Gorillaz


Biography

Considered the first "virtual hip-hop group," Gorillaz blended the musical talents of Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, Blur's Damon Albarn, Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori, and Tom Tom Club's Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz with the arresting visuals of Jamie Hewlett, best known as the creator of the cult comic Tank Girl. The virtual band is formed by the four animated band members: 2D (vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitars) and Russel Hobbs (drums, percussion). Gorillaz has a dark and humorous backstory. Murdoc inadvertently put 2D into and out of a coma while trying to steal keyboards and reckless driving. Russel and his family re-rooted to England from New York due to Russel being possessed by a demon, put in a coma for 4 years until being saved by an exorcism, and being on the wrong end of a drive-by shooting, which contributed to his drumming and rapping skills, since his friends' spirits reside in him. Noodle arrived in a FedEx crate from Japan after an ad was posted for a guitarist. According to the storyline, character 2D's legal name is Stuart Tusspot. His original nickname was Stu-Pot. He Became 2D after the accidents caused by Murdoc, giving him 2 dents in his head (2D standing for two dents). No one knows what Noodle's real name is, but it is said she was named "Noodle" because that was the first word she said in English. The band lives in the also-fictitious Kong Studios, high upon a mountain in the centre of a cemetery in Essex.

Gorillaz was created by Damon Albarn (of Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (of Tank Girl fame) and was based on their interests, dreams and fears. Matter-of-fact references to horror films are everywhere, including samples from George A. Romero films and horror film locations stated on highway sign posts in the promotional video for "19-2000". There are also some rather obscure references made to people and things such as Tom Savini, Looney Tunes and the band Swell Maps, to name a few. Gorillaz have earned the Guinness World Record for being the Most Successful Virtual Band .

The first single for the band was Tomorrow Comes Today, which was very well received in the UK underground music scene. The EP and video followed suit a few months afterward, generating a lot of word-of-mouth advertising, as well as a large shroud of mystery over who was behind Gorillaz and what they were to expect in the months to come. A promotional booklet was sold at record stores to promote the backstory behind the band. The band's website, an orgy of Macromedia Flash, was a representation of Kong Studios in the fullest sense of the word: inside, you could browse through each member's bedrooms, their recording environment and even the hallways and bathrooms. Each room also had bonus surprises and games to play: for example, the lobby had a remix machine, the cafeteria contained the messageboard on the wall and Murdoc's Winnebago contained a voodoo doll of 2D. Each member also had their own computer which contained pictures, sound bits from various takes of songs and their e-mail inboxes. Because of the nature of the site, an official fansite was created to hold the standard band website information, including a discography, touring schedules and more.

The Clint Eastwood single was released at the start of March, 2001. The blend of raw hip-hop, cheesy horror music and a haunting melodica solo struck chords around the world, thrusting Gorillaz into the global limelight. Due to this, the band's Hotmail accounts were abandoned (and later hacked) and the inboxes on the site were never updated. Later that same month, their first full-length album, the self-titled Gorillaz was released, producing four singles: "Clint Eastwood", "19-2000", "Rock The House" and "Tomorrow Comes Today". Each of the videos contained humorous and often ridiculous storylines and imagery, though "Clint Eastwood" and "19-2000" were the only singles to break through the American music scene. "19-2000" became popular after being featured in an Icebreakers commercial. The only time the video for "Tomorrow Comes Today" was played in the States was when Toonami broadcasted a "Midnight Run" special where they played animated music videos from Gorillaz, Daft Punk, and Kenna.

Around this time, a half-hour TV mockumentary entitled Charts Of Darkness was released, which follows Channel 4 news reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy attempting to track down Damon and Jamie after they were placed in an insane asylum. The special also interviews Rachel of S Club 7 fame and a few of the band's voice talents, who had been given roles to play. The end of the year brought 911, a collaboration with rap artists D12 (sans Eminem) about the September 11, 2001 attacks, along with the announcement of G-Sides, a compilation of the b-sides from the first three singles. The new year also saw a spectacular performance at the 2002 BRIT awards, featuring the band in 3D, weaving in and out of each other on four large screens along with rap accompaniment by Phi Life Cypher. The dub remix album Laika Come Home was released in June. The record was credited to Space Monkeyz Vs Gorillaz, containing most of the debut album Gorillaz reworked by Spacemonkeyz. The single to follow, Lil' Dub Chefin' (M1 A1), contained an original track by the Spacemonkeyz titled "Spacemonkeyz Theme".

On October 30th, 2002, as the band was passing into global obscurity, Kong Studios was closed by police, stating that a domestic disturbance involving a running nude man was reported at the site. The building was in shambles and it turned out that the band had fled to Hollywood to escape whomever or whatever that was trying to attack them. November saw the release of the DVD Phase One: Celebrity Take Down which features an abandoned 3D Kong Studios (only eight rooms, including the lobby, are accessible.) If someone waits in a room longer than a minute, zombie hands will appear and grab the viewer; in some instances, a nude man is seen laughing maniacally. The DVD contains all five videos (including the abandoned video "5/4"), the "Charts Of Darkness" documentary, the five Gorilla Bites (short vignettes), a tour of the website by the MEL 9000 server and much more. Rumours were circulating around this time that Gorillaz were busy preparing a film, but an EMI interview later revealed that plans for the film were abandoned. In an interview with Haruka Kuroda (the voice of Noodle) on fansite Gorillaz-Unofficial, Kuroda stated that Jamie Hewlett rejected many scripts before giving up on the movie.

On December 8th, 2004, the website reopened with the announcement of a new album on the way, including production by DJ Danger Mouse and guest appearances by De La Soul. A contest entitled Search For A Star was also announced, allowing fans to send in a minute-long clip of video or audio they had made; the prize included collaborating with the band in some way, shape or form, as well as getting their own room in the newly rebuilt Kong Studios. It has been revealed that a log in system will be added to the website in the near future.

Since then, a second promotional booklet was issued, recapping the previously issued booklet, as well as detailing the failed movie production in Hollywood and the breakup and reforming of Gorillaz. A culture jamming project named Reject False Icons was formed to strike down at modern pop figures. A new album was first reported to be released in March 2005, but was later changed to May of the same year. The name of the album was reported to be "We Are Happy Landfill", but has been changed to its official title, Demon Days. The album was leaked onto the Internet in early April, 2005. The new video from the website, "Rock It", will not be featured on the album.

On the chart week ending April 23rd 2005, the official UK Singles Chart (which originally had counted physical sales only) combined with download sales. However, the new single from Gorillaz managed to spark up a little "flaw," as with this new chart there is a rule that download sales can only be counted and can only chart if there is a physical equivalent sold at shops at the time. On this very first combined chart, when Gorillaz released their single "Feel Good Inc." to the shops, only a limited edition 300 copies in 7" format and was available online (with sales of about 3000 that week) before its official release as a physical CD single in May. The result was that it charted as high as #22. It climbed to #21 the next week, and up to #20 two weeks later. In the week of its official release (May 10, 2005) it finally reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart, giving them their highest charting single to date.

At all performances, the physical band plays behind a specially designed screen which covers the stage area. Videos, animatics and image collages are projected onto the audience side of the screen, while choreographed lights behind the screen light up silhouettes of the physical band, creating a meld of the physical and animated. For their first tour of the United States, two screens were used; one was simply the animatics, while the second, lower screen displayed the band's silhouettes along with various quotes from interviews.

There have been waves of controversy surrounding who is actually behind Gorillaz ever since the first single was released. In the half-hour TV mockumentary entitled Charts Of Darkness, it was explicitly stated that Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett were behind the project; quoting Albarn, "There could be fifty [people] here, but there's two." Many fans have simply assumed that the guest artists in the liner notes (including Cibo Matto vocalist Miho Hatori and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien) complete the band. In fact, the only permanent member behind the music happens to be Damon Albarn. During the "hidden" credits to the DVD Phase One: Celebrity Take Down, it states the names of the creators, the voice talents and those responsible for performing live. The list of integral performers in the group changed drastically for the second album, with the exception of Damon Albarn himself. All artwork and promotional videos are created by Zombie Flesh Eaters (Hewlett's own company) and Passion Pictures.

Gorillaz is not a traditional band with band members. The only permanent contributors to the project are the creators, Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn. The pair enlist collaborators as they see fit, and to date the project has involved a bewildering array of artists. The pair have always been equally influential in the direction of the project and continue to be so with the promotion for the second album.



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