Gorillaz are a virtual band created in 1997 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett that consist of four fictional animated band members: 2D (Vocals/Keys), Murdoc Niccals (Bass Guitar), Russel Hobbs (Percussion) and Noodle (Lead Guitar).
The band was created by Damon Albarn from the Britpop band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. Their style is reminiscent of 80's dance music with strong influences from hip-hop, dub, electro, and pop.
Unlike other fictional bands whose music has had real-life success, they are neither a parody of a particular genre (Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind) nor marketed to young children (The Archies), and their actual musical output is far more of an attraction to most of their fans than their existence as cartoon characters.
The band's first album, 2001's Gorillaz, sold over 3 million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the hit singles "Feel Good Inc.", "Dare", "Dirty Harry" and "El Mañana/Kids With Guns." Demon Days went Double Platinum in the U.S., Triple Platinum in the U.K., and earned 5 Grammy award nominations for 2005.
Phase One: Celebrity Take Down (1999-2003)
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett first met in 1990 when Graham Coxon, a fan of Hewlett's work, asked him to interview Blur, which was a band both Albarn and Coxon and had recently formed. The interview was published in Deadline magazine, home of Hewlett's comic series, Tank Girl. Albarn and Hewlett started sharing a flat on Westbourne Grove in London in 1997.
The idea to create Gorillaz came about when the two 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 has said. The band originally identified themselves as "Gorilla" and the first song they recorded was "Ghost Train" which was 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.
The Gorillaz were very well received in the UK underground music scene and generated a lot of word-of-mouth advertising, as well as a large shroud of mystery over who was behind Gorillaz and what could be expected from the band in the months to come. Promo outlets circulated a promotional booklet to promote the fictional backstory behind the cartoon band.
The band's official website, Gorillaz.com, was a virtual representation of Kong Studios, the band's fictional studio and home. Inside, you could browse through each member's bedroom, their recording environment and even the hallways and bathrooms. Each room also had bonus surprises and games to play: for example, the lobby had a remix machine, the cafeteria contained the message board on the wall and Murdoc's Winnebago (accessible only by using the enhanced section of the Gorillaz album) contained a voodoo doll of 2D. Each member also had his or her own computer which contained pictures, samples used in various Gorillaz songs, their favorite websites and their e-mail inboxes. Because of the nature of the site, an official fansite, fans.gorillaz.com, was created to hold the standard band website information, including news, a discography and the band's touring schedules.
The band's first single, "Clint Eastwood", was released on March 5, 2001. It became a smash hit and put Gorillaz into the global spotlight. Due to this, the fictional band members' Hotmail accounts were abandoned (and later hacked) and the inboxes on the site were never updated. 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".
Each of the singles' animated music videos contained surreal and often times very dark and bizzare storylines and imagery, though "Clint Eastwood" and "19-2000" were the only singles to break through the American music scene. "19-2000" became popular after being featured in both an Icebreakers commercial, as well as in EA Sports' FIFA 2001. Also the trumpets from the song "Rock the House" can be heard in various MTV shows. The video for "Tomorrow Comes Today" was only broadcast once in the US on Toonami as a "Midnight Run" special where they played animated music videos from Gorillaz, Daft Punk, and Kenna. Around this time, a half-hour TV mockumentary entitled "Charts Of Darkness" was released. It follows Channel 4 news reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy attempting to track down Albarn and Hewlett after they were placed in an insane asylum. The special also interviews Rachel Stevens of S Club 7 fame and a few of the band's voice talents, who had been given roles to play.
The end of the year brought the song "911", a collaboration between the Gorillaz and rap artists D12 (without Eminem) and Terry Hall about the September 11, 2001 attacks. Meanwhile "G-Sides", a compilation of the B-sides from the first three singles was released in Japan and quickly followed with international releases in early 2002. The new year also saw a complicated performance at the 2002 Brit Awards, featuring the band in 3D animation, weaving in and out of each other on four large screens along with rap accompaniment by Phi Life Cypher. Finally, "Laika Come Home", a dub remix album, containing most of the tracks from "Gorillaz" reworked by Spacemonkeyz, was released in June 2002. The single to follow, "Lil' Dub Chefin'", contained an original track by the Spacemonkeyz titled "Spacemonkeyz Theme". In November 2002, a DVD titled Phase One: Celebrity Take Down was released. The DVD contains all five videos (including the abandoned video for "5/4"), the "Charts Of Darkness" documentary, the five Gorilla Bites (short vignettes), a tour of the website by the MEL 9000 server and much more. The DVD's menu was designed much like the band's website and depicts an abandoned Kong Studios.
Along with the November 2002 release of the DVD Phase One: Celebrity Take Down, the band's website closed down almost completely. The fictional Kong Studios was no longer accessible. Instead, visitors could only enter a police portacabin, where the message board and chats were still accessible. From there, a small robot called G.R.3.G. could be used to explore the abandoned Kong Studios in a 3-D shockwave environment, though doing so would only grant access to a few games. The Abandoned Gorillaz Site
Rumors were going around this time that the Gorillaz team were busy preparing a film, but an EMI interview later revealed that plans for the film were abandoned. In an interview with Haruka Kuroda (the voice of Noodle), Kuroda stated that Jamie Hewlett rejected many scripts before giving up on the movie.
Phase Two: Slowboat To Hades
On December 8, 2004, the website reopened with an exclusive video entitled "Rock It" and the announcement of a new album on the way, which would be produced by Danger Mouse and contain a guest appearance by De La Soul. A talent contest entitled Search For A Star was also announced, allowing fans to send in a minute-long clip of video or audio or an image file. The prize included collaborating with the band by working with them to create the music and video for "El Mañana", the fourth single for the new album, although it has been announced that it will be a double-A side with 'Kids With Guns' as well as getting their own virtual room on the newly rebuilt Kong Studios website.
A second promotional booklet was issued, recapping the previously issued booklet, as well as detailing the failed movie production in Hollywood and the breakup and reforming of Gorillaz. A culture jamming project named Reject False Icons was formed criticizing modern pop figures.
The new album was first reported to be released in March 2005, but was later changed to May of the same year. The name of the album was originally reported to be We Are Happy Landfill, but was later changed to Demon Days. The first release of the album was a white label 12" promotional single of the song "Dirty Harry" featuring Bootie Brown and the Children's Choir San Fernandez. "Dirty Harry" was ineligible for the charts due to its status as a promotional single.
The first proper 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. This happened because the single was released as a 7" vinyl in April, and new charts regulations included sales at online music stores, where the song had been available since March 22. "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 would also garner a Record of the Year nomination at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
The album, Demon Days, was #1 in the Album Charts on its first week, 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. "DARE" was released on August 29, 2005 in the UK, where it debuted at #1. A Japanese EP followed September 7. "DARE" eventually reached #87 in the United States, also becoming a Top 10 hit on the Modern Rock listings.
The third single off Demon Days was "Dirty Harry", which had already been released as a promotional single earlier that year. It was released in the UK on November 21, 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.
On 6 November 2005, Gorillaz-Unofficial  announced Jamie Hewlett had revealed that the song "El Mañana" would be the fourth single from Demon Days, but it has been confirmed that it will be a double A-side with "Kids With Guns" , to have a UK release on 10 April 2006. link
On December 18, Demon Days went triple platinum in the UK and would end up racking up over a million copies sold in the UK by the end of the year, making it the 5th best selling album of 2005 there. Demon Days has also gone double platinum in the US and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
In 2007 and 2008, Gorillaz will go on a holographic world tour. The cartoon members will be shown as holograms on stage using Pepper's ghost technology, giving them a life-like appearance on stage. Damon Albarn will not be present for the tour, as they will be pre-recorded. A prototype version of the holograms was used at the 2005 MTV EMA Awards and again at the 2006 Grammy Awards with Madonna, where the band played a pre-recorded version of "Feel Good Inc."
Phase Three: Escape to Plastic Beach (2008–2012)
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." 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.
On 18 January 2010, it was announced that Gorillaz would be headlining the final night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on 18 April 2010. The first single from the album, "Stylo", featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def was made available for download 26 January 2010. Further singles from the album include "On Melancholy Hill", "Superfast Jellyfish" and "Rhinestone Eyes", as well as "White Flag", which was released exclusively for Record Store Day 2010.
Plastic Beach was first released on 3 March 2010 in Japan, followed by multiple other dates for other countries. The album received positive reviews from critics. 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 album's 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. In early July 2010, they announced their first world tour, titled the "Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour".
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 TV show is a "very poor substitute for the real thing". This statement led most people to believe that 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. On 15 December 2010, Albarn confirmed whilst interviewed on Triple J that the new album would be titled The Fall as it was recorded on their American tour in October. The official video for "Phoner to Arizona" was also released on Gorillaz' official website for free on 24 December 2010. It was announced that Gorillaz would be performing on 16 March 2011 at the MTV Woodie awards. They were also nominated for the Best Video Woodie for "Stylo" at the MTV woodie awards.
Gorillaz released a digital single of the tracks "Revolving Doors" and "Amarillo" from their new album The Fall on 14 March 2011. Photos were released of frontman Damon Albarn and rapper Pharrell Williams recording with an iPad, Omnichord and a 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.
On 18 April 2011, Gorillaz announced the release of their own version of the iPad app iElectribe, by Korg - which features loops and samples taken from The Fall as well as other samples. The new Gorillaz version features a Gorillaz designed and styled interface, and is 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. There have been noted problems with the app's availability outside of the United Kingdom. The app was based on Korg's Electribe: R device app.
On 5 October 2011, Gorillaz announced their first "greatest hits" compilation, The Singles Collection 2001–2011, which was released on 28 November 2011.
On 9 February 2012, Gorillaz announced "DoYaThing", a single to promote the Gorillaz-branded Converse shoes that were soon to be released. The song would be part of Converse's "Three Artists, One Song" projects, with the two collaborators being James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and André 3000 of Outkast. The track was available for free download on Converse's website, and in Journeys stores by way of scanning a QR code. An explicit, 13 minute-long version of the song became available for listening shortly after on Gorillaz.com. Jamie Hewlett returned to direct the single's music video, featuring animated versions of the two collaborators on the track.
The video, which premiered on 29 February 2012 shows the original four Gorillaz members reunited in a three bedroom flat at 212 Wobble Street, London. Also appearing are "The Boogeyman" and André 3000 (wearing a black mask with a white X on it), who surprises 2D in various places. Russel, still a giant, rests on the roof of the building. Noodle's windmill island which featured in "Feel Good Inc." and "El Mañana" is afloat again and anchored to the side of the building. Murdoc is shown to be recording new installments of his radio show from the apartment, while Noodle sleeps. The video ends with 2D receiving an eviction notice from a baboon in a postman's uniform (apparently Murphy's avatar in the project), putting the permanency of the band's residence into question once again.
"Indefinite hiatus" and other projects (2012–present)
In April 2012, Albarn told The Guardian that he and Hewlett had fallen out and that future Gorillaz projects were "unlikely". Tension between the two had been building during phase 3, as Albarn had felt that "we were at cross purposes somewhat on [Plastic Beach]" and that the visuals were not matching the music very well. However, in an interview with The Independent, Hewlett stated "I just want to do some of my own stuff, and Damon has many projects – he’s always doing 10 things at once – so it's all right to separate for a bit and try different things" and that while the concept of Gorillaz has "run its course for now, it doesn't mean it's packed away for good", although a future collaboration with Albarn would be something "completely different." He also revealed that he would like to revisit some of the unfinished projects that they worked on between albums.
On 25 April, in an interview with Metro, Albarn later clarified that his previous statements were "from an article which was an interesting take on a very long conversation." When asked about the future of the Gorillaz, he went on to say that once he had worked out his differences with Jamie Hewlett, he was confident that they'd make another record. When asked if sorting his differences with Hewlett would be difficult, Albarn said:
"I don't think so. We've been through too much together for it to be that big of a mountain to climb. We've just fallen out like mates do sometimes. I'm not the only person to fall out with mates and then make up again – everyone does it." 
On March 27, 2013 Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's Opera "Monkey" was announced to be re-shown in New York from July 6-28. Damon and Jamie are now confirmed to have settled their dispute and are back in good relations with each other. News on Damon Albarn's virtual band Gorillaz had been sparse and few as of 2013, but Jamie Hewlett has confirmed that there will be a new Gorillaz album out in the future, but only after Damon's main band Blur has put out their new record.
Jamie revealed the new Gorillaz plans that he and Damon discussed for the future whilst speaking at a launch event for the pair's opera 'Monkey Journey To The West' in New York city recently.
It has been claimed that Jamie Hewlett said:
"There’s a five- year gap between the albums because they take a long time to do and and they’re very exhausting and when you’re finished you feel like you need to go do other stuff."
The Gorillaz animator and comic artist also talked about how difficult it will be for a new Gorillaz record to be commercially successful. He is reported to have said that "the music industry’s changed so much since we started doing Gorillaz. There’s no money in the industry, and many popular bands now make songs and film it from their bedrooms. It doesn’t cost anything, and so Gorillaz is kind of expensive. It’s expensive to do because it’s animated."
- Gorillaz.com (Official website)
- Gorillaz-Unofficial (The most comprehensive Gorillaz fansite. Obviously unofficial.)
- Reject False Icons (Official website)
- MySpace.com/Gorillaz (Official MySpace Profile)
- Fans.Gorillaz.com (Official fansite. Not nearly as helpul as G-U.)
- Official Gorillaz Figures by Kidrobot
- Mr.Goodliving.com (A developer of the Gorillaz GES mobile phone game)
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