Gorillaz Perform Rare Acoustic Set Outside the HD Radio Sound Space at KROQ

Damon Albarn also talks about his love of Los Angeles

October 30, 2018

Photo: Tanner Grant


By Scott T. Sterling

Damon Albarn does things his way or not at all.

Case in point: when the Gorillaz arrived to perform an exclusive show in the HD Radio Sound Space at KROQ, sound and lighting techs spent literal hours preparing the room to just right for the show.

Albarn took a look around, and had a better idea: move everything outside and turn it into an intimate backyard BBQ, complete with a live performance by the Gorillaz. And so it was.

“The mood of the music is a sunny mood. I see this gig on Saturday being like our farewell to summer,” Albarn explained to Stryker during an interview under the cloudless L.A. sky next to a humming generator in regards to the Demon Dayz festival that occurred over the weekend.

“I’ve always lived a quite sheltered life in L.A. I’ve sort of been on the same street for nearly 30 years. I’ve stayed in hotels that I couldn’t stay in when I first started, and then got the opportunity to stay in, and they were like really swish. Now I stay in them, and they’re not so swish anymore,” he deadpanned in classic Albarn fashion. “But it’s really nice. I like that familiarity. I like the more rundown version of L.A. The weather is so beautiful. You don’t need everything to be super hygienic and pristine and cosmetic.

“I’m not really into the dark side of L.A. I’m not going out at all,” he clarified. “I like the dare I say Latino kind of South American aspect of California. I love the pace of that.”

With 2018 marking 20 years since the Albarn and Jamie Hewlett first conceived Gorillaz, the singer looked back on two decades of Russel Hobbs, Noodle, 2-D and Murdoc.

Gorillaz (Art by Mona Edwards)

“It was so weird then. It was a completely unique moment. We sort of appeared out of thin air,” the singer remembered of those early days. “Now we’re sort of an analog version of the future we were imagining. We’ve become our own analog from being like...the last video, just last going back to the original drawn process. In my romantic mind, it’s still loads of people drawing individual cells, but it’s not really like that. But that love of movement with animation. We’ve tried a lot of different things, some of them more successful than others in the sense of creatively more successful. We’ve been very lucky that some of our most creative successes have been our most popular. It feels better.”

Running through the myriad artists and producers the Gorillaz have collaborated with over the albums and the years, Albarn admitted the whole thing comes down to the land that exists on this side of the big pond.

“There’s a principle and a spirit that’s attached how we make our music and how we communicate that. Gorillaz is of the Americas,” he said. “It’s an American imagination thing, even though we were in London when we imagined it. It was always drawn to here. You’ve got such brilliant cartoons here, it makes sense that there would be a cartoon band.”

After the interview, Albarn and the IRL Gorillaz live band delivered a stunning acoustic set under the blazing SoCal sunshine to a select group of fans and contest winners.

Opening with current single, “Humility,” the group (as well as an onstage sketch artist creating images in real time) cruised through the seven-song set, ending with two takes on Plastic Beach single, “On Melancholy Hill.” Albarn stopped the first take because the tempo was too fast for his liking, bringing it down to speed for the last tune of the afternoon. One the lucky Gorillaz fans in attendance won’t soon forget.