Gorillaz iPad album: How it was made

Plus: Apps used to make an iMusical masterpiece

Who needs a studio when you've got an iPad?

Gorillaz is the hip-pop brainchild of Blur front man Damon Albarn. A band of cartoon characters inked by Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett and logged in Guinness World Records as the world’s most successful virtual band, they dance to a different beat. When T3 heard they’d shunned the studio to make their fourth album on the iPad, even before GarageBand’s arrival, we had to find out how – and why.

“I fell in love with my iPad as soon as I got it,”

Damon Albarn tells T3. This is day one of a 32-day North American tour. By the time Gorillaz return to English soil, their two iPads will have created their fourth studio album, The Fall. Everything from the tracks and artwork to the distribution will have been created, mixed and recorded using the tablet.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s a bit of an experiment,”

continues Albarn. “A test, to see what we can record while living out of a bus. There’s a lot of common sense involved in recording like this. We’re going across America, trapped in a tiny space for hours on end, and we’re all together, doing nothing. It’s the perfect time to try and make something really new and see where it takes us.”

“Recording town to town has a real pre-rock ’n’ roll feel about it. It’s also kind of what hip-hop culture is all about.”

On the part of the tour we’re tagging along with, tracks one and two of The Fall – Phoner To Arizona and Revolving Doors – are penned and recorded without a studio or a dusty four-track in sight. Real instruments and voices are used as well, but the bulk of the sounds come from using one iPad as a synthesiser plugged into another one working as a recording device.

“Nothing we ever do is with the budget in mind,”

understates Gorillaz co-founder Hewlett, who, along with Albarn, once took a stage musical based on a Chinese folk talenon the road with a 25-member orchestra. But creating an album with iPads is a definite cost-cutter. According to music biz association IFPI (the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry), the average chart album costs upwards of £250,000 to produce, yet once you’ve downloaded the apps (see box below), an iPad album will get you change from £1,000. “Recording while we’re out makes financial sense, yes, but that’s not the motivation,” reiterates Hewlett. “It’s just keeping busy; trying to do something new.”

“We’ve never gone out to do things differently just for the sake of being different,”

chimes in Albarn, who clearly sees recording an album on an iPad not as a gimmick, but as a genuinely practical option. The Fall may initially have only been available for free as a Christmas present to fan-club members, but the demand for a full commercial outing has shown that its loose, less confined, lo-fi cuts have a broad audience.

“When you’re on tour, you have to be open to trying to be creative in any way you can,”

explains Gorillaz’ bassist Paul Simonon, formerly of punk pioneers The Clash. “Otherwise you’ll go mad. In The Clash we used to go out and play impromptu gigs, so I’m up for recording on a bus, just to see where it takes us.”

How to make an iMusical masterpiece

The £63.23 iTunes receipt behind Gorillaz's The Fall

1/ StudioMini XL (£5.99) I 2/ Speak It! (£1.19) I 3/ SoundyThingie (£1.79) I 4/ Korg iElectribe (£5.99) I 5/ Mellotronics M3000 (£6.99) I 6/ BassLine (£2.99) I 7/ BS-16i (£2.99) I 8/ Mugician (free) I 9/ Moog Filtatron (£4.99) I 10/ Olsynth (£3.99) I 11/ Sylo Synthesiser (free) I 12/ Xenon Groove Synthesizer (£2.99) I 13/ FunkBox Drum Machine (£1.79) I 14/ Gliss (£1.79) I 15/ AmpliTube (£11.99) I 16/ Dub Siren Pro (£2.39) I 17/ Cleartune (£2.39) I 18/ Harmonizer (free) I 19/ Synth (free) I 20/ iOrgel HD (£1.79) I 21/ Hipstamatic (£1.19)

Gorillaz’ album The Fall is available on vinyl for Record Store Day now, and the CD and download release is out today

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