Damon Albarn: This Government has no empathy with the arts whatsoever

Damon Albarn has hit out at the Government, saying its response to the coronavirus pandemic shows it has “no empathy with the arts whatsoever”.

The Blur frontman and musical brains behind Gorillaz, 52, called for music to be made part of the prescription for the country’s national health.

Speaking ahead of a series of virtual Gorillaz gigs, Albarn criticised the Government for its focus on football and commerce as opposed to the arts.

He told the PA news agency: “This present Government has no empathy with the arts whatsoever and sadly that is a really important part of British culture. It is an essential part of British culture.

“We live in a pretty f****** miserable country at times and we need our arts to uplift us. It should be part of the prescription for our national health.

“Maybe a little less emphasis on the Premier League just running and a bit more love given to the arts would be a start because, I’m sorry, I love football as much as anybody else but football alone does not sustain my soul.”

Albarn spoke from a chain hotel on the South Circular in London where he and his crew have formed a bubble in order to rehearse ahead of three online concerts in December.

The musician, who has repeatedly spoken out against Brexit, attacked the Conservative Government over its treatment of the north of England during the pandemic.

Gorillaz album launch
Damon Albarn and Gorillaz performing Humanz at Printworks in London (Mark Allan/PA)

He said: “Who on Earth would leave the EU after what has happened this year? It’s madness. No one would do that in their right mind, would they? But we are doing it.

“It’s gone beyond being angry about it. It’s just ‘Okay, alright then’.

“I hope the north of England is slowly waking up to the fact they backed the wrong horse as far as thinking the Conservatives were going to have their back.

“I hope they are waking up to that. I hope they are going to realise what a mistake they made.”

However, he welcomed the news that the UK had approved the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech as a step in the right direction for the arts sector.

Albarn said the announcement was like “the beginning of crawling out of the pit”.

He added: “I think they will have to have one of the other vaccines up and running for it to become more a realistic proposition for everybody.

“But in a bleak landscape it is definitely a beacon of unbridled joy and hope.”

GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2010 – Press Room – London
Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz (Ian West/PA)

Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the illustrator and animator behind the Gorillaz virtual band, will blend live music and animations across three shows this month, with the help of Block9, the production and staging company behind one of Glastonbury’s after-hours areas.

The performances will feature a selection of guests from their latest record, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez.

Sir Elton John, The Cure frontman Robert Smith, rapper Slowthai and Peter Hook from New Order all feature on the star-studded album.

Albarn described the live shows as a potential “game-changer” for both the band and the music industry.

But he warned there was much that could go wrong with both the live music and technology components.

He said: “If we get this right it will be a game-changer. No-one has ever done anything like this before.

“But I hasten to add there is a huge potential for things to go wrong. When you have cartoons and live music trying to happen at the same time, it’s f****** mad really.

“It’s exciting and in a way we have morphed again.

“If this goes well, because this is a TV show not a live streamed performance, it’s a bona fide show or special, if it goes well then maybe that is how we will roll out the second season (of Song Machine) as TV shows.”

Stephen Gallagher, co-founder of Block9 who has worked with Gorillaz since 2017, said the live streamed show felt like a “natural step” for the band and the “perfect opportunity” for them to express themselves.

Block9 has worked on live shows for artists including Dua Lipa and Skrillex, and the Birmingham Opera Company.

“We have got a different way of communicating with people,” he told PA.

“It is not the live show in the traditional sense of a live show where everyone goes and stands together in a field or wherever it might be.

“Instead we have this other way of communicating and reaching out to people.”

Song Machine Live From Kong takes place on December 12 at 11am and midnight, and on December 13 at 7pm. More details at live-now.com.

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