Gorillaz' Big Summer Jam

How "Feel Good Inc." drove a cartoon band into the Top Ten

August 24, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Twelve weeks after Gorillaz released their second album, Demon Days, the disc is still in the Top Twenty, has sold more than 600,00 copies and has a video, "Feel Good Inc.," in heavy rotation on MTV. Not bad for a band of cartoon characters that include a satanic bassist and a sixteen-year-old Japanese guitar prodigy.

"It's that summer jam!" says producer Danger Mouse of the hook-heavy dance track, which features De La Soul and was the soundtrack to an iPod commercial prior to the album's release. "Nothing out there really sounds like it."

Marketing a band of animated characters -- mop-haired singer 2D, demonic bassist Murdoc, burly drummer-MC Russel and guitar chick Noodle -- has presented challenges for the group's label, Virgin Records. "Everything has to be thought out months in advance, not to mention the expense," says David Wolter, VP of A&R for Virgin Records. "You can't just go to a live show and pick up some cameras and say, 'Let's shoot the video.'" But it also has its perks. "We've got the Number One song at alternative radio right now, and it's an animated band!" says Wolter. "This ain't the Archies."

Danger Mouse was recruited by the other humans behind the band -- Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the creator of the comic Tank Girl -- after the underground success last year of Danger Mouse's Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up, The Grey Album.

Albarn and Danger Mouse spent six months working on the album at Albarn's studio in West London. For most songs, Albarn started with a guitar part, to which Danger Mouse added samples and beats, and Hewlett created the videos -- so far for "Feel Good Inc." and "Dare." He's currently at work on a clip for "Dirty Harry." "All the songs are like Scooby-Doo episodes," says Danger Mouse.

No tour plans have been announced (Albarn and company played behind a screen, with the cartoon characters projected onto it, on previous tours) because Albarn and Danger Mouse are back in the studio with a new project. "It's a full-on live band, not hip-hop," says Danger Mouse. "Something completely different."

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