Damon Albarn // Mr. Tembo // Later...with Jools Holland
Damon Albarn on The Spanish Rockdelux cover. September 2014.
"From Blur To Gorillaz and more… The Damon Albarn’s Journey"
And here’s a resume/summary translated of that interview.
Finding Ways to stay solo
By Marta Salicrú
His countrymen walk around Barcelona in December wearing t-shirts, but in July, a few hours before playing at Cruïlla festival of the Catalan capital, Damon Albarn wears a wool hat and leather jacket; it’s the same jacket he will wear the whole concert, but contributes to make him sweat. Converse shoes that seem new, but wearing them as they were slippers, dragging them around the hotel terrace where he says hello to Jeff Wootton, the guitarist of his band, The Heavy Seas, and formerly of Gorillaz. When he sits, the baggy jeans makes his butt half naked. And when he smiles, shows a gold tooth. More than the Blur frontman or the old icon of Britpop and Cool Britannia middle aged, sitting slouched on a stool on the cover of “Everyday Robots” (Parlaphone-Warner, 2014), it seems 2D, the toothless animated Gorillaz singer who gave his voice.
After ending the first interview, Albarn does not hide a grimace when he is told that he has to spend fifteen minutes of his time to attend another journalist. […]. Despite the good reviews of the brilliant “Everyday Robots”, the taciturn solo album just was for a week in the British sales lists, ─despite being the number 2 and in the USA was #32─.
It does not help Albarn’s discontent that he has said ─following the promotion of “Everyday Robots”─, statements, according to him magnified, they have become meat subject to lurid tabloid headlines.
“Witchcraft, Heroin, ‘bullying’ and Me”. The last secret of Damon Albarn “headlined the magazine ‘Q’ on the cover. The reference made in the hermetic “You And Me” from his new album, the heroin in the 90’s ─ “Tin foil and a lighter, the ship across”─ during his relationship with Justine Frischmann, the Elastica leader […]. To the extent that in another interview with Time Out London, where Albarn admitted how consumption had been part of their growth and that for a time he had found it very creative, the musician public relations forced to the magazine to refine the statements in future versions of the article adding a moralistic note that warned against drug use at the risk of end up ruining our lives.
It is no coincidence that Albarn has spoken about his private life during the promotion of the new album, abounded in his role as ordinary father had with the artist Suzi Winstanley, his current partner. “Everyday Robots” has been touted as his first solo album in nearly twenty years of experience and as the work in which Albarn finally opened his heart. The slogan is powerful but does not hold water.
THE BRAVEST MAN IN THE UNIVERSE
Even before the confessional tone, the first thing that can draw the attention of “Everyday Robots” is how it remembers me to “The Bravest Man In The Universe” (2012), the album that Albarn and Richard Russell, XL Recordings label owner, produced to Bobby Womack, the first album in thirteen years of the soulman. It’s like two sides of the same coin: the same production, heir to the atmospheric and abstract electronics, but applied to the soul and the other pop song author also committed to sharing intimacy. "No surprise ─concede Albarn, stirring with a spoon tea with lemon─ that’s literally what we did next, almost one after the other: the same studio, the same piano, the same schedule, somehow the same people… the voice is different, also the songs; but, yes, there are many elements that match. The way of working with Bobby was very similar to how we work with my record: sitting at the piano, developing a song and then performance it. The difference is that Bobby did not need to record a lot of times, he was perfect in the first time. Somehow, it was ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ we did this kind of drive, that was in that area, in the vicinity of Bobby”.
As Albarn tells, to make “Everyday Robots” not only had much to do with the Womack album, who in the wake of his death he said taught him things that will not let him, but above all, with Richard Russell. According to Albarn was Russell who suggested to take benefit as "everything was ready in the studio" to record a solo album, in which one he, changing the role of co-producers, would assume the role of producer and Damon solo artist. He also attributed to Russell the tone of the album. "I think it was a decision we just took at the beginning. Richard wanted to make a melancholy album and I love the melancholic music. The thing is, if my next worl is cheerful and positive, people would ask me what made me record such a happy album. I recorded twenty records, and each one has a different state of mind, mood, I hope. It would be boring if every album was the same. Nor would it be realistic that it was always the same. I do not think I feel particularly melancholic, now. It was more than certain aesthetic imbue the songs, we decided to aesthetics."
Albarn says he would not have needed to write for the album. "I have always songs. I write songs all the time. But in fact, I did not use any that I had; I’ve written all the while in the studio. Because, the more I got into the album, more I began to realize that it was autobiographical." They are mentioned issues such as "You And Me" as the nostalgic "Hollow Ponds", which marks the time that Albarn has go back more in the past for inspiration. “I go back to 1976, when he was 8. Now I have 45 ─he removes one year, he turned 46 in March─ so I have a long way”. The song refers to drought and heat wave that hit the UK that summer, Albarn was still living in the multicultural Leytonstone, in northeast London, before their parents moved to a family housing to a white and residential Colchester, in Essex, and the title, a pond where people used it to fight against midsummer. In a time warp, the song also reminds the graffiti on a wall in London that inspired the title of the second and foundational Blur album, “Modern Life Is Rubbish” (“Modern life was sprayed onto a wall in 1993”) . Key moments in your life, yes. But cryptically expressed. Was I not opening my heart? “True ─admits his secrecy─, but I think that is how I am. The songs are very clear to me. As a singer, I need to know the truth. I do not think I need to be clear if the emotion is fine. People interpreted in their own way; if a captive song to someone at some point in his life, always make the same association of ideas, which can be thousands of miles away from the original inspiration. So did not believe that foremost in the composition.” When Albarn shown less inaccessible it is precisely in the less personal songs, like the first two singles from the album, the song that opens and that title, and “Lonely Press Play”, which denounces the collateral damage on the soul with the new technologies.
COLLABORATOR IN SERIE
"At some point, the only thing frustrating from Blur was to play as a ‘frontman’ without playing any instrument, because all you had to do was stand there in front, I had no more options, ─he says but in fact, sometimes he sat at the piano or played the acoustic guitar─. But I do not think that’s why that we… ─he responds even when I didn’t ask him why they split out─. I think, at that time, we just were saturated, tired from each other. Last year we came back and now our relationship is great […] But when we were separated, I think it was necessary.”
“To be a ‘frontman’ means nothing. I am so happy playing piano behind as being in front, I’m so happy in a way or the other. No treasure a leadership role.”
PLANET OF THE APES
With Blur right now the only thing he doen’t ruled out is playing together again, what he hopes is “to make another Gorillaz album”, the songs which steal the limelight from the everyday robots in the new Albarn direction. He says he is composing many songs that sound like untempo Gorillaz. What is it stopping to do it? "When Gorillaz emerged somehow –he says– it was a real revolution. It has been nearly fifteen years since the first album came out, it would have been sixteen or seventeen until a new album comes out. So I think the record must reflect how technology has evolved. The idea of Gorillaz was before the internet and technology really started. So it will be like starting over, in the sense of what technology we use. This is what we are working about.”
[…] The success of Gorillaz gave you the strength to dare with any project in the future? Are you convinced that you could do everything? “I do not know if I can do everything –the old arrogant Damon speaks–. Can I do everything right? I do not know if I can. I think I’m ready to work hard to do everything I can. With regard to music, I feel that if I’m really excited about something, I can probably do it. But with Gorillaz we didn’t think we could be succesfull. Only wanted to be interesting.”
Between 1991 and 2014 Albarn has released nearly an album per year, and claims to have ongoing projects to keep him busy in his workind days (Monday through Friday and 9-5) in his Studio 13 under the Westway, for three or four years. "I’ll make a very big thing in the UK next year," referring probably to what a few days later he described as a mainstream family musical, after discarding the idea of doing another experimental opera. "I have a lot of things to do," he smiles ear to ear, showing his gold tooth.