In 1998, musicians Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, who were roommates in a small London apartment, came up with an unusual project. They decided to form a virtual music group.
The band’s lineup featured four virtual members, 2-D (vocalist, keyboardist), Murdoc Niccals (bassist, drummer), Noodle (female guitar player), and Russel Hobbs (drummer, percussionist). Sometimes, the artists are joined by a virtual rapper Del Tha, who has the voice of the rapper Del Funky Homosapien. Every once in a while, other characters join the band as well.
In March 2001, the group released its first LP, Gorillaz, which earned positive reviews from the critics. It came in third on the UK Albums Chart and climbed to the 14th spot of Billboard 200. The same month, the artists presented a single “Clint Eastwood”, which settled on the 4th position of the UK Singles Chart and came in third on US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks Chart.
In June 2001, Gorillaz recorded a new single “19-2000”, which came in 6th on the UK Singles Chart. In New Zealand, it topped the official chart. In October, the third single from the debut album came out. The track “Rock The House” came in 18th on the UK Singles Chart. The virtual group was quickly gaining popularity even though no one knew what the artists looked like.