Standing centerstage at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn is backed by a massive screen buzzing with wild visuals. Murdoc, Noodle, 2D and Russel—the four characters that make up the British cartoon band—bounce along to music from the Gorillaz’ extensive catalog, including their newest album, Humanz. Before he was selling out legacy venues with Gorillaz, Albarn fronted Blur, which was an indie-rock phenomenon all its own. Albarn and Gorillaz’s cocreator Jamie Hewlett never imagined they’d still be here 16 years after Gorillaz self-titled debut. Albarn had some time to talk hip-hop, his fear of robots and what makes him a “dystopian melancholic.” —Kyle Eustice
I understand you grew up playing piano.
I’m a piano player at heart. I’m at my happiest when I’m singing and playing the piano, but in the early days of Blur, I had to switch very quickly to writing on the guitar because lush elaborate piano chords in an indie band are not really ideal.
Right—unless you’re trying to be Coldplay.
That’s not one of my aspirations.
Where did your interest in hip-hop come from?
I think it’s just living in West London and that’s what all my friends were into. They weren’t into indie music at all. When I met Suzi, she didn’t even know who I was. She’d spent the ‘90s abroad and was totally into hip-hop. There was a lot more of that in my environment at that time.
When I was in London, I remember seeing all these guys with mohawks and purple hair. It was this punk thing. It was fascinating but I always think of punk rock when I think of London.
Two-tone, as well. That’s kind of the connection to the Gorillaz — that’s kind of how I blossomed into the person I am now is through my real empathy with two-tone while I was growing up. Living in Essex, which is a very, very white county, the fact that The Specials was on Top of the Pops was incredibly inspiring. I was optimistic.
In an interview with Jesus and Mary Chain, Jim Reid was telling me it was like a dream to be on Top of the Pops.
It really was.
Were you on the show?
I was on Top of the Pops a lot in the ’90s.
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I Don't Even Have My License Interview
I caught Grieves at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, CA. I laughed on the way when we passed the Birkenstock sandals headquarters. That ain’t gangsta. When we got to the show and my wife said, “It smells like manure,” I laughed again; hell of a setting for a night of rap music. On the car ride up we’d been listening to Kendrick and YG spin tales about Compton, or “Bompton” if you will. I was a little sad to see that no one in Petaluma was “bickin’ back bein bool.” And yet, when Grieves took the stage I was transported to another world. One where hip-hop and culture are a nation without borders and there is the promise of transcendent unity in booty shaking. All it took was flow, and heart and Grieves had them in abundance.
No Mom Yelling at Me in Portuguese
"Punk fuck hardcore skate punk thrash Austin Texas”—eight words that perfectly sum up the eccentric (read: controversial) four-piece outfit, Dress Up. Comprised of vocalist Alex Bond, guitarist Anthony Sardella, bassist Max Fitzgibbon and drummer JoJo Williamson, Dress Up is band of skaters who just happen to cross dress at every performance. Bond explains, “We have fun doing it and that’s exactly why—as skaters—we thought it was cool to eliminate the masculine vibe you would expect from us. Our main message is having fun and doing what you want.” Bond had some time in between shows to talk “Drug Abuse,” the band’s moniker and one of their wildest shows.
Trapped Under Ice
They’re back. Trapped Under Ice has returned from their hiatus with a series of friend-packed tours promoting their latest drop Heatwave, a track-after-track explosion of positive energy. I caught up with Justice Tripp (frontman) and Brendan Yates (drums) for the first half of this interview and slowly but surely, the rest of their members, Jared, Sam and Brad made their way into the green room before their Los Angeles show.
Tales Of Rails Al Partanen Gets Kinky
Tales Of Rails Al Partanen Gets Kinky
Don't Mess With Texans!
We were standing on the side of the building with our dicks in hands when we heard the gun cock behind us.
Those Magnificent Mulls
Rural Worblers in the Big City
I saw this spot back in 2012 and thought, “Man, this thing is possible.
CAME THROUGH DRIPPIN
Most of the world relies on flood irrigation to water crops. A more efficient alternative hasn’t been widely adopted because it’s so expensive. One Israeli soil physicist has the answer: a tiny plastic widget
The Eagle Valley Land Trust, located in Eagle County, Colorado, is dedicated to preserving 2,000 acres of land every year.
Lily & Charlie's DREAM WEDDING
They do! On Sept. 4, Lily Collins tied the knot with director Charlie McDowell at the Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado.
Tuning In to a Happier City
Noise is an irritant of urban life. But there are ways to make it easier on the ears—and the psyche
Simon Butler on Foundational Change
A London in Transition
SCIENTISTS LAUNCH EFFORT TO COLLECT WATER DATA IN US WEST
The U.S. Department of Energy announced a new kind of climate observatory near the headwaters of the Colorado River that will help scientists better predict rain and snowfall in the U.S. West and determine how much of it will flow through the region.
Flowing Into Silence
The natural world has a lot to say, if we're willing to listen.
IF THESE HILLS COULD TALK
Environmental activists are pursuing legal steps that would allow natural entities to sue in their own defense through a human spokesperson. But maybe it’s the conversation, and not the law, that matters most.
WHAT HISTORY HAS TAUGHT ME
BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, U.S. SENATOR, ARTIST, OLYMPIAN