Damon Albarn (born March 23, 1968, in Whitechapel, London, England) is an English singer and songwriter who gained fame as the lead singer of rock band Blur, though as of late, Albarn has been more active as a member of Gorillaz and as a solo artist. Recently, he also has released an album with Blur called "The Magic Whip", and a solo album called "Everyday Robots".
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. 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. 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. At the age of fifteen, he won an award for "Young Composer of the Year".
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 Alex James. With the addition of Dave Rowntree, the band began playing as "Seymour". Before long the band was signed to Food Records and changed its name to Blur.
In 1997, Albarn branched out into acting, appearing in the British film Face.
As of 2006 Blur has 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." See the "Next album" section of the main Blur article for more information.
Albarn formed the virtual cartoon rock band Gorillaz with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett in 1998. With a decidedly ambiguous line-up, the group has released five full-length studio albums to date. Their music has featured contributions from Danger Mouse, Simon Tong (who also played guitar for Blur in live performances), Miho Hatori, Snoop Dogg, Sweetie Irie, De La Soul, Bootie Brown, MF Doom, Redman, Tina Weymouth, Roots Manuva, Neneh Cherry, Rosie Wilson, Martina Topley-Bird, Dennis Hopper, Ike Turner, and Del The Funky Homosapien among others.
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.
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 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," the 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. He now lives in Notting Hill, London with artist Suzi Winstanley and their daughter Missy who was born 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.
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.
In the nineties, he spent a good deal of time in Reykjavík and for a time he became something of a permanent fixture in the "Kaffibarinn", a bar/café of which he was part owner. All its regular patrons were full of stories of his drinking abilities, considered somewhat impressive even by the local Icelanders. His current relationship with the bar and the country is unknown.
I’m always really awestruck by talent and Damon, when he enters the room, is the entertainer. He had a good audience with me. In a couple of songs he was really going for it, running up the walls like Fred Astaire with a low-tech mike. With Graham I found it harder to feel confident – I don’t think he’s aware of how good he is. - William Orbit on recording “13” with Blur.
I used to go to this school a very long time ago, almost 43 years, and it has not changed that much at all. Some of my happiest memories come from living in Leytonstone and attending the George Tomlinson school. This is the essence of Africa Express. Getting lots of different people in a room to make music together. Your concentration is amazing. You’re all musicians. And that was the best singing ever. - Damon Albarn at George Tomlinson Primary School in Leytonstone.
Someone described “Merrie Land” as a bad acid trip. Having had a few of those in my lifetime, I can accept that. - Damon Albarn, Q magazine.
That epiphany happened really early to be honest. It was when I worked with Damon. He taught much of what I know and allowed me to grow in areas where I didn’t know much. He sort of showed me the way. He took me under his wing. He could see I had a lot of love and passion to do things, and he taught me other ways of getting there in the studio. Sometimes in your life you get to a point where you need extra confidence from someone you respect to help you and know that you’re not nuts for being ambitious. I got that at a really good time and Damon was the one who gave me that nod of confidence. - Danger Mouse on Damon for Esquire.
He’s not relying on the Mali musicians to resuscitate a dead, stale, MOR composer. There’s a certain childish glee with what he does, but also a total respect for musicians who are obviously, in the virtuosity department, light years ahead of anything he’d ever do as a performer. He recognizes that and doesn’t exploit it. - Michael Nyman on Damon’s musical work in Mali.
Albarn has on numerous occasions used the alias "Dan Abnormal" (an anagram of his name), most famously in the title of a hit song on Blur's 1995 album The Great Escape.
He is left-handed.
He is a fan of Chelsea FC.
He isn't the speaking voice of 2-D, instead, Kevin Bishop provides the speaking voice, with Nelson de Freitas being the previous voice actor.
Atsushi Ōkubo (A Japanese manga author) named the main character (Maka Albarn from Soul Eater) after him.
Damon and Jamie Hewlett did an animated music video for BBC because of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games featuring the Journey to the West characters.
Everyday Robots (2014)
Mali Music (2002) (with Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends)
The Good, the Bad & the Queen (2007) (with Tony Allen, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong)
Kinshasa One Two (2011) (as part of DRC Music)
Rocket Juice & the Moon (2011) (with Flea and Tony Allen)
Film and theatre soundtracks
Ravenous (1999) (with Michael Nyman)
101 Reykjavík (2002) (with Einar Örn Benediktsson)