Alex Poots [artistic director] from the Manchester International Festival who came to us first. We had done work with him about a year before; we opened the Manchester Festival with five nights of the [live] Demon Days project. And he said, “Are you interested in this Monkey project?” And we were promised a trip to China, so we thought, “Hey, we’ll go to China, check it out, see what we think.” And if we don’t like it, or don’t like the people involved, at least we got a free trip to China!
We get offered a lot of really stupid projects we say no to, but we don’t really get our pick of many exciting projects. We knew the story of Monkey, we grew up with the TV series. We didn’t agree to anything until after our second trip to China. That’s where we really got interested.
JH: Well, I wouldn’t look at it like that. It’s something that we all learn from, learn how to be a bit more connected to the planet Earth as opposed to “X Factor” or “Pop Idol”.
But the part I found most interesting, given my own personal interest, is when P-fork talks the growing interest in African music of late:
Pitchfork: Damon, there’s been a huge recent uptick in interest in African music, particularly here in America. In the past few years, most of it was funneled through Western ideas. Do you feel any kind of engagement or connection with any of these bands?
DA: Vampire Weekend and Foals, that kind of thing? Yeah, but I find it hard to find the actual African influence but I’m sure that’s more kind of in their heads. Sometimes you sit and talk about an influence and sort of expect that you’re going to hear it. I don’t think that’s necessarily important.
The best way to get to know Africa, like China, is to go there and see what it is. To know somewhere that crazy and that magnificent, you have to spend some time among people, the rhythm of their lives. Every time I go to Africa, I see the future. I see what the Western world is going to become. It’s a very futuristic place.
Pitchfork: In what ways?
DA: Well, as resources inevitably disappear, people have to make do with a lot less. You have to be much more ingenious with a lot less, and accept that you can’t get your perfect tuna sandwich on a street corner.
JH: Life is becoming far too easy.We’ve become completely fucking useless. There’s no hardship.
DA: Coming back to the music, it’s really important that Western musicians engage and project a bit of that futurism in their music. I think Africa is a very great place to go to sort of meditate on that.
Pitchfork: In the 80s it seemed like the interest in global music was a reaction to the synthetic and a search for authenticity. Do you think it’s being done in a more healthy way now?
DA: In a more realistic way, really, actually listening to what it is. I think people are engaging in a very different way, but it’s only the beginning…the beginning of an inevitable revolution that may come in our lifetime.
Enjoy Hot Chip’s remix of “Kids With Guns”:
Gorillaz “Kids With Guns (Hot Chip remix)”