It’s safe to say that we’ve hardly seen a musical project as conceptually ambitious as Gorillaz since Damon Albarn debuted the virtual band’s Tomorrow Comes Today EP in 2000. Comprised of four fictitious band members, the exotic cartoons add a unique visual context to Gorillaz songs, navigating a mystifying fictional universe mapped by Albarn and co-creator Jamie Hewlett.
This universe was expanded further with the release of Gorillaz’s fifth studio album, Humanz, last month. Marking nearly 20 years of this duo herding this multimedia animal form behind the curtain, Gorillaz’s music still manages to grow ever more eclectic and the animation uncompromisingly forward-thinking. Just watch the video for “Saturnz Barz” for an example of the latter.
The illustrative half of Gorillaz’s twin brain sat down recently with London pop culture wheelhouse Konbini to dish on his artistic influences and offer a snapshot tutorial of his craft.
Meet Jamie Hewlett, the man behind Gorillaz graphic universe
Posted by Konbini on Tuesday, May 23, 2017
In the video, Hewlett discusses his early fandom of Mad Magazine and Star Wars while whipping up renderings of Alfred E. Neuman and Chewbacca, before sketching himself as a clown in his “happy place.” The artist also tries to recall the inspiration for the Gorillaz members while doodling their headshots. A flaccid banana peel is envisaged, when asked to draw something “with Trump in mind.”
Hewlett had known Albarn since the early ’90s, but it wasn’t until the latter end of the decade that the two first started to draft the Gorillaz concept. Before then, Hewlett had run the popular Tank Girl comic strip published by the now-defunct Deadline magazine.
The series was discontinued by Hewlett following a Tank Girl film adaptation, freeing his hands in time for a strangely inspiring afternoon of disillusioned MTV viewing with Albarn, his then-flatmate.
Hewlett told Wired in 2005:
One day, we were home watching MTV with our eyes just kind of glazed. Because if you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.
You can also follow Jamie Hewlett on Instagram to for a steady stream of his Gorillaz-related creations.