Just months after releasing the futuristic Deltron 3030 project with rapper Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan "The Automator" Nakamura has already completed yet another concept album, this time with Blur frontman Damon Albarn, as the creative force behind Gorillaz.
A truly unique band its members are officially cartoon characters Gorillaz incorporates the talents of a number of modern-music luminaries, as well as the visual skills of Jamie Hewlett, creator of the animated character Tank Girl.
"I brought in different people to be on the record," said Nakamura, who produced Gorillaz' upcoming debut as well as the abstract hip-hop classic Dr. Octagonecologyst (with Kool Keith) and Handsome Boy Modeling School's So...How's Your Girl? (with Prince Paul). "Del rhymes on it, Kid Koala scratches on it the 3030 people and Miho [Hatori] from Cibo Matto sings on it a little bit. Tina [Weymouth] and Chris [Frantz] from the Tom Tom Club do some stuff on it and Ibrahim Ferrer from Buena Vista [Social Club] did some stuff."
Albarn also plays a major role in Gorillaz. In fact, with all of the collaborating he and Nakamura were doing, an Albarn solo album has been rumored to be in the works for months now. Those rumors, Nakamura said, are untrue.
"Well, the reason they say that is because he appears on most of the cuts," he clarified. "Basically, this is what they would consider to be his solo record."
However you look at it, Gorillaz is an appealing concept. A visit to the band's Web site (www.gorillaz.com) reveals how much time and energy went into the creation of this truly 21st century group and its surrounding world. The site provides full-length audio tracks, the video for the album's first single, "Tomorrow Comes Today", a tour through Gorillaz headquarters, and other interactive treats.
The only question is whether Gorillaz whose members go by the aliases Murdoc, 2D, Russell and Noodle actually exist outside of the cartoon realm. Although he admitted to "trying to make the new Josie and the Pussycats," Nakamura insisted that Gorillaz are real "in the hip-hop sense."
While the animated members of Gorillaz don't have clear-cut counterparts in the three-dimensional world, some easy comparisons can be made. 2-D, the lanky, wild-haired British frontman is an obvious version of Albarn, while American beat-master Russel is part Automator, part Del. Satan-obsessed bassist Murdoc, meanwhile, seems to be a completely original creation, and Noodle, the 10-year-old Japanese guitarist, was most likely influenced in part by Cibo Matto's Miho Hatori.
Nakamura approached the nature of the band slyly, while elaborating elusively on the myth. "Me and Damon found these kids called the Gorillaz," he said. "They're kind of like Deee-Lite, [who] had a DJ from France, a beat guy from Japan and [a] singer from New York ... Well, it's kind of like this little collective that had some ideas ... so they were like, 'Could you help us?' ... So I ended up taking some of their little snippets and producing an album out of it."
"Tomorrow Comes Today," the first Gorillaz release, came out in the U.K. in November, with the second single currently scheduled to be "Clint Eastwood," a track that reunites the Deltron crew: Nakamura, Del, Albarn and Kid Koala.
While no official release date has been set for the Gorillaz debut, the album is slated to come out in the U.S. on Virgin Records in the next few months, according to a spokesperson for the label, with live dates in the works.
Exactly how the live shows will be presented remains a mystery, however, even to the Automator himself.
"We haven't gone into the rehearsal mode, or anything like that," he said. "I don't really know what my role would be, to tell you the truth."
As for who exactly will be involved, Nakamura could only speculate, once again insisting that the Gorillaz themselves would somehow make a real-world appearance. He did confirm that Albarn would appear on the tour.
With so much unknown about this musical entity, one sentiment he expressed about the impending experience is certain: "It should be interesting."