Gorillaz Are Actually '80-Year-Old Musicians In Wheelchairs'

Cartoon supergroup has dwindled down to Damon Albarn with backing musicians on tour.

Numerous critics and closed-minded fans have been less than kind about

cartoon supergroup Gorillaz's decision to play live shows hidden behind large

projector screens displaying comic images of the characters. But the minor

agony of journalistic slings and arrows is nothing compared to headaches the

band experienced right before the tour launched in Toronto on

February 23.

"We lost our original bass player on the first day through something

slightly dubious that happened 15 years ago," said vocalist Damon Albarn,

who also fronts the band Blur. "Basically, he's in prison now. But fortunately,

at the 11th hour we found a guy named Roberto (no last name, please) who kind

of saved our asses."

"We were introduced to him by some people who knew a good bass player, and

we needed one very quickly," added Gorillaz cartoonist Jamie Hewlett. "We

were very lucky."

Strangely, Albarn is the only performer on the Gorillaz album who takes the

stage every night. Producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura spins before the

show but doesn't contribute to the set, and artists Del the Funky

Homosapien, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Miho Hatori, Ibrahim Ferrer and

Skye Edwards are nowhere to be found (see "Gorillaz's Boston Show Prompts Fans To Ask, 'Where's The Beef?'" ).

"Everyone's busy doing their own thing," Albarn explained. "Gorillaz isn't

about celebrity, but it works and it takes on an identity of its own. As

long as the sound of the person [playing] is right, it doesn't matter what

they look like. The fact that they're all 80-year-old musicians in

wheelchairs is irrelevant," he joked.

For Albarn, being out of the spotlight means the music has to speak for

itself. He can't count on riling the crowd with irreverent comments or

rousing it by jumping, kicking and climbing, as he often used to do with

Blur. And that's just fine with him.

"When I first started [playing with Blur], people always used to criticize

me when I shut my eyes and I just loved singing. So I'm able to do that

again, which for me is really an enjoyable thing," he said, adding that his

current creative endeavor has been more physically healing as well. "I enjoy

being a frontman, but [in Blur] I tended to have to get really drunk every

night because playing to a crowd can be rather nerve-racking. Now I don't

have to get as drunk anymore, which is good."

Gorillaz only have a few shows left, including a pair in Los Angeles March 8 and 9. If you're curious about the cartoon-rock phenomenon, but figure you'll catch them next time

after some of the hype has died down, you'll probably miss the boat.

At this point, Gorillaz have no intention of playing any additional shows.

"Gorillaz shows are very expensive to put on," Hewlett said. "So we can't be

touring for six months at a time."

"I've done that," Albarn cut in, shaking his head. "I've done it and I

don't need to do it anymore. I'd rather spend a month of the year touring

and 11 months making music. I love playing, but I don't need to tour to earn

my living. When I tour it's just for pleasure."