Damon Albarn (Blur & Gorillaz) spoke exclusively to Anton Savage live on Today FM this morning in his only Irish interview. The award-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is currently promoting Blur’s brand new album The Magic Whip, due for release on Friday 24th April.
From Hong Kong to North Korea, Damon took The Anton Savage Show listeners on a travel guide to the planet as he chatted about the stories behind his albums.
He also revealed that he has much in common with Today FM’s own Matt Cooper in that he too spent time in North Korea, searching for inspiration in writing a musical score for Wonder.land, a new musical based loosely on Alice in Wonderland: “When I started thinking about writing music for Alice I was like ‘I really need something that’s going to give me the sense of going down the rabbit hole’ and I really couldn’t think of a better place to go than North Korea in the sense that once you cross the border you are in a magical place, everyone’s under a spell.”
Questioned about whether the environment is the sort of place to get the ‘creative juices’ flowing, Damon replied: “I wanted to experience the atmosphere of being in the court of the Red Queen. I’d always had a fascination about the place. I mean, how could people live with such an insanely distant grasp of what was going on in the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary place but I did find the people strangely charming. You leave the place feeling utterly bewildered, which is a good state of mind if you want to write about stuff.”
He also chatted about how the band’s new album found life in Hong Kong – only coming about as the result of a gig cancellation: “We didn’t really imagine that we’d make another record but we found ourselves in Hong Kong a few years ago and we had 5 days with nothing to do. We booked a really crappy studio with no air conditioning and we just plotted up there for 5 days. We took each little idea and then we’d jam it for 20/30 minutes, have a break, have a cup of tea and then move onto something else. We didn’t even listen back. At the end of the 5 days, it was like ‘that was fun’ and that was the end of that.”
Graham Coxon had other ideas and, 18 months later, set to work on the recordings. When it came to listening to the work, Damon explained, “I was nervous because I thought if I don’t like this it’s going to be a very awkward couple of hours!”
Reflecting on the whole experience, Damon told Anton: “The nice thing about it was that there was no pressure because we didn’t see it as making a record, we just saw it as having a laugh.”