Who is Gorillaz?

The band was conceived as banter, and then became an event in the world of music, collected a whole harvest of awards and even got into the Guinness Book of Records

Once, back in the nineties, two friends – the musician Damon Albarn (the one who screams “yu-hu” in Song 2 of the Blur group) and the artist Jamie Hewlett – overreacted too much … No, not with substances – just with watching the music channel MTV. And this is how the first truly large-scale virtual music project Gorillaz appeared.

Birth of the phenomenon

No, Gorillaz did not become the world’s first virtual group (the term was first applied in 1958 to the animation group “Alvin and the Chipmunks”). And not even the first to go beyond the animated music videos and puppet shows (there was a cult rock band Spinal Tap, for example). But the “gorilla” is exactly the most successful virtual band in the history of music.

The “visible” composition of the group includes four animated monkeys – vocalist and keyboard player Stewart “2D” Pot, bassist and team leader Murdoch Nikkals, young guitarist Noodle and drummer Russell Hobbs. Each of them has its own story and character. So 2D (frontman) and Murdoch (the actual leader) dislike each other and constantly and conflict, Russell can summon the souls of dead rappers, and Noodle was born in Japan and at the age of 10 was taken home to the “gorillas” in the parcel, thus completing the formation quartet. They all live in a fictional universe that exists on the band’s website and in its clips. In reality, who just did not stand behind the images of monkeys. One list of invited stars on the album of 2017 Humanz takes almost a page. Among them are Grace Jones (Charger) and Benjamin Clementine (Halleujah Money). And only Albarn remained unchanged in the physical composition of the group.

After the overwhelming success of Gorillaz, virtual projects with fictional characters began to appear one after another, and their creators – compete in ingenuity for various chips. So, somewhere in Europe, the power of unnamed musicians and animators was created by an electric pop group Studio Killers with a vocalist named Cherry. As a chip for her, apparently, a man with a high voice sang. The fans even figured out his alleged name – Finnish singer Tim Brunil. This group has never and never performed. Unlike, for example, Japanese singer Hatsune Miku – an anime character with a synthesized voice. The performer is successfully embodied for “live” concerts in the form of a hologram and even carry on tour. By the way, fed up with everything in the early 2000s. Crazy Frog is also a virtual performer. And they all followed the “gorillas”.

Musical material

“It’s too long to watch MTV – it’s a devil knows that, it does not make any sense, so we had the idea of creating an animation group, something that would be a reflection of this process,” – talked about how Gorillaz’s idea arose, author of visual images Jamie Hewlett. At the same time the music of the band was built exactly according to the same principle.

If it’s very simple, then in fact “gorillas” play pop music. And quite formatted – it’s enough to recall how their first single of 2000 Clint Eastwood sounded from each iron (raise your hands, who now did not sing to himself I’m not happy, I’m feeling glad, I got sunshine in a bag). In this case, the greatest influence on their sound was made by hip-hop. And the further, the stronger this influence. For example, most of the musicians invited to record the Humanz record are rappers. In the same musical pot Damon Albarn dropped electronics, dance music, indie, trip-hop, dub, elements of ethnics and seasoned it all with a pinch of alternative rock. In general, collected in one heap all that, in fact, twisted on MTV. And no, note, the conflict of genres did not happen. And very much the opposite.


The first album of the virtual monkey quartet, called Gorillaz, was nominated in 2001 for the prestigious British music award Mercury Prize. But the group by the mouth of Murdoch herself asked to withdraw the nomination. Murdoch then said that being nominated is “how to always drag a dead albatross on his neck”. Nevertheless, the album sold 7 million copies and provided the “gorillas” with a place in the Guinness Book of Records – they were recognized as the world’s best virtual group.

And then it went – 62 nominations for different music awards and 19 wins. In the Grammy group for the best collaboration (2006, Feel Good Inc., recorded with the hip-hop trio De La Soul), two MTV Video Music Awards (both for the same song), NME magazine award for an innovative approach to creating music (Gorillaz album), three MTV Europe Music Awards (the best dance group in 2001, the best band in 2005 and the best song for Clint Eastwood also in 2001) and others. In general, more “gorillas” did not refuse recognition.

This year, the band will compete for two more Grammys: the track Andromeda is nominated in the category “Best Dance Recording”, and the album Humanz – “Best Album of Alternative Music”.

Live performances

Unlike some virtual projects that never came to the real physical stage, Gorillaz went on a full tour with their first album, having won 21 concerts in North America, Europe and Asia. At the same time, their show in 2001 was more like a film show: almost all the time on a huge screen, animation was broadcast with the participation of the monkey quartet. At the same time, the musical accompaniment was live and was performed by a team of 14 musicians, hidden behind the screen. From time to time he was projected by Damon Albarn for a microphone stand – for example, almost the entire Slow Country (which “cannot stand the loneliness”) was played.

The group performed until 2012, when Albarn and Hewlett quarreled, which jeopardized the existence of Gorillaz. However, Damon admitted that reconciliation and new joint work are possible. And so it happened – in January of this year the light saw a new single “gorillas” Halleujah Money, and at the end of April the Humanz album was released, which critics praised for its dynamism, gloomy sound and deep social and political meaning.

In July of this year, a world tour began in support of the new plate Humanz Tour. It already has more than 60 dates planned. Video effects with gorillas are still present on stage, but the musicians no longer hide behind the screen, but play in front of it. Moreover, to the Damon Albarn, if possible, the performers who participated in the recording of the new album join.

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