Tonight on Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 Music, Steve is joined on the line by Damon Albarn and The Cure frontman Robert Smith for the exclusive unveiling of their new Gorillaz collaboration.
Robert Smith on this past year and lockdown:
Robert Smith: “I feel really sorry for the people who had plans this year, it’s been a disaster. From my own perspective it’s great that we got so much done last year. This year has just been - just not a year - it’s just been completely weird […] Our whole idea for this year was really finishing off the album we started last year, me finishing off the solo album and also, finishing digitising decades of stuff in order to make this film with Tim Pope about the history of the band. So, it’s actually benefited me because there have been no other distractions, so I’ve actually got a lot of what I wanted to do, done.”
Damon Albarn on his Song Machine project
Steve Lamacq: Just off air, Robert was asking you [Damon] did you know where you were going with this project when you started? And you said:
Damon Albarn: “No, absolutely no idea. But isolation – I’ve really got my head round it as a way of existing, and it has its pitfalls, like any other form of existence. But if you have a bit of self-discipline, you can be incredibly productive. So I hope everyone’s been productive, because we’re unlikely to get an opportunity like this again.”
On how the collaboration between Damon and Robert happened:
Damon Albarn: “We did this tune with Robert completely by email. We sent him it and he said, ‘Yeah, I like it’ but - ”
Robert Smith: “Was I really that enthusiastic? I loved it! I thought it was excellent”
Damon Albarn: “You did say it was excellent, but you weren’t specific about when you would actually do something. To be fair, you did keep us in the loop about where you were at, saying ‘I’ve done something but I think I can do better’. And anyway, I was leaving the barn one night and I’d definitely had too much to drink and I slipped and fell and hit my head on the stone wall of the barn door, and I woke up in the morning with this huge great bump – thankfully nothing else – and I sent an email at about six in the morning to Robert. And he answered it immediately and said, ‘I’m gonna finish it now.’ I don’t know, maybe it was my near death experience –“
Robert: “I felt ripples in the force and I thought, ‘I better get this done.’”
Damon: “That’s how I interpreted it, anyway. But then again, I am deluded.”
Robert Smith on getting a lot of requests for guest appearances
Robert Smith: “There have been a lot actually, a lot more than usual through the lockdown period. I suppose people are thinking, ‘What can we do?’ Generally speaking, I’ve done a couple other collaborative things this year – nothing like this Gorillaz thing – but yeah, it just came out. I suppose I was in the middle of finishing off the big song at the end of The Cure album, which is 10 minutes of intense doom and gloom and this dropped out my inbox. I thought it’s great I went outside and listened to it a few times, I also had a couple of drinks, lit a fire […] it had this sense of travel to it.
Damon Albarn: “And you especially liked my niece’s trumpet.”
Robert Smith: That was the clincher.”
Damon Albarn: “All my family went down to this place in Devon. And there came a day when my nine-year-old niece… I was like, ‘You play the trumpet, come on. Come into the studio and do something.’ And she did that.”
Robert Smith: “I must admit, in my first reply I think I said, ‘Yeah it’s great, particularly the trumpet.’”
Damon Albarn: “Exactly - I’ve registered her for PPL so hopefully when she’s older she’ll understand. Or not.”
Does Damon write a song and then think who’d be best to guest on it?
Damon Albarn: “No, no, no. What I gave Robert was something very vague. He completely and utterly made it what it is.”
Robert Smith [to Steve Lamacq]: “You were saying about Hungarian goth metal and stuff – it’s amazing that most of the stuff I’m asked to collaborate on is actually not anything like what The Cure does. I’m not really sure what we’re known for anymore, but it isn’t a natural fit. And it’s actually those things over the years that I’ve found the most attractive to do, because it puts me outside of where I normally am. There’s a great sense of relief in doing this Gorillaz thing, because I can muck about – it was a lot of fun.
Any new solo music coming from Damon?
Damon Albarn: “I just keep my head down and get on with it. Very low expectations. I’m just lucky to be here doing what I’m doing.”