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April 26, 2012

Gorillaz to make a new album - Damon Albarn on the future of his bands

BLUR NEWS: It's official - Blur is not over! Furthermore, Gorillaz will record another record in the future, even though the date is not announced yet; Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn has repaired their relationship and amended differences and all seems bright and well. 


The Metro featured a plain, no-nonsense interview with Damon Albarn, frontman of Blur and Gorillaz (amongst other projects) and it seems very positive. The interview is printed with little authorial intervention, and is in a question/answer format.

Albarn spoke out about Blur and Gorillaz's future, stating (quote from Metro) :



Are Blur and Gorillaz both finished?

No. That comes from an article which was an interesting take on a very long conversation. I don’t know how we’ll feel when we play Hyde Park. Some days I feel one way and other days I feel the other. If you don’t see something as a career but as an important part of your life, you don’t know how you’re going to feel about it. We want to put on a great performance but nothing’s been said between us about the beginning or the end. 

What about Gorillaz? 

When Jamie  [Hewlett] and I have worked out our differences, I’m sure we’ll make another record. 

Will that be difficult? 

I don’t think so. We’ve been through too much together for it to be that big of a mountain to climb. We’ve just fallen out like mates do sometimes. I’m not the only person to fall out with mates and then make up again – everyone does it. 

Are you looking forward to the Hyde Park gig in August? 

Very much so. I love playing with Blur – it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. At the same time, though, I don’t want to cock it all up by staying around too long and making a fool of myself. At 44, there’s a little trepidation about jumping around on stage but I love it. 

Were you happy with your  performance at the Brits? 

Yes. I went there to thank our manager, Chris Morrison, and to have a laugh. I enjoyed myself. We take ourselves a lot less seriously now in the context of things like awards. 

What’s the worst gig you’ve done?

There have been a few but when things did go wrong we immediately rectified them for the next night. One stage in Spain was blown away in a storm but we werent on it, thankfully. 

What are you proudest of achieving?

Pride isn’t something I indulge in. I think everything could have been better. I could definitely improve on my interview technique. 

Have you visited Alex James’s cheese farm? 

Yes I have. I’ve tasted his cheese. It’s very good. What can I say? I’m not a 
cheese expert but it tasted like cheese to me. 

What are people’s misconceptions of you? 

That everything that comes out of my mouth is serious. 

What’s been your most extravagant purchase?

I’ve bought a lot of bicycles over the years but mainly because they keep getting nicked. I don’t go too high-end, just keep it basic. I usually buy them from a shop on Golborne Road [west London] and they’ve seen a few of my bikes cycling down the road with someone else on them. Every time they see it happen, they say: ‘Damon will be in again to buy another one.’

His new interview with the Metro is quite a positive for Blur and Gorillaz fans. It offers a bit more hope amidst the recent rumours that Blur are splitting up again. These rumours were fuelled by myriad of comments from Damon, Graham, Dave and Alex about the uncertain future of Blur and the group’s “last’ gigs.

The Band, all together, with a fan
Plus, Gorillaz is not over...yet. Is Damon saying that there will be a new Gorillaz album? Then he and Jamie Hewlett’s arguments are over? Or will Damon continue to change his mind, in each separate interview he does? It seems all positive here, yet again.

The thing is, Damon seems insecure in recent interviews. He has to stop thinking Blur's all about jumping around and making a racket on stage - it's about the music. Sure, stage antics are fun to watch, and jumping around does show energy. But Damon, it's ok if you just sing, and play "music for the ears".

Maybe it all depends on Damon’s mood – feeling low? No more Blur. Feeling alright? Blur and Gorillaz are back. Or perhaps the “Blur’s future” response “hat” that Graham talked about recently exists. Pick and choose your answer.

Feeling moody, Damon ? 
However, this interview definitely sparked new hope in fans, who thought that the band’s over for good after Hyde Park 2012. It’s a much more hopeful piece of evidence that Blur’s still going strong. 

It just goes to show that, with Damon, anything really, really could happen.

Download and listen to the full Damon Albarn / Stuart Maconie interview by CLICKING HERE (credits to Gorillaz Unofficial). Damon talks about Blur and Dr Dee.

Click HERE to read the full Metro interview, where Damon speaks more on Dr. Dee 

Leave a comment below and vote in our poll - what do you think of Blur's return - is it truly "to the end", or will they remain musically "young and lovely" ?
Read Damon's full Guardian interview deeming the end of Blur HERE

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April 24, 2012

Tickets for the African Express Train ? Damon Albarn reveals new tour plans

The London Olympics start in less than 100 days, and one of the key players in the event, Damon Albarn, has revealed that there will be a third London 2012 Olympic related project.

Damon Albarn has stated in a BBC 4 interview that his new project after the summer Hyde Park gigs will be called the "African Express Train". The ensemble of African musicians, along with Albarn and others, will "travel across the UK" and play music in places including Doncaster and Bradford. They will be playing "concerts in the evening" and be visiting schools.


African Express is Albarn's side projects, and its noted for it's diverse mix of Western and African talents. It's the epitome of Albarn's collaborative spirits, and love of African music which grew after the last Blur album Think Tank, in 2003.

So, it seems that Damon is getting on with Dr Dee and it's album release, playing with Blur this summer and then start touring with African Express - it seems 2012 will be, as usual, a varied year for Damon's many projects.

If the African Express Train tour is in place, it is likely that Blur, Albarn's first commercially successful band, may not be making any new material for a long time.

Where's the Blur train heading too? Has it already reached it's final destination, the Olympics 2012 ?

Listen to his interview HERE (from 9:00 - 13:00 mins)

Read Damon's full Guardian interview deeming the end of Blur HERE
Read all about Blur being BASHED AT THE BRITS (Adele!) HERE
Read all about Blur talking about their bleak future HERE
New "tear jerker" song HERE and check out their newest track Under the Westway HERE and read our REVIEW HERE.
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April 22, 2012

Damon Albarn talks Dr Dee and gives exclusive commentary

Damon Albarn performed and showcased his new opera Dr Dee at Onefest on April 14th 2012. The full length album of the opera, inspired by mathematician John Dee, will be available in stores on the 7th May 2012. For fans who didn't go, one can view some well-shot pictures of the festival HERE.

Credits to Derren Nugent, Safeconcerts
The album's sounds are different to any other Albarn projects in the past. Critics have described it as a folk-ish album with mixtures of The Good, The Bad and The Queen (Damon's previous take on more traditional English music) and the piano-ballad styles of Blur's new track Under The Westway.



Damon also gave an exclusive track by track commentary of his new release. He talks about each song and it follows with a little snippet of the individual track. You can listen to it on DIY's website (click here).

And finally, Damon Albarn will appear on the Stuart Maconie show TONIGHT (April 22nd 2012) at 8:00pm UK time, to speak about his eclectic musical contributions, Blur, and present an exclusive live on-air performance of his Dr Dee opera.

As quoted from the BBC4 page: First premiered at last year's Manchester International Festival, Dr Dee tells the story of John Dee; mathematician, astronomer, occultist and advisor to Elizabeth I. Recorded last year in Salford with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the opera sets Dee's story to a sonic backdrop of early English period instrumentation, African beats, and Renaissance flourishes, described by Albarn as "strange, pastoral folk".

Tonight, Stuart will talk in depth to Damon about the opera, his recent production work with Bobby Womack, his collaboration with Tony Allen and Flea from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Rocket Juice & The Moon - and most importantly, the future of Blur.

You can listen to the show at 8:00pm UK Time by clicking HERE.

Read Damon's full Guardian interview deeming the end of Blur HERE
Read all about Blur being BASHED AT THE BRITS (Adele!) HERE
Read all about Blur talking about their bleak future HERE
New "tear jerker" song HERE and check out their newest track Under the Westway HERE and read our REVIEW HERE.
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April 19, 2012

Blur to release mega 21 disc box set ... its all a blur!

BLUR NEWS: An exciting announcement on Blur's official Facebook page...

To celebrate 21 years since the release of Leisure... a new box set is to be released along with expanded remastered albums & a new vinyl box. There is a lot of info to take in with 21 discs of material (over 3 hours of unreleased material) included in box alone - so we've created a page which gives you more in depth info.....#blur21

Blur 21: The Box
A deluxe 21 disc set, featuring

  • All seven newly expanded Special Editions
  • Four discs of rarities, exclusive to this set. Includes 3½ hours of previously unreleased material
  • Three DVDs including over 2 hours of previously unreleased footage. Includes two pivotal live shows and an exclusive disc of video rarities.
  • Collectable 7" single of the rare and previously unreleased live recording of the Seymour-era Blur song Superman.
  • Deluxe hard-bound book telling the story of Blur's 21 year career with extensive liner notes based on a brand new interviews with the band, illustrated with imagery of the era, including some previously unseen photos.

Blur 21: The Vinyl Box

All seven vinyl formats of the Blur albums are collected together for The Vinyl Box and housed in a sturdy hard case, presenting the definitive collection of Blur vinyl.

Special Edition boxes of all seven studio albums, each with bonus disc of material that includes previously unreleased extras, exclusive Blur artwork postcards, expanded booklets including previously unseen photographs and liner notes based on a brand new interview with the band.

The set is out on July 30th 2012. Pre-order your box set or vinyl set HERE



April 15, 2012

Blur continues to give mixed messages about reunion

Damon Albarn had an in depth interview for The Word magazine this week. The interview offered many insights into Blur's future and Albarn's relationship with the rest of the band. But it also gave more mixed messages about Blur's future; the singer recently said to The Guardian that Blur's "end" is approaching and that Hyde Park 2012 may be their last ever gig


Scroll down and click to open the scans of the interview. Credit goes to Gorillaz-Unofficial for the scans. 


Thanks again to Gorillaz Unofficial for transcribing the Blur parts. Scroll down to read what Damon said about Blur, Adele, Alex's five kids, getting fatter, keeping off weight (!) and their 2012 comeback... 

Here's my grand theory about Damon Albarn. It's precisely because you are so in touch with that creative flow that you can drop in and out of Blur in a way that Morrissey and Robert Plant or Ian Brown or Paul Weller never can do with the bands that launched them. Your own work is never threatened, never overshadowed. 

That is it exactly and I know it's a very unusual situation to be in. But that's completely accidental, I assure you. I just love music and I love making it and I'm adventurous, so why should anything else overshadow something I do? Of course I respect Blur enormously, and that's why it's always good to go back to them. Writing that song was important as it felt like I was contributing to a real band again. It's a chord sequence I've had for years - it's such a standard chord sequence, I thought it was too obvious to use. I wrote it, lightheartedly, as an idea for a national anthem I was going to write for my house in Devon and that whole beautiful area by the sea. The idea was to have one copy, one record I'd keep on a wind-up gramaphone, and play it as I hoisted the flag. Obviously I never got round to it! I started it as, "There was a bright sky in my city today..." It was when the cold spell was coming, so it talks about snow and that beautiful moment when the planes come in at sunset and they turn into comets. So it's about the Westway too. The lyrics were written upstairs too. The men in yellow jackets are in it. In the song they're putting adverts in my dreams (grimaces). That's a scary though. People just walking into your dream and holding up a sign that reads, "NIKE". 

That day is coming soon. 

I know and I always enjoyed it in Blur when we had songs like The Universal, which seemed very strange and at odds with the spirit of the times, but now they're these dystopian anthems. 

Are the rest of Blur like distant family members now? 

There is definitely an element of that, but, honestly, I still feel like I always did making music with Graham. We started together and we still have that magic, and that's really nice. But we've also had a decade of not talking to each other. Nothing just arrives. If you want to stay in a band and do good stuff, it's a very hard road. 

Your relationship with Graham goes back to childhood - not many people get to share that kind of history. 

I suppose not, but we don't dwell on it. I'm just really glad that we got the band back together in 2008. That was the healing that we needed. But Blur had to have a reason each time it comes to life. It can't just because people have bills to pay. 

You would refuse to take part under those circumstances? 

Absolutely. I have done. I could be an incredibly wealthy man. I'm not a badly off man anyway, but I could be far wealthier than I am if I'd agreed to all the things that we've been offered and if I worked to those principles. But Blur has to be special; it has to have a joy for me to make it work. 

But that's tricky because you might be in a better position than anyone else in Blur to pay your bills? 

Well (very long pause) that's because I go to work at ten o'clock and finish at five, five days a week. It's my job! We all have our own situations. Alex has five children. That is extraordinary to me (very long pause) but, of course, that's wonderful and I'm proud of him. Dave is nearly a lawyer now; he has this amazing alter ego. Everyone works very hard in Blur. But I also work with a lot of other people. 

The three other members of Blur seem a bit more damaged by the experience than you. 

That's true. But I have made life a lot harder for people in a lot of other ways. You can't compare experiences. I'm reluctant to do that. The older you get, the more you realise that it's the same for everyone. When we were at the Brits I was conscious of how there were all these people who were about 25, then this massive gap until people like us. With Coldplay in the middle. (pause) and that's their business. 

That's where they're comfortable. 

Well, exactly. When you first put a record out and it does well, your sense of entitlement become incredible. The first thing you ever did and everyone's into it! Naturally you then assume that everything you do will become of interest to people! 

And that's not quite the case, is it? 

Ha! No, that's such an illusion, I liked the way all these kids are all very excited about taking on the world. 

Do you remember what it felt like to be in a hot new band? 

I do remember that feeling - it's wonderful but it's an illusion. Being older and seeing it all in a very different light was a lot of fun. Singing This Is A Low with Guy Garvey was magical and I loved camping it up on the ramp. I really did! Once in a blue moon for that sort of thing is lovely, but you must never forget it's all an illusion. That's why ritual in your life is important. Ritual can feel different at different times in your life, but that's why you maintain it, so that it does give you these super-sensitive reflections of who you are and where you are. 

...... 

Let's talk about your Brit Awards speech, which certainly split opinion. 

Well, that's why I agreed to do it in the first place! Hand on heart, I did it so I could thank a lot of people especially [his and Blur's manager] Chris Morrison, his contribution to our lives. He's been an important player and a good operator and a great friend. 

Poor old Adele though? 

Yeah, but that's nothing to do with me. We were standing there like lemons waiting for the curtain to come up. I'd have been quite happy to wait another two minutes and let her finish her speech. I didn't mind. None of us were bothered by that at all. 

.......... 

How do you feel about closing the Olympics? Blur have now been positioned as the single most emblematic English band. You are representing your country! 

Yes, yes, that's all true. But I don't think about it too much. I don't think about it too much at all. All I know is I have to be fighting weight and I have to be able to hit all the top notes. What's really important is that there's enough spark left in the material to make for some real drama and joy on the day itself. To make all that work I have to be pretty fit these days. 

Does that get harder? 

No, not at all! It's great. It's just a wonderful excuse to be strong.

_________________


This particular interview seems much more friendlier and positive than the Guardian one (click to read). Blur's future may not be as bleak as it looks after all, unless of course Damon changes his mind again. 

Additionally, Graham Coxon did an interview for the Manchester Evening News on April 13th, and at the end he says of Blur "Now the pressure is off and people are used to us being back it feels nice again' and ' Blur are capable of a lot of really interesting stuff, so it's really healthy, and we can do what we feel like doing, we're not forced to get on the treadmill. It's a great situation". 

Blur forumer Jonathans offers an interesting theory - "Can we allow for the possibility that Damon is actually doing something quite sensible; taking the classic denial route which means that eventually people stop asking about a blur comeback and leave the band to get on with it quietly, or at least decide in their own time what they want to do next. Personally, I think it makes sense to stonewall the topic and let things happen, if they happen, when they happen." 

Makes sense, we think. 

Read Damon's full Guardian interview deeming the end of Blur HERE
Read all about Blur being BASHED AT THE BRITS (Adele!) HERE
Read all about Blur talking about their bleak future HERE
New "tear jerker" song HERE and check out their newest track Under the Westway HERE and read our REVIEW HERE.
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April 13, 2012

5 reasons why Blur is not over just yet

Damon Albarn has said that Blur may perform their last ever concerts this summer in a recent interview. The band will play Sweden, Denmark and wrapping up for the Hyde Park concerts in the London Olympics Closing Ceremony 2012.

Damon Albarn's interview sparked internet debate about Blur's future
This new interview, and Damon's quotes that "that's how we end it" has generated many reports on Blur's alleged "ending" in 2012. We have compiled the top 5 reasons why Blur is not going to stop in their tracks, including some recent developments (and more puzzling, mixed messages from the mouths of Blur's members) just yet:
  1. Damon Albarn's always been somewhat of a pessimist about Blur and his projects - Demon Days was meant to be Gorillaz's last album; Blur was apparently over after Think Tank in 2003 because all the boys "hates" Damon... the list can go on, but Damon's known to change his mind.
  2. Didn't the band say they were "together for good" in NME Magazine for their reunion, right before the Brit Awards 2012 ? And didn't Dave and Alex, and Graham all give contradicting statements about Blur's future ? Don't forget - this could mean Damon simply got a little carried away with his side project stresses. 
  3. Blur's Facebook page have been really active these last few months - they constantly keep asking fans our opinions on singles, tracks and albums. Blur's website also underwent a major re-design and emerged looking more mature, sophisticated and flipped - why all the trouble if nothing's going to happen ever again? 
  4. Dave Rowntree posted this message on his official facebook page: "Don't believe everything you read in the papers this weekend" - although it isn't strictly followed by any radical Blur announcement, could Dave have indirectly hinted at The Guardian's interview with Damon Albarn about the "end of Blur" ? 
  5. Graham Coxon, in a recent BBC Radio 2 interview, dismissed Damon's claims about the end of Blur. Interviewer Jo Whiley asked Graham about Damon Albarn's radical statements in his latest interview and whether it was true of not. Graham Coxon replied: "I think it's amongst the answers that we've put in the hat to pick out when we're asked about it...". Wait a minute - there's a hat? Listen to the BBC interview here - it's still up for another few days, or read the transcript of his answers below:  
JW: So Damon did an interview recently, it was for The Guardian with John Harris saying that.. [reacting to Graham doing something? pulling a face maybe? You can hear some kind of sound from Graham] .. don't worry.!. he was saying that Under The Westway and the gig you do at Hyde Park will probably draw a line under Blur.. was that news to you or was that pretty factual, factually correct? 

GC: I think it's among the answers that we've put in the hat to pick out when we're asked about it... 

JW: You just choose a different one every single time. 

GC: Yeah, pretty much. 

JW: [laughs] Ok, so that was the one he was doing on 7th April anyway 

GC: Yeah, yeah.


Blur's new track "Under the Westway" have been recorded, and is going to be released sometime in 2012. Additionally, there's always this one last summer for Blur- if they are going to end, then do not miss the chance to watch them live, one (last) time ?

Credits to LINK
Read all about Blur talking about their future HERE
Check out Blur's rumoured new album HERE
New tear jerker song HERE and check out their newest track HERE and read our REVIEW HERE.

Read Damon's full interview deeming the end of Blur HERE
Read all about Blur being BASHED AT THE BRITS HERE 
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April 8, 2012

The Death of a Blur (and possibly Gorillaz) - Damon Albarn speaks out

BLUR NEWS: Damon Albarn has spoken out about Blur's future, and it does not look bright. The Guardian featured an insightful, in-depth interview with the Blur, Gorillaz frontman on April 7th 2012. It also featured several new Damon Albarn pictures, taken against a nature backdrop.

The article goes, as follows, because we could not have written it better (SOUCE: THE GUARDIAN):


Damon Albarn: Gorillaz, heroin and the last days of Blur
Do Blur have a future? Are Gorillaz gone for good? Is his feud with Noel Gallagher really over? The heroin issue… Damon Albarn answers some tricky questions
John Harris
The Guardian, Sat 7 Apr 2012

You get a good view from the top floor of Damon Albarn's west London studio: the uneven sprawl extending out towards Kensal Green and Wormwood Scrubs. The first thing you notice, though, is the huge elevated road celebrated by Albarn's band Blur, whose single For Tomorrow crystallised the queasy alienation of London living as a matter of being "lost on the Westway".
Soon enough, Albarn tells me, what we can see is set to be transformed by a 34-storey student hall of residence. He is not best pleased, and having registered a planning objection, his pain has been poured into a new song he plays me just before I go home, full of references to "men in yellow hats" and a world "where the money always comes first".
This is Under The Westway, premiered by Albarn and Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon at a charity concert in February, now recorded by the group as a one-off single and set to feature in the huge show they will play in Hyde Park on 12 August, as part of the closing festivities for the Olympics. "We recorded it live," he says. "One take. It's the first Blur song where it's been one take, because previously I never finished the lyrics before we recorded. This time, I'd done that, so we were actually able toperform it."
A tentative smile. "Which is quite nice, because I don't really see any more recordings after this. So it's nice to have finally done one song where we did it properly."
This is big news. Having seemingly been laid to rest in 2003, Blur got back together five years later. In 2009, they played at Glastonbury, Hyde Park, the Oxegen Festival in Ireland and the Scots festival T In The Park. It looked as if that was probably that, but ever since, some people's hopes that Blur might make a new album and return to the touring circuit have been regularly tickled – by news of rehearsals and recording sessions, a stand-alone single titled Fool's Day (2010), and of late, their performance at the Brit Awards and the announcement the Hyde Park gig. In what remains of the music press, the four of them are regularly exhorted just to get on with it and decisively reunite.
This is what the popular culture of the early 21st century is like. Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses are both back together. Pulp reunited last year; Blur's old adversaries Suede were also on the road. This summer, you can once again see Queen without Freddie Mercury.
Albarn, though, is going against the grain – and what he's talking about sounds like a full stop, certainly as far as new music is concerned. "I believe so," he says. "I believe so. I find it very easy to record with Graham. He's a daily musician. With the other two, it's harder for them to reconnect. You know what I mean? It's fine when we play live – it's really magical still – but actually recording new stuff, and swapping musical influences… it's quite difficult."
So no more Blur records?
"No, I don't think so."
And will you play live again after Hyde Park?
"No, not really."
This is even bigger news. So that's it?
"I think so, yeah," he says. A little later, he goes on: "And I hope that's the truth: that that's how we end it. I don't know: you can write scripts, and they always end up going… [pause]… well, one thing I've learned, and I'm sure you're exactly the same, is that everything I think I've got totally sorted out, and I know exactly what's going to happen – it never works out that way…"
So how should I put it? That in all likelihood, this is the end of Blur?
"In all likelihood, I would say. [pause] Oh, God…"
I meet Albarn at 10 o'clock on a Thursday morning, the day before he turns 44. Whenever possible, he keeps office-ish hours at his west London base ("10 till 5 or 5.30, five days a week – all school holidays off"), which partly explains a work rate that makes most musicians look like sloths. A self-titled album by Rocket Juice And The Moonhas just been released: the work of Albarn, the renowned Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, Michael "Flea" Balzary of Red Hot Chili Peppers and a diverse supporting cast. In the role of producer, Albarn has just finished a record by the soul icon Bobby Womack. He is also starting a new solo album. Yet he does not have the appearance of a man burdened by work: he explains all this while sporadically tugging on an early-morning joint.
Before I set off to meet him, I spend an afternoon going through 1990s music magazines. Tucked into a copy of Select from 1998, I find a photocopied handbill for a production of Jacques Offenbach's operetta Orpheus In The Underworld, staged at Stanway Comprehensive in Colchester in the early 1980s. The cast list features Albarn as "Jupiter (King of the Gods)", while Coxon is a bit further down, playing "Styx (servant of Pluto)".
"How have you got that?" he marvels. He says he must have been 12 or 13 at the time.
As school productions go, it looks quite high end. "You should have seen it. It wasn't that high end. But we were incredibly lucky: we had a fantastic music teacher, Mr Hildreth. We did Orpheus, Oh! What A Lovely War – fantastic. We did The Boy Friend – not so fantastic. We did Guys & Dolls – incredible. And we did a bit of West Side Story as well. A really nice cross section."
And do you recall what playing Jupiter actually involved? "A lot of cotton wool for a beard. And a piece of lightning made from BacoFoil and card."
The memories chime with another of Albarn's summer commitments: a second staging of Dr Dee, the opera that premiered at last year's Manchester International Festival and is now set to arrive at the English National Opera in London in late June, as part of the cultural Olympiad. Its subject is John Dee, the mathematician, alchemist and confidante of Elizabeth I, and it's less a straightforward story than an evocation of a very English mysticism that Albarn's songs project on to the country of today. His intention, he says, is to "sing about the past, but feel it in the present".
Albarn suspects that at least some of the production's hosts remain sceptical. "I know for a fact that there are some high up people at the English National Operawho are not particularly amused by my presence this summer," he says. "But, you know, I promise to clean up and shut the door at the end. I won't leave any mess."
What's fascinating about the production is that, for all its musical exotica and historical subject matter, Dr Dee has qualities that run through just about all the music Albarn has created since the late 1990s, whether with Blur, his hugely successful pop project Gorillaz, the short-lived quartet The Good, The Bad And The Queen, or in collaboration with the Chinese musicians who worked on the music for the jaw-dropping musical production Monkey: Journey To The West. All exude a craving for the sublime, and the abiding impression that the essence of what Albarn wants to convey is best captured by music, rather than mere words. This is hard stuff to explain, but he comes close when he says this: "I write emotionally. That's the only way I can do it."
And therein lies a tale. In the past, Albarn has talked about a point in the late 1990s where he broke through "the barrier of self-consciousness" and "never really looked back". And I wonder: what triggered it?
He mentions 13, the fuzzy, experimental, Blur album put out in 1999, and written in the aftermath of his split with Justine Frischmann, the one-time leader of Elastica, a band whose brilliance was almost completely snuffed out by heroin. He then goes quiet. "Well… a lot of things triggered it. I can't talk about this area, really. It's not really…"
He gets up, goes to the window, and distractedly looks at the view. "How does one talk about one's journey through life? It becomes a very different thing, doesn't it?"
Five minutes later, we're sitting on the balcony, talking about 13, whose second half is among the most underrated swathes of music in his career. And I ask him again: what happened?
"Oh God. Well, what do you think happened? Be honest."
Albarn has been asked about this before: in No Distance Left To Run, the documentary released after Blur's reunion in 2009, he talks very cagily about this period – when Britpop's garish colour scheme was replaced by much darker shades – and offers nothing more specific than the observation that "a lot of people's lives were fairly muddied by heroin". So, I give him my interpretation of what changed his approach to music: that he had an experience common to a lot of musicians from bohemian backgrounds. For all its grave dangers, that drug – perhaps in moderation, if such a thing is possible – sometimes opens up a side of them that they didn't know existed.
"That's an astute observation on your part," he says, "and I wouldn't disagree with it." For some reason, he then shakes my hand.
What's long struck me, I tell him, is that he wasn't exactly subtle about it. "I'm never subtle!" he laughs. In 1997, Blur released Beetlebum, the single that seemed to capture smack's soporific, ethereal effects, and ended with a refrain of "He's on/He's on/He's on it". On 13 there was a song titled Caramel, seemingly referring to the brown goo produced when heroin is heated up, and Trimm Trabb, a picture of sedated solitude in which Albarn sings, "I doze, doze away." But even though Frischmann's drug problems were becoming well known, nobody who wrote about Blur – myself included – seemed to cotton on (much like, perhaps, when Britain averted its eyes from the fact that YMCA by the Village People was a joyous hymn to the gay lifestyle).
"I thought everyone did," he says with a groan. "I thought everyone was just being really nice, and not making too much of a deal of it. Cos, you know, although I totally agree with your astute observation, the reality of any experimentation is that it can become habitual, and it can take over your life… [pause] I would never, ever disagree with the enlightening abilities of drugs, I also… you know… respect their potency. You have to have very good intentions, otherwise… even the best intentions in the world can go awry."
And did they with you?
"I think inevitably, they do with anybody who… you know… has that innate, spiritual kind of yearning."
In other words, nobody manages to do heroin on their terms.
"There's no such thing as our terms. There are only universal terms that we all have to abide by. And live with."
Interestingly, during the time we're talking about, heroin sent a lot of musicians into torpor and silence, as they hid behind their curtains. At the very least, a lot of them slowed down. Some of them probably even checked into California opiate addiction treatment centers or something. But Albarn didn't. "No. I've always got up in the morning, excited about making music. I genuinely feel lucky in that sense."
He regains his coherence. "It wasn't just that that changed me profoundly. It was going to Africa. That was a rehabilitation, in a sense, from that previous experience. And the opposite: it was all about clarity: freedom through clarity. An amazing, beautiful, humbling experience."
Albarn's partner, and the mother of his daughter Missy, is the artist Suzi Winstanley, who works in collaboration with Olly Williams: their working lives are centred on expeditions to remote parts of the world, where they produce paintings of both wild animals and the landscapes in which they live. She and Albarn became a couple circa 1998, and she gave him one particular idea that would quickly change his life: "She'd been travelling in Africa for 10 years previously. Going there was something I'd always wanted to do, but she inspired me to do it." In 2000, he went on an Oxfam trip to Mali and was profoundly affected by just about everything he experienced.
"It was just a really inspiring, colourful, bright, gorgeous place, you know? Apart from the music, which really is like a river that flows through Bamako [Mali's capital], I think the recycling market was the thing that stayed with me. It's just so huge…" He points to the top of a nearby street, and then indicates an area of around a square half-mile, at least. "You have women and children essentially, in temperatures up to 100 degrees, on the rubbish, picking out anything that has some use… they take the plastic and metal and rubber, and that's given to cleaners and renderers and preparers, and then down to where the road is, where there are ploughs, and rockets, and computers, all for sale.

"It's shocking in the sense that you think, 'This is really hard work.' But it's very practical. And extremely honest, and very productive. And if you could translate that humility, and ingenuity – well, there are lessons for all of us."
He has been going back ever since: Mali Music, an album made with some of the country's most notable musicians, was released in 2002, and African influences in Albarn's music remain a constant: the aforementioned Tony Allen was a member of the The Good, The Bad And The Queen, and is at the heart of Rocket Juice And The Moon (whose album also features the Ghanian rapper M.anifest), as well as being involved in Dr Dee; the same production's cast of musicians includes Madou Diabate, a virtuoso player of a Malian instrument called the kora.
Albarn's first visit to Mali capped a run of apparent epiphanies that had started with a visit to Iceland in 1996, and another "cleansing". "I used to have a recurring dream, as a child, of a black sand beach. And one hazy, lazy day [laughs], I was watching the TV and I saw a programme about Iceland, and they had black beaches. So I got on a plane, and booked into the Saga hotel. I didn't know it meant Saga holidays, for older people – I thought it was Saga as in Nordic sagas. But it was actually an OAP cruise hotel. I was on my own: I didn't know anybody. I went into the street, Laugavegur, where the bars are, and that was it."
What is it like since its catastrophic banking crisis? "Icelanders are a bit more durable. They're true existentialists. They really understand their environment and why they are all connected to it. I think it's to do with having lots of space."
Albarn was last there on New Year's Eve, when just before an early-morning drive back to the airport, he saw "the best Northern Lights I've ever seen… this blue, green, illumination, just flying across the whole of the sky".
So: Iceland, his drug-assisted artistic breakthrough, two months in Jamaica in 1999 ("An absolutely wonderful time," he later said. "I really felt like I'd escaped the darkness") – and, let us not forget, the birth of his daughter not long before. "All powerful experiences," he agrees. "And having a child, the most powerful of all of them."
Among the first products of Albarn's rebirth was Gorillaz, the project fronted by four cartoon characters and created in collaboration with Jamie Hewlett, the artist with whom he shared a house in between the end of his relationship with Frischmann and the decisive start of his life with Winstanley. To date, four albums, smattered with such wildly diverse guests as Shaun Ryder and Lou Reed, have been released under that name, and brought Albarn success often even greater than he enjoyed with Blur: certainly, Gorillaz has taken him much closer to the American mainstream than his first band ever managed.
"Gorillaz was a really wonderful, spontaneous thing," he says. "It started with two people sitting on a sofa, going, 'Let's make a band.'
'All right, I'll go into my studio and draw some characters.'
'I'll go in mine and make a tune, and we'll put them together.'"
Which brings us to another of today's revelations. Will there be more Gorillaz music?
"Er… unlikely."
Really?
"Yeah."
That's a shame. Do you feel you're done?
"Jamie does, which is fair enough. I think we were at cross purposes somewhat on that last record, which is a shame. So until a time comes when that knot has been untied…"
The project's demise, he says, is a "long story", which seems to have reached a head in 2010, when Gorillaz toured as a huge band, and Hewlett's visuals were not nearly as central to the show as they had been. "It was one of those things," Albarn says. "The music and the videos weren't working as well together, but I felt we'd made a really good record, and I was into it. So we went and played it."
So are you and Hewlett talking? Did you fall out?
"Erm… well, that sounds very juvenile, doesn't it? But being juvenile about it, it happens. It's a shame."
By contrast, one very unlikely friendship has recently been cemented. Seventeen long years ago, in the wake of their famed 1995 fight over the number one position in the singles chart, Blur's rivalry with Oasis turned poisonous and was reflected in a particularly nasty standoff between Albarn and Noel Gallagher. It was stoked by the class differences between them, and gleefully talked up by the press. But earlier this year, they had a chance encounter, began to get on – and marked their joint attendance at the Brit awards by posing for the cameras, locked in a stagey embrace.
"I met him in Mayfair, in a nightclub. What normally happened in that situation was, we had a way of looking a certain way and walking past. It was like a code. But we broke the code that night, instantly. We looked at each other and said hello, and it made all the difference. A lovely man."
A man who, in 1995, said he hoped Albarn would "catch Aids and die".
He shrugs. "I know. There you go. I like his sense of humour. I like people I can be daft with."
Part of their rapprochement, he acknowledges, is that back in the frenzied era of Britpop, they had similar experiences at the exact same time. Coincidentally, they will soon have something else in common: an artistic life without the band that made their name. Which brings me to the last question: with Blur and Gorillaz gone, how will Albarn feel, setting out on a future with neither of his most famous brand names to help him?
"I'm just doing what I always do. It's a bit daunting sometimes, but it's important to keep challenging yourself. Maybe that's really old-fashioned." He thinks for minute. "I'm not old-fashioned, though. I'm…" He gropes for the right word, and then gives up, evidently itching to get back downstairs to work on some music. Below, the men in yellow hats are hard at work, getting ready to blot out the view for ever.
************************
Again, no official news from Blur, but this interview seemed to suggest it's all over and that Hyde Park will be Blur's last gig. Alex and Dave are leading independent lives away from music, and perhaps Damon feels that it's difficult to record with them again. And yet, Damon does have control of Blur's future no matter what. 
But is this for real? Since the 2009 reunion, there has not been any new material, and Damon seems content to be on good terms with Graham Coxon again. He did say that Blur will never be together again way back in the early 2000s, but look what we have in 2012 again. 
If Hyde Park is going to be their last, then it seems likely the band's new box set will contain some footage or live recording of the final gig. Producer Stephen Street is currently remastering all Blur's tracks for a fixed release (click to read)
On a positive note, Under the Westway is going to be released as a single some time soon. One little piece of good news amidst these recent developments. William Orbit, super producer, did tweet recently (click to read) about Blur being "over" because Damon "is a shit" to the rest of the band. 

From what it seems, the recording sessions for Under the Westway were supposed to produce more new tracks, but for some reason Damon felt it wasn't working anymore. Or perhaps he had another fall out with Alex and Dave? 
Guess it's another long, and slightly depressing wait for some form of announcement (sad news?). Let us know what you think by commenting below or voting in the poll. 
Read all about Blur talking about their future HERE
Check out Blur's rumoured new album HERE

New tear jerker song HERE and check out their newest track HERE and read our REVIEW HERE.

Analyse other rumours and articles reported by us HEREHERE and HERE
Read all about Blur being BASHED AT THE BRITS HERE 
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