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You know, there are many alter-egos and Gorillaz is a collective of alter-egos, really. I think anyone who gets involved in it has to sort of accept that nothing is really as it seems.
~ Damon Albarn

This article is a real-world history of the group Gorillaz. For their self-titled debut album, see Gorillaz (album).

Gorillaz (also stylized as ɢoʀiʟʟaᴢ or GoRiLLaZ) is a virtual band created in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett that consist of four fictional animated band members: 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs and Noodle


The band was created by Damon Albarn, frontman of the Britpop band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the comic book series Tank Girl. Their style is known for its variety and genre-blending, with influences from many different types of music, but most notably from hip-hop, dub-reggae, electro, and pop. More recently, they have also obtained influences from R&B, soul, and Chicago house music.

Gorillaz, unlike other fictional bands, were not created as a parody of a particular genre (GWAR, Dethklok), marketed to young children (Alvin and The Chipmunks), depictions of the people behind the band (Prozzak), or created for television (The Archies, Josie and The Pussycats, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem). Instead, Gorillaz were originally created to be explored through the internet (a new medium at the time), and were intended for an older audience than the cartoon bands before them, while the quality of their actual musical output was usually more of an attraction to their fans than their existence as cartoon characters. The bands that influence their music range from Massive Attack and The Specials, to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, to Daft Punk and Beck, while they are visually inspired by Hanna Barbera, Looney Tunes, Mad Magazine, Heavy Metal, 2000 AD, and many classic horror and cyberpunk movies. They have said that The Simpsons was a big influence on Gorillaz for “the way that they invade popular culture and comment on it in a pretty organic way”. Today, Albarn says that Gorillaz was developed out of “a very morbid obsession with the end of the world”.

The band started their career with their debut extended play Tomorrow Comes Today on November 2000, followed by their debut single Clint Eastwood and the self-titled album Gorillaz a few months later in March 2001, where the other singles - 19-2000, Rock the House and Tomorrow Comes Today - performing fairly well, with every one of them reaching the Top 35 in the UK. Clint Eastwood, released a few weeks before the self-titled album's release (05/03/01), spawned their first hit in the US reaching #57 on their Billboard Hot 100 Chart. The self-titled debut album reached #3 in the UK and 14 in the US, going 3x platinum in the UK and Platinum in the US, selling 7 million copies worldwide. Gorillaz' debut brought them the title of "The Biggest Virtual Band" by The Guinness World Record. Gorillaz then returned with the song Rockit in 2004 as part of the Reject False Icons campaing and their second studio album, Demon Days, in May 2005, spawning the singles Feel Good Inc., DARE, Dirty Harry, Kids With Guns and El Mañana, which all charted in the top 30 position in the UK, with the first three singles reaching the top 10 position as well. Demon Days' debut single, Feel Good Inc., also released a few days prior to the album (09/05/05), reached an all-time best in the US, with #14 spot, outperforming its predecessors Clint Eastwood and 19-2000. Demon Days reached #1 in the UK and #6 in the US, going 6x Platinum in the UK and 2x Platinum in the US, selling 8 million copies worldwide. Gorillaz then returned with the (relatively unsuccessful) album Plastic Beach (2010), which reached #2 in the UK and the US and went Platinum in the UK, selling 1.4 million copies globally. Plastic Beach was then followed up with The Fall (2010), which reached n#12 in the UK and 24 in the US, selling 180k copies. Gorillaz then took a hiatus, running from 2012 to late 2016, which began after the release of the single DoYaThing.

After their longest hiatus yet, due to a falling out with Albarn and Hewlett in 2010, Gorillaz returned with Humanz (2017), reaching #2 in the UK and US, selling 650k copies., and immediately followed it up the next year with The Now Now (2018), which reached #5 in the UK and #4 in the US, selling 330k copies. Humanz marked the inclusion of Russel Hobbs’ voice actor Remi Kabaka Jr. as the third member of Gorillaz after becoming the band’s real-life drummer and producer. Gorillaz then started Song Machine, a web series releasing music videos, singles and short spoken word sections known as the Machine Bitez every month, with their seventh studio album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez, reaching #2 in the UK and #12 in the US charts, selling 200k copies. In August of 2021, the band released their first extended play in over a decade, the Meanwhile EP, as a homage to the Notting Hill Carnival, an event that takes place annually in London, where the band made their debut performance in August of 2000, which didn't take place in that year as a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic. In June 2022, the band released Cracker Island, the lead single from their eighth studio album with the same name, Cracker Island (2023), which managed to reach the #1 spot on the UK albums chart for the first time for a Gorillaz record since the release of Demon Days.



Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn in the early days of Gorillaz

Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn in the early days of Gorillaz

Damon Albarn first met Jamie Hewlett when Blur's guitarist, Graham Coxon, asked Hewlett to interview Blur in 1990 and the two originally formed a hatred for each other (Albarn stated: "I was jealous of his personality"), but it wasn't too long until the two became roommates in Trellick Tower. Damon wanted to distance himself from Blur's Britpop days and was looking for a solo career so he could experiment with other genres, but wasn't sure where to start. Meanwhile, Jamie Hewlett was growing tired of his Tank Girl series after the movie became a critically panned box office bomb and had no interest in continuing. The two ended up throwing several celebrity parties in their flat at Trellick Tower (which were often packed), and it was here that Gorillaz would emerge.

The idea to create Gorillaz came about when Albarn and Hewlett were watching MTVW. Hewlett said, "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 virtual band, something that would be a comment on that".[1] Albarn recalled the idea similarly, saying "This was the beginning of the boy band sort of explosion... and it just felt so manufactured. And we were like, well let's make a manufactured band but make it kind of interesting".[2] The band was originally called 'Gorilla', an idea that stemmed from a pun on the collective term for gorillas - a 'band' — and as a reference to the year 1968, "the year of the monkey", when both of them were born. The first song recorded by the band was titled Ghost Train,[3] released to the public a few years later.

The band's initial visual style evolved from The 16s, a rejected comic strip Hewlett conceived with Tank Girl co-creator Alan Martin.[4] On early 2000, Hewlett also founded the Zombie Flesh Eaters, a creative agency and design team, initially dedicated exclusively for Gorillaz content initially composed of just him and Mat Wakeham, the writer and co-creator along with Hewlett of the comic series Get The Freebies, who became one of the storywriters and video creator during the band's early years.

Although not released under the Gorillaz name, Albarn has said that 'one of the first ever Gorillaz tunes' was Blur's 1997 single On Your Own, from their fifth studio album, the self-titled Blur.[5]

Phase One (1999-2002)

From 1998 to 2000, Albarn recorded Gorillaz' self-titled debut album at his newly opened Studio 13 in London as well as at Geejam Studios in Jamaica.[6] He and bassist Junior Dan arrived back from Jamaica in late May 2000 after finishing recording the debut album's master recordings. Shortly after, Damon invited the crew from Middle Row Records — a record label with a recording studio on the same building as 13 and the Zombie Flesh Eaters — to listen to the finish masters after Parlophone, the record label, requested for a set of remixes to be made of the three songs heavily considered to be singles to work out which ones became more popular in order to be moved to broader releases. These songs were Clint Eastwood, Slow Country and Tomorrow Comes Today.[7]

One of these remixes, specifically the Clint Eastwood one, was made by producer and DJ Ed Case and featured vocals by reggae singer Sweetie Irie. It was finished shortly before the Notting Hill Carnival 2000 in London where, during a soundsystem held by Middle Row, Ed Case asked Damon if he wanted to perform the refix live. This resulted in the band's first ever public appearance, before most of their other songs were even completed.

These recording sessions resulted in the band's first commercial release, the Tomorrow Comes Today EP, released on 27 November 2000. The EP consisted mostly of tracks which later appeared on the album, and it also included the band's first music video for Tomorrow Comes Today, which introduced the virtual band members to the public for the first time.

With Gorillaz, Albarn began to branch out into other genres which he had not explored with Blur, such as hip-hop, dub and Latin music, a process he described as liberating: "One of the reasons I began Gorillaz is I had a lot of rhythms I never thought I could use with Blur. A lot of that stuff never really seemed to manifest itself in the music we made together as Blur."[8] Eventually, Albarn invited American hip-hop producer Dan "the Automator" Nakamura to serve as producer on the album, explaining "I called Dan the Automator in after I'd done more than half of it and felt it would benefit from having somebody else's focus. So I just rang him and asked whether he was interested in helping me finish it off." Nakamura and Albarn had recently collaborated on Deltron 3030, the debut album by the hip-hop group of the same name featuring rapper Del The Funky Homosapien and DJ Kid Koala, both of whom Nakamura recruited to assist in finishing Gorillaz material. Del featured on two tracks on the album, including the lead single Clint Eastwood, while Kid Koala contributed turntables to various tracks. The album featured additional collaborations with Ibrahim Ferrer of Buena Vista Social Club, Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto and Tina Weymouth with Chris Frantz of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, as well as bass guitar by Junior Dan, brass instruments by Mike Smith, engineering, co-production and drum programming by Jason Cox and Tom Girling, and additional drums by Blur drummer David Rowntree, representing a pattern of collaboration with a wide range of artists which later became a staple of Gorillaz as a project.

Gorillaz was released on 26 March 2001 and was a major commercial success, debuting at #3 on the UK Albums Chart and #14 on the US Billboard 200, going on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide, powered by the success of the Clint Eastwood single.[9][10][11][12] The album was promoted with the singles Clint Eastwood, 19-2000 and Rock The House, in addition to the previously released Tomorrow Comes Today and the cancelled 5/4, with each single featuring a music video directed by Hewlett starring the virtual members. Hewlett and the Zombie Flesh Eaters also helmed the design of the band's website, which was presented as an interactive tour of the band's fictional 'Kong Studios' home and recording studio, featuring interactive games and explorative elements.[13]

Following the release of the album, the band embarked on a brief live tour of Europe, Japan and North America to support the album in which a touring band featuring Albarn played completely obscured behind a giant screen on which Hewlett's accompanying visuals were projected. The virtual band member's voice actors were also present at some shows and spoke live to the audience to give the impression that the fictional band was present on stage. The Gorillaz Live Band, as it is called, included musicians who had worked on the studio recordings as well as brand-new ones, such as drummer (and soon-to-be storywriter) Cass Browne, guitarist Simon Katz, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and, most notably, keyboardist and saxophonist Mike Smith, who had also previously worked on with Albarn as a live musician for Blur and has been present on every single one of the band's live tours to date. In later interviews, Albarn described the band's first tour as difficult due to the limitations imposed by the band playing behind a screen:[14]

For someone who had just spent the last ten years out front being a frontman [with Blur], it was a really weird experience. And I have to say, some nights I just wanted to get a knife and just cut [the screen] and stick my head through.

The debut album was followed by G-Sides, a compilation album of b-sides the Tomorrow Comes Today EP and the first three singles, released on 12 December 2001. On 7 December 2001, the band released the single 911 a collaboration with hip hop group D12 (minus EminemW) and singer Terry Hall of the Specials about the September 11 terrorist attacks.[15] At the 2002 BRIT Awards the virtual members of Gorillaz "performed" for the first time, appearing in 3D animation on four large screens along with rap accompaniment by Phi-Life Cypher - a hip hop group initially intended to be featured on the self-titled album - a production which reportedly cost £300,000 to create.[16] The band were nominated for four BRIT Awards, including Best British Group, Best British Album and British Breakthrough Act,[17] but did not win any awards.[18]

On 1 July 2002, a dub reworkings album titled Laika Come Home was released, containing most of the tracks from the debut album remixed in dub and reggae style by another virtual group, the Spacemonkeyz, consisting of musicians Darren Galea, Richie Stevens and Gavin Dodds.[19] On 18 November 2002, the band released the DVD Phase One: Celebrity Take Down, which contained all of the band's released visual content up to that point along with other extras.[20]

After the success of the debut album, the group briefly explored the possibility of creating a Gorillaz theatrical film, named 'Celebrity Harvest', but Hewlett later claimed they had lost interest in making it: "

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.[21]

Phase Two (2004–2008)

Albarn spent the majority of 2003 on tour with Blur in support of their newly released album Think Tank; however, upon completion of the tour, he decided to return to Gorillaz, reuniting with Hewlett to prepare for a second album. Hewlett explained that the duo chose to continue Gorillaz to prove that the project was not "a gimmick": "If you do it again, it's no longer a gimmick, and if it works then we've proved a point."[22]

Recordings for the band's second studio album started on 4 March 2004 and lasted almost the entire year. The band announced their comeback on 12 December with a new song, Rockit, along with an accompanying music video and the Reject False Icons campaign. The band's website and the Gorillaz Room game were also revitalized with new games and updated locations to explore.

The result was Demon Days, released on 11 May 2005. The album was another major commercial success, debuting at #1 on the UK Albums Charts and #6 on the US Billboard 200, and has since gone six times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States,[23] and triple platinum in Australia,[24] outperforming sales of the first album and becoming the band's most successful album to date.[25] The album's success was partially driven by the success of the lead single Feel Good Inc. featuring hip-hop group De La Soul, which topped Billboard's Alternative SongsW chart in the U.S. for eight consecutive weeks and was featured in a commercial for Apple's iPodW.[26] The album was also supported by the later singles DARE, Dirty Harry, Kids With Guns and El Mañana.

Demon Days found the band taking a darker tone, partially influenced by a train journey Albarn had taken with his family through impoverished rural China.[27]

The whole album kind of tells the story of the night — staying up during the night — but it's also an allegory. It's what we're living in basically, the world in a state of night.[28]

Believing that this new album needed 'a slightly different approach' compared to the first one, Albarn enlisted American producer Brian Burton, better known by his stage name Danger Mouse, to produce it, whom Albarn praised as 'one of the best young producers in the world' after hearing his 2004 mashup album The Grey Album. The band's studio lineup also changed, with the departure of Junior Dan and Tom Girling and the arrival of bassist Morgan Nicholls and guitarist Simon Tong in addition to a brand-new 'in-house' string section, the Demon Strings, founded by cellist Isabelle Dunn. Similar to the first album, Demon Days features collaborations with several different artists, including Bootie Brown, Shaun Ryder, Roses Gabor, Ike Turner, MF DOOM (who was recording with Danger Mouse as Danger Doom at the time) and Martina Topley-Bird, among others.[29]

We never had any arguments. We even have that finish-each-other's-sentences thing happening. There are a lot of the same influences between us, like Ennio Morricone and psychedelic pop-rock, but he has 10 years on me, so I have some catching up to do. Where he can school me on new wave and punk of the late ’70s/early ’80s, I can school him on a lot of hip-hop. We’re very competitive and pushed each other.
~ Danger Mouse on the creation of Demon Days[30]

The band chose to forgo traditional live touring in support of Demon Days, instead limiting live performance during the album cycle to a five night residency in November 2005 at the Manchester Opera House billed as Demon Days Live.[31] The concerts saw the band performing the album in full each night with most featured artists from the album present. Unlike the debut album's tour, the touring band was visible on stage in view of the audience but obscured by lighting in such a way that only their silhouettes were visible, with a screen above the band displaying Hewlett's visuals alongside each song.[32] The lineup of the Gorillaz Live Band also changed, with the arrival of guitarist Simon Jones, percussionist Karl Vanden Bossche and turntables by Spacemonkeyz member Darren Galea. The residency was later repeated in April 2006 at New York City's Apollo Theater and the Manchester performances were later released on DVD as Demon Days Live at the Manchester Opera House.[33][34]

The virtual Gorillaz band members "performed" at the 2005 MTV Europe Music AwardsW in November 2005[35] and again at the 48th Annual Grammy AwardsW in February 2006, appearing to perform on stage via Musion EyelinerW technology.[36] Albarn later expressed disappointment at the execution of the performance, citing the low volume level required so as to not disturb the technology: That was tough... They started and it was so quiet cause they've got this piece of film that you've got to pull over the stage so any bass frequencies would just mess up the illusion completely.W[37] At the Grammys, the band won Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for Feel Good Inc., with Demon Days also being nominated for Record of the Year.[38] Albarn and Hewlett explored the idea of producing a full 'live holographic tour' featuring the virtual Gorillaz appearing on stage with Munsion Eyeliner technology after the Grammys performance, but the tour was ultimately never realised due to the tremendous expense and logistical issues that would have resulted.[39]

In October 2006, the band released the a book titled Rise of the Ogre, presented as an autobiography of the band ostensibly written by the fictional members and expanding on the band's fictional backstory and universe. In actuality, the book was written by official Gorillaz script writer and real-life drummer Cass Browne with new artwork by Hewlett.[40] Later the same month, the band released another DVD, Phase Two: Slowboat To Hades, compiling much of the band's visual content from the album cycle. A second B-sides compilation, D-Sides, was released on 19 November 2007, featuring B-sides and remixes associated with Demon Days as well as previously unreleased tracks from album sessions.[41][42] In 2008, the documentary film Bananaz was released. Directed by Ceri Levy, the film documents the behind-the-scenes history of the band from 2000 to 2006.[43]

Albarn and Hewlett's next project together was the opera Monkey: Journey To The West, based on the classical Chinese novel Journey to the WestW, which premiered at the 2007 Manchester International FestivalW. While not officially a Gorillaz project, Albarn mentioned in an interview that the project was "Gorillaz, really. But we can't call it that for legal reasons".[44]

Phase Three (2009–2012)

After completing work on Monkey in late 2007, Albarn and Hewlett began working on a new Gorillaz project entitled Carousel, described by Albarn as being about "the mystical aspects of Britain". The Carousel concept was eventually dropped with Albarn and Hewlett's work evolving into the third Gorillaz studio album, Plastic Beach.[45]

'Carousel' is even bigger and more difficult than 'Monkey'. (...) It's sort of like a film but not with one narrative story. There's many stories, told around a bigger story, set to music, and done in live action, animation, all different styles. Originally it was a film but now we think it's a film and it's a stage thing as well. Damon's written around 70 songs for it, and I’ve got great plans for the visuals.[46]
~ Jamie Hewlett in a 2008 interview to NME magazine.

Drawing upon environmentalist themes, Plastic Beach was inspired by the idea of a "secret floating island deep in the South Pacific... made up of the detritus, debris and washed up remnants of humanity" inspired by marine pollution such as plastic that Albarn had found in a beach near one of his homes in Devon as well as the Great Pacific garbage patch.[47] Unlike previous Gorillaz albums, Albarn made the decision to produce Plastic Beach by himself, with no co-producer.[48] The album was recorded throughout 2008 and 2009 in London, New York City, Nigeria and Syria although production of the album was briefly interrupted so that Albarn could join Blur for a reunion tour in the summer of 2009. Plastic Beach saw Gorillaz move into a more electronic pop sound, with Albarn describing the album as "the most pop record I've ever made" and saying that he took special care to make the album's lyrics and melodies clear and focused compared to previous albums.[45] Plastic Beach also featured the largest cast of collaborators featured yet on a Gorillaz album, fulfilling Albarn's goal of "working with an incredibly eclectic, surprising cast of people" including artists such as Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, Lou Reed and Gruff Rhys among others, and also included orchestral contributions from Sinfonia ViVA and the The Syrian National Orchestra For Arabic Music. Albarn explained the expanded roster of featured artists represented his and Hewlett's new vision of Gorillaz as a project, explaining in a July 2008 interview:

Gorillaz now to us is not like four animated characters any more – it's more like an organisation of people doing new projects... That's my ideal model.[49]

Released on 3 March 2010, Plastic Beach debuted at #2 on both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200 chart, the band's highest placing debut chart position. The album was supported by the lead single Stylo featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack released in January 2010 and the later singles Superfast Jellyfish, the Record Store Day-exclusive White Flag, On Melancholy Hill and Rhinestone Eyes. To promote the album, the band embarked on the Escape To Plastic Beach World Tour, the band's first world tour and also their first live performances in which the touring band performed fully in view of the audience on stage with no visual obstructions. With the new tour, came further changes to the live band: Galea, Bossche, Jones and Nicholls left; with Gabriel Wallace, Jeff Wootton, Jesse Hackett, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones joining in. The tour, which featured many of the collaborative artists from Plastic Beach and saw the touring band wearing naval attire, was later described by Albarn as having been extremely costly to produce, with the band barely breaking even on the shows. The tour was preceded by headline performances at several international music festivals, including the CoachellaW and GlastonburyW festivals. On 21 November 2010, while still on tour, the band released the non-album single Doncamatic featuring British singer Daley.[50]

That was the most expensive tour of all time. I had 70 musicians. I toured around the world, played massive venues all around the world. I made about 20 pounds by the end of it [laughs], so I won’t be going on another of those. It was incredible fun, I loved doing it, but economically it was an absolute fucking disaster.[51]

During the North American leg of the Escape To Plastic Beach tour in the fall of 2010, Albarn continued recording Gorillaz songs entirely on his iPad. The recordings culminated into a new studio album, The Fall, first released digitally on Christmas Day 2010 for members of the Subdivision club and later given a physical release on 19 April 2011.[52][53] The Fall is also co-produced by Stephen Sedgwick, the mixer engineer of the band.[54] Albarn said the album served as a diary of the American leg of the tour, explaining that the tracks were presented exactly as they were on the day they were written and recorded with no additional production or overdubs: "I literally made it on the road. 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."[55] The band later released a 'Gorillaz edition' of the Korg iElectribe music production app for iPad, featuring many of the same samples and sounds used by Albarn to create The Fall.[56][57]

On 23 February 2012, Gorillaz released DoYaThing, a single made to promote a Gorillaz-branded collection of Converse shoes which were released shortly after. The song was a part of Converse's "Three Artists, One Song" project, with the two additional collaborators being James Murphy of LCD SoundsystemW and André 3000 of OutkastW. Two different edits of the song were released: a four-and-a-half minute radio edit released on Converse's website and the full 13-minute version of the song released on the Gorillaz website. Hewlett returned to direct the single's music video, featuring fictionalized animated versions of Murphy and André interacting with the Gorillaz' virtual members.[58] The song received positive reviews from critics, with particular praise given to André 3000's contributions to the track.[59][60]

In April 2012, Albarn told The Guardian that he and Hewlett had fallen out and that future Gorillaz projects were "unlikely".[61] Tension between the two had been building, partly due to a belief held by Hewlett that his contributions to Gorillaz were being minimised. Speaking to The Guardian in April 2017, Hewlett explained:

Damon had half the Clash on stage, and Bobby Womack and Mos Def and De La Soul, and fucking Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Bashy and everyone else. It was the greatest band ever. And the screen on stage behind them seemed to get smaller every day. I'd say, ‘Have we got a new screen?’ and the tour manager was like, ‘No, it's the same screen.’ Because it seemed to me like it was getting smaller.[62]

Albarn, however, gave his side of the story in a separate interview:

I think we were at a cross purposes somewhat on that last record, which is a shame. It was one of those things, the music and the videos weren't working as well together, but I felt we'd made a really good record and I was into it.

On 25 April 2012, in an interview with Metro, Albarn was more optimistic about Gorillaz' future, saying that once he had worked out his differences with Hewlett, he was sure that they would make another record.[63] In June 2013, Hewlett confirmed that he and Albarn planned to someday continue Gorillaz and record a follow-up album to Plastic Beach, saying "We'll come back to it when the time is right."[64][65] On 7 May 2012, Albarn released the soundtrack album Dr Dee from the opera of the same name, further developing certain demos recorded during the Plastic Beach into songs from the opera, such as Apple Carts and Tree Of Beauty.

Hiatus (2012–2015) and Phase Four (2015–2018)

Following the release of DoYaThing and the publicization of Albarn and Hewlett's fall-out in 2012, Gorillaz entered a multiyear hiatus. During the hiatus, Albarn released a solo album, Everyday Robots, scored stage productions with a new live band, named The Heavy Seas, and continued to record and tour with Blur, while Hewlett held art exhibitions and attempted to create a film project which was ultimately never realized.[66] While on tour in support of Everyday Robots in 2014, Albarn signalled openness to returning to Gorillaz, telling The National PostW that he "wouldn't mind having another stab at a Gorillaz record".[67] Two months later he reported that he had "been writing quite a lot of songs on the road for Gorillaz".[68] and at the end of 2014 confirmed in an interview with The Sydney Morning HeraldW that he was planning to record another Gorillaz album.[69] Speaking about his relationship with Hewlett, Albarn said that the pair's well-publicised fall-out had helped their relationship in the long term.[70] Hewlett described the moment when he and Albarn agreed to continue Gorillaz at an afterparty after one of Albarn's solo shows in 2014:

We'd had a bit to drink, and he said, 'Do you want to do another one?' And I said, 'Do you?' and he said, 'Do you?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure.' I started work on it straight away, learning to draw the characters again. I played around by myself for eight months while he was performing with Blur in 2015.[71]

Recording sessions for the band's fifth studio album, Humanz, began in late 2015 and continued through 2016, taking place in London, New York City, Paris and Jamaica.[72][73] Albarn enlisted American hip-hop and house producer Anthony Khan, known by his stage name the Twilite Tone, to co-produce the album. Albarn chose Khan from a list of possible producers compiled by Parlophone, the band's record label after Albarn and Khan spoke via SkypeW. Humanz was also co-produced by Remi Kabaka Jr., who has been the voice actor for the Gorillaz virtual band member Russel Hobbs since 2000 as has also worked with him on different projects, such as Gorillaz Sound System and Africa Express. In conceptualizing the album, Albarn and Khan envisioned Humanz as being the soundtrack for 'a party for the end of the world', with Albarn specifically imagining a future in which Donald TrumpW won the 2016 U.S. presidential electionW as context for the album's narrative (Trump becoming president was still considered an unlikely event at the time of recording), explaining:

Let's use that as a kind of dark fantasy for this record, let's imagine the night Donald Trump wins the election and how we're all going to feel that night.[74]

Khan also stated:

The idea of Donald Trump being president allowed us to create a narrative together. I suggested that the album should be about joy, pain and urgency. That was to be our state of mind before we even touched a keyboard or an MPC. Especially in American music, dare I say black music, there's a way of communicating joy that at the same time allows you to feel the struggle the person has been through. And the urgency is there because something needs to be done. So that was the mantra. I wanted to blend Damon, a Briton, with the joy and pain and struggle that African-American music can express.[72]

Humanz again featured a large cast of featured artists, including Popcaan, Vince Staples, Shelley FKA DRAM, Jehnny Beth, Pusha T, Peven Everett, Danny Brown, Grace Jones and Mavis Staples, among othersm along with The Humanz Choir. The first track from the album released publicly was Hallelujah Money featuring Benjamin Clementine, released on 20 January 2017 with an accompanying video featuring Clementine. While not an official single, Albarn explained that the band chose to release the track on the day of Trump's inauguration because?

It was meant to be something sung at the imaginary inauguration of Donald Trump, which turned out to be the real inauguration of Donald Trump, so we released it because we had imagined that happening and it did happen.[75]

Humanz was released on 28 April 2017, the band's first new studio album in 7 years. Featuring a 'modern-sounding urban hip-hop/R&B sensibility',[72] the album debuted at #2 on both the UK Album charts and the US Billboard 200. Humanz received generally positive reviews from critics, although received some criticism from fans and critics for what was perceived as a diminished presence from Albarn in contrast to the abundance of featured artists.[76][77] The album was released in both standard and deluxe editions, with the deluxe edition featuring an additional 6 bonus tracks, and was promoted by the lead single Saturnz Barz featuring Popcaan, whose music video made use of YouTube's 360-degree videoW format and reportedly cost $800,000 to create,[78] in addition to Ascension, Andromeda, We Got The Power, Let Me Out, The Apprentice and the later Strobelite featuring Peven Everett with an accompanying music video.

The band embarked on the Humanz Tour to support the album from the summer of 2017 to early 2018. Like the band's previous tour, the Humanz Tour featured the touring band in full view of the audience with a large screen behind them displaying Hewlett-created visuals and featured several of the different collaborative artists from the band's history. Like all previous phases, the live band lineup changed once again: Cass Browne, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones all left; Karl Vanden Bossche returned after being absent on the previous tour and bassist Seye Adelekan, former member of The Heavy Seas, joined in. The tour was preceded by a handful of European warm-up shows, including the first Demon Dayz Festival held on 10 June 2017 at the Dreamland MargateW theme park, a Gorillaz curated music festival which was later repeated in Los Angeles in October 2018. On 8 June 2017, the band released the non-album single Sleeping Powder with an accompanying music video in response to the criticisms of the lack of Damon's vocals on the record. On 3 November 2017, a 'Super Deluxe' version of Humanz, featuring additional unreleased tracks from the album's sessions and including alternative versions of previously released songs was released, as well as the singles Garage Palace featuring Little Simz and Andromeda (D.R.A.M. Special), featuring Shelley FKA DRAM, which was previously a Japanese-exclusive bonus track. The 'Super Deluxe' version did not, however, include the tracks from the regular 'Deluxe' edition, nor was it made available digitally on streaming services (with the exception of the two singles), in contrast to the other versions of the album.

Albarn continued recording while on the road during the Humanz Tour, and mentioned in an interview with Q Magazine in September 2017 that he was planning on releasing the material as a future Gorillaz album. Comparing the production of the album to The Fall, which was also recorded while the band was on tour, Albarn mentioned that "It will be a more complete record than The Fall, but hopefully have that spontaneity."[79] Albarn signalled his desire to complete and release the album quickly, adding that "I really like the idea of making new music and playing it live almost simultaneously" and "If we're going to do more Gorillaz we don't want to wait seven years because, y'know, we're getting on a bit now.[79] The band later debuted a new song Idaho, which was later included on the following album, at a concert in Seattle on 30 September 2017, with Albarn saying it had been written in the days prior.

Phase Five (2018–2019)

During a break in the Humanz Tour in February 2018, Albarn returned to London where he worked with producer James Ford, known for his work with Arctic MonkeysW and Florence and the MachineW, and Kabaka Jr. to finish the newly written material, resulting in the band's sixth studio album, The Now Now, released on 29 June 2018. Featuring "simple, mostly upbeat songs" and 1980s new waveW influences,[80] the album was noted for its distinctly small list of featured artists compared to previous Gorillaz work, with only two tracks featuring any outside artists (the album's lead single Humility featuring George Benson and Hollywood featuring Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle). Albarn mentioned that the few numbers of featured artists was partially due to the album's quick production, which in turn was a result of Albarn wanting to finish the album before the band's touring schedule resumed: "We've been very lucky to be offered all the festivals this year on the back of the last record [Humanz]... but I didn't want to do that unless I had something new to work with, so the only option was to make another record really quickly and not have lots of guests on it, because that takes a long time to organize; just do it all myself, really."[81] Albarn also explained that with The Now Now he sought to make a Gorillaz album "where I'm just singing for once" and that the album is "pretty much just me singing, very sort of in the world of 2-D."[82]

In the fictional Gorillaz storyline, the band introduced Ace from Cartoon NetworkW's animated series The Powerpuff GirlsW as a temporary bassist of the band during The Now Now album cycle, filling in for the imprisoned Murdoc Niccals.[83] Explaining the crossover in an interview with the BBC, Albarn said:

"We were massive fans of The Powerpuff Girls when they came out, the energy of that cartoon was really cool, and we kind of know the creator of it (Craig McCracken). It was a very organic thing."[84]

The band's remaining 2018 live dates were billed as The Now Now Tour to support the album and included a performance in Tokyo on 22 June 2018 billed as "The Now Now World Premiere" in which the band played the full album live for the first and only time, a performance which was later broadcast by Boiler RoomW.[85] On 16 December 2019, the documentary Gorillaz: Reject False Icons was screened worldwide on a one-day theatrical release. Filmed and directed by Hewlett's son Denholm, the documentary showcases a behind-the-scenes look at the production of Humanz and The Now Now as well as the album's associated tours.[86][87] One week after the film's theatrical release, a "Director's Cut" version of the film featuring additional footage was released on the official Gorillaz YouTube channel in three parts. In the credits for Reject False Icons, Kabaka Jr. was listed as an official member of the band (labeled as "A&R/Producer") alongside Albarn and Hewlett for the first time.[88][89][90]

Phase Six (2019–2021)

On 29 January 2020, the band announced its new project Song Machine. Eschewing the typical album format of releasing music, Song Machine was instead a web series that saw the band releasing one new song a month as "episodes" to the series, with 11 episodes being released to comprise the first "season".[91][92] Elaborating on the idea behind Song Machine in a radio interview shortly after the announcement of the project, Albarn explained that "We no longer kind of see ourselves as constrained to making albums. We can now make episodes and seasons."[93] Each episode features previously unannounced guest musicians on new Gorillaz material, with the first being Momentary Bliss, which was released on 31 January and features both British rapper Slowthai and the Kent-based punk rock duo Slaves.[94]

On 27 February, the band released the second episode of Song Machine entitled Désolé. The song features Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara.[95] The third episode Aries was released on 9 April and featured Peter Hook and Georgia.[96] The fourth track How Far?, featuring Tony Allen and Skepta, was released on 2 May. This song was released without an accompanying music video as a tribute to Allen, who died on 30 April.[97] On 26 May, Gorillaz announced the release of a new book titled Gorillaz Almanac. The book comes in three editions: standard, deluxe and super deluxe, all of which were set to release on 23 October but has since been delayed to 22 DecemberTemplate:Update inline with a physical release of season one of Song Machine included with each copy.[98] On 9 June, the band released Friday 13th, the fourth proper episode of Song Machine. The track features French-British rapper Octavian.[99] On 20 July, the band released Pac-Man, the fifth episode of Song Machine, featuring American rapper Schoolboy Q, in honour of Pac-ManW's 40th anniversary.[100]

On 9 September, the band released Strange Timez, the sixth episode of Song Machine. The track features Robert Smith, from Template:The Cure. Gorillaz also announced the title and tracklist for Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez, released on 23 October 2020, featuring further guest appearances from Elton John, 6lack, JPEGMafia, Kano, Roxani Arias, Moonchild Sanelly and Chai, among others.[101] On 1 October, the band released The Pink Phantom, the seventh episode of Song Machine. The track features Elton John and American R&B recording artist 6lack.[102] Before the release of Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez, Gorillaz started a radio show on Apple Music called Song Machine Radio where each virtual character has a turn to invite special guests and play some of their favourite tunes.

On 5 November, the band released The Valley of the Pagans, the eighth episode of Song Machine. The track features American singer Beck. The music video is somewhat notorious for being the first major studio production filmed in Grand Theft Auto V. The video ends with a reference to a previous album, Plastic Beach, while also transitioning to the next music video.[103] For unknown reasons, the music video on the official Gorillaz YouTube channel was set to private just a few days after its initial premiere. On 9 March 2021, Gorillaz uploaded an alternative version of the music video to their official YouTube channel, which does not feature any gameplay from Grand Theft Auto V.[104] On 24 December, the band released The Lost Chord, featuring British musician Leee John, the ninth and final episode and music video of the first season of Song Machine.

On 26 March 2021, the band celebrated its debut album's 20th anniversary with oncoming reissues of their catalogue and teases of non-fungible tokens;[105] due to its impact on climate change and many overall controversies, the latter was met with criticism by various sources and fans — some noting that the act contradicted the environmental themes of Plastic Beach. No non-fungible tokens have since been released.[106] The band also announced a boxset, the G Collection, containing six of their studio albums — excluding The Fall — for Record Store DayW.[107] On 10 August 2021, Gorillaz debuted three new songs, Meanwhile (featuring British rapper Jelani Blackman), Jimmy Jimmy (featuring British rapper AJ Tracey), and Déjà Vu (featuring Jamaican-British singer Alicaì Harley), during a free concert at The O2 Arena in London, England exclusively for National Health ServiceW employees and their families. They then performed them again at the subsequent concert open to the public the next day (both of which served as the first live audience concerts of the Song Machine Tour).[108] These three songs were announced to be tracks from a new EP entitled Meanwhile, released as a homage to the Notting Hill Carnival, where the band made their first live performace and public appearance in August of 2000.

Phase Seven (2022–2024)

Throughout 2022, Gorillaz went on a world tour in South America, Europe, Australia, and North America, where they debuted new material.[109][110] In June 2022, the band began teasing the release of new material, with promotional displays and websites surfacing encouraging fans to sign up to be a part of "The Last Cult". The band released a new single (regularly performed on tour) called Cracker Island, featuring Thundercat and produced with Greg Kurstin, on 22 June,[111] with the music video being released on 28 July.[112] Their scheduled performance at the first Splendour in the Grass festival in Queensland, Australia on 22 July was cancelled owing to torrential rain.[113] In July 2022, they played at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre as part of Illuminate Adelaide, supported by Moonchild Sanelly.[114] In August 2022, the band performed a new song, titled New Gold (featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown) at All Points East in London,[115] and released it as their second single for their eighth studio album, announced on the same day to be titled Cracker Island.[116] The album, produced with Kurstin, also features appearances from Stevie Nicks, Bad Bunny, Beck, and Adeleye Omotayo.[117] On 4 November, the band released the third single from Cracker Island, Baby Queen, which had been previously featured on the FIFA 23 soundtrack).[118][119] On 8 December, the band released the album's fourth single, "Skinny Ape", alongside the announcement of two virtual shows in Times Square and Piccadilly Circus on 17 and 18 December, respectively.[120] On 27 January 2023, the album's fifth single, Silent Running featuring Adeleye Omotayo, was released, with a music video following on 8 February.[121][122]

Not long after, on 24 February 2023, Cracker Island (the album) was officially released worldwide. The album received mostly positive reviews, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine describing it as "less an exploration of new sonic territory so much as it is a reaffirmation of [Albarn's] strengths" with "a clean, efficient energy".[123][124] On February 27, a deluxe version of the album was released with five bonus tracks. Previous collaborators Del the Funky Homosapien and De La Soul appeared on the deluxe version, as well as Dawn Penn and Brazilian artist MC Bin Laden.[125] On 22 March, Tormenta, a song from the album featuring Bad Bunny, was also released as a single.

A few months later, the band announced The Getaway Shows, a mini-tour across the US in promotion of the album, featuring special guest musicians. The tour, however, was cancelled less than a month after its first announcement because of scheduling conflicts and other circumstances beyond the band's control. Refunds were issued for everyone who had already purchased tickets for any of the shows.

Virtual Band Lineup

Current Band Members

  • Stuart '2-D' Pot (vocals/keyboard/melodica/synthesizer/piano)
    (1998–2007, 2009–2012, 2015–present)
  • Murdoc 'Faust' Niccals (bass/drum programming)
    (1998–2007, 2009–2012, 2015–late 2017, late 2018–present)
  • Russel Hobbs (drums/percussion)
    (1998–2006, 2010–2012, 2015–present)
  • Noodle (guitar/backing vocals/melodica/keyboard/synthesizer)
    (1998–2006, 2010–2012, 2015–present)

Former Band Members

Real Life Lineup

Permanent Members

  • Damon Albarn (vocals/keyboard/guitar/melodica/synthesizer/piano/production)
    (1998–2012, 2015–present)
  • Jamie Hewlett (illustration/animation/writing/direction)
    (1998–2012, 2015–present)
  • Remi Kabaka Jr. (drums/percussion/voice acting/production/sound system)
    (1998–2012, 2015–present)



Drums & Percussion

House Band




Voice Acting



Main Article: Discography

External Links

Retired Links


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