Gorillaz are nonchalant about their success -- The cartoon supergoup talks with us about their new album, their old album, and Monty Python

By Brian M. Raftery
June 13, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

They may work with Gorillaz, but the three gents at a corner table in a Manhattan restaurant seem more interested in watching the birds — the hostess hotties settled a few feet away. And though Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and DJ Danger Mouse — the ”creators” of the cartoon supergroup Gorillaz — have a top 10 album (it’s No. 1 in the U.K.), there’s no recognition from the lassies. Which is exactly the point.

”We went to a [London] club packed with paparazzi,” recalls Albarn, ”and when I came out, they were like, ‘Damon! Damon! What you been doing?’ I was, ‘I’m No. 1, man. Sorry.’ We got exactly what we wanted: People buy an album and don’t care who made it.”

2001’s Gorillaz, the multimedia concoction of Blur singer Albarn, Tank Girl creator Hewlett, and producer Dan the Automator, should never have been more than a larky side project. At a time when the most successful rapping cartoon was The Simpsons‘ Poochie, Gorillaz sold an unexpected 6 million copies worldwide.

”We see ourselves like Monty Python — [as] a collective,” says Albarn. Unlike the Pythoners, though, Gorillaz keep rotating members: After a falling-out between Albarn and Automator (neither will elaborate), they turned to Brian Burton, who had infamously mashed up Jay-Z’s The Black Album with the Beatles’ White Album under his appropriately cartoon-inspired alias: Danger Mouse.

The resulting Demon Days — a sample-free set that effortlessly meshes Burton’s beats with Albarn’s Kinks-like vocals — sold so well (107,000 copies, for a No. 6 U.S. debut), it inspired more efforts: an Afro-pop CD produced by Albarn and Burton and a project Hewlett describes as ”kung-fu-related, monkey-related, Chinese-related.” Maybe something the chicks will notice.