Why Are Gorillaz Called Gorillaz?

3 April 2018, 17:46

Gorillaz. Picture: Press

We celebrate co-creator Jamie Hewlett's 50th Birthday by looking at the theories behind the animated band's name.

Today mark's the 50th birthday of Jamie Hewlett, who's best known for co-creating virtual band Gorillaz along with Damon Albarn.

Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett
Gorillaz co-creator Jamie Hewlett. Picture: Andy Butterton/PA Archive/PA Images

As the pair recall in a WIRED interview, the idea for the band first came about when they were watching MTV and disparaging at the world of pop stardom.

The animated aspect of the outfit began as a "comment" on the cartoon nature of celebrity, while it also allowed the Blur frontman Albarn the anonymity to experiment.

While we know the Horsham artist is very much responsible for the cartoon band's look and Albarn is at the helm when it comes to their sound, how exactly did they come up with their name?

Here are some of the most believable theories out there:

1. Anonymity

The band originally identified themselves as "Gorilla," which could be a play on the word "guerilla," which comes from a term describing underhand and un-open warfare tactics.

This makes sense when you consider we were never really meant to know who was behind the project.


Damon Albarn is now of course almost as synonymous with the hugely successful animated band as he is with Blur, but it wasn't meant to be that way.

“People weren’t meant to know it was me,” Albarn told The Guardian back in 2017. “Even now I think, during the gigs, I’m going to be able to go off, go backstage and make myself a drink and a hologram will take my place for a couple of songs.”

2. Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn's birth year

Various sources suggest that their simian name was inspired by the fact the pair were born a few weeks apart in 1968, which is in the year of the monkey.

Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn
Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn. Picture: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

3. A nod to The Monkees & an Oasis diss

Some fans believe the origins of the Gorillaz name can be found in a dig from Albarn's former Britpop rivals.

When talking about people comparing The Rolling Stones and The Beatles to the rivalry between Oasis and Blur, the Gallaghers are reported to have said in an interview with CMJ: "The fact of the matter is, we're the Beatles and the Stones, and they're the fucking Monkees."


The Monkees - who were formed in 1965 for the television series of the same name - were considered one of the first manufactured boy bands, and the misspelling of "Gorillaz" could have been inspired by the characterisation of their name, as well as that of The Beatles.


The Monkees eventually rebelled against their management and fought for the right to supervise all music put out under their name.

Most interestingly, in order to avoid this trouble again, their dismissed producer Don Kirshner went on to create a series about an animated band called The Archies.

Watch the video for their Sugar, Sugar hit below:

Watch as Shaun Ryder explains the story behind Gorillaz's DARE:

Gorillaz Songs