JC Hewlett; Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images
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April 27, 2017 at 12:00 PM EDT

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Famed illustrator Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz’s visionary visual half, reveals what it takes to build the band’s wild virtual world.

DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
“The characters [2D, Noodle, Murdoc Niccals, and Russel Hobbs] have always been based on our family, our group. I don’t go to every [studio] session, because I have to do my work. But we were recording in New York, Chicago, Paris, and Jamaica, and one thing I learned from past Gorillaz albums is that it’s good to capture everything on film when you collaborate with people. Then you have this giant archive you can use.”

GET BACK TO BASICS
“When everything gets done on a computer, it drives you a little mad after a while, and I wanted to get back to drawing. I took maybe three years of painting in oils on canvases, making a lot of mess, and expressing myself just for my own pleasure, really, because I wanted to come out with a new way of making this art — working with collage, creating environments and virtual reality. So [get ready to] put your goggles on.”

BE FLEXIBLE
“The songs tend to change quite a lot. I mean, I think Damon must have made, like, 35 for this album. I listen to them constantly on big speakers in my studio and just draw. Damon makes great songs, and I have complete faith in him. Though I do get attached to them, and then he says, ‘I don’t like that one, we’re not gonna use it.’ That’s just the process.”

HAVE PATIENCE WITH TECHNOLOGY
“We tried the holograms when we did the Grammys with Madonna [in 2006], and it looks great on television. But the problem in real life is that when you turn the bass up too loud, the invisible screen that reflects the holograms starts to vibrate, and they fall to pieces. So you have to play very quietly, and nobody wants to see a quiet concert.” [Laughs]

Humanz arrives Friday, April 28. Check out our interview with Damon Albarn about the new album here.

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