“Without technology, there wouldn’t be a band”
It’s been seven years since the world’s biggest virtual band, the Gorillaz, last put out a record. Though do not dismay, as they return once again in 2017 with their brand-new and highly anticipated album, Humanz. A lot of change has occurred in these past seven years, however, and none more so than in the area of technology, which has once more broken the previous decade’s record for off-the-scale advancements.
As one of the main minds behind the Gorillaz, the dazzlingly talented and ex-Britpop star, Damon Albarn, has succeeded in keeping up with it all over the last two decades (commendable for a 40-something year old Dad). Though often in interviews he’ll state his bemusement when it comes to his seventeen-year old daughter’s smartphone obsession. Incidentally, this was the inspiration for one of his recent projects, a modern musical theatre take on Alice in Wonderland, but that’s for another blog post.
There is no doubt that the Gorillaz have always been ahead of their time, essentially paving a new way for the collaboration of music and technology in the 21st Century. Albarn, as well as comic book artist and long-time friend, Jamie Hewlett, first came up with the concept of the Gorillaz in the late 90’s. As the story goes, they had become increasingly fed up by the kind of music on MTV and its apparent lack of substance. They had the idea that by creating a virtual, made-up band, people would be more inclined to start listening to the music again. Daft Punk had been bubbling up a similar idea throughout the 90’s but nothing on the scale of the Gorillaz had been attempted before.
Their first offering to the world of music sold over seven million copies and their second studio record, Demon Days, went five times platinum in the UK whilst giving us such unforgettable tunes as ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Feel Good Inc.’. Inevitably, everyone fell in love with the made-up members of Gorillaz: the strangely lovable 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel Hobbs simply came part and parcel with the music.
In a recent interview (see clip below), Albarn and Hewlett discussed how they thought they’d have “retired to Hawaii by now and be doing everything remotely.” One of their main goals is to have the animated characters actually performing on stage but, as Damon interjects, that’s been their goal for the last 20 years and only now are they beginning to discover the right kind of technology that can deliver such a feat, though they concede it’s still not entirely possible. Which is why, the two profess, Deutsche Telekom (a telecommunications company who are conducting the interview) are a great partner to them because they are prepared to invest in the future of technology whilst record companies simply aren’t.
Whilst they may not have yet mastered the science of holography, the band have instead turned their hand to a bit of virtual reality. An article by The Verge details the nature of an augmented reality app whereby users can tour the bands studio and listen to the new album simultaneously. There’s also talks of a 10-part television series and on their official Facebook page they gave fans 3D-style portraits of the animated band as well as a 360-version of the music video for the first single off the new record.
It might seem like a bit of a tech-trend overload, but you know that whatever amazing technology they may throw our way, the music itself will be equally as impressive. With an eclectic range of guest’s featuring on Humanz, from the likes of Grace Jones and Carly Simon to Vince Staples and Benjamin Clementine, the new record is sure to be weird and unpredictable yet kaleidoscopic and brilliant, in typical Gorillaz fashion.
The band has always represented an interesting concept, impressively combining music and many other creative endeavours. But the sheer experimental nature of their sound, as well as the original artifice behind its creation, has gone way beyond anything you would expect from a ‘cartoon’ band. They’re simply unstoppable.
‘Humanz’ comes out 28.4.2017