There’s being ahead of your time, and then there’s Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. The singer-and-artist duo started virtual band Gorillaz way back in 1998, when phones still looked like bricks and Ask Jeeves was a genuinely socially acceptable search engine to use. Mischievously blending hip-hop, pop, electro and rap with animation and art – and probably being one of the first mainstream bands to make an environmentalist album – they became known the world over, the project’s distinctive visuals soon plastered on posters, video games and album covers.
And now, for the second time, books. This April, the group are releasing The Gorillaz Art Book, seeing forty creatives take up the challenge of reimagining characters 2D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs. Set across 228 pages of high-quality paper, it’s kind of like a remix album but with sketches instead of sounds, ready to shuffle at will.
Naturally, the coterie of artists commissioned is bang on. Highlights include The Cure frontman Robert Smith, Slaves guitarist Laurie Vincent, illustrator Holly Warburton and acclaimed cartoonist Andre Carrilho, all bringing different disciplines, skillsets and perceptions to the studio table. Hewlett, who also features himself, sees it as an extension of working with musicians. “Gorillaz have always collaborated with music but this is the first time we’ve done an art collaboration,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed working with so many of my favourite artists and the result is this amazing book.”
It follows the group’s book The Gorillaz ALMANAC, which sold a hefty 50,000 copies worldwide. Both are published by cult graphic novel producer Z2 Comics, who have worked with the likes of YUNGBLUD, Machine Gun Kelly and Poppy. “We’re delighted to help bring so many intoxicating interpretations of the Gorillaz into one tome,” they said. “The Gorillaz Art Book embraces the vibrant collaboration that Jamie and Damon introduced more than two decades ago and extends it to an amazing community of transgressive artists. The results speak for themselves.”
You might have to patiently wait for a few months, but this one’s well worth a pre-order if you’re into the ape team. It’s another example of the group putting collaboration first, and always looking to work with both nascent, rising creatives and surprising, established talent in whatever they do. God knows what Gorrilaz will be up to next, but the future ain’t ready…
The Gorillaz Art Book, published by Z2 Comics, is available to pre-order here now. It’s priced at the rather quirky cost of £68.99.