|In myth and legend, ogres are supernatural beasts that represent the greed and depravity of men and women. Their hordes of treasure an accumulated monument to ego, their physical deformity a window to a tortured soul and their crumbling caves or castles a mirror of the society that fostered them.
Enter Murdoc Niccols, the green-skinned Satanist from Stoke-on-Trent, a fledging bass player and inheritor of the decrepit Kong Studios. Pledging his soul to Satan in exchange for rock nroll glory, he set out in 1999 to form Gorillaz. Murdoc is an ogre, his baseness growing more and more profound with each success.
The Rise of Ogre (Riverhead Books, 296 pp.) purports to cover the story of Gorillaz, and to a large extent it is Niccolss story. Of course, it takes quite a bit of cleverness to maintain the line that the Gorillaz are a real band. Every time Gorillaz collaborators like Blurs Damon Albarn or Tank Girls Jamie Hewlitt speak to their role in the fictitious group's creation, Murdoc interjects vehemently, attempting to insist, as the bands videos and website do, that Gorillaz are not a "virtual" band. However, with over 15 million albums sold worldwide, theres been very little thats "virtual" about the bands success.
Those looking to find out how former flatmates Albarn and Hewlitt created the band are likely to be disappointed. What follows instead is a fictitious Behind the Music-style account of Gorillaz members bass player Niccols, American drummer Russel Hobbs, eyeless vocalist 2D, and the diminutive Japanese six-string samuri, Noodle, recapping and expanding on material hinted at in previously released Gorillaz DVDs. Thus we learn how Niccols and 2D met, causing 2D to lose his eyeballs, the ghosts that haunt and possess Hobbs, as well as some of the mystery behind the origins of the 13-year-old Noodle.
The bulk of the book, however, is made up of the stories behind the songs on Gorillaz and Demon Days, as well as their ensuing videos and rare "live" performances. Along the way we see the idea of Gorillaz develop from a cheeky one-off side-project, a biting satire of the nature of stardom and manufactured celebrity, to the thoughtful reflection of community and consumption on Demon Days. The work culminates in the two massive live performances of Demon Days for the Manchester Arts Festival and later at the Apollo Theater, involving over 70 performers.
While the ending of The Rise of the Ogre titillates the reader with hints surrounding the bands future, its very existence offers its own parallel commentary on success and celebrity. The DVD documentaries, and now hardcover book, fancifully mixing unabashed fantasy with reality (their testimony to the recently departed Abrahim Ferrer is perhaps one of the books most truthful moments), speaks to our own hunger and growing desire to allow ourselves to be entertained and distracted by an imaginary band.
The ogre is us.