Gorillaz – Interview with Jamie Hewlett

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Gorillaz

How are you?

I’m good. Where are you?

America.

We’re in Paris right now.

Heard you are doing a show.

Yeah we’re getting ready for it now actually.

What’s the show like?

Well the shows are a big experiment at the moment. We have a giant screen between the band and the audience. We have a live band playing behind the screen. On the screen we show weird animation and imagery and occasionally you can see the silhouettes of the band coming through. You can see Noodle, Murdoc, and everybody playing their instruments. It’s an experiment still. This is only our second show so each time we do a show we have to sort of make it better and add a bit more. We’re in the early stages of experimenting with a new sort of live show. We’ve only done it once but I’m pretty sure it works. I was pretty hammered at the time so maybe I don’t know. The band is awesome. The bass is so loud the fittings in your teeth rattle.

How did you come up with the live show?

When we came up with the idea for Gorillaz we pretty much had every base covered about how we were going to do everything. I mean how the fuck do you do that? It was really a case of us making it up as we went along. What we would like to do can’t be done because the technology doesn’t exist to do it so in some respects we are sort of ahead of our time because we can’t get the technology we need to do what we want. So we have to make it up really. It’s like early puppeterring.

How did the idea evolve for Gorillaz?

Me and Damon lived together for a year and we had a lot of parties and it was born out of that really. Out of all the depravity and all the unfairness that we’ve experienced (laughs) they just sort of fell out of our mouths. It was perfect really. It was just a combination of our warped minds. Also the idea of being able to do something and not have to take responsibility for it was quite appealing. (Laughs) You invent a band and it seemed like a great idea and it has so many possibilities.

The possibilities seem much more expansive than they would for a regular band.

You know we are just now realizing all the possibilities now. We came up with like fifty possibilities in the first week and we are realizing more now.

I read there is a cartoon coming out.

Yeah, we’re doing a half hour Gorillaz show. We are working on for the second album doing a film where the album might be the soundtrack or go with the film. We have been approached for a film. If we didn’t have an idea we wouldn’t do it, but we have a pretty good idea for a story. We are just starting to put it together.

It’s cool to have endless possibilities, but I would think the coolest thing would be what you said earlier about no responsibility in some sick sort of way.

I’ve always had it like that, but I was always able to hide behind my characters. There has never been a need for me to have my photo taken, but for Damon its much more interesting not having to be the frontman and being able to experiment. I think that is the secret of why Gorillaz has proven to be successful because everyone involved is having fun and enjoying themselves.

When the music met the characters what was that like?

Well they had already met really because it’s Damon isn’t it really? One night we were watching the tele and had the idea and the next day we were literally working on it. Damon’s studio and my studio are in the same building in London so we are always sticking our noses in so it all came together really well.

Was it fun to see Gorillaz take on yours and Damon’s personalities?

Yeah because we are them and they are us. (Laughs) So everything we do or say pretty much comes from us. It was sort of confusing on how to get people to believe in these characters. Originally we wanted to keep our names out of it, but it was impossible to do so. And even though people know our involvement they still believe the characters. So it works even that they know they aren’t real. You still believe in Daffy Duck or Homer Simpson and I think that shows the strength of animation. I fucking love animation, some of my favorite characters are animated. It’s perfect.

Even if you watch the Simpson’s and you know who does the voice…

…it doesn’t matter does it?

Right. And you don’t watch it and see Bart and go ‘I can’t believe that is a woman doing his voice’. It doesn’t happen.

It doesn’t matter. He is Bart. Every time a Daffy Duck cartoon comes on I tell everyone to shut up so I can hear it. I think the thing about animated characters is that they are more truthful and more reliable then real personalities. Pop stars are really cartoon characters, but they can only go so far. They can’t complain and they can’t have tantrums.

A real person wants to make themselves to look great all the time but with a cartoon character it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t does it? Push ’em, push ’em, push ’em and they’ll never complain, unless you want them to. (We both laugh)

And they don’t have to age or get a new wardrobe.

Right, but unlike most cartoon characters Gorillaz do change their clothes and they will grow older.

Will they have kids like the Flintstones?

No. That might be pushing it.

Because, as it seems, the British press are so critical…

…they are hugely critical. It’s just their nature and they don’t like to admit they like something. When we put out “Tomorrow Comes Today” it was before anyone knew about our involvement and some band reviewed the single and loved it and said what they loved most was Damon’s singing, but if they would have known it was him they wouldn’t have said that. The press in England are wankers. One week we are on the cover of NME and the next week we are the antichrist. You just learn to not give a fuck really.

That always seems to happen there.

It means nothing to me. I hate them. They make me sick. (Laughs)

Was it entertaining to see everything and anything written about Gorillaz at first because it wasn’t your faces on it?

Yeah. It was fun, but the thing is we have a bass player who answers back. (Laughs) We had some journalist slagging off Gorillaz and we got a hold of his email and Murdoc started sending him really nasty emails. So here is this guy getting threatened by a two-dimensional character. We had great fun with it.

Nothing like getting insulted by a cartoon character.

I know. How would you feel if Daffy Duck threatened you? It’d be hurtful wouldn’t it?

It would be extremely humiliating.

I find it the most humiliating. We want to get with Murdoc that he is such a celebrity that people are actually afraid of slagging him off. We get girls who send love letters to Murdoc saying they wanted to marry him. They actually send pictures of themselves kissing Murdoc. He’s a cartoon character for god’s sake.

It sounds like so much fun.

It is. And anytime you want to go after anybody you get Murdoc to do it. (Laughs) But you do have to be careful how far you go. Murdoc gets online and talks to the fans an one night we were on late talking to fans and we had some kid come on from America who hated his parents, hated life, everything was shit and was going to kill himself. We were online for three hours as Murdoc trying to talk him down and make him realize that it was alright. This was all as Murdoc and he was talking to him as Murdoc. The thing is we needed to talk him down and were careful about what we said otherwise you’d end up with something horrible happening. But we spent three hours talking him down and it got pretty heavy. But at the end he was fine and was like ‘cheers’.

(We get interrupted and told we’ve got time for one last question)

Does Gorillaz have a plan for world domination?

Well who knows? (Laughs) We’ll have to wait and see on that one. (Laughs)

+ charlie craine


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