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It’s not everyday that a cartoon band enters the Guinness Book of Records. But 2001 had one such day when that did happen. And as we can see today, the Gorillaz have lived up to their reputation as the Most Successful Virtual Band, even if that tag is a bit limiting ~ they’ve had far more success than a lot of ‘real’ bands too.

For the newbie, Gorillaz is the creation of Damon Albarn (Blur) and Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. The band consists of four (virtual) members: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russell. While they largely focus on alternative rock, a number of influences have seeped into their music, including, but not limited to, hip hop, electronica, dub and pop.

Behind Gorillaz
The driving creative force behind the Gorillaz has been the duo of Albarn and Hewlett, and musically, while there have been many guest artists on the albums they’ve released, Albarn has been the one constant force behind it. The voice of 2D, he is the one recognisable factor in the Gorillaz’ constantly varying avatar ~ besides, of course, the four animated characters that lend the band its uniqueness. Jamie Hewlett has sometimes lent his voice to Murdoc in interviews.

Noodle has had different artists for the first and second phases of the Gorillaz’ existence. During the first phase, Haruka Kuroda, an actress and voice-over artist, lent her voice to Noodle in interviews and even during most of the backing vocals on the band’s debut album. In phase two, however, Demon Days and onwards, other artists came onboard for the music; Neneh Cherry and Rosie Wilson lent their vocals to Noodle on the album.

Live Animation
Gorillaz’ most recent live performances have been carried out by Damon Albarn (2D’s vocals and piano), Simon Tong (Noodle’s guitar), Rosie Wilson (Noodle’s voice), Morgan Nicholls (Murdoc’s bass guitar), and Cass Brown (Russel’s drums). Despite being an animated band, they’ve never shied away from live performances, usually using state-of-the-art techniques to present themselves on stage. A great example is their 2002 performance at the BRIT Awards, where the four members were featured in 3D animation.

Kong Studios
This is where the magic/mayhem/murder/music happens. This is where the band lives, records and eats ~ not to mention where Murdoc plots murders and plans world domination. The Studios were built on top of an old, disused cemetery, apparently the reason that Murdoc was able to get his hands on it for cheap.

Fans can log on to the band’s website where they can explore Kong Studios. Since the band lives there as well, you can walk through each of their bedrooms, the kitchen, and other rooms, even going to Murdoc’s Winnebago where you will find a voodoo doll of 2D. There are loads of goodies on each of their personal computers, where you can browse and pick up pictures, links to their favourite sites, recipes, and pretty much everything the band is into. Currently, the studios are empty, as all four of the band members have gone on hiatus, willingly or otherwise.

Gorillaz: Present Day
Currently on hiatus from recording, the Gorillaz’ most recent release is D-Sides, a two-disc compilation album. The first disc consists of B-sides from their previously released singles and the second disc holds remixes of the band’s best tracks from their last album Demon Days.

The first disc also features Rock It, the Gorillaz’ first step on their ‘Reject False Icons’ campaign ~ finally released on an album here. The song is a satire on fake rock and pop icons, basically people who’ve sold out. The album’s cover features Pazuzu, a recurring character from the Gorillaz’ story. Pazuzu is the king of the demons of the wind, according to Assyrian and Babylonian mythology. You can catch Pazuzu in the video for Rock It, where he sings the chorus with 2D.

You can read the rest of our feature on Gorillaz in the December 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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