Ocean Drive: April 99
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Ocean Drive: April 99

Ocean Drive Interviews Damon Albarn

By:Karen Bliss
Thanks to Jade Heshmatpour for finding the article.

Picking apart strawberries with his fingers from a plentiful plate at Toronto's Cambridge Suites, Blur's Damon Albarn appears bored with the afternoon of promotion ahead for the British band's sixth album, 13, (EMI RECORDS CANADA) a buzzing, sprawling, sonic soundscape. Giving his mind a break from song and production-type questions, Ocean Drive's Karen Bliss asks the singer how he unwinds.

What's your ideal summer vacation?

I'm in a very fortunate position to have different houses in different places. I have a house in Iceland, and I have a house right in the south of England on the coast in Cornwall.

So that's where you take off to?

Well, I go there whenever I can. On holiday, I'm going to Cuba. I've never been there.

Are you a beach guy?

I can be, but I'm not obsessive about it at all. On occasion it is quite nice, but not at resorts.

If you're truly vacationing, not on tour, will you get out the map and explore or go to the major sightseeing spots?

I quite like learning a bit and you just take it from there really, It's so much nicer to know friends who have been there. I like a bit of adventure, really.

Touring hasn't been an adventure? Onstage, you could be anywhere?

It's fantastic when you're young because there's always a party to go to, so it's amazing in that way. You get to do it all around the world and it's a fairly irresponsible lifestyle.

What are your nonmusical pursuits?

To be honest, especially in the last 12 months, I haven't really done anything but music - film music and this record. I tried a bit of snowboarding in Iceland, and I like fishing but I haven't done it for a long time.

Do you throw the fish back?

Yeah. I used to fish every morning when I was a kid, before school and after school, just in the back of my garden. I'd like the dynamic of my life to change so that I can spend more time doing stuff like that. Really, when I look back on it, I spent two years working.

As a teenager, did you ever backpack around Europe with friends?

No , not really. My friends were the people in the band . I've known them since we were teenagers.

Do you not have an interest in that?

I have a great deals of interest in that but I also want to study, not really go back to college, but I'd like to study composition more. It's difficult because it's hard to decide what side of your life you'd like to enrich the most. I've got enough money to never have to work again - not living a very glam life but I could live a moderate lifestyle and not have to do a day's work again and I could travel around the world the rest of my life. So in that sense, I could just go off and see the world. But I still feel like I'm only just beginning as a musician. I think a good thing would be to combine travel and meeting different musicians in different places, which is part of David Byrne's [ex-Talking Head] attitude.

What's the best summer drink and in what bar?

My favourite summer drink...there's something quite wonderful about an English country summer afternoon with Pims, with lots of fresh mint so you can chew it at the end. I love that. Another drink my friends and I love in the summer before soccer games is champagne, with oysters. That's really great. And then we go and drink something heavier, and by the time we get to the game around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, I've just really, yeah...I'm looking forward to drinking rum in Havana.

Cuban cigars too?

No, I'm not really into cigars. In Iceland in the summer, up in the mountains, I drank vodka at midnight. So I've basically drunk everywhere in the world [laughs].

Is it better to be single in the summer?

I'm not into the single thing. I'm not interested in that anymore. I've done all of that.

What's the best place to people-watch?

I don't do as much people-watching as I used to do. I used to do a lot. I spent one summer - I travelled around Spain when I was a lot younger - on my own, just sleeping rough and whatever and I didn't talk to anyone for like two weeks, not that there weren't people around; I just didn't talk to anyone and that was great. But I haven't done so much of that because I haven't been on that many of those kinds of journeys. They've all been work related, really, or just holidays to recuperate.

Best summer music?

Salsa music.

You don't salsa dance, do you?

Yeah, I do. But not that well. I've only recently learned. Yeah, I can do the basic step [laughs].

Who prompted you to learn?

My girlfriend.

Are you recognised all over the world?

Oh, my god. Europe is virtually identical to England. Everywhere, really, everywhere. Canada's the same. The only place, really, where I could go walk around would be the United States, but not in certain parts, certainly not in New York or in San Francisco. It's weird. Wherever I go in the world, I get recognised. I've been on the smallest possible islands in Indonesia, and there were people who recognised me as soon as I got off the boat. In Africa, wherever. I think you get to a point where, regardless of how many records you've sold, you have been around long enough to get recognised.

Where do you go for privacy?

Well, most places I can...it's not...I mean, there's nowhere in the world...I dunno, it's a difficult thing to answer really. I've had holidays ruined by people just constantly coming up to me, but generally that doesn't bother me that much.

In North America you are best known as the "woo hoo" band. How do you feel about that?

Yes, well, at least it got us on The Simpsons, so I can live with that stigma.

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