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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 19:09 GMT
Gorillaz: Monkeying around with music
Live shows are a mix of silhouettes and projections
Live shows are a mix of silhouettes and projections
For a group that tries to convince the world they are not actually a real band, Gorillaz have been remarkably successful.

Its four animated members - all drawn to look slightly simian - make it the first band to exist only in cartoon form.

The cartoon characters are the faces of the band
The cartoon characters are the faces of the band
But real people are obviously behind the music - and this project has grown bigger than they expected when the band was launched at the end of 2000.

Damon Albarn, frontman with indie stars Blur, is the biggest name involved.

He dreamt up the idea with cartoonist and former flatmate Jamie Hewlett, who created Tank Girl.

They are joined by DJ Dan "The Automator" Nakamura and rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, both respected names in the hip-hop world.

 Click here to watch a clip of Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz

It was supposed to be a way to take the heat off Albarn, who had been in the spotlight since leading his band to become one of the biggest in the country in the 1990s.

He knew that any new projects he appeared in would bring with them an overbearing weight of hype and expectation.

So he simply decided he would not appear, and let a cartoon monkey lead the band instead.

Albarn never appears in photographs with his fellow musicians, who never do television interviews together and always speak in character when giving radio interviews.

Innovative

They are even hidden by a white screen when playing live, with their silhouettes giving the only sign of the real people behind the band.

And with that creative freedom, the men behind the monkeys have created arguably the most innovative music of the last couple of years.

Their debut album Gorillaz - which went to number three in the UK albums chart in March 2001 - fuses everything from punk rock to Latin crooning, from bubblegum pop to dirty hip-hop.

Damon Albarn:
Damon Albarn: "Populist and yet credible"
"Simultaneously populist and yet credible," is how Albarn described it.

It is a funky, futuristic mixture that no one else has attempted.

And it works - their single Clint Eastwood was one of the most popular singles of the year and reached number four in the UK singles chart.

They have also been one of the few UK bands to make an impact in the United States and around the world.

They had the sixth-biggest selling album by a UK act in the US in 2001, behind The Beatles, Sade, Dido, David Gray and Charlotte Church.

The Brits come as the latest in a line of awards and nominations.

They won two prizes at the MTV Europe awards, a trio of prizes at the UK Online Music Awards and one Q Award.

Burden

When they were named on the shortlist for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, they were made favourites but soon demanded to be taken off.

Winning would be "like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity", they said.

For a band that was created so its members could escape the cycle of attention and expectation, that was the last thing they wanted.

But Gorillaz have been so popular that the band are now hugely successful in their own right.

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Music
Gorillaz storm MTV Awards
27 Sep 01 | New Media
Gorillaz scoop three online awards
03 Sep 01 | Music
Gorillaz taken off Mercury list
23 Mar 01 | Reviews
Gorillaz pull it off
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