Damon Albarn on posthumous AI releases: “It’s a good opportunity for everyone…There could be hundreds of my songs released after my death”

Speaking on The Beatles’ new track, Now And Then, he says that it’s just “nice to hear John’s voice.”

Damon Albarn on stage with Blur logo in the background

Image: Mairo Cinquetti/SOPA Images via Getty

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Considering that the Gorillaz frontman has already got an avatar alter-ego, it’s no shock that Damon Albarn is heavily intrigued by the potential future of AI in music.

While the sonic world is slowly becoming more infused with computer-generated vocals and digitised clones of popstars, the multi-talented Albarn has shared that he feels AI could be an invaluable tool to prolong the musical journey of an artist’s vision after their death – for better or for worse.

READ MORE: Mixing desk used on The Beatles’ Abbey Road set to be auctioned

Speaking to French magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Albarn reflected on The Beatles’ use of AI to allow the long-abandoned demo Now And Then to take full form. “Initially, it was John Lennon alone in his flat singing a song – I don’t think it was meant to reach that level of exposure,” he said. “But you know, it’s a good opportunity for everyone.”

The track in question was created from a rough recording of Lennon found on a cassette from 1994. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison brought the demos to a studio in an attempt to complete the tracks, but Lennon’s voice was originally too “hidden” to fully recover – until recent developments in AI. This allowed them to recover the vocals and piano on the demo track.

Albarn went on to ponder the potential of AI re-working his own tracks posthumously. “It’s a question of scale: if enough people are interested, there could be hundreds of my songs released after my death, including songs that I would never have wanted to release,” he reflects.

The Blur frontman’s thoughts shed light on the biggest problem when it comes to AI interfering with the work of deceased musicians – sometimes work is unfinished for a reason. AI’s growing role in music has the potential to control an artists legacy, continuing their creative output beyond the grave instead of allowing an artist to be put to rest

With AI and technology allowing bands like ABBA and KISS to prolong their career through entirely immortalised digital avatars and digital concerts, it seems many artists are eager for their music to be immortalised – but what about those who don’t want to live on forever?

Albarn has also recently admitted to NME that he plans to “wrap up” Blur once again, deeming the venture “too much.” If technology goes too far, it could arguably develop from those tracks an artist “would never have wanted to release” being completed, to then developing full-blown digital tours the artist would have never wanted to take place. It happened with Michael Jackson, and it’s far easier to pull off now.

Despite AI potentially removing agency from an artist’s control of their legacy, Albarn notes: “you know, it’s nice to hear John’s voice.”


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