Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn

born on 23/3/1968 in Leytonstone, London, United Kingdom

Damon Albarn

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Damon Albarn
Born March 23 1968
Whitechapel, London, England

Damon Albarn (IPA: /demn ælbrn/, born 23 March 1968) is an English singer-songwriter and record producer who has been involved in many high profile projects, coming to prominence as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur. Albarn's current role is lead vocalist and songwriter of Gorillaz, whose first two studio albums had sold more than 20 million copies combined by 2007.[1] Albarn has also led projects such as The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Monkey: Journey to the West, Mali Music and Rocketjuice and The Moon. Albarn has released multiple singles and albums which have charted at #1, both in the UK and internationally.

Albarn was voted the 4th greatest frontman of all time in a 2010 UK Poll for Q magazine - which placed him behind Liam Gallagher, Bono and Freddie Mercury.[2]

Early life

Albarn was born in Whitechapel, London in 1968, and grew up with his middle-class, Quaker family in Leytonstone, later moving to Colchester.[3][4] He attended the George Tomlinson Primary School, and studied piano, guitar, and violin. When he was aged 12, he became friends with Graham Coxon, a fellow student at Stanway School.[5] At age 15, he won the regional heat in the Young Composer of the Year contest.[5]

He studied acting at the East 15 Acting School in Debden, leaving after the first year.[4] On leaving drama school he performed as a mime artist, and also worked as a tea boy at the Beat Factory studio.[4] He went on to attend a part-time music course at Goldsmiths, University of London in London. His first band was the synth pop group, Two's a Crowd.[5] Before Blur, he played with The Aftermath and Real Lives.[4]

Albarn's father, Keith Albarn, was the manager of Soft Machine and presenter of the BBC's Late Night Line-Up. Keith Albarn was the head of North Essex College of Art, which later became Colchester Institute.[3][4][6] Albarn's mother, Hazel, was a theatrical set designer.[4] He has a sister, Jessica (born 1971).[4]


Main article: Blur (band)

Blur are an English alternative rock band. Formed in London in 1989 as Seymour, the group consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur's debut album Leisure (1991) incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing. Following a stylistic changeinfluenced by English guitar pop groups such as The Kinks, The Beatles and XTCBlur released the Modern Life is Rubbish (1993), Parklife (1994) and The Great Escape (1995) albums. As a result, the band helped to popularise the Britpop genre and achieved mass popularity in the UK, aided by a famous chart battle with rival band Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop".

In recording their follow-up, Blur (1997), the band underwent another reinvention, influenced by the lo-fi style of American indie rock bands such as Pavement. "Song 2", one of the album's singles, brought Blur brief mainstream success in the US. The last album featuring Blur's original line-up, 13 (1999) found the band members experimenting with electronic music and gospel music, as Albarn wrote more personal lyrics. In May 2002, Coxon left Blur during the recording of their seventh album Think Tank (2003). Containing electronic sounds and more minimal guitar work, the album was marked by Albarn's growing interest in hip hop and African music. After a 2003 tour without Coxon, Blur did no studio work or touring as a band, as members engaged in other projects. Subsequently, Blur reunited in 2009 with Coxon back in the fold. Following a series of successful concerts, Blur members have stated that the group has no immediate plans for the future.

The start

Albarn, the son of an author/art professor and a theatrical stage designer, met guitarist Graham Coxon, a self-taught musician whose father played in an army band, in school in Colchester in 1980. The pair collaborated on some demos before heading off to different art colleges - Albarn to study acting, Coxon to pursue art. They met up again at a party on behalf of Albarns band Circus, which featured drummer Dave Rowntree, a classically trained percussionist. Coxon introduced Albarn to his college friend Alex James, and when Circus folded, the four began recording demos and performing club gigs in late 1989 under the name Seymour (after the Swell Maps song 'Read About Seymour'). EMI-distributed Food Records signed them in 1990, whereupon they changed their name to Blur and debuted with the Top 50 British single "Shes So High". "There's No Other Way" fared even better, and Leisure, released a year later, went to #7 on the UK album chart. The follow-up, Modern Life is Rubbish, peaked at #17,

Britpop years

In 1994s chart-topping Parklife, featuring the hit "Girls & Boys", cemented Blur as British superstars and won the band four BRIT Awards, including Best Group and Best Album. By the time Blur released 1995s The Great Escape, it was locked in a battle of the bands with a new contender to the Brit-pop throne, working-class heroes Oasis. The UK press made front-page news out of each bands bid for #1 with their new singles, and Blurs "Country House" beat out Oasis' "Roll with It" by a narrow margin. It was the #1 Oasis album (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, however, that won in the end, earning the Manchester band bragging rights as the biggest new band in the UK and significant stateside success, while The Great Escape stalled on the U.S. chart at #150.

Reinvention after Britpop: 1996-2000

Blur's U.S. breakthrough came in 1997 with "Song 2", a hard-rock blitzkrieg from its self-titled fifth album (#61, 1997). The songs exuberant "woo-hoo!" chorus made it a favourite at sporting events, though the band turned down the U.S. militarys bid to use it at the unveiling of the new Stealth bomber. Blur was heavily informed by the group's love of American lo-fi rockers Pavement and bore little in common with the clean, theatrical pop sound on which it had built their British following. They went even further off the track with the William Orbitproduced 13 (#80, 1999), though the album kicked off with a lush ballad, "Tender". Albarn had recently split with girlfriend Justine Frischmann of Elastica, and many of 13's songs were mined from the ashes of their eight-year relationship.

Despite a handful of side projects (two lo-fi solo albums by Coxon, and Albarns score [in collaboration with Michael Nyman] to the movie Ravenous) Blur came out of its first decade in one piece. During an extended and tumultuous period leading up to their next project, 2003's Think Tank, Coxon began distancing himself from the direction he saw the production of the album going. He soon left, although it remains unclear who made the ultimate decision. The remaining members continued seeking creative satisfaction in various solo projects. Albarn released his Gorillaz' Demon Days in 2005 which received a Grammy for the single "Feel Good Inc", while Dave Rowntree set up his own animation company Nanomation, moonlighting as the drummer for the Ailerons.


Main article: Gorillaz

Gorillaz is a virtual band composed of four animated band members created in 1998 by Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. The band's music is a collaboration between various musicians; Albarn being the only permanent musical contributor. Their style is broadly alternative rock, but with a large number of other influences including: Britpop, dub, hip-hop, and pop music.[7][8]

In 2001, the band's eponymous debut album sold over seven million copies, and featured hits such as the songs "19-2000" and "Clint Eastwood," earning them an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band.[9] It was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2001, but the nomination was later withdrawn at the band's request.[10] Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the singles "Feel Good Inc.", "Dare", "Dirty Harry" and "Kids With Guns"/"El Mañana". Demon Days went five times platinum in the UK,[11] double platinum in the United States[12] and earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2006[13] and won one of them in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category.[14] Gorillaz have also released two B-sides compilations and a remix album. The combined sales of Gorillaz and Demon Days had, by 2007, exceeded 15 million albums.[15] Gorillaz released their third studio album, Plastic Beach in early 2010, which was received with high praise. In December 2010, the group released an album called The Fall which was recorded over 32 days during their North American tour. The band also appeared on the Snoop Dogg track: "Sumthing' Like this Night" on his album: "Doggumentary".

Solo career

Albarn released Mali Music in 2002, recorded in Mali, during a trip he made to support Oxfam in 2000. He has also visited Nigeria to record music with African drummer Tony Allen. Albarn says he would like to produce a Blur album in Baghdad as he "likes the Iraqi style of music".

He also released Democrazy in 2003, a collection of demos he recorded while staying in hotel rooms on the U.S. portion of Blur's tour for Think Tank.

Albarn has also appeared on other unrelated works. His song "Closet Romantic" appeared on the soundtrack for Trainspotting alongside an early Blur recording, "Sing". The Rentals' 1999 Album Seven More Minutes features Albarn on the track "Big Daddy C". Fatboy Slim's 2004 release Palookaville featured Albarn's vocals on the song "Put It Back Together". Albarn provided the voiceover intro and backing vocals in the song "Time Keeps On Slipping" for the rap concept album Deltron 3030, and featured on the track "Lovage (Love That Lovage, Baby)" for the Lovage album Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. Both albums were produced by Dan the Automator, who also produced Gorillaz' debut album. Albarn also composed the score with collaboration by Michael Nyman for the 1999 movie Ravenous with Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. In 2000, he composed the main part of the soundtrack for the crime comedy Ordinary Decent Criminal. Albarn also appeared on the Nathan Haines' song "Squire for Hire", however Albarn credited it to Gorillaz' frontman 2D instead.

In October 2007, Q Magazine released a 21st birthday special. Inside featured the "21 Artists who Changed Music" with 8 pages dedicated to Damon Albarn for his work in Blur, Gorillaz, and The Good the Bad and the Queen. In the article, Albarn expressed an interest in releasing a solo record under his own name, containing romantic songs.

He also produced in 2008 parts of Amadou & Mariam's fifth album Welcome to Mali.

In September 2009, Albarn appeared on stage during Massive Attack's first date at London's Brixton Academy to sing a track from their album "Heligoland" entitled "Saturday Come Slow".[16]

Control Freak

Albarn was asked, alongside Blur bandmate Graham Coxon, to remix the Massive Attack song "Angel" for the single release, in 1998. Albarn then adapted the pseudonym of "Control Freak" for his remixing career. He only ever used the name once in a remix, when he remixed the Blur song "Bugman" as Control Freak for the single release of "Coffee & TV" in summer 1999.

The Good, the Bad and the Queen

In May 2006, NME reported that Albarn was working with Danger Mouse on his first solo album, tentatively titled The Good, the Bad and the Queen. However, in July 2006, NME reported that those plans had been switched to the formation of a new band titled The Good, the Bad and the Queen. This proved to be inaccurate, as Albarn and other members of the group have indicated that The Good, the Bad and the Queen is the name of the album and not the band itself.[17][18][19] The album was awarded Best Album at the 2007 MOJO Awards on 18 June.[20]

The group's line-up is composed of Albarn, former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, The Verve/Gorillaz guitarist Simon Tong, and drummer Tony Allen of Fela Kuti's band, The Africa '70. Danger Mouse produced the album and decided on the final track listing.

The first single by the line-up, "Herculean", was released in late October 2006, and peaked at #22 in the UK Singles Chart. A second single, "Kingdom of Doom", and the band's debut album were then released in January 2007. That single fared slightly better than "Herculean", peaking at #20, while the album peaked at #2 in the UK Albums Chart and went gold during its first week of release in the UK. "Green Fields" was released as the third single from the album in April 2007, just missing out on the Top 50.

On 27 April 2008, The Good The Bad And The Queen headlined the Love Music Hate Racism Carnival in Victoria Park where they introduced on stage several guests including ex-Specials keyboard player Jerry Dammers. He also worked with Syrian rapper and friend Eslam Jawaad on the song "Mr. Whippy", though the song does not appear on the album it is a B-Side on the Herculean single.

Monkey: Journey to the West

In their first major work together since Gorillaz, Albarn and Hewlett, along with acclaimed Chinese theatre and opera director Chen Shi-zheng, adapted for stage the Chinese story Journey to the West. as "Monkey: Journey to the West", which received its world premiere as the opening show of the 2007 Manchester International Festival, on 28 June 2007 at the Palace Theatre, Manchester.[21] Albarn wrote the score, Hewlett designed the set and costumes.

The opera was Albarn and Hewlett's second collaboration with the Manchester International Festival. In November 2005, they staged the first-ever live performances of Demon Days Live involving many of the artists who had played on the successful Demon Days album, as a launch event for the festival.

Doctor Dee

In collaboration with theatre director Rufus Norris, Albarn has created an opera for the 2011 Manchester International Festival based on the life of Elizabethan scientist John Dee and titled Doctor Dee.[22]

The Boy in the Oak

Albarn is set to record the film score for the film The Boy in the Oak, which was written by his sister, Jessica Albarn. The film was set for a spring 2011 release in selected theatres.[23]

DRC Music

Collaborating with producers Dan the Automator, XL Recordings managers Richard Russell & Rodiadh McDonald, Jneiro Jarel and musicians, DJ Darren Cunningham aka Actress, Marc Antoine, Alwest, Remi Kabaka Jr., Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Kwes, Damon Albarn went to Kinshasa for one week to record an album called Kinshasa One Two.[24]

The Congolese band Tout Puissant Mukalo joined them as well. All proceeds will benefit Oxfam's work in the DRC.[25]

The album was released by Warp Records. [26]

Rocketjuice and The Moon

Rocketjuice and The Moon is the title of Albarn's new side-project featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and afrobeat legend Tony Allen. Albarn said that he is not responsible for the name and that someone in Lagos did the sleeve design and thats the name he gave it, which he said he is fine with because trying to find a name for another band is always tricky. The band performed together for the first time on the 28th of October 2011 in Cork, Ireland, as part of the annual Cork Jazz Festival, under the moniker Another Honest Jon's Chop Up!. A full tour is not expected anytime soon due to the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour lasting until 2013. Their debut album will be released on March 12th, 2012.[27]

Personal life

Albarn had a long-standing relationship with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann.[3] His involvement with her profoundly influenced his songwriting in Blur in the mid-to-late 1990s. When the relationship started, Damon was unsure of his sexuality. In an interview with NME, he quoted "Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls, who do boys like they're girls who do girls like they're boys. Always should be someone you really love." He currently lives in Bayswater, London with artist Suzi Winstanley, and their daughter.

Albarn's grandfather, Edward Albarn, was a conscientious objector during the Second World War and was involved in a farming community in Lincolnshire. Albarn himself is outspokenly anti-war and has criticised British involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2002, he and Robert Del Naja of Massive Attack took out full page advertisements in the NME challenging the need for war. Albarn contributed backing vocals to a song on Massive Attack's 100th Window, released the following year. More recently, he sang in the track "Saturday Come Slow" from Massive Attack's Heligoland album.[28]

In 2005 Albarn, among others, criticised the London Live 8 concert for not featuring enough black artists; among the few included were Ms. Dynamite, Snoop Dogg, and Youssou N'Dour. Eventually the organisers added a separate concert at the Eden Project in Cornwall to the programme in order to showcase African musicians. Albarn said he did not want to perform at Live 8 because he thought it was too "exclusive" and may have been motivated by self-promotion.[28]

In the 1990s he spent a good deal of time in Reykjavík, and owns a home in Grafarvogur, a suburb of Reykjavík. He composed the soundtrack to the 2000 Icelandic film 101 Reykjavík.

Albarn has been a vocal critic of celebrity culture:
"We need to dismantle very significant parts of our culture and really re-examine them. I suppose you start with the celebrity thing... you have to get rid of things like The X Factor immediately."[29]

In 2006, Albarn was awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of East London,[30] saying it was "great to receive [the] award from an institution where my dad used to work and which I, as a child, used to think of as that big building with lots of interesting people in".[31]

Albarn is a vegetarian, and a fan of English football club Chelsea.

Solo discography

Main article: Damon Albarn discography
See also: Blur discography and Gorillaz discography
Solo Studio albums
  • Mali Music (2002) (with Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends) #81 (UK)
  • Democrazy (2003)
  • Music Is Your Radar (2009) (with other musicians from Damon's Honest Jon's label)
  • Kinshasa One Two (2011) (with British producers and Congolese musicians)
The Good, the Bad & the Queen albums
  • The Good, the Bad & the Queen (2007) (with Tony Allen, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong) #2 (UK)
Rocketjuice and The Moon albums
  • Rocketjuice and The Moon (2012) (with Flea and Tony Allen)
Operas and Theatre
  • Journey to the West (2008) #5 (UK)
  • It Felt Like a Kiss (2009)
  • Doctor Dee: An English Opera (2012)
  • Ravenous (1999) (with Michael Nyman)
  • Ordinary Decent Criminal (2000)
  • 101 Reykjavík (2002) (with Einar Örn Benediktsson)
  • The Boy in the Oak (2011)

Acting career

Albarn starred in Antonia Bird's 1997 film Face alongside Ray Winstone and Robert Carlisle

  • Albarn was also featured in Gunar Karlsson's 2007 film Anna and the Moods.
  • Albarn also played Bull in Joe Orton's "Up Against It", a Radio 4 play about The Beatles broadcast in 1998.


  1. Marchetto, Sean, Living In A Virtual World, Fast Forward Weekly, 25 January 2007. URL accessed on 25 October 2008.
  2. "Liam Gallagher crowned best frontman". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 May 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 635
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Harris, John (2003) "Damon Albarn: From Cool Britannia to radical campaigner for peace", The Independent, 15 February 2003
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ankeny, Jason [Damon Albarn at All Music Guide "Damon Albarn Biography"], Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
  6. UEL - Our History.
  7. Mar, Alex (2 June 2005). Demon Days : Gorillaz : Review : Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  8. Steininger, Alex (November 2001). In Music We Trust - Gorillaz: Gorillaz. In Music We Trust. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved on 10 October 2007.
  9. Cooper, James (19 November 2007). Gorillaz: D-Sides. inthenews.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved on 11 February 2009.
  10. Mercury Music Prize: The nominees, BBC News Online, 25 July 2001. URL accessed on 7 September 2007.
  11. Platinum Awards Content - Demon Days. British Phonographic Industry (24 February 2006). Retrieved on 7 December 2008.
  12. Gorillaz RIAA certifications. Recording Industry Association of America. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved on 7 December 2008.
  13. EMI Music earns 54 Grammy nominations. EMI (8 December 2005). Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved on 1 June 2007.
  14. EMI Music Publishing Wins Big At The Grammys!. EMI (14 February 2006). Retrieved on 1 June 2007.
  15. Marchetto, Sean (25 January 2007). Living In A Virtual World. Fast Forward Weekly. Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved on 25 October 2008.
  16. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meO3FCGtZAc
  17. It's all a bit of a blur for Damon (2 February 2007). Retrieved on 5 February 2007.
  18. Carne, Lucy, Good, Bad and super, The Sunday Mail (Qld), 3 February 2007. URL accessed on 5 February 2007.
  19. The band with no name (31 January 2007). Retrieved on 5 February 2007.
  20. Osbourne scoops 'icon' at Mojo Awards, BBC News, 18 June 2007. URL accessed on 20 June 2007.
  21. Totally catchy monkey, Guardian Unlimited 2 July 2007
  22. Doctor Dee. Manchester International Festival website. Retrieved on 18 March 2011.
  23. http://www.nme.com/news/damon-albarn/54460
  24. http://drcmusic.org/
  25. http://consequenceofsound.net/2011/07/damon-albarn-previews-drc-music-project-with-hallo/
  26. http://consequenceofsound.net/2011/08/damon-albarn-led-drc-music-details-congo-album/
  27. http://www.digitalspy.com/music/news/a347880/damon-albarn-flea-to-release-album-as-rocketjuice-and-the-moon.html
  28. 28.0 28.1 NME website
  29. Albarn condemns celebrity culture, BBC News, 27 December 2007. URL accessed on 2 January 2010.
  30. Albarn Awarded Honourary MA at UEL.
  31. Honorary MA degree from the University of East London (UEL)

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn | Alex James | Dave Rowntree
Graham Coxon
Blur discography
Albums: Leisure | Modern Life Is Rubbish | Parklife | The Great Escape | Blur | 13 | Think Tank
Compilations: The Special Collectors Edition | Live at the Budokan | The 10 Year Limited Edition Anniversary Box Set | Bustin' + Dronin' | Blur: The Best of
Singles: See Blur Singles
Related articles
The Ailerons | Fat Les | Food Records | The Good, the Bad and the Queen | Gorillaz | Simon Tong | WigWam | Honest Jon's
This page was last modified 06.02.2012 13:40:59

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