Music Article

Welcome to the Monkey House

The return of the Gorillaz -- EW goes behind-the-scenes of the strictly animated band's new album

The music world today is overrun with one-dimensional stereotypes — the Svengalied pop tarts, rawk Xeroxes, and prefab R&B smoothies who continuously glut airwaves and iPods. How refreshing, then, to meet a band that lives fully in 2-D: virtual hip-hop collective Gorillaz . The strictly animated band broke out in 2001 with the sizzurp-thick dub jam ''Clint Eastwood'' (off their self-titled debut album) but truly made their name with this year's platinum-plus Demon Days, a monster hit thanks in large part to the phenomenon of single ''Feel Good Inc.'' — and a certain roller-skate-heavy Apple commercial that accompanied it. As a year-end present to LTT readers, we've stepped aside and allowed you all to ask everything you ever wanted to know about Murdoc, Russel, Noodle, and 2D. All of their responses are surprisingly 3-D.

How'd you get Dennis Hopper to narrate a song on your latest album? —MICHAEL STROCKO, NEW YORK CITY

MURDOC Well, when you're a band of our size, you don't really hang round with just musicians anymore. We mix in all kinds of circles. See, there was this circus troupe passing through Kong Studios at one point and I don't know if Dennis was a part of their...act, but he was with them, deffo. So, as he was around, we got him to put the vocals down on the track we were working on. Actually, he already knew some Gorillaz tunes, so we were kind of doing him a favor letting him work with us. It's certainly something he can tell his grandchildren, eh?

NOODLE The track he read on, ''Fire Coming Out of a Monkey's Head,'' was a cautionary tale of a group of people with dark intentions infiltrating the lives of an innocent society, one that had been sheltered from the poisons created by desire and lust for power. Naively unaware of the true nature of these infiltrators, they were left vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. Ultimately the disharmony was to be the downfall of all involved.

MURDOC So...er...yeah, we thought Dennis Hopper would be the perfect person to read this story. Because of all the stuff he did in Easy Rider. With the bikes and stuff.

Why do you guys like Clint Eastwood so much? —JOELLE HATEM, FURN EL CHEBBACK, LEBANON

2D Er...the whole Clint Eastwood thing got out of hand. We called the first single ''Clint Eastwood'' because it had a kind of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly feel to the melodic line. Kind of like Ennio Morricone.

MURDOC ''Every Which Way But Loose'' may be the first track off our third album.

Who developed the band's style? —ANGELA RODRIGUEZ, HENDERSON, NEV.

MURDOC Me.

2D Really?

MURDOC I put this band together, and it's my keen eye for image, style, and music that makes this band what it is. Like the good Lord, I fashioned this band in my own image.

Why do some of your songs feature maniacal laughter? It scares my roommate at night. —LAURIE HAHN, ST. LOUIS

MURDOC Before we recorded ''Feel Good Inc.,'' some of the De La Soul boys had been hitting the nitrous oxide pretty hard. They were giggling their crazy asses off. See, great songs have their own...motifs. You can tell as soon as you hear that laugh just which song's about to come on.

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