Damon Albarn is the creative catalyst behind Blur, Gorillaz, Africa Express, and dozens of other music, film and theatre projects. He’s an incredible shapeshifter who’s also sold tens of millions of records. But is his success down to talent, hard work, connections… luck?

We marvel at people like this, yet they can also feel so out of reach to us mere mortals. Could we get ourselves to even 10% of their ability or output?

Me and Fer Franco were wondering about this the other day. When Blur were an unknown band in the early 90s, did Damon know he’d become who he is today? What fueled the success?

Here’s a hint.

One of his biggest hits is ‘Clint Eastwood’ by Gorillaz. It currently has 763m plays on Spotify. 

It was a landmark song, a paradigm shifter.

Genius? Maybe. 

But the song’s killer hook is from a preset. It was pre-programmed into a Suzuki Omnichord keyboard he had sitting in his studio. He just hit one button - and bang. He even used the drum fill, too.


So how is this relevant to you, to me, to us? 

🪵 1. New Wine, Old Oak: The Omnichord was released in 1981. Frankly, it looks it. But just because something’s old, doesn’t mean it’s crapola. And new does not equate to good. We tend to overvalue what’s new, and underprice the old.

🪄 2. Hiding in plain sight: Sometimes it’s right in front of you. The idea, the hook, the breakthrough. It’s sitting there. Waiting for you. Perhaps the trick is to notice what you notice.

🎹 3. Everything’s a remix: If you’re stuck on your quest to create a true original, remember that nothing is. Just start. A preset will do.

🤖 4. Just as an Omnichord preset can’t turn me into Damon Albarn, no other technology (no, not even ChatGPT) will magically transform you into somebody else. You need the slow, unglamorous human work for that to happen. Sorry.

Here's the good news, though. Me and Fer reckon some of Damon Albarn's success comes from immense levels of two things: energy and curiosity.

The former is tough to ramp up beyond a certain point, but the latter… well, that might be limitless. If you let it. Stay curious.

P.S. Shout out to Conor McCarthy who pinged me this video with no context, no comment. None needed. He knows me well.

Damon Albarn's preset genius

All killer, no filler. From 1981.

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