The cartoon band's sixth album goes back to basics by forgoing their usual eclectic range of collaborators (there's only three special guests on two songs - George Benson and Snoop Dogg/Jamie Principle), while they've had a shake-up in their line-up, too; bassist and founding member Murdoc Niccals has been 'jailed', and is replaced by new member Ace on this album.
Luckily, we had a chance to chat to band members 2-D (aka Damon Albarn) and Russel Hobbs in an Irish exclusive for entertainment.ie, and you can read it below...
Hi guys! You're releasing 'The Now Now' very soon after 'Humanz' – how and why did it come together so quickly?
2D: Time moves faster these days, we had to react quickly. ‘Cos if we didn’t, now very soon becomes then, and we’d have to call the album Now Then. Which isn’t so immediate. Although it could make a good B-side compilation. Russ, make a note of that.
The album has fewer guest stars than previous Gorillaz albums. What was the thinking behind that, this time around?
2D: What’s with all these questions?
Russel: It’s an interview.
2D: I hear you. There’s less guest stars because Murdoc’s got the book with all our famous friends’ email addresses, and he’s in prison. I WhatsApp’d him to ask for it, then realised he probably isn’t allowed a phone. So, I sent him a cake with a phone hidden in in it, but I forgot to hide the phone in it.
'Humility' sounds great – is that a good indication of what we can expect from the album, or is it the usual mixed bag of styles?
2D: Expect greatness, and you will not be disappointed. A wise man said that. Me. Yeah. I know that doesn’t sound very humble, but there’s nothing usual about The Now Now. If anything its non-usual.
Russel: He doesn’t even use autotune this time. Gloves are off.
You've always incorporated themes into your songs and albums in the past – is there one overarching theme that dominates this album?
2D: It’s about being far away, now… After Humanz, we partied hard. Too hard. I went all the way to the edge of the universe and back. (And then back again to the edge of the universe ‘cos I left my sunglasses there.).
Russel He took the drowsy hay-fever pills by mistake. Really messes my boy up.
You're six albums in, now; apart from the obvious, what are the biggest differences between the band who released 'Gorillaz' in 2001 and the band who are releasing 'The Now Now'? Any regrets?
2D: I’m calling the shots now. Like this morning, I said to Noodle, 'Hey, fetch me my jackfruit bubble tea will ya?\'And she said ‘get stuffed!’. But in the past, she would have totally ignored me - i.e., people are starting to listen to me. I’m levelling up. 2D is becoming 3D. You feel me?
Does the album title have any particular significance? Is it from a song lyric, or what?
Russel: Sure, it’s about right now. What’s more significant than that?
2D: It’s like when I’m in the back of the car, and I say I need the loo. And Noodle says ‘What, now?’, and I’m like ‘NOW now!’.
What can you tell us about Murdoc's incarceration and how it impacted 'The Now Now' – do we need to start a #FreeMurdoc campaign?
Russel: Seems like one has spontaneously burst into existence, unasked for. Like the universe. No one knows how it started, but it’s too late to stop it. Am I behind it? Can’t say I am. Got a movement of my own bubbling with my man 2D here. We have our own message to get out. Speak the truth. Mean what you say. Be yourself.
2D: Meme what you say! And be your selfie. Always try to be your selfie, that’s the real you.
Russel: Uh, yeah, something like that.
How much of a difference has it made – both to you and the band – having a new member (Ace) in the band/rhythm section after playing with Murdoc for so long?
Russel: It’s not so much about Ace coming in, but about not having Murdoc around. The air is fresher, like when a storm clears a foul smog. It’s just nice to breathe deep and not taste ash and lube.
Can you tell us about working with Snoop Dogg on 'Hollywood'? Why was he the right man for that song, and what sort of atmosphere was there in the studio that day?
Russel: We kinda just ran into him on tour.
2D: Hang on, Russ, let me tell this anecdote. Yeah, so, what happened was, we kinda just ran into him on tour.
Your back catalogue to date has been pretty diverse and you've taken a lot of unexpected twists and turns so far - where do you see Gorillaz going next?
Russel: If we knew that now, when the time comes it would already be the past. Gorillaz are about the now. You know? As Picasso once uttered, “if you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the good in doing it?”
2D: True dat. That’s why I never fill in my diary. Don’t plan anything, stay free.
Russel: You’re late for your 3.30 fish pedicure, by the way.
'The Now Now' is released on Friday, June 29th.