgency,” he says. “I told everyone to imagine you’re in America after the inauguration and it’s the worst case scenario: how would you feel that night?
“Let’s make a party record about the world going f****** nuts.”
“It’s amazing what you can do when your band members aren’t real people,” says Hewlett. “These characters are a conduit for everything we want to say but if we got up and said it, it wouldn’t have the same impact.
“Humanz is not a political statement about Trump – it’s a world in which he could get elected. Where are we as a race? Why haven’t we grown out of this? Putting a ‘z’ on the end is not a hip-hop statement, it’s more like an android Z. Are we human beings or just humanz?”
Albarn and Hewlett drifted apart after the latter dropped out of the pair’s operatic project Dr Dee and moved to Paris to be with his now wife, French actress, Emma du Caunes.
“He basically left and I felt upset by that. There was a fallow period in our relationship,” Albarn says. “I’ve had the same experience with Graham (Coxon) over the years. I get the sense that sometimes people like getting off my steamroller and doing their own thing for a while and then joining me further down the road.”
“I needed to change my life,” says Hewlett. “I was going a little bit insane at that point. And, yeah we had a little bit of a disagreement. We’d lived in each other’s pockets for ten years. Damon’s an artist, he’s one of the few real artists that I know, but that means you can be a little crazy and a little difficult and I can be the same.
“We locked horns a few times and I needed to escape. I met my wife, I went to Paris and I fixed myself. I sorted out my head.”
It was while drunk in East London after a Blur concert that Albarn asked if Hewlett wanted to revive Gorillaz. Hewlett said yes.
• Q Magazine is online at www.qthemusic.com
• Gorillaz Official Site: www.gorillaz.com