Gorillaz are an English virtual band created in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. The band consists of four animated members: 2D (lead vocals, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). These members are completely fictional and are not personas of any "real life" musicians involved in the project. Their fictional universe is explored through the band's website and music videos, as well as a number of other media, such as short cartoons. The music is a collaboration between various musicians, with Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Writers and critics have described their music as alternative rock, Britpop, trip hop, hip hop, electronica, indie, dub, reggaeand pop.
The band's 2001 debut album Gorillaz sold over seven million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request. Their second studio album, Demon Days, released in 2005, went five times platinum in the UK, double platinum in the US, earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006 and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocalscategory. The band has won numerous other awards, including two MTV Video Music Awards, an NME Award, three MTV Europe Music Awards, and have been nominated for nine Brit Awards. The combined sales of the Gorillaz and Demon Days albums had exceeded 15 million by 2007. The band's third studio album, Plastic Beach, was released in March 2010. Their latest album, The Fall, was released in December 2010 as a free download for fan club members, then in April 2011 as a physical release.
The future of the project was once under speculation due to the status of Albarn and Hewlett's friendship; however, Gorillaz plan to release new material in 2016.
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett first met in 1990 when Graham Coxon, a fan of Hewlett's work, asked him to interview Blur, which was a band both Albarn and Coxon had only recently formed. The interview was published in Deadline magazine, home of Hewlett's comic strip, Tank Girl. Hewlett initially thought Albarn was "arsey, a wanker" and despite becoming one of the band's acquaintances, he often didn't get along with its members, especially after he started going out with Coxon's ex-girlfriend, Jane Olliver. Despite this, Albarn and Hewlett started sharing a flat on Westbourne Grove in London in 1997. Hewlett had recently broken up with Olliver and Albarn was also at the end of his highly publicised relationship with Justine Frischmann of Elastica.
The idea to create Gorillaz came about when the two were watching MTV. Hewlett said, "If you watch MTV for too long, it's a bit like hell – there's nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.". The band originally identified themselves as "Gorilla" and the first song they recorded was "Ghost Train" which was later released as a B-side on their single "Rock the House" and the B-side compilation G Sides. The musicians behind Gorillaz' first incarnation included Albarn, Del the Funky Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala, who had previously worked together on the track "Time Keeps on Slipping" for Deltron 3030's eponymous debut album.
In March 2001, Gorillaz played their first show at the Scala in London before embarking on a UK tour later that Summer, with one date in Paris and two in Japan. During this tour the live band played behind a giant projector screen which covered the whole stage, on which was projected various visuals and images created by Hewlett. After taking a short break over the holidays, the tour resumed with a North American leg in February 2002.
Gorillaz played five sold out shows at the Apollo Theater, New York in April 2006 From 1–5 November 2005, Gorillaz played a 5 night residency at the Manchester Opera House in Manchester, England. The event was filmed by an EMI film crew for a DVD release, Demon Days Live, in late March 2006. It was later announced that an American version of the event would take place from 2 to 6 April 2006 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. Within an hour of release tickets were sold out. The 6 April show was filmed for a live webcast at MSN Video. Palladia (then known as MHD) also broadcast an Apollo Theater show in HDTV on 31 December 2006.
In March 2010, Gorillaz began a short 6 date tour as "rehearsal" shows for their headlining slot at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The shows were open exclusively to Gorillaz Sub Division fan club members and featured no visuals whatsoever. These performances were the band's first public performances in four years. Gorillaz headlined the final night of the Coachella Festival on 18 April 2010 as their first proper, full show of Phase 3. On 27 April they were the main guests on Later... with Jools Holland on the BBC. In addition, Gorillaz played a two-night residency at London's Camden Roundhouse (29 and 30 April 2010). Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash performed guitar and bass respectively with the band and more than once in the evening chords from the Clash song "Guns of Brixton" were heard as a subtle reference to their presence.
Gorillaz kicked off their first ever world tour in October 2010, with some preceding festival dates in the Summer, such as at the Byblos Festival in Lebanon, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, the Glastonbury Festival in England and one show at the Citadel of Damascus in Syria. The Escape to Plastic Beach Tour took them across North America in October, Europe in November, and finally through Australia, New Zealand, and with one date in Hong Kong in December. During the final show of the tour at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on 21 December 2010, Albarn announced that it would be their final show with the Plastic Beach line up.
In April 2014, Albarn told the National Post that he "wouldn't mind having another stab at a Gorillaz record." Two months later he reported that he had "been writing quite a lot of songs on the road for Gorillaz." On 19 October 2014, Albarn told the The Sydney Morning Herald that he was planning to release new Gorillaz material in 2016.
Albarn has described the music that he's written for the next Gorillaz album as being very upbeat, humorous, and positive, stating that he plans on giving the tracks "a benchmark of 125 bpm and nothing underneath that", while also suggesting that it once again may have many collaborations.
On 16 July 2015, Albarn stated during an interview for ABC's 7.30 in Australia that he would begin work on the next Gorillaz album: "I'm starting recording in September for a new Gorillaz record, I've just been really, really busy so I haven't had a chance. I'd love to just get back in to that routine of being at home and coming to the studio five days a week."