Gorillaz – The Virtual Reality Hip-Hop Band of the Ages

Gorillaz – The Virtual Reality Hip-Hop Band of the Ages

The idea to create the band came about in 1997 when the two Westbourne Grove, London flatmates Damon Albarn (musical director) of Britpop band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett (visual director) co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl – were watching MTV, – “if you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there. ….. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that,” Hewlett said

Gorillaz are touted as the world’s only cartoon band – their project consists of Gorillaz music itself and an extensive fictional universe depicting a “virtual band” of cartoon characters. A multi-genre quartet whose virtual members include 2-D, the delightfully flighty and enigmatic singer/keyboardist; Murdoc, the mysterious and irreverent bassist and the brains behind the group; Noodle, a ten-year old Japanese martial arts expert and guitar hotshot; and Russel Hobbs, the eloquent yet somewhat unhinged Brooklyn-bred drummer.

The band released their revolutionary debut album Gorillaz in 2001. The launch had many industry detractors who saw the idea of an animated pop group as merely folly and gimmick – but the album went on to sell 6 million copies around the world.

“Every great band is destroyed by their success. Cartoon bands are no exception.” - Noodle

The Gorillaz have always been a band shrouded by a degree of mystery. Hiding behind their animated alter egos, Damon and Jamie have been left their own devices to create some of the most innovative progressive music projects out there today. From their humble beginnings, the Gorillaz have grown and evolved and taken us all along for the wicked and wild journey. From Noodle’s assassination and reincarnation as a cyborg to Murdoc kidnapping 2-D and holding him against his will on Plastic Beach, their much anticipated arrival to Australia in 2010 was well received.

The band originally identified themselves as “Gorilla”, and the first song they recorded was “Ghost Train”, later released as a B-side on their single “Rock the House” and the B-side compilation G Sides. The trio of musicians behind Gorillaz’ first incarnation included Damon Albarn, Del the Funky Homosapien and Dan the Automator, who had previously worked together on the track “Time Keeps on Slipping” for Deltron 3030′s eponymous debut album. The song can be seen as the genesis of the musical style that continued into Gorillaz’ first album

The Gorillaz’ image may be cartoonish, but their music is anything but lightweight. Experimental in nature and obtuse in scope, the Gorillaz’ sound melds Damon Albarn’s sharp pop sensibilities with Dan the Automator’s eclectic bass-heavy, beat-driven hip hop. And although the combination doesn’t always gel, when they hit the mark, it’s usually with a bull’s eye.

It is widely regarded that Albarn and Hewlett comprise the ‘Gorillaz Partnership’, the company that owns the Gorillaz intellectual property and the Gorillaz songwriting royalty stream.

The musical side of the project impacts the visuals – so Jamie visits Damon in the music studio to listen to works in progress and gain inspiration for ideas about the band based on the songs.

Jamie has his own design and animation company Zombie Flesh Eaters who realise a lot of his visual ideas; for example, setting up and running the official Gorillaz website in the way he envisaged, designing record sleeves, possibly even some of the Gorillaz official artwork. He also created the basic story idea behind Gorillaz, although members of Zombie Flesh Eaters and Damon Albarn have also contributed to this, and the evolution of the characters.

About Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn, was born on March 23, 1968 in Leytonstone, London

Albarn’s early life was spent living in Leytonstone with his parents Hazel and Keith and his sister Jessica.

His family then lived in Turkey for a few months. When he turned ten, his family moved to Colchester, Essex, England due to the needs of his father’s teaching career. Albarn then attended Stanway Comprehensive School.

At the age of fifteen, he won an award for “Young Composer of the Year”.

He met future Blur guitarist Graham Coxon at school and found they both liked similar bands, such as the Jam, the Kinks, and the Human League.

After finishing secondary school, Albarn moved to London to attend the East 15 Acting School, losing contact with Coxon.

In 1997, Albarn branched out into acting, appearing in the British film Face. He concluded after one year’s stay that he was a terrible actor and instead took up writing and performing music. Some of the songs he wrote in his early recording days later became Blur songs, such as “Birthday” on their debut album, Leisure.

In 1988, Albarn enrolled at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, London, England; he took a part-time course which he claims he did “just to get on campus”. There, he met up with Coxon once more. After recording a number of demo tapes together, the two formed “the Circus,” at which point Coxon introduced Albarn to bassist Alex James. With the addition of drummer Dave Rowntree, the band began playing as “Seymour”.

Before long the band was signed to Food Records and changed its name to Blur.

Albarn had a long-standing relationship with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann.His involvement with her profoundly influenced his songwriting in Blur in the late 1990s. “Beetlebum,” opening track and chart-topping hit single from Blur, is said to be about Frischmann’s heroin addiction. 13, Blur’s sixth album, presents strong overtones brought about by their break-up.

Blur – Charmless Man (Live at TOTP 1996) by flo_78

As of 2006 Blur had released seven full-length albums, five of which went to #1 in the United Kingdom and all of which reached the top 15. Albarn has written the lyrics to nearly every song released by the band since their formation

He had publicly stated he was waiting for the return of Graham Coxon, who left the band prior to the release of Think Tank, to produce more Blur material; however, Coxon has refused to return, and Albarn stated in September 2005 that he will play guitar on the next Blur record. Albarn Quoted, “If Coxon won’t return then I’ll be playing guitar but it’ll just be fast, punk songs. Why don’t I get another guitarist? Because there’s none better than Coxon.

Though Blur has not disbanded, of late Albarn has been more active as a member of Gorillaz and as a solo artist.

Albarn also composed the score with collaboration by Michael Nyman for the 1999 movie “Ravenous” with Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. It is described as “an eerie mix of symphonic orchestrations and clunky ragtime” which went arguably well with the movie’s cannibalistic themes

Albarn formed virtual cartoon rock band Gorillaz with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett in 1999.

Albarn is openly anti-war and has spoken out against wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002 he took out full page advertisements in the NME challenging the need for war, along with Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack, which they paid for personally.

Albarn released Mali Music in 2002. As the name suggests, the album’s recording sessions were done in Mali, a trip he made to support Oxfam in 2000. He has also visited Nigeria to record music with African drummer Tony Allen. Albarn says he would like to produce a Blur album in Baghdad as he “likes the Iraqi style of music”.

He also released Democrazy in 2003, a collection of demos he recorded while staying in hotel rooms on the U.S. portion of Blur’s tour for Think Tank.

Albarn has also appeared on other unrelated works. His song “Closet Romantic” appeared on the soundtrack for Trainspotting alongside an early Blur recording, “Sing”. Fatboy Slim’s 2004 release Palookaville featured Albarn’s vocals on the song “Put It Back Together”. Albarn provided the voiceover intro and backing vocals in the song “Time Keeps On Slipping” for the rap concept album “Deltron 3030″. The album was produced by Dan the Automator, who also produced the Gorillaz debut album.

In 2005, Albarn, among others, criticized the London Live 8 concert for not featuring enough black artists; this resulted in the addition of Ms. Dynamite, Snoop Dogg, and Youssou N’Dour to the programme. Albarn said he didn’t want to perform in the concert because he thought it was too “exclusive” and may have been motivated by self-gain

He now lives in Notting Hill, London with artist Suzi Winstanley, and their daughter Missy was born in 1999.

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About Jamie Hewlett

Jamie Hewlett created the concept of the Gorillaz with Damon Albarn when they were living together in a flat in London in 1997.

Although it has never been confirmed, it is supposed that these two comprise the ‘Gorillaz Partnership’, the company that owns the Gorillaz intellectual property and the Gorillaz songwriting royalty stream. Jamie is the visual director of Gorillaz; he created the characters that make up the band (though with some input from Damon, for example Damon asked him to ‘tone down’ Murdoc, and Paula, originally part of the line-up, was ditched in favour of Noodle after Damon worked with Miho Hatori on the debut album), and it is his drawings and sketches that all the Gorillaz art is based on.

The musical side of the project impacts the visuals Jamie creates not only in the example of Noodle above, but also because Jamie visits Damon in the music studio to listen to works in progress and gain inspiration for ideas about the band based on the songs.

Jamie has his own design and animation company Zombie Flesh Eaters who realise a lot of his visual ideas; for example, setting up and running the official Gorillaz website in the way he envisaged, designing record sleeves, possibly even some of the Gorillaz official artwork.

He also created the basic story idea behing Gorillaz, although members of Zombie Flesh Eaters and Damon Albarn have also contributed to this, and the evolution of the characters. He co-directed the Gorilla Bites and the Gorillaz music videos.

While studying at Northbrook College, England Hewlett, and fellow student Alan Martin created a fanzine called Atomtan in 1988.

While they were there they had a guest lecture from Brett Ewins who was trying to put together a new comic magazine ‘Deadline’ with fellow artist Steve Dillon. They saw a design for a character ‘Tankgirl’ in Atomtan and asked Alan and Jamie if they would like to expand the idea into a comic strip Jamie drawing the strip and Alan writing it.

Tank Girl was on the front cover of the first issue of Deadline and was the most popular strip in the magazine.

Tankgirl became a big name in the media in the UK as a style icon, and eventually Hollywood showed interest and a film was put into production.

‘Tank Girl’ the film was released in 1995 but it was a let-down for Tank Girl fans, a commercial flop and a critical failure.

After the film’s release Jamie drew Tank Girl in one last strip ‘The Odyssesy’ (without Alan Martin writing) and then he abandoned the character forever.

Hewlett also worked on strips for the British Sci-Fi comic 2000 AD, most notably for the 8-part series Hewligan’s Haircut, scripted by Peter Milligan in 1990-1991.

After Tank Girl Jamie seemed to lose interest in comics for the most part (he’s talked about how the bottom went out of the market in interviews, and also that he felt the comic scene wasn’t going anywhere).

He branched out into other creative projects, including designing decor for a nightclub – The Factory in Worthing and helping set up a vintage clothes shop in Worthing.

He later worked on a number of advertising campaigns, including for SM:TV, a TV program in the UK.

He has also drawn some pictures that have been issued by the ‘Pictures On Walls’ company as limited edition prints, and has designed record sleeves for some bands, for example The Senseless Things.

He lived with Damon Albarn for 8 months in 1997 and it was then that they came to the idea of starting the Gorillaz project.

Jamie took on a staff to help with all the work, Zombie Flesh Eaters, and the Zombie Flesh Eaters have also done other projects in Gorillaz downtime, such as the interactive menus for a John Lennon DVD

In 2006 Jamie Hewlett was awarded Designer of the Year for his work on Gorillaz; four years later the band graced the cover of tech bible Wired Magazine

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Band members

Virtual personnel

The quartet, whose virtual members included 2-D, the cute but spacy singer/keyboardist; Murdoc, the spooky, possibly Satanic bassist and the brains behind the group; Russel, a drummer equally inspired by “Farrakhan and Chaka Khan” and possessed by “funkyphantoms” that occasionally rise up and provide some zombie-style rapping; and last but not least, Noodle, a ten-year-old Japanese guitar virtuosa and martial arts master

Stuart “2D” Pot – lead vocals, keyboards, melodica, rhythm guitar (1998–present)
Murdoc Niccals – bass guitar and drum machine (1998–Present)
Noodle – lead guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals, keyboards (1998–2006, 2010–present)
Russel Hobbs – drums, percussion (active 1998–2006)
Cyborg Noodle – lead guitar (2010–present)

Former members

Paula Cracker – lead guitar (1998)
Del the Ghost Rapper – guest vocals (2001–2003)

Non-Virtual Personnel

Damon Albarn – vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, melodica (1998–present)
Jamie Hewlett – illustration, visuals, FX (1998–present)
Mike Smith – keyboards (1998 – present)
Cass Browne – drums, percussion (1998 – present)
Mick Jones – rythmn guitar (2010 – present)
Paul Simonon – bass guitar (2010 – present)

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. Nakamura’s Deltron 3030 cohorts Kid Koala and Del tha Funkee Homosapien rounded out the creative team behind the Gorillaz.

Always open to a mind-blowing collaboration, Gorillaz have also worked with De La Soul, Kano, Mick Jones, Bobby Womack, Ike Turner, Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Bootie Brown, Bashy, Little Dragon, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Snoop Dogg, Dangermouse, Ibrahim Ferrer,, Mos Def, D12, Phi Life Cypher, MF Doom, Rosie Wilson, Shaun Ryder and Neneh Cherry.

The band’s music is a collaboration between various musicians, Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is a composition of multiple musical genres, with a large number of their influences including: dub, hip hop, alternative rock, electronic and pop music.

At one point in their concert there are over 30 people on stage for the Gorillaz assemblage – string section, backing singers, two drummers, keyboard players, guitarist, at one point a 6 piece brass section from Chicago, then a band from Syria and not forgetting the two members of the Clash.

Early Years

According to Dr. Wurzel, the Gorillaz line-up originally included a girl called Paula before Noodle joined (which has been removed from the official story). She left after Russel caught her having sex with Murdoc in the studio toilets, which was shocking as she was going out with 2D at the time.

Gorillaz made their worldwide media debut in Dazed and Confused magazine in November 2000, releasing their debut single in the same month.

Their Studios also opened its doors to the public in early November.

“Clint Eastwood”, the worldwide hit, followed in March. This single was accompanied by a video of the band in the graveyard around Kong Studios, being chased by dancing zombie gorillas.

The Gorillaz debut album followed, released first in Europe and Japan in a flurry of press activity.

The band’s first release was the EP Tomorrow Comes Today released in 2000. The first three songs from the EP ended up on their debut album

Directed by Jamie Hewlett, the video for the title track consists mainly of static drawings of the Gorillaz placed against real photographs and time-lapsed video footage of London streets. Some of the drawings are animated, especially the ones featuring 2D singing. The video finishes with the four band members, and 2D’s headache pills, flying across the screen during a fast-motion shot of a tunnel.

Graffiti artwork by Banksy can be seen halfway through the video. 2D makes a reference to this in Rise of the Ogre, saying “At first I wanted to be a vandal like that bloke Banksy”.

This was the Gorillaz’ first video, which inspired them to go for a completely animated look. 2D commented: “it’s amazing how young we look in this!” in Rise of the Ogre.

The band’s first single, “Clint Eastwood”, was released on March 5th, 2001.

“Clint Eastwood” exemplifies the mix of musical styles found on the band’s debut album, combining hip hop, rock, electronic and dub influences. The verses are rapped by Del the Funky Homosapien and the chorus is sung by 2D (voiced by Damon Albarn).

“Clint Eastwood” was produced ny hip-Hop producer Dan the Automator and originally featured london-based rap group Phi Life Cypher. However the version which appears on the album features American rapper Del the Funky Homosapien known on the album as Del tha Ghost Rapper who is a spirit in the band’s drummer Russel Hobbs.

The Live performance has seen the likes of Snoop Dogg, Phi Life Cypher, Eslam Jawaad, Bashy & Kano perform the rap in the absence of Del tha Ghost Rapper.

Gorillaz – 2001

Later that same month, their first full-length album, the self-titled Gorillaz, was released, producing four singles: “Clint Eastwood”, “19-2000″, “Tomorrow Comes Today”, and “Rock the House”.

“19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)” became popular after being featured in both an Ice Breakers commercial, as well as in EA Sports’ FIFA Football 2002.

Perhaps it was the cartoon facade, or the side-project feel of the collaborative, but when the Gorillaz’s self-titled debut was released in 2001, critics predicted a short shelf life for the band.  Despite this, the Gorillaz’s album went platinum and the group scored a couple of hefty hits with “Clint Eastwood” and “19-2000.”

19 – 2000

“Rock the House” was released as the third single from the album in October 2001. It peaked at #18 on the UK Singles Chart.

The song is one of the more hip hop-oriented songs on the album, along with “Clint Eastwood”. The song features a horn section loop sampled from “Modesty Blaise”, a piece by British Jazz musician John Dankworth. The chorus also features a sample of “How Many People (Ready To Rock The House?)”, an ’80s hip-hop track by American rapper John Forte.

Rapper Del tha Funkee Homosapien is the only artist to provide vocals for the song, and is the only song on the album that does not have a part for Noodle

The inspiration for the video is said to have come from Hewlett’s angst at the time, as the band was going through the process of being sued by another band named Doppelgangerz, who claimed that Gorillaz was a stolen idea.

“Jump the Gut” was one of the first “Gorilla Bites” that were used to promote the first studio album of virtual band Gorillaz.

But when most of the members of the group went back to their day jobs, most assumed that was the end of them.

Meanwhile G Sides, a compilation of the B-sides from the Tomorrow Comes Today EP and first three singles, was released in Japan on 12 December 2001 and quickly followed with international releases in early 2002.

The new year also saw the band perform at the 2002 BRIT Awards, appearing in 3D animation on four large screens along with rap accompaniment by Phi Life Cypher.

The band was nominated for six awards at the event, including Best British Group, Best British Album and Best British Newcomer, but left the award show empty-handed.

In November 2002, a DVD titled Phase One: Celebrity Take Down was released, giving the phase its name.

The DVD contains the four Phase One promos, the abandoned video for “5/4″, the Charts of Darkness documentary, the five Gorilla Bitez (short vignettes), a tour of the website by the MEL 9000 server and more.

The DVD’s menu was designed much like the band’s website and depicts an abandoned Kong Studios.

Rumours were circulating at this time that the Gorillaz team were busy preparing a film, but at an EMI interview, they later revealed that plans for the film were abandoned. Haruka Kuroda, who voices the character Noodle, told the fan website Gorillaz-Unofficial that Jamie Hewlett rejected many scripts before giving up on the film.

Hewlett later explained why the film was abandoned  -  “We lost all interest in doing it as soon as we started meeting with studios and talking to these Hollywood executive types, we just weren’t on the same page. We said, fuck it, we’ll sit on the idea until we can do it ourselves, and maybe even raise the money ourselves.”

On 8 December 2004, the band’s website reopened with an exclusive video entitled “Rock It”.

Along with the music video, there was an announcement of a new album on the way, which would be produced by Danger Mouse.

A talent contest entitled Search for a Star was also launched on 15 December 2004, allowing fans to send in a minute-long clip of video or audio or an image file.

A viral marketing project named Reject False Icons was formed criticising modern pop figures.

The first single from the album was “Feel Good Inc.”, released as an EP in Japan and as a CD single in Europe and Australia.

The single entered the UK Singles Chart at #22, several weeks before the CD single was released due to the single being released as a 7″ vinyl in April, and new charts regulations included sales at online music stores, where the song had been available since 22 March.

“Feel Good Inc.” managed to reach #2 in the UK Singles Chart the week it was released, being the band’s highest ever positioned single up to that point in time. The single stayed in the top ten for eight consecutive weeks. In the United States, it peaked at #14.

The song also garnered a Record of the Year nomination for the 2006 Grammy Awards later that year.

It was later included in the popular PlayStation 2 title SingStar, a game where players attempt to sing along karaoke style. It was also recently included on Activision´s Guitar Hero 5 and was released as downloadable content on Harmonix and MTV Games’ Rock Band.

Demon Days 2005

Their second studio album, Demon Days, released in 2005, earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006 and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.

The album debuted at #1 on the UK Albums Chart, but fell as low as #29 in just seven weeks. However, as the music video for the second single “DARE” started getting played on MTV and other music channels, Demon Days rose up to the top 10 again

Demon Days has now gone five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States, triple platinum in Australia and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide. The combined sales of Gorillaz and Demon Days had, by 2007, exceeded 15 million albums.

“DARE” was released on 29 August 2005 in the UK, where it debuted at #1. A Japanese EP followed on 7 September. “DARE” eventually reached #87 in the United States, also becoming a Top 10 hit on the Modern Rock listings.

Shortly afterwards, Gorillaz contributed an exclusive track entitled “Hong Kong” to the charity compilation Help!: A Day in the Life released on 10 September 2005.

The third single “Dirty Harry”, which had already been released as a promotional single earlier that year. It was released in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2005. On its first week, it charted at #6. The release of the single raised the album once again back up to the top 10.

Between 1 November and 5 November 2005, there was a Gorillaz festival at the Manchester Opera House. The event was filmed by an EMI film crew for a DVD release, Demon Days Live, in late March 2006.

By the end of 2005, Demon Days had sold over a million copies in the UK, making it the UK’s fifth best selling album of 2005

In 2005, a set of Gorillaz figures were released by Kidrobot to coincide with the release of Demon Days.

Two variations of the set were released, known as the Red and Black editions, and a limited edition Noodle from the music video for “DARE” was also released. Three new sets of Gorillaz vinyl figures were released in 2006. The Basic set was released on 16 October 2006 and the 2-tone and White edition sets were released on 2 November 2006.

The fourth and final single was the double A-side, “Kids with Guns”/”El Mañana”. It was released in the UK on 10 April 2006. Unlike its Top 10 predecessors, “Kids With Guns” / “El Mañana” reached #27 upon its release in the UK. A week later, the single had fallen out of the Top 40 in the UK .

The Gorillaz virtual band members are shown as holograms on stage using Musion Eyeliner technology, giving them a life-like appearance on stage.

The holograms were first used at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards on 3 November 2005 and again at the 2006 Grammy Awards on 8 February 2006 with the addition of a virtual Madonna, where the band played a pre-recorded version of “Feel Good Inc.”

Plans were unveiled for Gorillaz to go on a holographic world tour in 2007 and 2008.. However, the tour was eventually called off due to budget issues. Jamie Hewlett has stated that “  …  it was extremely expensive, extremely difficult, a million and one things can go wrong, every second that the thing’s playing.

Slow Boat to Hades DVD was released on 30 October in the United Kingdom, and 31 October in the United States.

Like the concept itself, Gorillaz: Rise of the Ogre is a part fictional, part real account of the band’s rise to fame. It blends fact and fiction throughout, interspersing commentary from the fictional band members with actual quotes from their creators, collaborators and critics. The front cover of the book, when turned sideways, is Murdoc Niccals’ pet raven ‘Cortez’

Ostensibly written by the four band-members (Murdoc Niccals, 2D, Russel Hobbs and Noodle) in collaboration with (actual) Gorillaz musician and official scribe Cass Browne, the book is 304 pages long and is extensively illustrated.

It contains previously unknown secrets of the band, such as future plans of the movie, new and rare art by Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett, the “low down” on Kong Studios, their headquarters, and the story of the truth behind the “El Mañana” video.

It was released in the UK on 26 October 2006 and in the US on 2 November 2006. A paperback edition of the book was released in the US on 6 November 2007.

Faux interviews and Jamie Hewlett’s illustrations, as well as a few real photos, make up the hardcover book, bringing out both imagined and true-to-life details. Highlights include track-by-track “making of” stories. British humor and, overall, behind-the-scenes insight into one of the most innovative and successful creative projects of recent years.

Rise of the Ogre was also released as the world’s first audiobook singles. The four part audiobook was narrated by Joss Ackland. Initially an iTunes exclusive, one part was released every week for four weeks beginning 4 December 2006.

D Sides

D-Sides, a compilation of B-side and remixes, was released on 19 November 2007 in the UK and on 20 November 2007 in the US.

Hopes for a Gorillaz film were revived in 2006 when Hewlett stated that they would be producing the film on their own.

American film producer and Weinstein Company co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, was also said to be collaborating with Albarn and Hewlett. In a September 2006 interview with Uncut magazine, Albarn was reported saying … “[Gorillaz] has been a fantastic journey which isn’t over, because we’re making a film. We’ve got Terry Gilliam involved. But as far as being in a big band and putting pop music out there, it’s finished. We won’t be doing that any more.”

Later in an interview with the Gorillaz-Unofficial fansite, Jamie Hewlett and Cass Browne revealed that in the film the band members will act as other characters presenting a new story, instead of playing themselves.

No further news was heard about the film until February 2008 when, in an interview with Gorillaz-Unofficial, Hewlett said “Ultimately we didn’t think that feel we’re in a position to make the kind of movie we want to make with Gorillaz at the moment ….. But I’d still like to make a full, lavishly-animated Gorillaz movie someday.”

bananaz dvd taking down the virtual walls of gorillaz

Bananaz was released online on the free Babelgum website on 20 April 2009 followed by the DVD release on 1 June 2009.

Over the course of the hour and a half  the Bananaz film follows the Albarn and Hewlett from Gorillaz inception through its rise to the top of the industry and completion of its second album Demon Days, a period of six years ( 2000 – 2006).

Bananaz follows the duo from its earliest days, when no one knew whether the cartoon band dreamed up by Albarn and Hewlett would be a success. It was directed by Ceri Levy, a friend who made Starshaped, a 1993 documentary about Blur.

The west London neighbourhood was where Carl Levy began recording in 2000, when he would often have coffee in Albarn and Hewlett’s homes. He continued filming on a “beg, steal or buy” basis. “I filmed all the tours around the world by jumping on the tour bus so it became part of the tour expenses,” he said.

Levy follows the rise of the band showing its most intimate moments from signing the Gorillaz contract with EMI, a far different experience than how the Gorillaz biography The Rise of the Ogre depicts it, to recording their first album in what appears to be Albarn’s home studio.

The 90-minute film includes footage of stars from actor Dennis Hopper to Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club working with Albarn and Hewlett on Gorillaz – Albarn plays the bass, piano, keyboard, flute and everything in between in the film that also features collaborators Del La Soul, D12, Dangermouse, Ibrahim Ferrer, Bootie Brown and Simon Tong.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the film is watching the artists struggle with the concept of an animated band and when to be in character and when to be themselves. Managing the parallel worlds was a complex matter. Aside from the intriguing look inside the psyche of the minds behind the Gorillaz, the musical aspect is spectacular.

The album ends with the Gorillaz show at the Apollo, completing a compelling journey from the bands modest beginnings of two-dimensional drawings to the top of the music industry with some of the most advanced shows and images used by a band to date.

Albarn, Hewlett with Chen Shi-Zheng who together created a Pop Opera called Monkey: Journey to the West, which premiered in the summer of 2007 at the Manchester International Festival. A soundtrack album was recorded in the summer as well (initially only digitally available though a CD version was released in 2008).

The production went on to show at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in September-October 2007, the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, USA in May 2008, and the Royal Opera House in London in July 2008.

Albarn and Hewlett built on ideas from Monkey: Journey to the West to release a short film in the Summer of 2008 which accompanied the United Kingdom’s coverage of the BBC Olympic Coverage in Beijing.

It featured a basic outline of the main plot elements of the Opera, reworked into a “Journey to the East”, with the characters finishing in the Beijing Olympic Stadium. Based on a traditional Chinese folktale, it features Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy encountering danger on their way to the Olympic stadium

plastic beach 2010

In late 2007, Albarn and Hewlett began working on Carousel, a new Gorillaz project which eventually evolved into the band’s third studio album Plastic Beach. Albarn said “I’m making this the biggest and most pop record I’ve ever made in many ways, but with all my experience to try and at least present something that has got depth.”

Two and a half years earlier Damon Albarn stated in the pages of NME that there would be no more music to come from the virtual monkey band known as the Gorillaz. Jamie Hewlett also agreed with Damon adding that he’s sick of drawing the characters themselves. But they later changed their minds.

The album features guest performances by Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Gruff Rhys, Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Kano, Bashy, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, sinfonia ViVA, and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music

Gorillaz album Plastic Beach recently debuted at #1 in Australia with chart success around the world, including #2 positions in the US and UK, and #1 in Austria. The album went to #1 in the Billboard Alternative Chart, and #1 in digital charts in USA, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

world of plastic beach – snoop dog

On 18 January 2010, it was announced that Gorillaz would be headlining the final night of the Coachella music festival on 18 April 2010. Gorillaz performed to one of the largest crowds in Coachella history of over 70,000 people strong.

Gorillaz played a short run of intimate UK rehearsal gigs exclusively for G-Club members, before taking up a two-night residency at London’s Camden Roundhouse (29 and 30 April 2010).

Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash performed guitar and bass respectively with the band and more than once in the evening chords from The Clash song “Guns of Brixton” were heard as a subtle reference to their presence.

In typical Gorillaz style, the new single Stylo from the album Plastic Beach featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def was made available for download on YouTube on 26 January 2010.

In early 2010 Gorillaz resurfaced with the album Plastic Beach. The lead single Stylo featured a bad ass Bruce Willis chasing down the Gorillaz who made a clean escape and headed out on their first World Tour with a crack team of musicians including Clash greats Paul Simonon and Mick Jones.

Leaving behind the 2D style, the band upgraded for a modern 3D look in the video clip that follows bass player Murdoc Niccals, guitarist/Cyborg Noodle and the vocalist 2D on their trip to the mainland from Murdoc’s new home on Plastic Beach.

Stylo is directed by Jamie Hewlett and produced by his company, Zombie Flesh Eaters. Live action is through HIS Productions in Los Angeles with animation by Passion Pictures in London

Further singles from the Plastic Beach album include “On Melancholy Hill”, “Superfast Jellyfish” and “Rhinestone Eyes”, as well as “White Flag”, which was released exclusively for Record Store Day 2010..

To fit the Plastic Beach theme, the Gorillaz website was dramatically altered and changed. A virtual tour of the Plastic Beach was added, including a new Gorillaz game titled ‘Escape to the Plastic Beach’. Several ‘Shorts’ of each band member was included in the follow-up to the albums release, to give fans an understanding of the fictional band members’ story before their arrival to the island.

A Windows 7 theme was also released.

Most recently, Gorillaz teamed with Microsoft to promote the new Internet Explorer 9, running a contest that invited fans to draw the band’s newest “member,” the Evangelist (on a specially created app)

An international tour was announced in mid-2010 to promote the album, however it was only in the UK and Ireland. Later, in early July 2010, they announced their first world tour, titled the “Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour.”

The UK tour was merged with the world tour, and the UK dates were cancelled or rescheduled to fit the new schedule.

Gorillaz headlined the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2010, as an immediate replacement for U2, who dropped out of performing at the festival

Gorillaz kicked off their first ever world tour on 20 July at Byblos, Lebanon. On 25 July 2010, Gorillaz performed a concert at the Citadel of Damascus in Syria. The tour then took them across America in October, Europe in November, and finally through Australia, New Zealand, and one date in Asia in December.

The Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour officially kicked off in Montreal, Canada on 3 October to rave reviews.

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In October 2010, Damon Albarn announced to the media that he would not let the cast of Glee cover the band’s songs, claiming that the music on the Fox network’s hit TV show is a ‘very poor substitute for the real thing’.

This statement led most people to believe that the Gorillaz had been asked by Glee producers to lend their music to the show, which they had not. Albarn responded to the confusion with a laugh and said “and now they definitely won’t.”

On 5 October 2010, Gorillaz announced their new single “Doncamatic” featuring Daley. It premiered later that same day on Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show. The single was released on 22 November 2010.

On 8 December 2010, Albarn confirmed via an interview that a Gorillaz album recorded on the American leg of the Escape to Plastic Beach tour will be released to download for free exclusively to paying fan club members from the Gorillaz website on Christmas Day, 25 December 2010.

The Fall

On 15 December 2010, Albarn confirmed whilst interviewed on Australian radio station Triple J that the new album would be titled The Fall as it was recorded on their American tour in October.

The Fall, was released in December 2010 as a free download for sub-division members, then in April 2011 as a physical release. The Fall album is notable for being both written and recorded almost entirely on the iPad, using downloaded App Store apps.

The apps used in creation of The Fall include Speak It!, SoundyThingie, Mugician, Solo Synth, Synth, Funk Box, Gliss, AmpliTube, Xenon, iElectribe, BS-16i, M3000 HD, Cleartune, iOrgel HD, Olsynth, StudioMiniXI, BassLine, Harmonizer, Dub Siren Pro and Moog Filatron, which are all available for download from the App Store.

A follow up to last year’s brilliant Plastic Beach, The Fall was speculated by some to be Albarn’s final release under the Gorillaz moniker.

Recorded on a North American tour between Montreal and Vancouver over a 32 day period in late 2010, the record sees Albarn continuing the colourful, ‘outside-the-box’ melange of styles and influences that have elevated the Gorillaz project to both critical and commercial heights, but scaling down the head-nodding pop aspect to present us with an intimate, introspective and at times exquisite offering.

The running order of The Fall bears more resemblance to that of a compilation rather than an actual studio album – the tracks appear here in chronological order, enhancing the touring / journeying aspect of the record. Each track holds an inextricable connection to a particular place – unsurprisingly, Detroit, The Snake in Dallas, Amarillo, Bobby In Phoenix and Seattle Yodel were recorded in Detroit, Dallas, Amarillo, Phoenix and Seattle respectively.

Vastly different to Plastic Beach in terms of its sparse production, languid feel and mournful subject matter, this record is driven more by dub and blues sensibilities than any previous Gorillaz work, and shows a different side to Albarn that we perhaps haven’t seen since the days of Blur’s Think Tank or moments of the self-titled The Good, The Bad and The Queen record.

This record could at times be construed as difficult when juxtaposed with the radio-ready songs of Plastic Beach, but it is ultimately rewarding as a creative vision, an embodiment of the sense of inwardness and desolation felt during life on tour.

Photos were released of frontman Damon Albarn & USA rapper Pharrell Williams recording with an iPad, Omnichord & Korg Donca Matic when on Gorillaz’ Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour, Albarn said in an interview that he does not know when the track will be released.

Australian tour 2010

Gorillaz came to Australia for their first ever tour in December 2010. Presented by Chugg Entertainment, the band visited Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on a five date loop of the country that saw them perform songs from their back catalogue as well as their latest album ‘Plastic Beach.

Playing songs from all three of their critically acclaimed albums (Gorillaz, Demon Days, Plastic Beach and The Fall) their landmark arena tour included a dynamic production featuring multi-media video animation, artwork and film. As Murdoc says “A phantasmagoria of sounds, colours and assaults on the senses.”

“Gorillaz restored my faith in music – and animation. They are second only to The Archies in my list of all-time favourite bands. They make you want to dance, they make you want to smile, they make you want to drive a monster truck around the desert.” – Jonathan Ross

“There is nothing I can do in the live context anyway because I’m not Rolf Harris,” Hewlett jokes. “Although I wouldn’t mind being Rolf Harris. I have to do my stuff ahead of time. Drawing is not a live spectacle. So I’m purely here because I’ve never been to Australia and the band that I am a part of is touring Australia, so I’d be an idiot not to come and experience it.”

“Australia was the last place left on our list,” Albarn says of the tour. “As long as you are into it and the crowds are excited about seeing us then we will give you amazing shows. In all honesty the reaction we’ve had on this tour has just been sublime as long as it continues like that we’ll be very happy.”

Albarn reckons while the production is a logistical and financial behemoth, the quality of the show makes up for the organisational headaches and extravagant costs.

“We offset it by being really good,” he says. “It’s the only justification I can give.”

Supplemented with guests De La Soul, Bobby Womack, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Little Dragon, it is an innovative mash-up of astounding musicianship and incredible audio-visuals.

“The finished song is required before I start animation for the videos, but the rest of it we start around the same time,” Hewlett says.

Hewlett says. “On Christmas Eve a video for one of the new songs from the iPad album will be released. Then, on Christmas Day fans get the whole album downloaded to their computer for free as a gift.”

Albarn says he wanted to create the world’s first iPad album.

“I wanted to make sure that it came out at the end of the tour because I don’t want anyone to think I’d tampered with it.

I literally made it on the road in America over a month. I didn’t write it before, I didn’t prepare it. I just did it day by day as a kind of diary of my experience in America. If I left it until the New Year to release it then the cynics out there would say ‘Oh well, it’s been tampered with’, but if I put it out now they’d know that I haven’t done anything because I’ve been on tour ever since.”

Review: Gorillaz, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne 11 Dec, 2010

The Gorillaz are next level, they performed an incredible show, with a massive collection of musicians, non-stop animation display and a wide range of guest collaborators. Welcome to the world of the plastic beach, starring Damon Alburn, Bobby Womack, The Clash’s Mick Jones & Paul Simonon, De La Soul,Rosie Wilson, and the Pharcydes’ Bootie Brown

Swedish-Japanese band Little Dragon opened with an ambient electronica trip hop start to the evening. Then along came De La Soul bouncing on stage with a hit list of classic old school hip hop anthems.

An eerie darkness filled the Rod Laver Arena, as the Gorillaz slowly appeared on stage as siluettes while the animation set the scene. Snoop Dogg welcomed us into the wonderland planet of the apes, with a super smooth introduction via video for Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach.The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble blasts in and the crowd cheers with pure excitement as the arena turns into full party vibe with a stage packed full of rockin’ musicians and uber cool singers.

There were so many highlights and the band maintained everyone’s full attention for the entirety of the show. Damon Alburn displayed non-stop electric energy, bouncing across the stage, interacting with the band and constantly impressing the crowd.

Soul legend Bobby Womack belted out a killer performance on the super cool Stylo featuring an incredible pulsating baseline that sounded unbelievable live.

De La Soul burst on stage with Superfast Jellyfish, a fun fuelled performance as Maseo goofed around with Alburn displaying a sign of true friendship.

The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music performed a chilling rendition before kicking into their collaboration on White Flag. A powerful performance as Alburn waved a symbolic giant white flag, delivering an anti-war message.

De La Soul bounced back on stage for to deliver a highlight to the end of the night, Feel Good Inc. Maseo ‘s iconic taunting laugh kicked off the track, throwing their weight around like a pack of gorillaz.

Continuous animation matched every track perfectly, a real visual feast with the band playing in sync with their animated characters from original film clips and works by the mastermind James Hewlett. By the end I felt like I had watched a full-length feature film, a story from another planet, an island in the sky made up of superior beings. This is a show you must check out, even if you’re not a fan I encourage you to open your mind and visit this planet. Satisfaction guaranteed

During the Gorillaz show at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on 21 December 2010, Damon Albarn announced that it would be their final live show with the Plastic Beach line up.

The Evangelist

Whilst on record Gorillaz operate a largely revolving door policy of collaborators and musicians, their “original” line-up of cartoon characters hasn’t changed much since the group’s inception in 1998, with fictional bassist Murdoc, vocalist 2D, drummer Russell Hobbs and guitarist Noodle (and Cyborg Noodle) all remaining part of the group’s visual representation in one form or other.

When your band is comprised entirely of cartoon characters, you can create new members at will.

When Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s Gorillaz project decided to add another to their ranks, they went to their fan base to design it.

On 2nd November, 2010 Gorillaz and Internet Explorer 9 invited the public to draw and design “The Evangelist”, and upload their entries for 5 rounds of public voting, with the final winner to be chosen and re-drawn by Jamie Hewlett

Boogieman from On Melancholy Hill

Gorillaz had earlier offered some clues as to the character’s background on their website, claiming that it would be the antithesis to the Boogieman — a character who appeared in several singles videos for last year’s ‘Plastic Beach’ campaign. On it they claimed the Evangelist was “the light to his awful shade … [it] is a similar entity, but the flip-side of the Boogieman. He/she may even be revealed as the Boogieman’s avenger. His/her outer appearance is yet to be defined. Many rumours fly around of his/her description.”.

Jirouta’s winning entry

The Gorillaz received over 5,000 amazing drawings and over 175,000 votes and we the final winner was chosen - Jirouta.

The new evangelist character has a skinny, vein-bulging frame and is clad in rolled up jeans and a white t-shirt. It also has a fish bowl for a head, from which some form of kraken is attempting to escape — naturally. It’s not clear when ‘the new character will make its debut

Jamie’s first draft interpretation of Jirouta’s concept

On 18 April 2011, Gorillaz announced the release of their own version of the iPad app iElectribe, by Korg – which features many loops & samples taken from The Fall as well as other samples, this new Gorillaz version not only features a Gorillaz designed and styled interface, but is also ‘customized to generate Gorillaz samples from their fourth album “The Fall”‘ and includes 128 new sounds created by Gorillaz and 64 ready-to-use pre-programmed patterns from Gorillaz, Stephen Sedgwick (Gorillaz’ engineer) and Korg.

On the 5th October, 2011, Gorillaz announced that their first “greatest hits” compilation, The Singles Collection 2001-2011, will be released on 28 November 2011.

A 15-track collection of the band’s singles, videos and remixes, The Singles Collection: 2001-2011 celebrates 10 years of audio visual innovation and three studio albums from the most successful virtual band in the world ever.

Three incredible albums later, and they are celebrating their 10th birthday. Ten years ago, a Brit pop legend and a comic book genius joined brains and gave birth to one of the coolest musical collectives to ever set a virtual foot on this planet.

The Singles Collection will be released as a standard CD, CD and DVD and 140 gram vinyl.

A special edition 7” box set will also be made available

Gorillaz have announced that they will be recording a new track in February 2012 as part of the Converse shoe company’s ‘Three Artists. One Song’ series.

The series has brought together rapper Soulja Boy, Andrew WK and Matt And Kim to record a collaboration and also saw Graham Coxon, Paloma Faith and ex-The Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones collaborate to record a track together in 2010.

The track will come out to coincide with the release of a new collection of Converse shoes – graphics designed by Jamie Hewlett.

Virtual Gorillaz Band Members

Stuart “2-D” Pot

2D is actually a nickname derived from the fact that he has a dent in each eye socket, both caused by run-ins with Murdoc’s vehicle.

His real name is Stuart Pot (his last name was often thought to be Tusspot, though his family changed their name to Pot shortly before Stu was born), most of the time shortened to Stu-Pot.

He was born and raised in Hertfordshire, England.

His father, David Tusspot (who died in his sleep shortly after Demon Days was released), worked as a mechanic and owner of the Tusspot’s Fairground.

His mother, Rachel Tusspot, was a nurse who supplied Stu-pot with headache pills. Stu-Pot wasn’t very intelligent.

He was known as a kind person and had a general love of music.

He hit his head when falling from a tree at the age of eleven, which caused his hair to fall out. When it came back it was a deep ‘azure blue’.

He was forced to move to Crawley, West Sussex, as a result of a lawsuit filed by Ivana Abramovitch for breaking Abramovitch’s hand.

Stu-Pot attended St. Wilfred’s school where, despite his lack of intelligence and ambition, he got fairly good grades.

For most of his life, Stu-pot didn’t know what he wanted to do when he got older. He first wanted to become a storm chaser and then he wanted to paint. He developed an interest in machinery when he and his dad customized his Casio VL-1 keyboard and lead singer.

His musical idol was Augustus Pablo and his favorite band was The Human League.

At age 16, the drama in his life began when hooligan Murdoc Niccals, age 28, purposefully crashed his Vauxhall Astra through the wall of Uncle Norm’s Organ Emporium, where Stu-Pot had been working, in an attempt to ramraid it and steal the synths.

Murdoc’s bumper crashed into Stu-Pot’s face, landing him with an eight-ball fracture in his right eyeball, and putting him into a deep catatonic state.

Murdoc was arrested and sentenced to carry out 30,000 hours of community service as well as care for the vegetablized Stu-Pot for 10 hours every week.

Not long after, in a poor attempt to impress some women, Murdoc performed a 360 in a Tesco car park in Nottingham with his vehicle. This sent Stu-Pot crashing through the windshield, hitting his head on the curb.

He woke from his coma and also dented his left eye to match his right one, thus gaining him no eyes.

It was then that Murdoc dubbed him “2D”, revealing that the origins of the name “2D” have nothing to do with the phrase “two-dimensional”, but rather stands for the two dents in his head.

Rather amusingly, Stu-Pot adores his new nickname, dropping use of his birth name completely and even signing formal letters with the first name “Two” and surname “D”.

2D would appear to have a chronic history of violent blows to the head, coupled with a complete lack of natural intelligence.

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett commented on this, saying that he has a blank sheet of paper where a brain should be.

During the hiatus, 2D went to work on his parent’s funfair. He collected money for a ride called ‘The Waltzer’ and there he met Shane Lynch from Boyzone and the two became good friends.

He didn’t really think about Gorillaz until 4 years later, he received a text message from Noodle and with that he decided to return to Kong with fully restored confidence after he realized he was the cause for the Gorillaz success.

After the El Mañana conspiracy, 2D and Russell were frantic about Noodle’s supposed death. It was a hoax, however, and the band has once again gone separate ways but not for long (so promised Murdoc in the autobiography Rise of the Ogre; their biggest project to date is apparently being planned) and the singer was, according to Murdoc, “…pouncing off somewhere. He’s probably gonna try and become an actor or a model or whatever…”

As of 31 October 2007, according to an official mail-out, Murdoc says that, “2D is on a vacation at a Jamaican beach.”

On 13 November the D-Sides text in the G-Shop stated that 2D is currently completing a law degree.

Murdoc Niccals

While his attire varies, he’s never seen without an upside-down cross around his neck and his Cuban-heeled boots, as well as the occasional questionable accessory (shoulder guards made from dead rats, a cape with a skull pin, or a sailor cap with a skull and crossbones symbol, just to name a few).

He also has a fair amount of tattoos, including a black inverted cross on his right upper arm, an Iron Cross on his upper left arm, a black skull and crossed roses bearing the inscription “Born to Die”, the word “Helios” tattooed in black on his lower back with an arrow pointed downwards, a red octopus on the inside of his right forearm, and the seven deadly sins emblazoned on his back.

Murdoc is the personification of the “bad” side of stardom.

Misanthropic, narcissistic, and downright unpleasant by nature, along with having quite a few problems with personal hygiene, he’s flirtatious, ambitious, brazen, and a bit of a bully. He has a nasty habit of automatically placing himself as the leader of any group, even though he doesn’t always have the best ideas, and has a very high opinion of himself, storming away should someone humiliate him.

An alcoholic and former speed addict, he has a problem with self-control and taking things in moderation.

But he does have some redeeming qualities; most find his antics as a good example of things not to do in life, and his frequent rants often amuse those that listen to them. He is capable of showing friendliness, and even goes into Hell to rescue one of his band mates. In short, he cares; he just doesn’t like to show it.

He’s also dependent on his band mates; in his pirate radio broadcasts, he chugs rum to forget just how incredibly lonely he is without them. His personality doesn’t change much between being drunk and sober, except that he seems much more like his “usual” self when drunk. Sober, he’s a bit more self-pitying and unhinged. 2D also described him by saying “he acts all tough, but he’s easily scared”.

It’s quite possible he’s very much insane; and, at the very least, incredibly paranoid.

In Rise of the Ogre it is revealed that Murdoc was dumped on his father’s doorstep in infancy and went on to a very abusive childhood.

It has been proposed that his many addictions and his sour attitude were due to his abusive and very bad childhood.

Sebastian Jacob Niccals (“or Jacob Sebastian Niccals, depending on who’s asking”) was a spiteful drunk of a man who often verbally abused and exploited his sons. No one actually knew for certain who his mother was but most think he was born to a woman in a mental hospital for the terminally bored (though there are many other creative possibilities that contradict the theory).

The local pub had a routine talent show that Murdoc was often forced to participate in so he could win his father drinking money (Murdoc once played Pinocchio, singing “I’ve Got No Strings”).

Though he and his older sibling Hannibal never got along (he was responsible for two of the eight separate times Murdoc’s nose was broken), it was through his older brother that Murdoc was introduced to his favorite bands, such as the Clash (though Murdoc found Black Sabbath on his own).

Murdoc played in a number of bands before Gorillaz; they never went anywhere.

One of these was an unnamed Metal band which consisted of six people, including Murdoc on bass. The names and instruments of the other members appear in the Gorillaz 2005 promotional booklet and are given as follows: Billy Boy (who is based on a character in A Clockwork Orange) and Tiny on guitars, Crunch on drums, Rocky on keyboards and Munch who appears to be listed as “Band Artist.”

Eventually after recruiting 2D through a series of accidents and not-so-accidents and kidnapping Russel from Big Rick Black’s Music Shack, he pieced together the band that would become Gorillaz.

He purchased Kong Studios and was delivered a small Japanese girl who could play a wicked guitar solo; Noodle replaced Paula Cracker (presently an overmedicated psychopath with a personal vendetta against the thirteen-year-old who helped lead the band to success) as Gorillaz’s axe bandier.

Murdoc wrote the self-titled debut album.

After achieving fame, fortune, and several nasty hangovers, the alcoholic bassist relocated his band over to Los Angeles so they could begin production on a movie.

Unfortunately, this was never to be.

They were conned by a movie director (who it turns out, was just an insane man) while Murdoc attempted starring in a television program (he was too old for the part), and they ventured unsuccessfully into scriptwriting.

Murdoc took off to a Tijuana brothel after strangling 2D (who, like the rest of the band, went their separate ways) and was eventually thrown in prison with a 20-year sentence for giving bad checks to the prostitutes. It was during this sentence that he was acquainted with his raven Cortez, the “jailbird with a chilling reputation”.

While serving his sentence Murdoc acquired some prison ink (in the form of the seven deadly sins tattooed across his back), and also took an open University course: “Amateur Administration of Pharmaceutical Medicines” and managed to pass a medical exam, earning the title ‘Dr. Niccals’.

He escaped with the help of two Mexican criminals, a paper-mache mannequin of himself and a taped loop of himself moaning.

After returning to the brothel to make a final point to the Mexican authorities, Murdoc loaded up on duty-free tequila and a few sombreros and made his way back to Kong, finding that Noodle had written the second album by herself (which he tried to take the credit for).

The new album, Demon Days, made the band into even bigger superstars. After several number one videos, Noodle-close compadre to Murdoc-was apparently “killed” during the “El Mañana” video shoot (it can be noted that Murdoc came up with the idea of shooting down the floating island with Noodle inside, though).

After the El Mañana conspiracy, 2-D and Russel were frantic about Noodle’s supposed death. But it turned out be a hoax. Murdoc revealed the truth about the El Mañana video in the Gorillaz official autobiography book, Rise of the Ogre. Gorillaz-Unofficial released an article containing the contents of the book.

“I guess you’ve waited long enough. Noodle’s safe, she was just acting as planned… Jamie Hewlett gave Noodle the command, and she parachuted safely off the island. — Murdoc Niccals on the video for El Mañana”

It turns out that the entire El Mañana conspiracy was calculated specifically to get rid of an enemy of the band: Little Jimmy Manson, a psychotic hippie turned industry executive who was set on sabotaging Gorillaz. The reason was that Jimmy auditioned for Gorillaz a few years back, but was turned down after Noodle got the job. He has had a grudge with Gorillaz ever since.

Murdoc saw Jimmy’s plan and decided to get rid of Jimmy before it was too late. Murdoc told Jimmy that he had a plan to “help him” to kill off one of the band members so that 1) Gorillaz would end with a bang and 2) Jimmy could start a new band with Murdoc.

Noodle was to do the El Mañana video with Manson stowed away on the island and then, while the windmill was crashing around them, Jimmy would shoot the guitarist whilst taking the parachute for himself.

However, Murdoc turned the tables on Jimmy by not only “forgetting” to leave the weapon aboard the island but by also locking him in the windmill; Jimmy supposedly died within the crash while Noodle parachuted to safety.

His statement has followed: “There’s no way on earth I’m killing Noodle. Are you mad? She’s Noodle. We’re Gorillaz! The greatest band on earth. I’m arrogant, ruthless even but I’m not stupid. I’m not having some two-bit mouldy despot record company nut killing off my band. No way, José. That clown got what he deserved. . . He set himself up and burned all the evidence in the process. Instant Karma for Mr. Jimmy Manson — Murdoc Niccals, Rise of the Ogre”

It was stated by Murdoc that Noodle had been planning to leave after Demon Days, although leaving what, the band or the country, was never answered. Though it had been planned for months (the packing boxes had begun showing up in Kong Studios the previously February), she had neglected to tell anyone of her plans (though Murdoc said it was obvious what she was doing). Murdoc, in order to run with his plan to off Jimmy, made a deal with Noodle: she could disappear for some R&R with no fuss if she did the video.

While some may say this is one of the only occasions when it appears that Murdoc isn’t as selfish as he appears, he later states that no one was going to ruin his band, obviously meaning he would not jeopardize his fame.

However on November 8, 2007, the day of the live chat on fellow bandmate Murdoc’s Facebook page, Murdoc revealed that Noodle has actually been taken in place of Russel Hobbs, to Hell by the demons invading the Kong Studios building. Murdoc is currently attempting to rescue her.

“Noodle been dragged to Hell. She can look after her self, but this one’s too big for her on her own. I’m helping her out of there. In fact I only stopped by here to pick up a can of mace, when I noticed that someone had left the door open and let you gonks in…. — Murdoc Niccals on a live Facebook chat”

He later explained: — “Well…It’s funny. After the first album Russel had this big mad breakdown. He had the spirit of Del exorcised out of him by the Grim Reaper. Which kind of sent him mental. He tried to record a solo album but then he was saying that all these demons were flying out the speakers trying to eat him. Everyone thought he’d just gone loopy. “Living in a basement with Ike Turner”. Turns out tho he was right. The Demons were real! You couldn’t really make it up. So next thing we know is after Noodle disappeared after The El Manana video incident, we hear this voice coming out of the basin basement room of Kong. Out of a radio. Turns out that when these demons couldn’t get hold of Russ, they grabbed Noodle instead. Dragged her downstairs, to Hades!

So of course it fell to muggings here, (that’s me), to go on some epic Odysseus type journey into The Underworld to try and rescue her. It’s all tied up with contract I signed with Beelzebub that shoe-horned Gorillaz up the charts in the first place. He was cocked off about some late payment of my eternal soul, or something stupid. He as well as anyone should know that these type of payments take time to come through.

I mean, well, everyone’s got their demons to battle. It’s just that mine take on a more physical form and have names like “Alichino”, “Lilith”, “Baphomet” “Sidragasum”, “Xitragupten” and so on….I guess that’s what you get if you’re born in a mental asylum named after a demon called Belphegor. Still I was never bored as a child. Yup…never bored. — Murdoc Niccals on a live Facebook chat”

But on September 13, 2008, on the Gorillaz official fansite, Murdoc gave the fans his personal review of “Monkey: Journey to the West.”

During the beginning of his review he stated that he went to hades and successfully rescued Noodle from the demons. However, Murdoc’s epic story to hades was unknown.

“I’ve only just got back from this whole ‘tracking Noodle down in the Underworld, and rescuing her from an eternal existence in the jaws of a 50ft soul-eating demon from Hades’ epic-type-jaunt, as what was posted in my last Bookface geek-fest thing… That was pretty hairy, but it’s all safe now, all good. I’d love to tell you lot about it but, as usual I’ve got myself all tangled up with some turgid movie dudes who say, “Y’know keep schtum, we’ll sell the whole story to Schpeilburg”. Probably all rubbish again but let’s see. — Murdoc Niccals on the Gorillaz Official fansite”

Murdoc is still living in Kong Studios, which is now mysteriously crumbling to the ground; the rest of the band is on break.

Murdoc says he is almost broke, thanks to some legal fees and a golf club membership. He is planning a foray into politics, with a much more literal ambition for taking over the world. He also states that Gorillaz is actually in the middle of the biggest project the world has ever seen.

Noodle

At age 10, Noodle arrived on the Gorillaz’ doorstep in a FedEx crate, in response to the ad they placed for a guitarist in the NME.

She could not speak any English beyond the word “Noodle”, thus earning her the alias.

She quickly got settled in England with the Gorillaz, and was accepted as the fourth member of the band.

In Rise of the Ogre, it is revealed that during the band’s hiatus in November, 2003, Noodle went back to Japan to find out the truth about her past after being haunted by strange nightmares while on tour. Upon her return to Japan, Noodle regained her memory after hearing the code-phrase ‘ocean bacon’ at a restaurant.

noodle and her mentor Mr. Kyuzo

There she coincidentally met with her creator/mentor, Mr. Kyuzo, who was working as the head chef in the restaurant, and who explained the memories she had regained.

It turned out that she was one of the test subjects in a secret government super soldier project, but she was trained specially as a musician. As a result, she is a master of many weapons, languages, and musical instruments, but her specialty is the guitar, both as a musical instrument, and an instrument of destruction.

Out of the 23 children created for the project, Noodle was the only one to survive; the others were all destroyed by the government.

Mr. Kyuzo had smuggled her to safety in England after reading the aforementioned ad placed by the other three Gorillaz members in the NME; he had specifically chosen the Gorillaz because he was aware of the usual international success of English bands and he believed that Noodle could enjoy success in relative obscurity.

The other two code-words (one to erase her memory and the other to turn her into a frenzied killing machine) are known only to Noodle and, presumably, Mr. Kyuzo, though Murdoc has a very keen interest in finding out what they are.

Noodle regained the ability to speak English, along with her memories, and was the first member of Gorillaz to return to Kong Studios. She was alone at Kong studios for nearly six months, during that time she was composing the majority of the Demon Days album.

Her composition of the album crafted a specific message, which would explain the more ‘crafted’ sound to that album, as opposed to the debut which was composed by Murdoc and 2D, which had a grimier, more spontaneous sound.

She is probably the least vocal of the band, but became the most vocal of the band when it came to describing the album, its themes, and what it means.

In March 2006, a series of events surrounding the release of the Gorillaz video “El Mañana” led some fans to believe the video depicted her actual death. In the days preceding the release of the video, cardboard boxes were found in the Kong Studios lobby. The boxes soon moved to Noodle’s room, and each day, her room was shown to be more and more packed away until eventually the room was almost entirely barren.

At the same time, the windmill island from the “Feel Good Inc.” music video appeared outside of Kong Studios on the website’s splash page. Shortly before the release of “El Mañana”, the windmill was seen flying away. The windmill can now be seen as a silhouette on the horizon, although why it is still intact after El Mañana is a mystery, unless El Mañana was staged.

The video is somewhat of a continuation of the “Feel Good Inc.” video, once again depicting Noodle on the windmill island.

The two helicopters seen pursuing the island in the “Feel Good Inc.” video are not the same helicopters as the ones attacking Noodle and her windmill as stated in Rise Of The Ogre. The video then concludes with the helicopters bombing the crashed windmill.

Two days after the video’s release, cracks appeared on the walls of Noodle’s room on the website (which spread to the ground floor lobby) and the clock on her wall labeled “Armageddon” (the only piece of furniture left behind) gained a fourth hand, and has currently fallen to the floor. Since then, the cracks have been growing to the point that part of the roof has collapsed, exposing the outdoor sky.

In late March, more boxes were found in the Kong Studios lobby, one of which was labeled “DedEx”, apparently as some sort of reference to Noodle, who had arrived in a FedEx crate. They disappeared after the lobby was destroyed.

Many fans were shocked at the video, which, coupled with the bizarre, unexplained events in her room before and after the release, seemed to imply that events portrayed in the music video were in fact “real” rather than staged. These events sparked much speculation and debate over Noodle’s fate, including over whether or not she had survived the attack to whether the video was even “real” in the first place.

In the book Rise of the Ogre, Murdoc reveals that the “El Mañana” video was indeed “staged” and that Noodle is still “alive”.

“I guess you’ve waited long enough. Noodle’s safe, she was just acting as planned… Jamie Hewlett gave Noodle the command, and she parachuted safely off the island. — Murdoc Niccals on the video for “El Mañana””

It was stated by Murdoc that Noodle had been planning to leave after Demon Days, although leaving what, the band or the country, was never answered. Though it had been planned for months (the packing boxes had begun showing up in Kong Studios the previous February), she had neglected to tell anyone of her plans (though Murdoc said it was obvious what she was doing).

According to the bass player, Noodle is in the Maldives “chilling out”.

On November 8, 2007, the day of the live chat on fellow bandmate Murdoc Niccals Facebook page, Murdoc revealed that Noodle has actually been taken in place of Russel Hobbs, to Hell by the demons invading the Kong Studios building. Murdoc is currently attempting to rescue her.

“Noodle been dragged to Hell. She can look after her self, but this one’s too big for her on her own. I’m helping her out of there. In fact I only stopped by here to pick up a can of mace, when I noticed that someone had left the door open an let you gonks in — Murdoc Niccals on a live Facebook chat””

On September 13, 2008, on the Gorillaz official fansite, Murdoc gave the fans his personal review of “Monkey: Journey to the West.” During the beginning of his review he stated that he went to Hades and successfully rescued Noodle from the demons. However, Murdoc’s epic story to hades was unknown.

“I’ve only just got back from this whole ‘tracking Noodle down in the Underworld, and rescuing her from an eternal existence in the jaws of a 50ft soul-eating demon from Hades’ epic-type-jaunt, as what was posted in my last Bookface geek-fest thing… That was pretty hairy, but it’s all safe now, all good. I’d love to tell you lot about it but, as usual I’ve got myself all tangled up with some turgid movie dudes who say, “Y’know keep schtum, we’ll sell the whole story to Schpeilburg”. Probably all rubbish again but let’s see. — Murdoc Niccals on the Gorillaz Official fansite”

Deep within the bowel of Kong Studios, inside the Room of Brians, a radio distress transmission from Noodle can be heard. Some of the graffiti in the 1st floor corridor toilets matches the description of what is said here. The toilet is inhabited by a demon.

“’Murdoc!!!!! Russel… Is anybody there??!!! It’s me, Noodle…… Is there anybody there!!!! You need to reply…… Helllloooo!!! Come In….. It’s Noodle … I’ve found the missing code…… they’re coming!!!! ….. (quieter) the reception here is really terrible … (Back to normal volume) MURDOC!!!!!! …… Murdoc, you got to get the combin..!!!! Come in!!!! They know where you……… Mur ….You must get out! …. It’s coming from BENEATH the building! You have to get out! ………. Murdoc, hurry before it’s too late. MAYDAY …MAYDAY … Murdoc!!!!! COME IN GORILLAZZZZ!!!!!’ — Transmission from Noodle (In the epilogue of Rise of the Ogre)”

The message that is currently playing in the Room Of Brian’s on Gorillaz official site seems to say something slightly different from this, whereas on their Phase 2 DVD ‘Slow Boat To Hades’, it is similar to the message in the book.

But if inspected closely Noodle seems to be screaming “The demon boy! It’s the demon boy! You must get out!!” which implies that the thing coming from under Kong might be the black skinned demon boy mentioned in “Rise of the Ogre” that Murdoc had released during the Gorillaz first tour (though Murdoc claims that the Demon Boy is “alright once you get to know him”).

A sighting of this “demon boy” can be witnessed in the corridors of Kong Studios- embodied in a high pitched, demonic laugh and glowing red eyes peering out from behind a loose ceiling panel. However, it may just be one of the numerous creatures in Kong Studios, such as the one in the toilets, and the one who runs the lobby desk (which are both identical). There have also been scuffling sounds coming from somewhere in the Hellhole, though the source cannot be seen.

What follows is the actual transmission, supposedly from Noodle in the Room of Brians. There are some parts where the reception is poor and the static is louder than the signal, so there is part of the message missing.

“’The plague! The Plague! Murdoc, er, you need to bring them out. Er, can you hear me? Murdoc! (Static) Murdoc! (Something Unintelligible) hear you! help!!!!! you need to get out!!!! (Static) Hurry before its too late! Before becoming slow hurrying! Mayday! Mayday! You need to(Something Unintelligible) The demon boy! It’s the demon boy! You must get out!! Hurry!! Murdoc!! Its the building, its coming apart, its right beneath the building, you have to get out! Murdoc, you’ve got to get the combination it is understood? COMBINATION!!! ‘ — Transmission from Noodle (In the Room of Brians)”

It is quite likely that this transmission refers to the hell hole beneath the building, which has a locked door. Since then, a countdown taking place there on a giant timer in the room ended on June 6th, with Murdoc rising out of the hole, as “I want your souls” is repeated over and over, overlapping, the voice that says this is partially Murdoc’s, but the last time it is said, there is no overlapping, and it is in an extremely deep voice.

This is reminiscent of the same incident in 2006, where he was “reborn” in the same place, inciting that this is a technical error. Unlike last year, however, the timer has not restarted, and people can still go there to see Murdoc become reborn.

The “Hellhole” can be reached from the carpark (near the rear left of the map on the ground floor) by entering the “Bunker Entrance”, where you’ll see a flashing blue light off in the distance. Click this, and then click the lift to go down. A riff will play for a while while it descends. From here you enter “Level 1″. To your left is “Room of Brian’s”, where this message originates. Click in the back of the room, where the information says “Continue”. At the end of that hallway, you can click on the “boiler room”. To the left is a stairway and a sign pointing down reading “Level 0″. Clicking this allows you to enter the Hell Hole. (Note: past the carpark, none of these locations are on the map.)

As for the “demon boy”, this is an obvious reference to the black skinned demon boy Murdoc made while chanting black magic spells, while he was drunk, during the Phase 1 tours. Russel has always been frightened by the child, and it is quite likely that this demon boy is going to come up somewhere in the Gorillaz future.

Russel Hobbs

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 3, 1975, Russel Hobbs was a well-spoken, considerate and respectful child.

However, trouble seemed to linger around him.

Originally, Russel attended The Xavier School for Young Achievers, but was forcibly removed when he mauled several other students when, incidentally, a demon possessed him. After being expelled, the possession and the anxiety sent young Russel into a coma.

He would not wake for another four years, at which time a man called Father Merrin exorcised the demon inhabiting Russel’s body.

Unable to return to the Xavier School, Russel was sent to a school in Brooklyn, in which many students were practiced in the numerous fields of hip hop. Much of his hip hop prowess comes from a bizarre but violent incident involving a drive-by shooting that killed all of his friends from the fictional Brooklyn High School in New York City.

Following the shooting, the spirits of all of Russel’s friends took residence in Russel’s body and have possessed him at unpredictable moments ever since.

The most prominent of these spirits was Russel’s best friend, Del, who was based on and voiced by Del tha Funkee Homosapien. Del appears as a blue, rapping ghost in such videos as “Clint Eastwood” and “Rock the House.”

Russel believes the reason for his frequent spiritual inhabitations is because he “vibrates at that frequency.”

During the band hiatus, Russel went through a terrible trauma in late 2003. Del’s soul was ripped out of Russel by the Grim Reaper in late 2003 and Russel, a mere shell of his former self, took a year to recover. Shortly after the exorcism Russel took recluse in Ike Turner’s basement where he began making an album called: “The Seventh Heaven Hip Hop and Harmony Album.”

It was canceled due to paranormal activities around the songs themselves. He was the last to return to Kong Studios.

After the El Mañana conspiracy, 2-D and Russel were frantic about their guitarist Noodle’s supposed death. It was a hoax, however, and the band has once again gone separate ways.

It would not last too long, as it was promised by Murdoc in the autobiography Rise of the Ogre that their biggest project to date is apparently being planned. Russel was, according to Murdoc, “all good, too. He’s still stitching together his taxidermy army of undead animals and practicing his drums, but I think he’s getting into production. It’s a great role for him because his knowledge of music’s just too big for him to be stuck behind a drum kit.”

As of October 31, 2007, according to an official mail-out, Murdoc says that, “Russel is exploring his inner demons somewhere in Brooklyn.”

The ‘thoughtful one’, but with a side that can party hard. Softly and eloquently spoken in interviews (thanks to his private education). Known to shout out to the crowd to get them going at many concerts, often taking a kind of MC role.

Protective of Noodle, from the potentially corrupting influences around her, and also 2D (broke Murdoc’s nose when he had sex with 2D’s then-girlfriend Paula, also has intervened to save 2D from Murdoc on the Official Gorillaz Forums.

Heavily into Hip Hop in particular.

In concert he is the Gorillaz drummer, and also supplies the funky phantoms.

The funky phantoms in his body (it was explained in the first official Gorillaz biography) are the spirits of his friends in his Hip Hop crew that were killed in a drive-by shooting of which Russel is the only survivor. Prior to this posession he was posessed by demons for many years before having them exorcised.

The spirits that have contributed to Gorillaz records so far are Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and Phi Life Cypher (it is unclear whether other rappers on Gorillaz records are actually spirits or regular collaborators). Del was exorcised in late 2003 and it took a year for Russel to fully recover, and in some ways he would never be the same. Quite why Del was exorcised and whether any of Russel’s other undead buddies remain is unclear.

Murdoc happened upon Russel in a chance encounter in a Soho rap record store; Murdoc kidnapped Russel prior to asking if he wanted to join the band.

Cyborg Noodle

Cyborg Noodle is the unofficial spiritual/artificial successor of Noodle.

She was created by the self proclaimed leader of the Gorillaz, Murdoc Niccals, as a replacement for the bands guitarist whose whereabouts was previously unknown.

Cyborg Noodle was created through the use of cybernetic prosthetics as well as DNA samples of Noodle that were salvaged from the wreckage of the Flying Windmill Island which was destroyed in the El Mañana music video.

Aside from her built in knowledge of musical instruments and theory, Cyborg Noodle also has a vast knowledge of weapons, fighting techniques, as well as basic skills (much like her predecessor who was a notable member of an obsolete Japanese super soldier program). Unlike the original Noodle’s reserved and calm nature, Cyborg Noodle was programmed by Murdoc to take even the riskiest tasks without hesitation by any means necessary; making her in some ways a robotic servant/soldier.

Murdoc refers to her as his bodyguard.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/video/2010/jun/24/glastonbury-gorillaz-story

http://wn.com/Gorillaz

http://gorillaz.com/weare10/

http://vimeo.com/gorillaz

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gorillazsoundsystem/

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