Gorillaz: Decoding the Humanz Condition

The Humanz Condition

Interview by Kristin Farr // Artwork by Jamie Hewlett

In 1998, Jamie Hewlett created a globally renowned virtual band known as Gorillaz. Consisting of four cartoon members – 2-D, Noodle, Russel Hobbs, and Murdoc Niccals – Gorillaz captured the imagination of audiences, brought to life through Hewlett’s artistic prowess and a rotating lineup of musicians. Recently, the band made a highly anticipated comeback with their album and tour, titled Humanz. Powered by Hewlett’s captivating live animations, 360-degree music videos, intricate backstories, covers, and every other aspect of their stage presence, Gorillaz continues to have a profound impact on our generation’s visual culture. However, Gorillaz is just one of many projects Hewlett has undertaken, including comics and opera.

The Age of Artificial Intelligence and the Relevance of a Virtual Band

In this era dominated by artificial intelligence, a virtual band like Gorillaz seems fitting. Over the past 20 years, they have crafted a soundtrack that resonates with people throughout their lives. Gorillaz has helped an entire generation dance through the darkness, as emphasized by Gorillaz guest star Vince Staples, who stated, “The sky’s falling, baby, drop that ass ‘fore it crashes.” Gorillaz’s music has provided solace during trying times, and their comeback arrives when they are needed the most.

An Evolving Band in a Changing World

Since their last release nearly a decade ago, Gorillaz has undergone significant changes, mirroring the transformations in the world around us. As Hewlett delved into his little box of characters, he discovered a world that had evolved. The making of the album and the creation of the videos and music coincided with even more profound changes globally. Consequently, the band members now portray a sense of brokenness, disillusionment, and determination. Their presence in the midst of societal challenges offers comfort and serves as a reminder of their relevance.

The Politically Charged Musical Journey

Each Gorillaz album has subtly delivered political messages nestled between the layers of music. While the band has never preached from a soapbox, they have consistently embedded meaningful themes for listeners to discover on their own. With their latest album, the political undertones emerge more prominently, reflecting the chaotic state of the world. The title, “Humanz,” poses a thought-provoking question about our true nature and awareness. Are we still genuinely human amidst the overwhelming influence of artificial intelligence, conditioning, brainwashing, and control? The album serves as a call to action, urging listeners to wake up and be agents of change.

From Inspiration to Reunion

The decision to reunite the band was made in 2014, with Damon Albarn already starting to work on Gorillaz’s music while simultaneously focusing on Blur. The creative process began in 2015, with a deliberate pace to ensure the organic evolution of the album. Hewlett emphasizes the importance of selecting the right ideas at the right time and structuring them cohesively. Despite the time-consuming nature of the process, the outcome is ultimately worth the wait.

Exploring New Dimensions: 360-Degree Music Videos

The creation of a 360-degree music video presented both challenges and unique experiences. Hewlett shares his surprise at the complexities involved in directing such a video. Unlike traditional directing, where the director controls what the audience sees, a 360-degree video requires the creation of an entire universe. Viewers have the freedom to look wherever they choose, necessitating careful coordination of sound and lighting effects to guide their attention