Damon and Graham Are George and Andrew - Noise11.com
Damon Albarn of Gorillaz photo by Ros O'Gorman

Damon Albarn of Gorillaz photo by Ros O'Gorman

Damon and Graham Are George and Andrew

by Music-News.com on July 26, 2023

in News

All four members of Blur (Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree) join Matt Wilkinson on Apple Music 1 to discuss details around their new album ‘The Ballad of Darren’, out now. The band discuss the early days in Soho, their recent Wembley Stadium shows and how Graham and Damon are similar to Wham!. They also share details on recent single ‘St Charles Square’, how they felt about making the new record, the characters that feature on the album and the theme of sadness that comes from Damon’s lyrics.

Damon Albarn on his connection to Soho…
In 1989, coming to Brewer Street was like magic. I used to find any excuse to come and visit the record label. Even if there was nothing really to talk about, I’d come. I was just so into it.

Graham Coxon on revisiting Food Records HQ when writing his memoir…
It was all there. I preferred leaving it in that possibly very altered state of how I remember it. It’s pretty much the same. It just felt different. Just here is Golden Square, and there was Soho Pizza where we went through a list of names and chose the name Blur.

Blur on performing their recent headline shows at Wembley and why they were their best ever…

Yeah. I think it was. The Sunday night was the best ever concert.

Alex: I was doing live telly yesterday, and the person sitting next to me had been to the gig, and they said, “How was Wembley?” And she just started absolutely gushing and then I nearly started crying.

Thank God I turned away because you can see my body was like that. It was this guy to my left who was I think from Argentina with a few other people, and he’s just so emotional. That hit a nerve inside me.

I think what’s different about Wembley is there’s more people and they’re all stacked up on top of each other.

That was the amazing thing. On Sundays, it just got smaller and smaller.

Well, a certain artist who would prefer to remain anonymous said afterwards, “It was like watching four guys have a kick around in the park, but the park was Wembley Stadium.” It did feel like a pub gig, just the people going absolutely insane.

Well, you don’t normally see it. The good thing about Wembley was it’s actually, the footprint of the place is quite small, so all the people, you can actually see the faces of the people. And we started playing in the daytime, which we don’t normally do, so again, you could actually see the effect the songs are having.

But the fact is you’re really small. On the stage, you look like ants. And if you thought like that, if you actually could realise that perspective while you’re on stage, you’d be so intimidated by it.

The other good thing about Wembley, it’s really, really loud. You can’t go that loud in Hyde Park. But just in terms of the sound on stage, because I think because we were able to get in there the day before and just bed in.

Blur on using the same locker room as the football players at Wembley Stadium…

And it was really good because they’ve got super cold plunge pools with jacuzzi inside them.

Exactly, yeah. And there’s a massive communal shower. I put them all on. And ran around singing.

Blur on Wham!…

I was watching the Wham! documentary recently. I realised that Graham and I are George and Andrew.

We’re Pepsi & Shirlie, obviously.

…just that sort of at school kind of… But we don’t have a film of us, but definitely, it was really strange how similar in age really. We’re not that far off, although they’re a whole generation before us.

Blur on the characters featured on their album…

Who are they? Well, obviously I’m in there. I think everyone in the band’s in there as well. Darren, obviously. I feel like the Ballad of Darren is a record that somehow carries all of us.

I think these songs, they start with a real hopeful and almost an innocent… I don’t think I’d ever think I’d look back on For Tomorrow and things like that as innocence. There’s a sort of an obliteration of these characters that I liken to writers like Paul Auster or whatever like that, where these characters are put through life. We all are put through life and are sort of spat out, so the difference between the gig at the beginning and that front row or whatever at the end is very different, and the sort of taste and the feeling of where that character is is so different to the beginning. It’s almost like Spirit. It’s not like an innocent young person anymore, and I think that that’s something about the journey of that album.

Blur on St Charles Square being the first song they recorded from the new album…

The first moment where I remember it really going boom was St Charles Square. I remember bouncing up and down with you.

I have had many encounters with St. Charles Square over the last 30 years, and most of them have been tinged with darkness. So it is a place where monsters live, past and present.

Blur on making the new record…

It was potentially quite daunting making another record at this stage of your career, but actually, from the very first morning, it was just effortless, joyous, weightless.

I think that was the hardest work for me as a guitar player on that record. I did more guitar takes than any other album ever on that. But we were definitely ready to make a record when we went in there and we could definitely see the potential of the songs and everything like that.

The very first time we ever worked together, all of us, the four of us in a room, we wrote a song that we still play today. It was there instantly. Yeah. And then we spent years doing it for hours every day, 15 years doing nothing else and then we’ve continued to dip back in and out of it, and so that’s an incredibly precious thing we’ve got. I remember walking on stage the other day and I said to Dave, “This is easy, isn’t it?” And he was like, “We’ve been doing it for 35 years, mate. Anything’s easy if you do it for 35 years.”

Perhaps 35 years is the mark when it becomes easy then, because until that point, it was always pretty nerve-racking for me.

Blur on the amount of gigs they did before being signed…

I wonder how many gigs it actually was. It can’t have been more than six.

Well, Leo reviewed the first one and Andy came to the second one, so really, the label that we signed to saw us at our second gig.

Yes, and probably, we negotiated it in this pub (The Crown, Soho).

Foolishly, yeah. That’s why we’re still on the same contract.

Damon Albarn on the sadness in his storytelling…

There certainly is. I’m sad. I’m officially a sad 55-year-old. It’s okay being sad. It’s almost impossible not to have some sadness in your life by the age of 55. If you’ve managed to get to 55, I can only speak because that’s as far as I’ve managed to get, and not have any sadness in your life, you’ve had a blessed, charmed life.

Funny that we’re somewhere where Mozart might have walked. I was doing my classical practice when I was much younger, and I can’t remember, it’s a sonata in G minor I think. And I just got to this phrase that was so sad, and I stopped learning classical music after that. I just wanted to repeat that phrase, that movement that grabs me every time. Whenever I hear anything when there’s a move that leans towards sadness, my ear becomes keen.

Blur on feeling the need to sing the songs again…

Absolutely. For me, I feel like those songs need to be sung again. I actually felt like the horn in the fjord was blown. Honestly, it was like that. It was like, I need to sing those songs again.

Mop our brow, park the plough, and then stroll towards the big city and don the axe.


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