Blur‘s long-awaited reunion album The Magic Whip unsurprisingly sits atop the U.K. album charts, and the Britpop quartet have now shared an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at how they created their unexpected LP. In the 30-minute The Magic Whip: Made in Hong Kong, Damon Albarn and company take us into the impromptu recording sessions – spurred by a canceled May 2013 gig in Japan – that resulted in the band’s first album with Graham Coxon since 1999 (via Pitchfork).
“I think because we’d been doing a few gigs, and we got used to playing with each other again, it was completely un-self-conscious. There was no sense of pressure like, ‘On Tuesday, the 12th of July, you’ll go into the studio with such-and-such a producer and try and write your comeback single,'” bassist Alex James says. “It was just ‘Let’s go into the studio and play.’ Because there’s nothing else to do – unless you’ve been shopping – in Hong Kong.”
Albarn adds that the original plan was to record the album in five days and then surprise-release it the next week. However, the band returned to Hong Kong in 2014 to continue work on the album, and the 30-minute short film also documents the band’s travels through southeast Asia. “I felt a bit like a spaceman, and I started to take on dystopian levels of personal isolation and angst and fear,” Albarn says of how the region inspired the lyrics. “It all got quite intense. That’s all helpful when you’re writing.”
The Magic Whip also features a song called “Pyongyang,” titled after the North Korean capital, and at around the 19-minute mark in the video, Albarn shows mesmerizing footage of his visit to the controversial country. “I was utterly fascinated with how could this place still exist and what was going on there, so I got myself into the country and traveled around,” Albarn says. “Everyone’s kind of under a spell, that’s what I would say about it, and that in itself is extraordinary. There’s no advertising, there’s no Internet, there’s no telephone.”