"We Are The Dury"
Gorillaz interview CD 2005, The Apex Tapes: pt. 2
Gorillaz-Unofficial.com presents another fantastic minisite for all Gorillaz fans. This time the minisite is dedicated to Gorillaz' most recent interview CD 'We Are The Dury'. 'We Are The Dury' is an audio interview recorded with all four members of the band, and is almost an hour long in total. It was issued on CD to many journalists at the time of the album release and just before. You may recognise some of the content - the interview CD was used as the basis for a huge number of articles on, and interviews with, the band. (I don't know why the Gorillaz couldn't have done more interviews 'in person' - maybe they are just lazy!) including the feature article in Notion magazine in the UK, and other magazines in France, Spain and the Netherlands, to name just a few! It was also used as the basis of the Radio 1 documentary on the band.
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Murdoc: Give us a light mate will you?
OS Guy: You can’t smoke in here.
Murdoc: Yes I can, watch! Heheh! (Cigarette lighter is heard)
So, where have you been and what have you been up to?
Murdoc: Well you know, after the American Tour which ended in March 2002, we sort of came back to England and wrote some new songs but y’ know frankly we were cream crackered, y’ know, knackered. We played our last date together as a band at the Isle of MTV Show in Portugal around, when was it? June 2002… And that was it. And after that we just concentrated on trying to make this, sort of, turdy Gorillaz film.
2-D: Yeah well we got so many offers to make the film in America, at the time it seemed like a waste not to take the opportunity.
Murdoc: Sooo, we all moved over to LA for a while, y’ know, la la land and err we sort of hired this big house out in the sort of, kind of like a Hollywood thing y’ know, it was like up in the hills, y’ know. So that we could y’ know, sort of be right in the hub, y’ know what I’m saying, in the hub of where we were sort of meant to be filming. I’ve gotta say, y’ know man, there was a lot of shit distractions heheh, you know what I mean? Heheheh!
Russel: And the film negotiations were just endless.
Murdoc: Oh man that was just, like, really really tedious, y’ know.
Russel: Yeah, we got caught up in rehearsals meeting the script approvals.
Noodle: The script was unfinished, the people writing it thought they were making a very insightful yet ironic comment on popular culture, err supposed to be non-linear government-esc animation, in which the four main protagonists, namely Gorillaz, fall randomly in and out of a number of surreal illustrations, but in fact, the script writers were just like, erm, making it up, as they went along.
Murdoc: Erm, will you wake us up when you’re finished, Noodle?
Russel: I guess what she’s trying to say is they thought it was gonna be like modern version of the Monkees movie.
Murdoc: Yeah, yeah, thing is though the person they chose to play me looked like some old wrinkly geriatric, y’ know, it was really insulting. And he smelt, y’know, what a pen and ink, y’ know. I think it might’ve been Robert Downey Senior. I mean that guy must’ve been pushing 70 y’ know.
Russel: Have you looked in the mirror recently?
Murdoc: Listen mate, I may be no spring chicken but I don’t look that rough, do I? I mean, the wrinkles on my face are all laughter lines.
Russel: Nothing’s that funny. Anyhow, the situation went downhill from there, no one was focused enough. 2-D couldn’t understand the difference between film and reality, Murdoc got himself kicked out of the Playboy mansions for stealing ashtrays.
Murdoc: And Russel got a big fat ego and then changed his name to “R Diddy”
Russel: So eventually we decided to cut our losses and take time off to recuperate.
Noodle: This just lead to, further misadventure!
Murdoc: So, y’ know man, y’ know when we realised we were just sort of whistling in the wind, we decided to have a break from each other. So I headed down south to try my luck in Mehico, y’ know, Mexico. But there was some sort of mix up, y’ know, my finances and I kind of got accused of um…
Russel: Yeah yeah yeah, he was found using counterfeit cheques in a Mexican brothel.
Murdoc: Heheh, yeah the Chicken Choker, wonderful place. Fantastic staff! Happy days hahaha!
Russel: Basically, he got passing dud cheques off as payment to the girls and consequently, Murdoc got taken to jail.
Murdoc: Yeah yeah alright, Russel! Russel spent a long time trying to recuperate; he ended up living in Ike Turner’s basement. Ike Turner! You went a wee bit mental, didn’t you Russ?
Russel: Well he certainly looked a lot like Ike Turner. I was working on an album of my own, but eventually it felt like the album was working on me. It was a snrang time. When you work in a band with people for such a long period and then that suddenly stops, it can leave you at a loss. I think I had some kind of breakdown. I had just lost one of my closest friends, Del, the spirit who used to live inside me and the strain was starting to show. Hmm. Every song I tried to record would become a hallucination, then the hallucination would try to write the song, which would then get up and become…
Murdoc: Yeah yeah yeah, Russel man, it’s probably (he tries to calm Russel down) take it easy, man, take it easy, have a salad.
Murdoc: Its probably best y’ know, not to dig too deep on this one. Dark place, man, dark place. So anyway, after 18 months in this sort of Tirana jail, I thought, enough is enough and err, (adopts Mexican accent) with a leedle help from ma friends…I got myself, sort of out and back home to Blighty, the good old Uifikay. But I tell you, that’s enough South America for me for a while. Prison food is rubbish! I don’t think I could eat another burrito in my life.
2-D: Yeah but you still like a bit of Mexican sausage ay Muds (sniggers)
Murdoc: Shut up you little fu… (composes himself) By the time I got back, Noodle had also returned from her trip to her Japanese home land and was already in the process of recording the new album or at least, you know, laying down a lot of the ground work.
Noodle: Yes, uh, I had been Japan for about a year, uh, researching my past as it had always been a mystery to me. Uh, it was during this period that I was awoken from my extended amnesia and in doing so, I discovered many interesting facts about myself. Uh, one of which is that I knew English language fluently. Having been revitalised, I returned to England and I began to lay foundation for a new Gorillaz album, however, Kong Studios, where we live and record had been lying dormant and empty during our absence.
Murdoc: Ah yeah you know it’s hard to get good staff to clean a haunted studio.
Noodle: Yes, no one had maintained the building and it has also been broken into. There seemed to be a plague of the walking undead infesting the building. Corpses lined the corridors.
Murdoc: So once we were back, it took a little while to get into the swing of things. I mean it can be very distracting when you’ve got six or seven decomposing zombies stuck up your chimney flue y’ know.
2-D: We got chimney flues?
Murdoc: I’m speaking metaphorically, D. I’m using the analogy of a chimney flue to describe the erm, passageways of our flowing creativity. The zombies in this case are used as a metaphor, as in blockages to the airways, figuratively speaking.
Murdoc: No. There really are about six or seven undead carcasses stuck up the studio chimney.
2-D: That’d explain the smell wouldn’t it yeah.
2-D, what did you do in your off time?
2-D: I stayed around in Los Angeles for a while, I got invited to stay round Britt Ekland’s flat but you know, she’s nuts! Running around naked, banging on the walls half the night. I never got any sleep. So I nod off back to me dad’s place in the coves of England. I got a temporary job, like, working on the rides at me old man’s like, funfair. Which was wicked really, it did a lot for my confidence, yeah? I put up with a lot less crap from that geriatric Murdoc now.
Murdoc: (clicks his fingers) Oi you! Pass us that ashtray, NOW!
2-D: Yeah certainly sir, here you go.
You recorded most of the album in your own Kong Studios.
How did you first find this building?
Murdoc: I originally discovered the building which now houses Kong Studios back in 1999. I was looking for a cheap studio space on the internet and it threw up this little gem. It’s located on a hilltop in Essex and believe me, there aren’t many hills in Essex. There’s one in Laindon I think… But it wasn’t until we’d sort of been there for a year or so that we discovered the truth about the place.
2-D: Err horrible!
Murdoc: Its turns out the original sight for the building was, like, a Druid’s meeting point. It was picked specially for its unique alignment of dark energies and hideous lay lines. The first Kong building was erected on top of an old disused cemetery. A lot of people who died in the shit plague of 1665 were dumped there in shallow graves and burial pits.
2-D: Poor people.
Murdoc: Yeah…poor people. The current building, y’ know, where our studios are? Its situated next to one of the biggest landfill sights in the country so it’s like sort of, y’ know, its full of old fridges, nappies, colostomy bags, rotten cows, y’ know, all sorts. Just, just y’ know, just barely buried, y’ know. And in the middle of the summer, y’ know, when it gets hot, the stench is unbelievable! I don’t know, it’s like someone cooking turds or something y’ know.
Noodle: So, so, no one seemed to sell efficient air freshener in Essex.
Murdoc: I know. I mean, the last owners were this kind of biker gang, y’ know, these cats who kind of used the building as their club house y’ know. They’re called err…what are they called…oh yeah, they’re called The Nomads. But they’d chosen to settle there for some reason. Anyway, one night they all got caught in a fire in the building yeah, burnt to a crisp. Heheheheh, which err, no one told us about when we bought the place.
Russel: Oh man, that place is full of bad spirits and sick vibrations.
Murdoc: Still, y’ know, we gave it a lick of paint and hung up a couple of posters and yeah, it looks shit! It’s got under floor heating already installed, so err, can’t be all bad ay kids! Heheh.
(The others quietly agree)
Your website, Gorillaz.com, gives your online audience access to Kong Studios. Tell us about the thinking behind this.
Noodle: Yes, the website, Gorillaz.com allows our online fans to roam around the uh, Kong Studios building. As the place acts as our home, our studios and the Gorillaz HQ, there’s a lot for people to see and do. Uh, there are interactive cameras in every room and corridor of the building, allowing people to see right into our lives. They can use the instruments in the studio room or talk to the characters that hang out there.
2-D: Yeah, there’s like, various places they can go
Russel: It’s also the place where the fans can interact with each other on the message boards and now we got our own auditions room where people can send in their tapes and animations and work. Noodle’s currently running a competition to find new talent, maybe someone to work with Gorillaz in some way.
2-D: We’ve had some fantastic entries and there’s like, three or four floors to the building now right and you can like, take a look round our bedrooms, yeah!
Murdoc: Erm…why would anyone wanna look around your bedroom?
Russel: Basically we spent a lot of money extending the place, building more and more parts onto it. It’s been broken into a couple of times whilst we’ve been away. Some vandal sprayed a lot of anti Murdoc graffiti on the walls.
2-D: Things like, Murdoc is a twat and err, things like, Murdoc is a twat…
Murdoc: You mongrel! Still in a mood are you ‘cos Busted split up?
Russel: Also the producer we were working with, Danger Mouse, found a whole underground section of the place had been blocked off for years! Pretty creepy.
Murdoc: I’m really parched y’ know, I’m spitting feathers…is there anybody could get me a beer round here. Anywhere at all you can get one of those things? (sounds of Murdoc opening a beer can and pouring it into a glass)
Ok, Murdoc, you’ve had your ciggy and you’ve got your beer. Let’s get down to it and talk through the new album. How long did Demon Days take to record?
Murdoc: Noodle started working on the initial sketches of the album while we were all still kind of preoccupied, y’ know? Lucky for her I, I’d left a very specific set of instructions as to how the new songs should y’ know, sound.
2-D: That was just a tape with you humming.
Russel: Actually Noodle wrote most of the album herself. Murdoc may try to take the credit for it but from the basic sketches to the finished album, this was Noodle’s vision.
Noodle: So, uh, I started writing near the beginning of the year, around March of 2004. I began just writing basic tunes on my pascam 4 track, sketching out ideas as I proceeded. Uh, once I had what I felt to be the main outline and template for the album, I started varying further textures, uh melodies and sounds over the top. The compositions began to take shape and gradually the songs began revealing their true identities uh, to which direction they needed to be taken. But, at this stage, they lacked that certain life and still required that uh, spark of electricity that transformed the shit song into something that has um, magical life of its own.
Murdoc: Well you know, I would’ve helped her out but err, as I said I was still in jail at this time y’ know.
Noodle: And yet it was around then that I heard of DJ Danger Mouse. Uh, I was impressed with the work he had done on his own, Grey Album which I had downloaded from the internet. Uh, on the Grey Album he had spliced together the work of the Beatles and Jay-Z to create something new. Um, it was wonderfully inventive and it showed a childlike creativity, artistic bravery and disregard for convention that I thought suited Gorillaz. So I contacted him.
2-D: Then what happened?
Noodle: Well, it took a while to convince him to work with Gorillaz.
Russel: Yeah I think he was at ease relaxing on his new island, just kind of burning through all the cash he made off the Grey Album sales.
Murdoc: He wasn’t overly keen on leaving sunny LA to go and work in a run down, haunted studio in rain sodden Essex. Although, I can’t think why…
2-D: Me neither
Murdoc: But erm, (adopting a mad scientist accent)Gorillaz have vays of making you verk!
Noodle: The album took a leap into the incredible when the producer, Danger Mouse, finally arrived. This would be around err, June 2004. Uh, Mister Mouse and myself immediately began an intricate pre-production session.
Murdoc: Yeah, this mainly involved, sort of, playing table tennis and listening to a load of old electro records. He’s an odd looking fellow y’ know, that Danger Mouse. He’s got like this, y’ know sort of like hug hair, y’ know. No, I mean, really really big hair! (Murdoc chuckles, amused) He looks a little bit like that David Blain cat, like he’s got a wig on y’ know…
Noodle: (Interrupting) No, no… Yes, so the recording session became more intense and the more we proceeded, the more in synchronisation we became. Danger Mouse is a very uh, instinctive and insightful producer. He looks to find the relevance or soul of a song. So, and then, once he had located a particular voice of a track, he will then make it talk to the other compositions around it. This way, the album works as a complete article. As the full understanding of what we were making became apparent, we began to draft in various collaborators to add certain songs to the relevant tracks. Each artist would have to complete the expedition all the way to the summit of Kong Studios in order to record.
Russel: Although some of the late submissions had been delivered via digital phone lines, from around the globe.
Murdoc: So I finally got back around October and then what’s-his-name, erm, 2-D turned up.
Murdoc: Then big Russel got back from his err, little mental vacation late last November.
Russel: Noodle and Danger Mouse basically called us in to do our parts, for 2-D to do his vocals, Murdoc to redo some bass lines and any other collaborators were called in as and when we needed them. But apart from that, they’d been highly secretive about the whole recording. They didn’t even let the other Gorillaz really hear it.
Murdoc: Didn’t want to…
Noodle: Finally, when we knew we had what we needed, we all fled the confines of Kong and set up camp over the err, ps rooms in west London. It was here that we added the last of the over dubs and worked on the final mix down!
Murdoc: Oh I’m bored of all this, oi anyone fancy a quick pint…
Russel: Shhhutup man!
2-D: Don’t have a cow man
Noodle: And, it was during this period, that we isolated the songs which also were stand out tracks musically, uh didn’t fit in with the over all sensibility of the album. Uh, there were, then, then we moved, yes um, there was a song that seemed uh, mmm, maybe part of a different dialog and which has interrupted the ark of the album’s narrative. It has to be focused and efficient. Uh, a consistent thought, yes.
Russel: You see, its all in the edit. The album was then mastered over in New York, January 2005. And that was it. Completed.
Murdoc: Yeah, well, it came out pretty well like I told her to make it in the first place.
Let’s now go through the album track by track. First up, suitably enough, Intro.
Noodle: The album opens with an ominous swirling sands cape of voodoo-esc percussion, keyboard bassoons and sirens.
Russel: You can tell that there’s big trouble ahead.
Noodle: This used a sample taken from the George A. Romero film, Dawn of the Dead. We used this because it expressed a similar sense of foreboding about the world that we feel at this time too. That there’s a sense that people in some certain quarters are working on motorised instinct as unthinking automatons rather than with any genuine humanity, sensitivity or understanding of the consequences of their actions.
2-D: I thought we used it cos I like the zombie films yeah. There’s this wicked bit right, when the zombies tear off the biker’s arm yeah and…
Murdoc: Yeah yeah whatever y’ know, it’s from some stupid zombie flick and we thought it set the rest of the album up quite well. Next.
Track 2 is Last Living Souls. Russel?
Russel: This is built up around a simple rhythm, as a nod to the early drum machine sounds that appeared on the second special… (2-D interrupts)
2-D: Yeah it’s like a kind of dub mix like European cinema thing
Noodle: Yes, cinematically it’s a continuation of into sensibility. Sometimes the climate that we live in um, can make you feel like you are one of the few sentient beings left. That maybe the ability to have sensitivity to life can make you feel like the outsider.
Russel: A lone trooper.
Noodle: The spirit of the moment can be uh, quite isolating. Uh, the evidence that we are sometimes presented, is that being conscious and cautious of your actions can be viewed as a weakness or hindrance and not necessarily the most useful ability in this day and age.
Murdoc: Yeah, odd that innit. Anyway… (Russel interrupts)
Russel: It can make you feel like the last living souls on earth. Good or bad. Musically the sense of introspection is reflected in the acoustic and piano refrains. It’s a harmonious battle between digital and acoustic.
Murdoc: And if you listen really closely, there’s some old geezer coughing in the background. (he sniggers)
Next up, Kids With Guns. A slower track, yes?
Russel: This is a more down tempo track, like night time manoeuvres, the equivalent of creeping up on the enemy.
Noodle: And as a progression of the album’s narrative, there’s a sense of being forced into a position of having to arm your children. The arms are ambiguous but there is a definite sense of conflict on the way. De-sensitize yourself before you get taken advantage of. Uh, “They’re turning us into monsters” is an expression of that transition of training people how to lose their compassion.
Russel: It’s a jungle out there.
2-D: Yeah sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.
Murdoc: What’s the name of the girl who sings on this one? Lovely lady…very…helpful…
Russel: Thank you, thank you… This track features a guest vocal from Neneh Cherry. I loved her Raw Like Sushi album, she’s always had a positive collaborative attitude towards music. “Seven Seconds” with Youssou N’Dour is a superb tune.
Noodle: Yes and towards the outlaw there’s a moment of subdued tension that then allows itself to explode into space and then the track soars off into the distance.
Russel: A repetitive piano note stabs away like err, like a slowed down version of the Stooges. This strength in the earlier section of the song is actually what gives it the power at the end.
Noodle: So, the key is maybe in the word uh, “Pacify”
2-D: You know, if I have to die, I wanna go in my sleep like my dad. Not screaming and like, yelling like all his passengers.
Track 4, O Green World. Noodle, talk us through this one, please…
Noodle: This song is the sound of someone’s train coming off its coasters, the march of the madman. We gave 2-D’s vocals a, uh, distorted megaphone effect as this fitted the soul of the track. Um, it is to make the vocal section seem like ah, a memory from the past.
Russel: Yeah, like some old Vaudeville track.
Murdoc: (mimics him) Yeah, like some old Vaudeville track. (sniggers)
Russel: Is there an echo in here?
Noodle: Some of the spooky sounds on this track were caught on tape by accident. Um, it is believed that they are the mysterious recordings of paranormal experiences going on at the Kong Studios. Um, if you listen really carefully you can hear a growling and whispering in the background. For this reason, this track was almost left off the album but it was decided it should remain as the track came out so well!
Murdoc: And it’s not like Gorillaz aren’t used to dealing with runaway spirits.
Russel: Musically there’s a tip of the hat to Bernard Herman’s 8 tone string score from the Hitchcock movie, Psycho.
Noodle: So, the intention of the vocal line is a reminder to keep a little greenery in your heart or you may forget what you’re fighting for in the first place. And, that really is the domain of the undead.
Russel: Yeah, this one ends ominously on the haunting sound of a bell ringing into the distance.
Murdoc: Ask not for whom the bell tolls.
2-D: Why not?
Murdoc: It tolls for thee.
Murdoc: Yes, really.
2-D: It sounds like my alarm clock.
Let’s talk about the collaboration with DJ Danger Mouse.
Was he involved on the next track, Dirty Harry?
Noodle: This was one of the first tracks I worked on with DJ Danger Mouse. It evolved from a tape recording from an old Gorillaz jam. Danger Mouse added the kid’s choir, the San Fernandez Youth Chorus. Um, when they heard the track, they were really excited to sing along on it.
Murdoc: Kids ay, little treasures, I love ‘em! Couldn’t eat a whole one though.
Russel: This track has a real upbeat defined jubilant soul. Musically it’s got a real old school break cut up in it. I played a kind of Clyde’s double field Bernard Perdy rhythm, those two were so massive in my drum palette, the foundations of hip hop, you dig? I also try to add a little feel of err, Zigaboo Modeliste from the Meters and once I had the swing and the sound right, I then cut up the drums again to give it that extra sharp edge. That’s when 2-D added the clavinet keyboard rhythms.
2-D: Yeah that was just something I heard on Sesame Street.
Russel: The rap on this verse is supplied by Booty Brown from The Pharcyde, who came in courtesy of a friendship with Danger Mouse.
Noodle: Yes, and we talked with him about the general scenes and atmospheres rather than anything specific. But he hit the nail on the head with this shit rap. Um, I feel that Booty’s rap humanises the position of the soldier, the fighter as an individual.
Russel: War will make soldiers of us all. The rap’s got some killer lines. You can’t conceal the hate that consumes you. I’m the reason you can fill up your Isuzu. Poetry, man.
Noodle: With this track, there’s a sense of infecting the young, um, as a civilisation we seem to be taking something of their innocence away with a lot of images of conflict that are constantly being displayed.
Russel: For a lot of kids, their earliest memories will be these dramatic images, that’s like putting chemicals in the food chain. These kids are growing up out of a climate of conflict where intolerance has been encouraged and there’s a sense of err, fighting for something you’re being manipulated into backing. It can’t be good in the long run.
Murdoc: No, can’t be.
Noodle: And this addition of the string section, I think provides a balanced fuel musically.
Russel: Don’t patronise your kids, they pick up on more than you realise. I think one of the core reasons why Gorillaz are successful, is that we never patronise kids. Their understanding and intelligence is already in there right from the beginning.
Murdoc: Erm, Russel, if you touch my leg one more time in this interview, I’m calling the cops, ok?
Next is the first single, Feel Good Inc.
Noodle: This track, Feel Good Inc., was chosen to be the first single from the album. We thought it would be an upbeat and dynamic return.
Russel: Part Billy Jean, part Rockwell, the beat on this is as infectious as influenza. We asked our friends, De La Soul to lend a rap to the song, so they came over to the studio and hung out for the day. In the evening they delivered this crazy golden funk filled rap.
Murdoc: Yeah sounds like a bunch of kids trapped in a photo booth!
Russel: 3 Feet High and Rising was such a milestone record in terms of giving a lot of people an entry point into hip hop. A huge statement of intent so colourful, so full of life and humour and just real good energy. Their daisy edge motive stood for da inner soul y’all, so you know they’re heading in the right direction.
Noodle: They also have playfulness when it comes to cutting and pasting different styles together.
Russel: It’s rare in hip hop to have a track like this that really works at this speed, a real up tempo beat.
Murdoc: Ah, that reminds me, Posdnuos still owes me £5…I’ll give him a call.
Noodle: The windmill imagery line is a representation of a note of optimism, a memory of a simpler time. Uh, like maybe, a snapshot of an older world, more innocent.
Russel: The production on 2-D’s vocal passages reflects this sensibility again, like an images beaming at you from the past, a ghost of a memory.
Noodle: However, it is for this reason that we remove the effect for the second appearance of this section in the song so that this image becomes more direct, clear and present.
Russel: Then it drops straight back down into De La Soul’s nitrous oxide filled rap. Coupled with the heavyweight beat, this cut is unstoppable.
Murdoc: Yeah, heavy.
Russel: Shut up, man.
El Mañana is next, Spanish for “tomorrow”, I believe?
Noodle: This opens up with a sensation of uh, drifting as if maybe afloat in a sensory depravation tank.
Murdoc: Or maybe like you’ve just woken up in a bath.
2-D: In Spain.
Noodle: Uh, yes. Um, the track provides a moment of internal dialogue, uh, laid over a staccato ballad. This composition was the very last to be written, providing the necessary feel for the meet point of the record.
Russel: Yeah, it arrived like a winning goal in the last few seconds of a match. It sounds like a digital soul record with Spanish incubation.
Murdoc: I played this track to that bloke, Christina Aguilera the other day. He’s a funny looking girl isn’t he? You know he looks a lot like the singer of Twisted Sister or that other bloke erm, Courtney Love…ergh!
Next track is Every Planet We Reach is Dead. Sounds a bit sinister…
Noodle: Every Planet We Reach Is Dead, an image of catching a glimpse of your soul at the battle field uh, from above. “I lost my land”, this is, how do you put it, uh, an unloaded question. A soft proposal to question ourselves and our decisions.
Russel: There’s a Charles Prokuski chord that goes something like, “if you’re losing your soul and you know it, then you still got a soul left to lose” You can kinda hear the sentiments in the line, “I lost my way, what am I going to do”.
Murdoc: (sniffs) Hey Russel, have you been eating onions?
Russel: (grumbles) The piano soul is supplied by Mr Ike Turner. It’s real easy to forget the influence that Ike had on music. I mean, James Brown learnt a lot of his showmanship and work I think, from Ike and his Kings of Rhythm band very early on. Ike’s Rocket 88 in 1951 is widely regarded as being possibly the first true rock and roll record.
Murdoc: Yeah, he really lets lose at the end of this one. Good old Ike!
2-D: Yeah he’s like, really knocking seven shades of shh…shh..shinola out the piano innee?
Ok, November has come. Russel, can you start us off on this one?
Russel: It’s right back down to earth on this track
2-D: The beginning sounds like an old Wham record
Russel: This features a rap supplied by a London born rapper, MF Doom. MF Doom has rapped under several different identities. He started out as Zev Love, the mastermind of KMD. He’s also released a couple of albums as MM Food, but he appears on this track as MF Doom.
Noodle: MF stands for “Metal Face” and the Doom bit is uh, part uh, tribute to the Marvel comic’s super villain, Dr Doom, the iron enemy of the Fantastic Four.
Russel: Doom recently hooked up with producer, Madlib for the excellent 2004 Madvillainy album.
Murdoc: Funnily enough I had that playing on my iPod when I crashed my quad bike the other day.
All Alone follows, Track 10 on the new Gorillaz CD Demon Days.
Russel: This is a massive swinging, bouncing hip hop track, featuring a machine gunning rap from London’s own Roots Manuever. Roots’s vocal just kind of dances between the huge rolling circle of beat…
Murdoc: Like a boxer filled up with brandy…
Russel: Roots Maneuver’s been dropping by Kong Studios on and off since we started. I thought his album was incredible and Gorillaz have talked about collaborating with him for a long time.
Murdoc: Yeah, he’s told me loads of times that I’m his best mate.
Russel: It would be a limitation to say that Roots Manuever is at the forefront of UK hip hop as a rapper. He’s at the forefront of hip hop, full stop. His qualities and vocal imagery create a universal sound and he’s set to become such a dominant force in music worldwide, he’s a British Dr Seuss.
2-D: Uh, Russ, are you from Texas?
Noodle: All alone, um, maybe the sense of isolation is a hard one to shift and sometimes the feeling carries on into adulthood. And maybe the older people get, they learn to suppress it or ignore it. But it’s still there.
Russel: The additional vocals came courtesy of Martina Topley Bird. Her vocal is so light, warm and sweet, it provides the release in this case. We met her through mutual friends that worked on her Quixotic album.
Murdoc: I’ve thought about this for a long time y’ know, if I really had to choose, if there was no way out of it, I would have to say Prawn Cocktail is probably my favourite flavour of crisps.
Next up, White Light.
Russel: This is the most punk rock sounding track on the album. A real pumpin’ pie house. The drums really motor on, it’s relentless.
Murdoc: Hey! This is more like it!
Russel: The guitar line on this track is played by one of the Mexican inmates that Murdoc brought back with him after his time in jail. They helped him escape, now Murdoc owes them.
Murdoc: Yeah, well, I mean their both good guys when you get to know them.
Russel: A part of Murdoc’s payment was to allow them to appear on the new Gorillaz album. Hence the slightly err, drunken nature of he guitar playing.
Noodle: Alcohol is one of the ways we suppress our indecisions.
Murdoc: Certainly one of the better ones, love, heheh. Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy.
Noodle: The claus part, briefly half way through the track before the second wave kicks in, steal the nerves, remove the doubt, uh, this is no world for over analysing our emotions.
Murdoc: Well yes, y’ know in this day and age you gotta be like Dr Spock sometimes and just look at things unemotionally.
2-D: Mr Spock…
2-D: In Star Trek, it wasn’t Dr Spock, it was Mr Spock. Everyone makes that mistake.
Murdoc: Aw, whatever. Christ. I hate you so much.
Noodle: This song is about the relentless fury of alcohol, the focus drive and the seeming thirst that that kind of desire creates, uh, one man’s passion is another man’s addiction.
2-D: Oh yeah, some drunk tramp did the vocal for this song, you know, the “white light” bit, he sang it into a dictor phone for us one morning when he was slumped in the heap down by the canal.
Murdoc: Err, sorry, did you just call me a tramp? You better watch your lip, sonny.
There’s an interesting story about how the next track, DARE, got it’s title…
Russel: This is a hefty track. Part Clash, part Madonna.
Murdoc: You know what? That’s a rubbish description. It’s got nothing to do with Madonna, it’s got a vocal by my old mate, Shaun Ryder. Shaun ay, heh, he’s a scallywag isn’t he?
2-D: No, he’s from Manchester. Scallywags are from Liverpool.
Murdoc: Yeah, alright, cheeky chops. But y’ know, he’s singing it like he’s from Liverpool. The lyrics go “It’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s there” but he’s going, “it’s DARE!” you know, man and all that, la. Hence, why the title of the song got changed from “It’s There” to, “DARE”, as in, “its dare”. And that’s why he’s a scallywag. Got it?
2-D: Yeah s’all gravy bruv yeah…
Murdoc: Seriously, don’t start with all that rubbish, Jesus…
Russel: Shaun Ryder was the signer of the Happy Mondays, a huge influence on so many people. As a lyricist, he was one of the only true voices and documenters of the late 80s, early 90s period. You can tell he’s an original because he’s spawned so many imitators, not just musically, but in his lifestyle and in the way he spoke, right down to his sense of humour and his taste in clothes.
Murdoc: Balls. When he came into the studio, he was like (adopts a posh accent) “Oh, I say, what time’s tea then? Um, do I have time to lay down some of my singing before we retire to the drawing room? Marvellous! Super!” All that mank street talk is just a big put on for the cameras, Shaun’s really just a big posh kid.
Russel: I think emotionally, where this song fits on the album, is that despite all the lows, there are shit highs. There’s a sense of camaraderie on this track. It’s tough.
Noodle: This track went through many manifestations before finally settling itself in this form, uh, a big shiny Gorillaz tune!
Murdoc: IT’S DARE!
Noodle, tell us about Fire Coming Out of a Monkey’s Head.
Noodle: This tale is about balance, you must be able to open your eyes without being poisoned by the evil you can see and even innocence must be prepared to fight when it’s necessary. Apathy is a decision with consequences and you must take action when necessary.
Russel: Without losing sight of what you’re fighting for. The tale on this track is narrated by Mr Dennis Hopper. Noodle ran into him at some award show and it turns out he knew some Gorillaz tracks already. We told him what we were working on and he took it from there. He came down to the studio for an afternoon and you know, put his presence on the record.
Murdoc: Aha! Dennis Hopper, you know, Denny Denny Denny. He had such a big effect on me.
Russel: Now he’s become a symbol for that particular type of hedonistic, narcotic energy.
Murdoc: And he’s got some killer bikes.
Russel: He’s being a spokesman for free creativity and ignoring the rules, at the risk of holding your own sanity to ransom. Therefore a natural Gorillaz cohort.
Murdoc: Hopper’s highway has always been to take the William Blake route of excess, to reveal a palace of wisdom. I can relate to that.
Russel: But his journey was filled by a desire to uncover the truth, or maybe something just more truthful with more value. The backdrop to his classic Easy Rider film was an America in transition period after the ravages of the Vietnam War and filmed in an age in which people were questioning the wisdom of their political system. He seemed like an ideal choice to feature on this track.
2-D: Yeah and he was shit in Speed as well.
Russel: This little parable that Dennis narrates is a short story that Noodle wrote in the style of Herman Hess, a childlike fable of a people too good hearted to see the steady influx of other people will err, a darker agenda.
Noodle: Yes, uh, both groups depicted are extreme portraits of the people they are meant to represent. But this is show how the two sides, ignorant to the position of the other, will clash. Uh, this results in a devastating loss for all in which no one won.
Murdoc: I sold Dennis my old Winnebago while he was down at Kong y’ know. I sort of said I’d knock a bit off the price if he gave us the vocal.
Back to you, Russel, for Don’t Get Lost in Heaven
Russel: This is a little slice of west coast sun soaked harmony. The part displays as a transition into a more optimistic exit for the album. Like coming up for air.
Noodle: For the orchestral harmony, we drafted in the London Community Gospel Choir. This works as a prelude or link to the next track. The message is, uh, don’t get lost in the fog. Again, it’s saying beware what you can lose by losing sight of the god.
Russel: Or maybe, don’t let the negative events cloud over the bigger picture.
Murdoc: Or, you can lead a horse to water, but you can never get it to pay your phone bill. Christ! Come on, get on with it, I’ve got a plane to catch!
Now, the title track, Demon Days. Noodle?
Noodle: As with the previous track, the vocal harmonies were provided by the London Community Gospel Choir.
2-D: Remember when you were a little kid and you would look up at the clouds in the sky as the sunlight bounced off them? And, something that simple would make you feel a part of everything and all alone at the same time. And that feeling’s not something you can ever put into words. So you spend your whole life chasing it. Making music, taking pictures, paying, whatever, in the hope that other people will understand that sense or feeling. As creative entities, we look for signs of life outside ourselves, for a connection to alleviate the sense of solitude, that’s why we all do what we do, whether we know it of ourselves or not.
Murdoc: Uh, nope, still not getting it, mate. It is and will always be, for the birds after the show. Anyone who says any different is just spinning you a yarn.
2-D: Yeah, ok maybe your right then.
Russel: The track’s a positive reassurance, today’s a new day. We still have everything to gain and a universe to fight for. This is the album’s exit, the flipside to the intro. It’s a very uplifting and optimistic finale to the album, as the beginning presents the listener with a sensation of being alone, isolated and the end feels more like a universal connection.
Murdoc: Hmm, really? Do go on.
Russel: Just be aware to keep your senses alive, don’t desensitise yourself to life just because it’s a struggle and can be painful. Because if you avoid it, you’ll lose more than you’ll ever know.
Murdoc: Yeah. Um, I see.
Noodle: All we really have in life is the ability to feel and understand. If you remove that part of yourself, in order to fight, then you have lost the battle at the start.
Russel: To be an unconscientious objector is of no real value.
(Sounds of a beer can being opened and poured into a glass)
Murdoc: Sorry, um, did you, did you pick that up?
Ok, those are the tracks covered. How would you say this new record differs from the first Gorillaz album, Russel?
Russel: The immediate difference was that Murdoc was largely responsible for writing the first album, whereas this record is mostly the work of our guitarist, Noodle.
Murdoc: Only because I was in prison, mate. I could’ve written this album standing on my head.
Russel: Hmm. As a body of work, Demon Days is more focused and considered than the first album. Maybe it has greater gravity to it than the first record, when we were still kinda learning the ropes. It was important not to make the second album referential to our success or even relative to the first album.
Noodle: It was also important for us to change our target. Uh, fortunately, the world provided us with enough external stimulus and subject matter not to have to force the issue.
Russel: Stylistically, it’s richer, denser, darker. It also reflects a little of the err, mental state that we found ourselves in. I speak for myself here. Which is why some tracks have elements of disorientation.
Murdoc: I’ve always had elements of disorientation to me you know, well when I can find ‘em.
Russel: Again, as the range of our influences is so extensive, it reflects that understanding of so many styles. The hip hop, the rock, the funk, the bass, right down to the ballad. This is a whole community of instruments at play, tiny little textures and phrases that work in harmony and compliment each other.
Murdoc: Not that outlandish a concept really.
Russel: Last time, it was about creating something new, this time, it’s more about proving that what we’re creating put into motion last time has lasting value. That our Gorillaz sound, sensibility and insight wasn’t err, a flash in the pan. Here today, gone tomorrow sensation. Any fool can have a hit record.
Murdoc: 2-D can vouch for that.
Russel: You gotta have a real soul and talent to state it again and again.
Murdoc: Um, unfortunately I’m not the current owner of my soul.
Russel: I’m sayin’ we’ll see how good we are seven albums down the line. It’s a test of faith. Most shit bands and crews tear themselves apart real soon, but the real trick is to tear yourselves apart and then put it back together differently. Better. The music has a stricter discipline to it with an undercurrent of dark optimism. It contains a kind of variety of pagan electro sounds, but the album has a fuller breadth of vision this time round. I mean, it’s still heavy on the bass, but less dub, more hip hop. But it also contains a lot of Old England pastoral soul, humanist sonics, if that makes sense.
Murdoc: Um…not really.
2-D: Like someone’s taken the first album and coloured it in.
Noodle: The soul of the recording can avoid being a manifestation of the time, climate and location of the place we were in when it was made. Consequently, the colours are rich, dark and heavy while the rhythms are clean, strategic and relentless. It has a consciousness to it.
Russel: The stuff I used to listen to as a kid like Public Enemy had a shit combination of information, intelligence and entertainment. Chuck Dee’s conscious message coupled with flavour flave big clot wearing tomfoolery.
2-D: I grew up with stuff like Wire, Magazine, The Clash, stuff that had shit rhythms, shit songs and sharp lyrics.
Murdoc: You never grew up, twerp. You’re like a five year old trapped inside a blue haired, anorexic girl, heheh.
Noodle: It was the procedure of recording this that became the education, the final outcome is the document but the journey was the destination.
Who chose the single?
Noodle: The decision to release this song, uh, Feel Good Inc. as the first single came from Gorillaz as a group. We each gave a vote.
Murdoc: Although, as is traditional, every one of my votes count for double of 2-D’s.
Noodle: However, the song revealed itself to be the correct choice for our single, although not typical of completely representative of the album, it is a good ambassador for Demon Days as a whole.
2-D: Do you understand what she’s on about?
Murdoc: I haven’t got a Scooby, mate. I’d leave her to it.
There are a number of guest collaborations on the album. How did they come about?
Noodle: Some people contacted us, uh, some we contacted ourselves and some were already friends of the band. Danger Mouse came with his own network of people. It’s always encouraging to meet people we respect and find out that they’re already Gorillaz fans too.
Murdoc: Shaun Ryder who appears on the track, DARE, yeah well, y’ know, he’s an old friend of mine, a fellow ornithologist.
2-D: What’s an ornithipollowbagist?
Murdoc: A bird watcher.
Are you going to tour this album?
Russel: We would love to tour this album. But visually it would need to match the ambition and tone of the album. We wouldn’t tour again in the same format that we did for our last album.
Murdoc: (extremely enthusiastic) Oh yeah Gorillaz on the road!! Oh yeah!! Hey, hey you aint a real band until you’ve earned your stripes. Gorillaz live y’ know, it’s like a full on juggernaut and I need servicing every two hundred miles baby, yeah…
2-D: (murmurs) That’s cos you’re clapped out…
Murdoc: Touring can be shit fuck but if you don’t watch yourself it can kind of take you over. Gorillaz always draws a shit crowd. After the show, do you know what I’ve noticed? You know what I’ve noticed? There’s so many interesting people to meet, y’ know, there’s a lot of fuck to be had. Even with the nutters and stalkers that turn up.
Russel: Uh…yeah. You know, everyone gets a little excited when something special rolls into town and I guess a fifty foot cartoon freak show is no exception.
Murdoc: Did you see the Brit Awards gig we did? Huh? Oh it was bleedin’ marvellous.
Russel: Yeah there was just room to be able to play behind the screen last time round but we decided to really up the stakes for the new tour, to create a real jaw dropping experience. We’re currently in the process of developing some pretty high tech technology to make screens walk on stilts and drink fire.
Noodle: Yes, this is very difficult to do.
2-D: Yeah, specially if you like, play instruments and sing as the same time.
Murdoc: Ah, it would be shit to tour again. Also I must mention that as a live drummer, Russel is without a doubt, the absolute best in the world. Ever.
Noodle: Yes, that’s true, Russel is the greatest live drummer possibly in the history of drum!
2-D: Yeah that’s totally true yep. There’s no one as good as him as a drummer, when it comes to playing live. He’s the best, he really is yeah!
Did you ever feel that the first album would be as successful as it actually was?
Murdoc: Yeah yeah of course. If it hadn’t sold so well and made me the star you see before you now, I would’ve got all my money back and the old fellow would’ve broken the terms of the contract, see? Anyway, recording an album you don’t think is gonna sell is like putting a bet on a horse you don’t think’s gonna win. We wouldn’tve made it if we thought it wasn’t gonna sell.
Russel: Well, Murdoc, some people record music just for the love of making it, whether it sells or not.
Murdoc: Really? That seems pretty pointless to me.
Russel: Err, you gonna have to forgive Murdoc, he’s very temperamental.
2-D: Yeah, half temper, half mental.
Noodle: From the first moment the four of us played together, it was apparent that the combination of ingredients were correct, uh, special. It is not egotistical to say this as we were as excited to witness our own performance for the first time as any of our audience would be. Uh, initially we were our own private audience and playing together was like our secret event that we couldn’t wait to reveal.
But why, do you think, it was so successful?
Murdoc: I would say that it’s down to a number of things really. My superb bass playing, the incredible song writing and the razor sharp image that makes up the whole Gorillaz package. Though if you really asked me to pin it down to a single solitary reason, I would probably have to say it was because of the watertight deal I made with Satan, Beelzebub himself. (he coughs violently) Faust is in fact my middle name.
Russel: Man, if the Devil went and bought your soul, there’s gotta be a real shortage of souls to sell. Know what I’m saying?
2-D: Yeah that’s easy for you to say.
Murdoc: Yeah well, aside from that I would have to point out that the competition was truly rubbish. I mean, most bands seem to just limp out there, sort of half cocked. We made sure our videos looked fan-bleedin’ tastic! Our sleeves were mind blowing and the music sounded unbeatable. You know, we had our whole battle plan together y’ know man, we had it down y’ know. It was drawn up with military precision.
Russel: Albeit by a bunch of drunk colonels, in your case.
Noodle: I would say that for many groups and artists, there is a desire to add to a tradition or a history of music, rather than stand apart from it or advance it. They seem happy just to be in a band, for them, that is enough. The other extremes are artists who are willing to push boundaries but at the expense of their audience, a desire to seem above your listeners or alienate your audience in order to feel above them. I think we represent ourselves in a non-traditional way with consideration and forethought, but without pushing people away. We like to warmly invite people in the world of Gorillaz, which is very detailed and fuck without being shallow and facile. It inspires and entertains, without being condescending.
Russel: I think we just assembled our influences and qualities in a certain combination that appealed to people. People just like what we did cos it’s good. Simple as that.
2-D: No one had done what we had done before and also I’m good at singing!
Murdoc: It’s important to have clean shiny shoes as well, if possible. Nice, clean, shiny shoes.
When did you know that you had really arrived as celebrities?
Murdoc: Right, now, there was this one time I distinctly remember… I’m at a big celeb party over at Jack Nicholson’s house.
Russel: Oh man, please don’t tell this story…
Murdoc: I got this old hot dog roll, right? I, sort of, put it on my nob, right? Well actually I sort of, well no I didn’t actually put it on the nob, sort of put my nob in it and I squeezed a load of ketchup over the top right, so what I do (he chuckles), what I do is I offer this sort of hot dog on a plate to that Alanis Morissette bird. And you what she did? She’s like, tonguing away at it and trying to get it off the plate, but it’s not coming off see? So meanwhile, I’m making like, “Yeah baby, grab that hot dog, grab it good tight…” (Russel interrupts)
Russel: Listen, man, you gotta stop this.
Murdoc: Now, I’ve done this trick about a thousand and normally y’ know, this is the point when I get thrown out of the party, I get beaten up or whatever. But this time, oh yeah, this time, everyone froze. And then a gentle sorta ripple of laughter n’ applause went around the room. And do you know what? Even old Alanis managed a shit big smile. She knew that I’d just caught her out with the old cock dog routine, y’ know. That is when I realised I had truly arrived.
2-D: Uh, so, did she eat the hot dog?
Murdoc: Ahem, well, eventually… See? The nice thing about being a celebrity now is that if you bore the crap out of people, well you just think it’s their fault.
(Sounds of Murdoc’s mobile/cell phone ringing)
Pedro: Ay, Murdoc, this is Bandito Pedro
Murdoc: Oh, it’s you…
Pedro: I want my money, if I don’t get my money, I’m gonna take joo and your Gorillaz and stick ‘em down the toilet. I’m gonna grab jor cahonies, I’ll kill joo, I’ll burn jor house to the ground! Don’t mess with me, I’m a Bandito!
Murdoc: Listen, Pedro you little bugger, I’ll bring your sodding taco back as soon as I’ve finished this interview. Chow, mate!
Pedro: Have a nice day! (puts the phone down)
2-D: Who was that?
Murdoc: No one, wrong number. So, any more questions? No? shit! Cheers for that, fatty! Right, I’m off down the pub, anyone coming? Last one to the bar’s a wan…
Have you, finally, learned anything from your experience?
Noodle: Hmm, I would say don’t look for all of your happiness in just one place.
Russel: Yeah, I mean, it’s ok to ask the big questions in life, just don’t expect any answers.
2-D: Yeah, yeah, uhh uhh…don’t take it all too…no, wait a minute… Uh, you should always think out… No, that’s wrong… No, actually, I don’t think I’ve learnt…anything. And that is a lesson in itself.