Saturday Afternoon Artist – Damon Albarn (of Gorillaz and Blur)

Every Saturday morning at 9am I wake up and start researching music for that day’s show.  There’s always a list of brand new stuff sent out the night before from the programming team. But before getting to that it’s fun to start with looking for great older songs and bands that I haven’t heard yet.  Usually there’s a band that seems a good starter (someone that a friend has mentioned, was in a film, or who I heard while running round town). So the name gets typed into youtube and one song leads to another.  If I don’t have a starter band in mind, I go to the Allmusic page for Blur. They are the quintessential alternative band. From there it’s so interesting to look up the bands who influenced them and the groups who follow their style…  And often I watch the video to Coffee and TV, it’s like a reset button, a reminder of why I do this work in the first place.  It’s not about being serious, this work, it’s about remembering that music is fun… it’s supposed to make you feel good.

Damon Albarn and Blur were the very definition of Brit-Pop during their heyday in the early 90’s.  Branching out more on his own, Damon started a “virtual hip-hop” group with Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori,  Dan the Automator, Kid Koala, Del the Funkee Homosapien and Tom Tom Club’s Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz.  Their debut in 2000 sold over 7 million copies. The band not only used cartoon characters to represent them in their videos, but they also created animated films to use in their live shows. Sometimes performing with the cartoons, sometimes letting the cartoons take the show.

Albarn also worked with African musicians (including Toumani Diabate) on a CD called Mali Music in 2002.  And in 2005 released Gorillaz second album, Demon Days, working with producer Dangermouse on that record and De La Soul, among others. In 2007 Albarn helped create a stage adaptation of a 16th century Chinese novel called Monkey, Journey to the West. Also that same year teamed up with Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Simon Tong from The Verve, and Afrobeat creator Tony Allen for a release under the name “The Good The Bad and The Queen”.

In 2010, Gorillaz came out with their third album. Once again Albarn is re-defining pop. Plastic Beach is even more electronic than the prior Gorillaz work, yet still a mix of hip-hop, dub, rock, pop and dance. With the vocal melody mixed so that it’s clearly heard over the top.   Of course the best track “Rhinestone Eyes” is sung by Damon himself.

This year Blur reunited for their first new song in 2010 in honor of Record Store Day.  No plans for a full album from them at this point, but you can download the song here.

Tune in this week to hear these songs played together on the show Saturday from 3-6pm! Michele Myers is the producer of KEXP Documentaries, and hosts on WNYE in NYC 91.5FM Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-9am.

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  1. margot
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Nicely done Michelle! Love Gorillaz and Damon.

    One little thing… Blur didn’t split in ’96. They put out a couple albums while Damon was doing the Gorillaz stuff: 13 (1999), Best Of (2000) and Think Tank (2003.) Really hoping they release another record with Graham.

  2. LauraDPalomo
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Love this article. Love Blur

  3. Posted August 14, 2010 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks Margot! Correcting…

  4. Posted August 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    One of the most influential artists we have – and dragging Mick and Paul with Gorillaz is a masterstroke and nod to the band that opened it all up for Blur and Gorillaz.

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