Graphic design influences all areas of the arts world. In the music sphere, many bands incorporate significant amounts of graphic design as part of their albums, promotions and on stage performances. The images help to project and complement the musical contributions of the artists. One example of a band that has had a ground breaking and influential use of graphic design in their work has been the English musical project known as Gorillaz.
Formed in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. Gorillaz set out to create an extensive fictional universe depicting a “virtual band” of cartoon characters. The virtual band band is composed of four animated members: 2D (lead vocalist, keyboard, and melodica), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar and drum machine), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and occasional vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion). Gorillaz explore their fictional universe on the band’s website, music videos, and even some short cartoons. Their musical style combines multiple genres, including alternative rock, dub, hip hop, electronic, and pop music.
Gorillaz have just released a special commemorative 15-track collection of the band’s singles, videos and remixes. The Singles Collection: 2001-2011 celebrates ten years of audio visual innovation, as well as three successful studio albums.
Their first album, Gorillaz, was released in 2001 and was considered revolutionary in the music world. Despite meeting initial opposition from insiders as being too gimmicky and full of folly, fans bought 6 million copies of the CD around the world. Gorillaz were a bonified hit in popular culture both with their unique sound, but more importantly their ground-breaking animated virtual band concept.
The massively successful first album took its toll on Gorillaz. As shared by animated band member Noodle “Every great band is destroyed by their success. Cartoon bands are no exception.” After several years of recovery, a second album, Demon Days, was released in 2005. It was followed by a run of groundbreaking animated live shows at Manchester International Festival and Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. After the second album, it was time again to go into hibernation for Gorillaz.
Another five years would pass again before Gorillaz resurfaced again in 2010. The third album was called Plastic Beach and was set on an island in the South Pacific. In the first released single and video, “Stylo,” a tough guy Bruce Willis was chasing down the animated Gorillaz who were escaping Willis’ clutches in time to launch their first World Tour with a team of veteran of musicians including Clash greats Paul Simonon and Mick Jones.
Over the last decade, Gorillaz topped the charts in more than a dozen countries on their way to sales of over 13 million units. Their influence and appeal could be seen in the awards they won; a Grammy, an Ivor Novello, four CAD nominations, the 2006 Webby Award for Artist of The Year, and the Jim Henson Award for Creativity. In 2006 Jamie Hewlett was awarded Designer of the Year for his work on Gorillaz; four years later the band graced the cover of tech bible Wired Magazine.
Gorillaz set new standards for what a band, virtual or not, could accomplish utilizing graphic design and animation. The Gorillaz website is a natural extension and collection of the creative efforts of the band. You can play a graphically interesting online adventure game, watch their award winning videos, read news or listen to some of their songs.
For fans of the group and their music, the album of the decade long string of singles will be in stores Noember 2011.