Artistic integrity is hard-earned and continuously fought for. Musicians and other artists alike begin as fledgeling creators, often grasping at straws and shooting in the dark for a while — ‘fake it until you make it’, as the saying goes.
Damon Albarn rose to fame akin to British royalty throughout the 1990s with the pioneering Britpop band Blur. For their first couple of albums, the band stumbled – perhaps accidentally – into a new sound that was happening at the time, and different versions of it were pushed along by the likes of ’90s rivals, Oasis, and others like Suede, Pulp, and Supergrass.
The ’90s Britpop scene was the birth of new ideas that culminated in a golden age for British music. Like the ’60s British invasion, then the ’70s hard rock scene, and into the ’80s post-punk and new wave scene; the 1990s wasn’t all that different in the sense that the world was their oyster – there was a general sense that anything could happen.
Bands like Oasis and Blur were, for the most part, born into working-class childhoods, and sought music as not just a fierce passion, but as a career. As a way out of their seemingly dead-end prospects.
As Damon Albarn progressed as a songwriter and achieved worldwide recognition, he also revealed a propensity to collaborate with other like-minded as well as very different musicians. His desire to want to collaborate and expand his artistic palate culminated in the formation of his supergroup, Gorillaz. The very essence of the Gorillaz is fueled by contributions from other artists.
Among those that Albarn has collaborated with throughout the years, includes the likes of Ray Davies, Sean Ryder of the Happy Mondays, Bobby Womack, Noel Gallagher, Lou Reed, and plenty more.
I’m not sure if it was a sign of knowing your worth or naive foolishness when Damon Albarn declined to collaborate with Prince. “Yeah, I didn’t go. I’d done a gig in Minneapolis and I was invited to go and play with Prince so to speak,” Albarn told Radio X.
The reason why he didn’t go? On the surface, it was simply because Prince wouldn’t allow Albarn to smoke cigarettes in and around the Purple one’s recording studio. Of course, Albarn is not as fickle as that. He didn’t like that there were conditions attached to the invitation. “And you know, I was having a drink and a fag — I don’t actually smoke anymore as I knocked that one on the head — and I was just like,” he added. “If you can’t be who you are…”
Albarn added to his explanation as according to his interview with Radio X, stating: “If I’ve invited someone, they’re my guest and there aren’t any conditions like that. And anyway, It’s like I could go and have a cigarette outside if I needed it. You know, I’d be fucking excited and how could I not fucking go mad if I’m with Prince?”
It seems fairly reasonable and, if someone who upon hearing this story assumes that it’s only about smoking cigarettes, then they’re not really getting the full picture. “So I’d rather not do it and not get pissed off with the whole thing. It’s one of those could’ve beens. I’ve got a few of those,” Albarn concluded.
Listen to Damon Albarn’s interview with Radio X, below.