There are many perks to being a music journalist: You get to go places, see things and meet people that the average fan never would, and you usually don’t have to pay for shows or CDs. But sometimes it’s not such a sweet gig. Sometimes it’s late at night and you find yourself e-mailing a list of questions to fictional characters in an animated pop act.
And then those cartoons, who just so happen to have a top 10 album and a hit single, take their sweet time in responding to those questions.
But that’s the way it is nowadays with the Gorillaz. Based on the success of their Demon Days (more than 597,000 copies sold) and hit single “Feel Good Inc.” (#15 on Billboard’s Hot 100), the group has definitely become the biggest animated rock act in the world. Way bigger than the Chipettes. Way, way bigger than Jem and the Holograms.
And now, emboldened by that success, the Gorillaz are aiming to take over the entire universe — and this time, they’re not planning on just launching some “tour” of radio stations (see “Guerrilla Radio? Nah, Gorillaz Radio” ).
“I think by this stage, sonny, maybe we’re ready to conquer other planets,” Satan-worshipping frontman Murdoc, um, said. “The first album was just a calling card, just to let you know we were on our way. Demon Days is a huge, dirty, great boot, kicking the doors wide open. But you should see what we really have planned, now that we’re here. People tried to write us off as some kind of gimmick band, and I say now as I said then, ‘Watch yourself, mate. You can laugh now, but one day I’ll be in charge.’ ”
And while it’s not exactly clear what Murdoc is “talking” about, he seems super-fired up about it. And he’s not the only member of the group who’s promising big things in the coming months.
“I can say yes, we have something truly amazing planned. Something that will make everything we’ve done so far seem like just a buildup to this moment,” diminutive keyboardist Noodle said. “We will be making a full, detailed announcement about this very soon. However, to do what we are in the process of doing takes time, concentration and planning to an almost martial degree. But when we do unveil this fantastic creation, it will be …”
“The best world tour ever, mate,” Murdoc added. “And that’s what Gorillaz do, you know. Whatever we do, it’s the best sh– ever!”
It should be added that the Gorillaz’s publicist (yes, even cartoon bands have publicists) seemed to have no idea what Murdoc and Noodle were talking about, and that currently there are no plans for a Gorillaz world tour. But one thing everyone seems a bit clearer on is information about the bands’ second single, “Dare,” which features vocals by part-time Happy Mondays frontman/ full-time rabble-rouser Shaun Ryder.
“When we recorded the original vocal that Shaun did, he was stuck in the vocal booth with his headphones on, but he couldn’t hear us. So he shouted over to us to turn the headphones up,” Murdoc said. “So we’re turning them up and he’s going, ‘Yes … it’s coming up a bit … it’s coming up … it’s coming up … it’s coming up … it’s there!’ It sounded so good that we decided to use that bit for the chorus. And I think you’ll find, even by accident, it’s actually a killer chorus.”
And just how was it working with the rambunctious Ryder, who has a bit of a reputation as being difficult — y’know, like how he allegedly would constantly threaten toaccost lead singers of rival bands back in the day? Did he act up at all while on the “Dare” set?
“It was great fun making the video with him. He was very professional. We had to build a film set around him, around his head. This way it would look like his giant head was on the floor,” Noodle added. “The set was built in miniature to make Shaun look massive compared to me. The person who designed the set had just been working on the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ film. Although Shaun had to stay inside the set for hours on end, he never complained once.”
“Shaun’s not difficult to work with at all. In fact, you can get him to do practically anything you want, mold him into almost any shape,” Murdoc added. “And then after the shoot, we cleaned him up and we went off for a curry. Lovely chap, really.”