Why are Gorillaz called Gorillaz?

19 August 2022, 17:00

Gorillaz play All Points East Festival 2022. Picture: Press/Jamie Hewlett

By Jenny Mensah

We look back at the origins of the animated band's simian name and the theories as to why they chose it.

Gorillaz are set to play a headline set at All Points East on Friday 19th August.

The animated outfit began as a "comment" on the cartoon nature of celebrity, which also allowed Blur frontman Damon Albarn the freedom experiment without being overshadowed by his Britpop past.

But why exactly were they called Gorillaz?

Here are some of the most believable theories out there...

READ MORE: Shaun Ryder explains the origins of Gorillaz's DARE

1. Anonymity

The band originally identified themselves as "Gorilla," which could be a play on the word "guerilla," coming from the words guerilla warfare - which is a term used to describe 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 also 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:

The Archies - Sugar, Sugar (Official Animated Music Video)

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

Shaun Ryder explains the story of Gorillaz Dare