First, a disclosure: During the Gorillaz’ single day of press outreach for their Plastic Beach album last year, I sat down with the band’s frontman Damon Albarn for a Wired.com interview. During the interview, Albarn said he stayed away from computers while making his music, preferring the technology of vintage drum machines and synthesizers.
I casually mentioned that people were recording albums on iPhones and iPads. Little did I know how much he would take that to heart.
Great artists like Albarn are always on the lookout for fresh ideas, and I hope I’m not flattering myself with the notion that in the following weeks he began recording the latest Gorillaz album, The Fall, using mostly an iPad, as a result of our conversation.
Of all the iPad instruments Albarn used to create The Fall, he appears to have been particularly enamored with Korg’s iElectribe, a “virtual analog beatbox” that’s basically an iPad approximation of Korg’s hardware Electribe loop-based production studio ($500 retail). The iPad version includes extras such as the ability to copy and paste sounds to and from other music apps, and costs only $10 — a typical example of how making hardware into apps drops its price considerably.
This week, Albarn took the Gorillaz’ embrace of all things app to the next level, with a customized version of Korg iElectribe (video above) that comes pre-stocked with samples from the album, offering fans not only an excellent remixing tool but plenty of material to get started with. Although some commenters bristle at the fact that users cannot publish their creations publically without clearing the samples (in other words, lawyers are not included), this app has otherwise drawn rave reviews, and with good reason.
Gorillaz didn’t merely slap their name onto Korg’s iElectribe; they rebuilt the app from the ground up with Gorillaz’ cartoonish aesthetic in mind. In addition to including 128 Gorillaz-created sounds and 64 patterns created by Gorillaz, Korg, and Stephen Sedgewick (who mixed the album), the app actually looks like something one of the Gorillaz’ cartoon characters would use in a video.
This is not a gimmick — it’s a real instrument, with the extra bonus of increasing the “direct connection between artists and fans” that we’re always hearing is so important in these distracted times. Kudos to Albarn and company on yet another excellent foray into the world of music apps, and I hope I’m not being too bold by taking a tiny shred of credit.
Hey, it could be worse — I could have mentioned that we also talked quite a bit about The Fall (the band, as opposed to the Gorillaz’ then-upcoming album) during that same interview, but that would be a reach… wouldn’t it?