Gorillaz is a virtual band created in 1998 by Damon Albarn of alternative rock band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. The band is composed of four animated band members: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel. The band's music is a collaboration between various musicians with Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is broadly alternative rock, but with a large number of other influences including hip hop, electronica, dub and pop.
The band's first album, 2001's Gorillaz, sold over seven million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request. Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the singles "Feel Good Inc.", "DARE", "Dirty Harry" and "Kids With Guns / El Mañana". Demon Days went five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States and earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006 and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category. Gorillaz have also released two B-sides compilations and a remix album.
The band's first single, "Clint Eastwood", was released on 5 March 2001. It became a smash hit and put Gorillaz into the global spotlight. 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' videos contained humorous and often ridiculous storylines and imagery, though "Clint Eastwood" and "19-2000" were the only singles to break through the American music scene. "19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)" became popular after being featured in both an Ice Breakers commercial, as well as in EA Sports' FIFA 2002. The video for "Tomorrow Comes Today" was only broadcast once in the United States on Toonami as a "Midnight Run" special. 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 on 12 December 2001 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 the four Phase One promos, the abandoned video for "5/4", the Charts of Darkness documentary, the five Gorilla Bitez (short vignettes), a tour of the website by the MEL 9000 server and more. The DVD's menu was designed much like the band's website and depicts an abandoned Kong Studios. Along with the release of the DVD, the band's website closed down almost completely. Kong Studios was no longer accessible, instead, visitors could only enter a police cabin, 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 3D Shockwave environment, though doing so would only grant access to a few games. The Abandoned Gorillaz Site
Rumors were circulating at 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. Hewlett later explained why the film was abandoned, "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."
On 8 December 2004, the band's website reopened with an exclusive video entitled "Rock It". Along with the music video, there was an announcement of a new album on the way, which would be produced by Danger Mouse. 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 to create the music and video for "El Mañana", the fourth single for the new album, as well as getting their own 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 viral marketing project named Reject False Icons was formed criticizing modern pop figures.
The first 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 due to the single being released as a 7" vinyl in April, and new charts regulations included sales at online music stores, where the song had been available since 22 March. "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 also garnered a Record of the Year nomination for the 2006 Grammy Awards later that year.
The album, Demon Days, was released on 11 May 2005 in Japan, 23 May in the United Kingdom and Australia, and on 24 May in the United States. The album debuted at #1 on the UK Album Charts, 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 29 August 2005 in the UK, where it debuted at #1. A Japanese EP followed on 7 September. "DARE" eventually reached #87 in the United States, also becoming a Top 10 hit on the Modern Rock listings. Shortly afterwards, Gorillaz contributed an exclusive track entitled "Hong Kong" to the charity compilation Help: A Day in the Life released on 10 September 2005.
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 United Kingdom on 21 November 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. The fourth and final single was the double A-side, "Kids With Guns"/"El Mañana". It was released in the UK on 10 April 2006. Unlike its Top 10 predecessors, "Kids With Guns" / "El Mañana" reached #27 upon its release in the UK. A week later, the single had fallen out of the Top 40 in the UK (see 2006 in British music). By the end of 2005, Demon Days had sold over a million copies in the UK, making it the fifth best selling album of 2005. Demon Days has since gone five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the United States, triple platinum in Australia and has sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
Plans were unveiled for Gorillaz to go on a holographic world tour in 2007 and 2008. The cartoon members would be shown as holograms on stage using Musion Eyeliner technology, giving them a life-like appearance on stage. The holograms were first used at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards on 3 November 2005 and again at the 2006 Grammy Awards on 8 February 2006 with the addition of a virtual Madonna, where the band played a pre-recorded version of "Feel Good Inc." However, the tour was eventually called off due to budget issues. Jamie Hewlett has stated that "...it was extremely expensive, extremely difficult, a million and one things can go wrong, every second that the thing's playing."
On 21 September 2006 the main lobby of Kong Studios was destroyed for unknown reasons and a teaser clip for Slowboat to Hades appeared and could be played on a TV screen. The Phase Two: Slowboat to Hades DVD was released on 30 October in the United Kingdom, and 31 October in the United States. The official Gorillaz illustrated autobiography, titled Rise of the Ogre, was released on 31 October 2006 in the United Kingdom, and 2 November in the United States. D-Sides, a compilation of B-side and remixes, was released on 19 November 2007 in the UK and on 20 November 2007 in the U.S. On 24 October 2007, following the announcement of the D-Sides compilation album, the official Gorillaz fansite announced that a documentary film about the Gorillaz, titled Bananaz, would be released. The film, directed by Ceri Levy, documents the previous seven years of the band.
Hopes for a Gorillaz film were revived in 2006 when Hewlett stated that they would be producing the film on their own. American film producer and Weinstein Company co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, was also said to be collaborating with Albarn and Hewlett. In a September 2006 interview with Uncut magazine, Albarn was reported saying "[Gorillaz] has been a fantastic journey which isn't over, because we're making a film. We've got Terry Gilliam involved. But as far as being in a big band and putting pop music out there, it's finished. We won't be doing that any more." In an interview with the Gorillaz-Unofficial fansite, Jamie Hewlett and Cass Browne revealed that in the movie the band members will act as other characters presenting a new story, instead of playing themselves. Hewlett also said that the movie's soundtrack will be the next Gorillaz album. "The soundtrack will be the third album. Damon will do the soundtrack, which will be the soundtrack, which will be the third album. As of April 2007, Cass Browne is still finishing the script and Albarn has said that he hopes production of the film will begin in September 2007. No news was heard about the film until February 2008 when, in an interview with Gorillaz-Unofficial, Hewlett said "Ultimately we didn't think that feel we're in a position to make the kind of movie we want to make with Gorillaz at the moment. [...] But I'd still like to make a full, lavishly-animated Gorillaz movie someday."
In the Observer interview, Hewlett said that there is "a new project which Damon and I are working on now, called Carousel, which is even bigger and more difficult than Monkey, and it isn't going to fit anywhere and no one's going to like it, ha ha ha! We've started work - I've done a lot of visuals and Damon's done a lot of music but we haven't figured out how they're going to fit together. I can't say much about it yet but 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, well ... originally it was a film but now we think it's a film and it's a stage thing as well and... look, it's basically us doing what the fuck we want without worrying about whether it's for a record company or a film company or whatever. So I'm not sure how it'll pan out, or even if it will happen. But Damon's written around 70 songs for it, and I've got great plans for the visuals, but right now, at this moment, it's still just a really good idea."
During the "hidden" credits to the DVD Phase One: Celebrity Take Down, it states the names of the creators, the voice talents and those responsible for performing live. This list of the group's integral performers has changed drastically since the first album, with the exception of Albarn himself. For a more or less complete list of people involved in Gorillaz, see this site
In the most recent live performances (Demon Days Live), the roles of 2D (vocals and piano) are assigned to Damon Albarn as 2D, Noodle's (guitar and backing vocals) to Simon Tong and Rosie Wilson respectively, Murdoc's (bass guitar) to Morgan Nicholls, and Russel's (drums) to Cass Browne. However, there are two touring keyboardists (one on a piano and the other on a synthesizer), so one could say that both of these people also perform the role of 2D. Similarly, there is both a drummer and percussionist on the tour, both at a drum kit, so these people are essentially both Russel.
Between 1 November and 5 November 2005, there was a Gorillaz "festival" billed as Demon Days Live with collaborators from Demon Days (Neneh Cherry, Bootie Brown, De La Soul, Ike Turner, Roots Manuva, Martina Topley-Bird and Shaun Ryder all appeared live; for other collaborators such as Dennis Hopper and Ibrahim Ferrer, recordings were used) and Damon Albarn performing songs from the album live on those five nights at the Manchester Opera House. The visual element of the evenings was provided by Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett and displayed on screens on the stage, and the artists performed in front of the screens, with Damon Albarn in silhouette form for most of the concert (unlike previous concerts, where the musicians were behind the screens, with only silhouettes visible). The event was filmed by an EMI film crew for a DVD release, Demon Days Live, in late March 2006. It was later announced that an American version of the event would take place from 2 April to 6 April 2006 at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. Within an hour of release tickets were sold out. The 6 April show was filmed for a live webcast at MSN Video. Palladia (then known as MHD) also broadcasted an Apollo Theater show in HDTV on 31 December 2006.
For the band's live performances at the 2005/2006 award shows, a different visual effects technique was used to project the band onto the stage: similar to the Pepper's ghost trick, 3D animations of the band are projected on transparent film placed on stage, creating the appearance that the band members were actually present on the stage. The first such performance by the band was made on 3 November 2005, the third night of the Demon Days Live performances, when the band simultaneously appeared at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, Portugal and performed their song "Feel Good Inc.". At the 2006 Grammy Awards, held on 8 February 2006, Gorillaz opened the show using the same technique, sharing the stage with a virtual Madonna. Their performance was a mash-up of the Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." and Madonna's "Hung Up". However, there was a slight problem concerning the projections. The music on all of these occasions was rather low in volume, which Jamie Hewlett revealed to be a flaw with the Pepper's ghost technique: if the music was too loud, the screens reflecting the band on stage would vibrate, making their images blurry. This happened with the mash-up performance with Madonna's "Hung Up". A week later, on 15 February 2006, Gorillaz performed their song "Dirty Harry" at the 2006 BRIT Awards, with Bootie Brown and the Children's Choir San Fernandez. This concert had giant versions of the video clips on large screens, with Bootie Brown and the Children's Choir San Fernandez to either side of the screens. A similar, but not completely identical, version of this performance was shown on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and the video was projected at the 2006 Designer of the Year Award exhibition, which Jamie Hewlett later won.
A world tour was planned using the hologram technology described above. However, due to extreme costs and fine technical difficulties, the tour was cancelled.
The winners for each entries are as followed:
All three collaborated on the fourth single release of Phase Two, "Kids With Guns" / "El Mañana". Sourbee provided his animated incarnation of the "Don't Get Lost In Heaven (Original Demo Version)" B-side, featured on the DVD version of the single. Asidus made a "Dirty Harry" remix called "Uno Quatro" featured on the Gorillaz website Schneeflocke created her own artistic interpretation of "El Mañana", featured on an insert included on the DVD version of the single.