Goodbye, Gorillaz? Frontman Wants To Exit Hip-Hop-Style

Damon Albarn says cartoon group's retiring — but it might have time for Vegas.

After a five-night stand at Harlem’s Apollo Theater that featured a backing orchestra, tons of bells and whistles and even a gratuitous Dennis Hopper cameo, it’s difficult to imagine just what Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn could do for an encore.

Which is why it’s not totally surprising to learn that there might never be another curtain call for the animated group. Because in the grand tradition of Ric Flair, George Foreman and Jay-Z, it looks like Gorillaz are retiring — maybe.

“We’re putting Gorillaz back on the shelf after these last few gigs and working on other things for a while,” Albarn said. “It’s been brilliant, and this time it’s been a runaway success, so why not just leave it like that? So we’re retiring. We’ve been taking notes and we’re going to do it hip-hop style, like Jay-Z.”

But don’t go into mourning just yet, Gorillaz fans. Buoyed by the success of the Apollo shows — tickets sold out in less than an hour for the five-night stint, which saw Albarn and Co. perform the band’s Demon Days in its entirety (see “Gorillaz Taking Up Residency At New York’s Apollo Theater” ) — Albarn admitted he was looking to give the ‘Rillaz a proper send-off with a glamorous run of shows in Las Vegas.

“There’s a possibility of doing these shows one more time, in Las Vegas. But we’re not sure when. I love the idea of Gorillaz — on their third-ever [set of gigs] — playing Vegas,” Albarn laughed. “And, of course, it’ll be big and all bells and whistles. And then that’s it.”

Albarn said the Vegas shows would be staged in lieu of the Gorillaz’s oft-rumored world tour (see “Gorillaz Target ‘Dirty Harry’ As Third Single; World Tour Begins To Jell” ), which he said has been put on the back burner. He also pooh-poohed a string of reports in the British tabloids that quoted a source within the band saying Gorillaz would break up at Christmas.

“That was one of our drunk friends ranting down in the pub. It’s stupid,” Albarn sighed. “The great thing about Gorillaz is that when we’re not working with them, they’re relatively low-maintenance.”

Also on the docket for Gorillaz before they call it quits are a video game (“It’s in the early stages, but it will cost 8 million pounds to make,” Albarn said) and a movie, which Albarn and Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett plan on financing themselves. The dynamic duo are also hard at work on a Chinese opera called “Monkey: Journey to the West,” which they hope to have completed by the end of the year.

And if this really is the end of Gorillaz, Albarn and Hewlett have made sure to give them a suitably morbid sendoff in the band’s newest video for the song “El Mañana.” It’s a dark, somber clip that ties up the loose ends of the band’s previous videos (for “Feel Good Inc.,” “DARE” and “Dirty Harry”) and even sees a member of the group die.

“Noodle is killed off in the last video, for ‘El Mañana.’ She’s on the island from the ‘Feel Good’ video — which represents mental freedom — and in the end it gets blown out of the sky by black helicopters,” Albarn said. “And Noodle is on the island, and she goes down in a ball of flames into the abyss. And it’s fitting because the song is about the end of something. But it’s got some hope in it. … Maybe in time something good will happen.”

But Albarn admits that even in death, nothing is permanent. So while Gorillaz may be gone for now, the day could come when they will make a triumphant return. Just don’t expect some sort of fiery rebirth for Noodle. After all, Albarn said, he’s already seen enough of that.

“She could come back from the fire, but not like Darth Vader,” he said. “I mean, that ‘Star Wars’ thing, when he’s burning in the lava, it looks really fake and rubbish. It looks like a B movie or something. It was rubbish. We’d never do something that bad. Unless, of course, we wanted to do it on purpose.”