Thu 2nd Dec, 2010 in Features
When Damon Albarn’s voice finally breaks through a seven-minute tele-connect saxophone solo I strain to hear whether the Gorillaz frontman has just said hello or if, after a morning on which our scheduled interview time has shifted twice, I have merely hallucinated a thick London accent amidst the hypnotising muzak.
As I soon discover, Albarn has an unexpectedly deep voice and a disarmingly dry sense of humour. He litters our conversation with pregnant pauses so long the Queen herself would be proud, while on the odd occasion punctuating his sentences with phrases like ‘Blimey’ and ‘Blood Hell.’ I spend the first few minutes of our interview trying to gauge whether he is disinterested or relaxed and am most relieved to find that he is the latter. In fact, for someone who has been in this game as long as Albarn, he is still obsessively passionate about the smallest of things.
Damon Albarn is a man well versed in the art of interviews. For two decades he has been making music we want to hear, from the brit-pop perfection of Blur through to the genre-bending tunes of Gorillaz. But unlike many of his 90s contemporaries, Albarn has pushed his musical envelope time and time again. Whether experimenting with the decidedly un brit-pop sounds of Blur’s final album Think Tank , writing the score for a Chinese Opera or releasing an album such as Plastic Beach, Albarn has kept his fans on their toes, and in doing so cemented himself as one of this generations great song-writers.
When I reach Albarn he is in San Francisco, mid-way through Gorillaz colossal Escape to Plastic Beach world tour. Only two nights earlier the band played to a sold-out crowd at the Gibson Amphitheatre in California, a show at which one reviewer noted “Albarn is grinning like a Cheshire Cat– he can’t get the smile off his face all night long.”
“The audiences have been just tremendous really,” Albarn happily reports, “they really get it and they love it. And we’ve been pretty grown up in the way we have paced ourselves. The priority is putting on a good show and not necessarily partying all the time. Well, definitely not partying all the time at our age – definitely not partying. But I can say hand on hearts we haven’t done one poor gig, they’ve all been really amazing.”