gorilla marketing

Animated chart-toppers with an ever-increasing mystique, Gorillaz keep their fingers on the pulse without actually having one themselves.

Gorillaz, the cartoon collective straight out of a K-hole hallucination, has emerged as the freshest thing in 3-D. Their sophomore juggernaut Demon Days (EMI) was 2005's definitive time capsule offering, blending together techno, world beat and hip-hop, resulting in a lo-fi creepyphonic dance party. Every time you blinked this year, the band was making headlines - charting at #1 in the UK, dominating the MTV Europe Music Awards with an innovative "live" hologram performance and landing comfortably on every music cognoscenti's year-end list.

Sitting in his London recording studio, Damon Albarn, former frontman for Blur, seems underwhelmed by all of the success his "side project" has garnered over the past year. Sure he's thankful, but he reeks of a general ennui that you might expect from a musical genius. "I'm really bad at talking about things like that," he says. "I get a bit embarrassed really." The truth is that the men behind Gorillaz don't want to talk to you. Albarn, along with his partner, cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, would rather stand in the shadows like the great and powerful Oz, and let the music and the "real" band members speak for themselves.

Gorillaz's "real" members include zombie lead singer 2D, a 23-year-old blue-haired poster boy who's been hit on the head repeatedly and is addicted to painkillers for his migraines. And we can't forget about the Satanist death-metal bass player Murdoc - an ex-speed freak with personal hygiene problems who likes to dominate interviews, shoplift and chain smoke. "He's sort of like a young Keith Richards," Hewlett has said. Next up is Russel, a 25-year-old New York expat who digs hip-hop, "Chaka Kahn and Farrakhan," is personally responsible for breaking Murdoc's nose and oh yes, can resurrect his dead homies (who have all died in drive-by shootings) while he plays the drums. Last, but not least, is Noodle, a 13-year-old Japanese girl who arrived in a crate after the band put a notice in NME looking for a new guitarist. She is a martial arts expert, loves haiku and realized after the band's last hiatus that she speaks perfect English (after formerly only being able to say the word "noodle).

The foursome give interviews, hold contests and have started a celebrity-takedown campaign branding everything from stickers to T-shirts with their guerrilla-like slogan Reject False Icons. "We were aware of the [branding] potential from the beginning," says Albarn, who is keeping a watchful eye on the commercial-o-meter. "But Gorillaz isn't a money-driven thing - it couldn't be because we reinvest so much all the time."

Although it's obvious that Albarn supplies 2D's lead vocals, he is notoriously dodgy when it comes to confirming any other musical match-ups, preferring that fans focus on the music rather than who's behind it. He has no problem outing a virtual pu pu platter of cameos, however - perhaps the most random collection of talent ever to coalesce on one album. Demon Days's guest appearances include the stellar production values of DJ Danger Mouse, De La Soul's infectious flow on "Feel Good Inc," Shaun Ryder's flair on the monster hit "Dare," and Dennis Hopper's spoken word narrative on "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head." And while it may seem like an album that's trying to be everything all at once, there's a very distinct Gorillaz sound at play - happy beats and intense lyricism credited with capturing the unease of the millennium. Again, too much sleuthing about would probably spoil the mysterious fun. Remember how disenchanted you felt when Kiss removed their makeup? To sum up, Gorillaz is the most authentic fake band, moving music forward in a most fearless manner, and it's not too late for the uninitiated to join in on the revolution. This month, Gorillaz will release their fourth single "El Manana," and are planning a U.S. showcase in March. Visit Gorillaz.com for more information. RENEE GOLD