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Multiple Brits-nominees Gorillaz and Franz Ferdinand go face-to-face to decide who's the biggest beast in the pop jungle
Sunday January 22, 2006
Four animated figures are monkeying around in a photographer's studio in north London. Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs, 2D and Noodle are the Gorillaz, who last year released their second album, Demon Days. Its success has seen them nominated for two Brit awards: Best British Group and Best British Album. Demon Days. Its success has seen them nominated for two Brit awards: Best British Group and Best British Album.
Last year, on the back of their debut album, Franz Ferdinand won two Brits: Best British Group and Best British Rock Act. The Scottish band - comprising singer Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy, drummer Paul Thomson and guitarist Nick McCarthy - have the opportunity to go one better this time round, with nominations in the categories for Best British Rock Act, Best British Live Act and Best British Group.
Which of these two groups will prevail in that final contest? Franz arrive at the same studio and, at OMM's instigation, a very earnest and also very silly conversation begins ...
Alex Kapranos: Do you have any celebrity fans? We hear Damon from Blur and Jamie Hewlett are renowned for clearing the rider backstage at your dos.
Murdoc: Oh, them two, yeah ... 'the cling-ons'. The party line we tow is that Damon helped 'produce the album' and Jamie takes our photos, directs our videos, but it's all rubbish. Damon usually sits around playing his banjo or looking up 'ethnic instruments' on Google, and Jamie's normally just designing his beard. I even saw Damon covering our tracks in Manchester, at the Opera House. But as for celebrity fans, yeah, loads. We just made an album with half of them.
Russel: Have Franz ever thought about releasing any collaborations with other artists?
Bob Hardy: Not really. There's obviously so much more of a history of collaboration between electronic acts and it seems to work much better, but I think with guitar bands there's that tendency for it to end up looking like a mutual appreciation society.
Paul Thomson: We are really involved in choosing the remixers for our singles and tour supports, so I suppose our collaborations take those forms.
Alex:Congratulations on the Brits nominations. We think Frank Sidebottom and Larry David would make a great presenting duo at the awards. Who would your choice of presenter be?
Noodle: I think either Bruce Campbell from the Evil Dead series or Hayao Miyazaki who wrote and directed Spirited Away
Murdoc: George Romero would be perfect. He knows how to handle his zombies ...
2D: Howard Devoto from Magazine should present the Best Group award. You don't see enough of him really, considering how great they were.
Russel: Classic singles are the things that truly define the great bands. What would you put down as your one ultimate single of all time?
Paul: The single is a real meter of a great band. So many bands have gained their reputation on the back of great singles. Roxy Music had 'Virginia Plain', Sparks had 'This Town', and the Beatles had loads, to the extent that they could throw away amazing songs like 'Rain' as B-sides.
Alex: Let me ask you one: tour bus etiquette is vital to the smooth running of a tour. What sort of behaviour do you demand from band members while on the road?
2D: Rule number one: Don't muck about with fireworks in the bunks.
Murdoc: Christ! Touring with 2D literally brings it all back to the days of PT Barnum and his travelling freak show. Seriously, as soon as he steps on board the aura of the bus changes from 'Rock 'n' Roll' to 'Special Needs'. You wouldn't believe how soul-destroying it can be travelling with someone with a combination of ADD and verbal diarrhoea. He's like some kind of microcephalic; an adult vocabulary but the mental agility of a five-year-old.
2D: After eight hours in a tour bus on a motorway, the tiniest thing can annoy you. After a while I just hope the whole thing crashes.
Noodle: Murdoc has the most distasteful hygiene standards.
Russel: And the absinthe gargling and endless womanising really is just vulgar.
Murdoc: Oh, c'mon ... ladies? Y'know, 'perks of the job'? Trouble is with girls, they're very more-ish.
Alex: Well, forgetting all that ... You have worked with Danger Mouse. How was that?
Russel: Hey, the guy's got an incredible set of ears.
2D: For a mouse.
Russel: Seriously. He always dug deep to find the soul of a song and paid real attention to how it stood alongside the other tracks, to give the record a consistency. A real wide knowledge of music and a colourful attitude. The beats, the vocal delivery. His experiments normally work out.
Noodle: It also helps that he's well connected. It was through him that MF Doom and Bootie Brown and De La Soul came on to the record.
Alex: We tried our hand at axe throwing when we were recording our record. How did you relax during the making of your record?
Noodle: Danger Mouse is a table tennis champion of an almost martial level. Most moments when breaking were spent attempting to beat him.
Murdoc: Couldn't do it. Not even cheating.
Russel: I took the time to learn about taxidermy. But I just wanted to break new ground in that area, so I've been cutting and pasting animals together. Yaks with lizards, hogs and zebras. It keeps the whole skill fresh, y'know?
2D: Alex, you eat like a horse but you're skinny, whereas our drummer Russel eats like a horse and weighs in around 40 stone. Seriously, he's one pie away from having to have bed baths. Russel wants to know: what's your secret?
Alex: I think I can thank my parents for a great metabolism.
Russel: I heard that for the video for 'Do You Want To' there was originally gonna be The Good Franz vs The Bad Franz, but when you tried on The Bad Franz's outfits you dug them so much, you just stayed in them for the whole shoot. D'you think Franz Ferdinand feel better playing the bad guys?
Nick McCarthy: It's always more exciting playing the bad guys!
Alex: Fish and chips, Alan Bennett, Austin Allegros, Ivor Cutler, rhubarb, Stanley Unwin ... There is currently a debate raging about the people and things that define Britain. Anything you'd like to add to the list?
2D: Skinheads called Coxy, Rothmans, flicking the 'V' sign, er ... chips thrown against shop windows, being 'fick', Ronnie Barker saying 'naff orf', Tony Hancock, curtains. Ribbed pint glasses. Not knowing when to give up, and er ... giving up.
Russel: I think the phrase you're looking for is 'a sort of resignation'.
Murdoc: What d'you know? You're not even from round here.
Alex: Ever had a fight with another band?
Murdoc: I smashed a lamb shank right into the face of one of Bronksi Beat once. It was nothing musical, it was just the sound of their screeching voices. I was trying to read and they were next to me arguing the toss over which useless song to cover next. So I just picked up this shoulder of meat and whack! Knocked 'em out.
Alex: Have you ever been stalked by obsessive fans? What are your tips to deal with the lunatic fringes of fandom?
Russel: When we were touring in America our bus was tailed by this mystery car. We couldn't see who was in it, but then we started getting our windows shot out. It turned out that this mad sniper was some wailing banshee who was obsessed with Murdoc. Then we found out the reason: he had got her pregnant during some mad three-day bender.
Murdoc: That wasn't me, sunshine, it was Steve Coogan. I wouldn't touch her. Her band's bloody rubbish.
Alex: How do you keep your private lives out of the papers? We rarely hear of the Gorillaz's wives or girlfriends.
Russel: Our security guard is 8ft tall and built like a giant ginger fridge. He's got shovels for fists and if anyone comes near us he'll just eat the camera. No one gets a shot of us without our permission. No one.
Alex: What impropriety would lead to the sacking of one of your band members? Is there an unwritten moral code to which you all adhere or are the Gorillaz morally corrupt?
Noodle: The danger with bands and their moral codes is that after a while, if you spend too much time together, you morph into the same personality, yet one that is always fighting among itself.
Russel: I guess, artistically, there's an allegiance not to produce anything substandard. But outside of Gorillaz ... I mean, bankrupt wouldn't even cover Murdoc's moral stance. He tried to sell our singer's liver on eBay.
Murdoc: We can get pretty Teutonic when it comes to our rules, but at the same time, y'know, sack any one of us and the whole ship goes down.
Alex: The cult of celebrity stinks. The Big Brother house should be bombed and all aspirant Big Brothers shipped off to spend the rest of their lives eating dog biscuits and peeling wet potatoes for the crisp industry. Is this fair? Is fame really all it's cracked up to be?
Murdoc: Big Brother? It's like watching the fall of Pompeii. Serious. They should announce over the speakers: 'Big Brother is about to release the rabid baboons into the household.' Let some crazed apes go in and shred the lot of them.
Russel: Celebrity seems to be the goal now, not the work. But fame, notoriety and respect for talent should be a good thing. That's how you hear about all the great artists when you're growing up.
Murdoc: For me, fame is a fantastic thing. I took to fame like a fish to drink. I can get away with murder.
Noodle: But the current nature of celebrity now is just a virus, a rotten plague. 'Reject False Icons'. One of the reasons why we present ourselves in the way we do is to remove the ego from the music. Using the imagination is a far superior way to entertain than the usual route of massaging some pop star's ego to create a 'celebrity' that the audience can buy into.
Alex: Would you fly in a jet piloted by Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden fame?
Murdoc: This is a trick question, right? Of course! If Bruce is flying then everything's cool. I mean, he's still with us, so he must know how to control the thing. Last question. Noodle says that she wants to bounce the blonde one in your band on her knee. What are the chances of that happening, eh?
Bob Hardy: With pleasure!
· Gorillaz are the artistic creation of artist Jamie Hewlett (Damon Albarn makes all the music). This month he was shortlisted for the prestigious Designer of the Year award