Gorillaz are a virtual band, composed of four fictional animated band members: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel.
The band was created by Damon Albarn from the Britpop band Blur, and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the comic book Tank Girl. Their style is broadly 'alternative', but with an unusually large number of other influences.
Unlike other fictional bands whose music has had real-life success, they are neither a parody of a particular genre (Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind) nor marketed to young children (The Archies), and their actual musical output is far more of an attraction to most of their fans than the novelty of their supposed existence as cartoon characters.
The band's first album, 2001's Gorillaz, sold over 3 million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. Their second studio album, Demon Days, was released in 2005 and included the hit singles "Feel Good Inc.", "DARE", "Dirty Harry" and "Kids With Guns / El Mañana." Demon Days went Double Platinum in the U.S., Triple Platinum in the U.K., and earned 5 Grammy award nominations for 2005.
The story of Gorillaz begins in 1997. Stu-Pot was a mentally deficient keyboard enthusiast and star employee at Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium. Satanist hoodlum Murdoc Niccals decided to ramraid Uncle Norm's Organ Emporium to procure synthesizer equipment in order to establish a "chart topping" musical group. However, Murdoc ended up driving his Vauxhall Astra through the building and directly into Stu-Pot, permanently damaging ("fracturing") Stu-Pot's left eye and putting him into a catatonic state. Murdoc was sentenced to "30,000 hours of community service, plus 10 hours every week of caring for the vegetabilised Stu-Pot". Not long after, Murdoc again injured Stu-Pot in a car accident in Nottingham's Tesco parking lot when attempting a 360°, which permanently damaged Stu-Pot's right eye, but revived him from his coma. Murdoc then recruited the newly recovered (albeit still mentally defective) Stu-Pot as the keyboardist and vocalist for his group, re-dubbing him 2D for the matching pair of dents in his head from the accidents.
Murdoc then found a drummer for the group in a SoHo rap record store: African-American expatriate Russel Hobbs. Russel was a middle-class New York native and was deeply troubled as a youth. He was expelled from an expensive private school for suffering from demonic possession. The trauma of said possession resulted in a four year coma from which Russel was roused only by an elaborately executed exorcism. After his recovery, Russel began attending Brooklyn High School, where he quickly cultivated friendships with a group of rappers, DJs, and street musicians. He has said that "hip-hop saved [his] soul."
This was a short-lived respite, however, as all of Russel's newfound friends were suddenly gunned-down one night in a drive-by shooting. Russel, the sole survivor, became the unwilling receptacle for the spirits of all of his slain compatriots, most notable of whom was the rhyme dropping blue phantom, Del. With their latent possession of his body, Russel gained incredible musical prowess in percussion, rap, and hip-hop as well as a disturbing side-effect: his eyes glowed an eerie white. With this new and violent turn of events, Russel's family shipped him off to England in hopes of helping him recover from his traumas quietly -- not realizing they'd put him directly into the path of Murdoc's aspirations to superstardom, and the excesses that came along with it.
At that point, all the fledgling group needed was a guitarist. Like so many British bands before them, the trio placed an advertisement in NME. The very day the ad ran, a FedEx freight container from Japan was delivered to their doorstep and out jumped a mysterious amnesiac 10-year-old wielding a Gibson Les Paul. The tiny girl made an incomprehensible introduction in Japanese and tore into a "riff to end all riffs" which ended with an impressive karate kick to the air. She then spoke a single word in English to the stunned boys, which became her moniker: "Noodle". In the later part of 1998, the Gorillaz played their first show at the Camden Brownhouse which ended prematurely due to a riot during their song "Punk". EMI A&R man Whiffy Smiffy discharged several rounds from shotgun to disperse the crowd enough to make his way to the stage and quickly signed them to the label. Ten months later they had recorded their self-titled debut LP.
In the winter of 1999 Murdoc acquired the property of Kong Studios, a sprawling haunted studio with a rather shady history, situated atop a hill in the midst of a run-down cemetery and landfill in Districtshire, Essex. The Gorillaz lived and recorded in Kong Studios up until their 2002 11-month tour of North America. At the end of July of that year, the Gorillaz took a six month break in L.A.. There they attempted to get a movie project off the ground. Meanwhile, that Halloween, Kong Studios had been shut down tight in its owner's absence by local law enforcement after an unknown man was seen running, naked and in hysterics, in the marshes near the studio. The police proceeded to keep the area secured while they investigated the strange paranormal events surrounding Kong. The Gorillaz spent the interim period working on their movie, while living in a large rented home in the Hollywood Hills.
Alas, the film was not meant to be, due in part to extensive over-partying, in-fighting, and disagreements with producers, directors, and a notable incident of Murdoc getting himself banned from the Playboy Mansion for stealing ashtrays. Understandably, at this point the Gorillaz went on a year and half hiatus, each of the members going their separate ways to find themselves. Murdoc headed to Mexico to booze it up in Tijuana brothels, getting himself arrested for passing bad cheques in the process. He enjoyed little company in his Mexican jail cell aside from his raven, Cortez, and two Mexican mobsters who would later help break him out. 2D went back home to work for his father at his carnival, re-establish his grip on reality, and come to terms with his newfound pop icon status with the ladies.
Russel disappeared into the States to literally and figuratively exorcise his personal demons, regrettably including the ghost of Del, leaving Russel a mentally and spiritually exhausted wandering shadow of the man he once was. After shambling around Los Angeles for some time, Russel was taken in by Ike Turner and helped to recover, and while living in Turner's basement Russel recorded his own solo album which was shelved due to strange supernatural activity inherent in the music itself, which Russel described as something of a "cosmic disruption".
Noodle travelled to Japan, in a fruitful attempt to uncover the secrets of her own past which included not only the revelation that she was a test subject in a secret government super soldier project, but that she also speaks fluent English. Armed with her newfound knowledge and iron resolve, Noodle was the first to return to Kong Studios. There she went to task battling the zombie and monster-infested darkness of the building, set up the "Search For A Star" contest, and began the process of pulling the band back together to record their new album, Demon Days