In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people 11 interesting questions—and then asks them to suggest one for our next interviewee.
Murdoc Niccals is a bit of a hell-raiser. Although some might say the Gorillaz bassist is just a Keith Richards-inspired cartoon character drawn by Jamie Hewlett and voiced by Phil Cornwell, he actually has a fully formed backstory, from his birth in Stoke-On-Trent at a sanatorium “for the sick, the needy, and the incredibly bored” to his years spent on an around-the-world bender. Lately, he’s been pretty busy doing press for Humanz, the latest Gorillaz record, and prepping for the band’s first North American tour in seven years. Fortunately, he was able to take a few minutes off to sit down and answer The A.V. Club’s 11 Questions.
1. If you could spend the rest of your life inside one movie or TV show, which would it be and why?
Murdoc Niccals: The rest of my life stuck inside a TV show? Sounds like some kind of Orwellian fucking nightmare, mate. No, thank you. And if you did try locking me away, I’d smash my way out like in The Truman Show. ’Cause you can’t cage this animal. No one shackles Murdoc Niccals. No one except Madame Flesch, my dominatrix. Couldn’t escape her shackles if I tried. She’s got some pretty hardcore gear, lot of vintage Cold War stuff. I actually spent a month in an isolation tank she got from the KGB. Absolutely harrowing. Top holiday, that.
Then again, if you’re talking just a brief sojourn, I’d probably be up for a stint in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Not ’cause of the chocolate—can’t stand the muck. I’ve just always wanted to see how far I can throw an Oompa-Loompa.
2. Do you have a favorite swear word or phrase? How often do you use it, and in what circumstances?
MN: Too hard to pick one. What you’ve got to remember is the English have been swearing since the fucking Romans. It’s the heart and soul of our lexicon. I barely fucking notice I’m doing it. That’s why we’ve got Shakespeare and you’ve got Oprah Winfrey. I’ve got this theory that the Puritans sailed to America ’cause they didn’t like our dirty words. I even heard the word “rooster” was invented by your mob ’cause they didn’t want to say “cock” any more. Who doesn’t like saying cock? We’ve named half of London after it. We’ve got Cockfosters, Cock Alley, Cock Hill, and my personal favorite, Cockbush Avenue. All real places, I kid you not. In the countryside it gets even filthier. You could be wandering down Minge Lane, turn onto Butt Hole Road and end up in Shittington.
3. How did you spend your last birthday?
MN: Sat in my underpants crying at the passage of time. Nah, only joking. I went on a pilgrimage to the place of my birth. The Three Legged Dog in Stoke-On-Trent. It’s a pub. Before I materialized there it was just your typical shit British boozer. Today it’s the world’s second-most-popular pilgrimage site after Bethlehem. I was born out the back by the wheelie bins. That was the only time I met my mum, come to think of it. Anyway, I go once a year to pay my respects. Give the old blue plaque a polish. That’s not a euphemism, by the way. Blue plaques are commemorative signs that link a place and a really, really famous person. English Heritage refused to put one up at first, since I’m not dead, but after I went into their office with a tomahawk, they made an exception.
4. What is the worst professional advice you’ve ever received?
MN: My first manager told me the golden rule of showbiz is to be nice to people on the way up ’cause you’ll meet them again on the way down. I punched him for saying that. Then fired him. There’s no way I’ll see him again on the way down, because a) Murdoc Niccals is a living fucking legend that will never go down—though I’d make an exception for Madonna—and b) he died last year. Fell off his roof trying to hang a satellite dish. Tragic, really. Poor bastard will never get to hear the new album.
5. If you were a medical doctor, what kind of doctor would you be and why?
MN: You want me to say gynecologist, don’t you? Ha bloody ha, Murdoc’s a perv. Listen, mate, I’m looking at a twat right now—you—and it’s doing nothing for me. Which doctor does arses? Well, not that one either, before you ask. I’ve actually got nothing but respect for the medical profession. Thanks to them I’m on my second liver this year. This one belonged to a Mormon, so I should get some decent mileage out of it. But if I had to choose, I’d go for forensic pathologist. Dead people are much less chatty.
6. What’s your perfect Sunday?
MN: Sunday being the day of rest, [Gorillaz member] 2D waits on me hand and foot. He does that every day, to be fair, but on Sunday he wears a little apron, which makes it extra special. So, 1 p.m., I’m probably still in a booze coma. By 3 p.m., if I’m still out, 2D fires up the defibrillator and gives me a few hundred volts. Just to blow off the cobwebs. I normally punch him in the face due to the pain of the electricity, then he goes off to make me a Full English, which is a cocktail of our greatest liquids: gin, brown ale, Earl Grey tea, and Ronseal. Then I skin up a brunch trumpet of high-grade hash mixed with Nescafé Gold Blend and take 2D out for a walk in one of London’s famous parks. I’ll throw a stick for him or let him chase the ducks for a bit. Once he’s tired out, I head back home for Midsomer Murders, work on my cross-stitch, and reply to my latest hate mail.
7. What do you get snobby about?
MN: Everything. Snobs look down on people, and I look down on everyone. Not in a snooty, classist way—I mean because I’m better than everyone. I don’t give a shit about good manners. Although it does piss me off when people slurp soup. Get some real food, like tapas or a kebab. You’re not in a gulag, so why order hot vegetable water? Wankers.
I’ve actually been looking down on people even more lately, ’cause of the surveillance drone I loaned from the army. Great for people watching. They wouldn’t give me the one that fires Hellfire missiles, though, the tight bastards. So for now I’m just jotting down the names of anyone who says anything bad about me.
8. What book have you read the most?
MN: Leviticus. Particularly chapter 18: Unlawful Sexual Relations. It’s full of great ideas. Still working my way through them. After that, it’s probably Beyond Good And Evil, Nietzsche. That’s the kind of book you can read over and over and never quite get what the man’s trying to say. Especially ’cause my copy’s in German (danke gott for Google Translate). One thing Nietzsche wrote is really up my strasse: “The great periods of our life occur when we gain the courage to rechristen what is bad about us as what is best.” That’s the Murdoc Niccals philosophy right there. I felt so inspired after reading that, I stole my dad’s Vauxhall Astra and used it to run over 2D. That’s how I got the band started. Rest is fucking history. Which no doubt will become a book of its own soon, replacing Jane Eyre or the Bible or some bollocks in every classroom across the globe.
9. What are you afraid of?
MN: Fear is a cage of your own making. A construct of the human mind. I am as free of fear as I am of super-gonorrhea—i.e., almost entirely. On a personal level, anyway. Though I do have my concerns for mankind as a species. Way I see it, humans are in transition. Accelerating at fucking light speed into some new insanity, and no one really knows how it’s going to turn out. That’s what the new album’s trying to capture—this feeling of dread that’s bubbling away in our guts like a suspect vindaloo, while we sit and wait to find out in what form it’ll materialize. Could be a fucking horror show. Could be fine. Only time will tell.
10. Who are you a big fan of that we wouldn’t necessarily guess that you’re a big fan of?
MN: Rasputin. Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, to you. One of the most evil, lustful men in history. Knob like a leg of lamb. A great inspiration to me. I’ve actually got his wang. In a jar, I mean. At home. Keep it pickled, bring it out on special occasions. Apparently, women worshipped it, sort of a cult. I say a nightly prayer to it before bed. Gives me my dark rock ’n’ roll mojo. And some pretty horrific dreams.
I’m also a big fan of Ringo Starr. Mediocre drummer, terrible fucking songwriter, but one of the finest children’s TV voice-over artistes of the 20th century. His work on Thomas The Tank Engine will likely never be bettered.
It’s no secret, but someone else I’ve got a lot of time for is him downstairs. The dark lord. Beelzebub. Or just “Bub” to his associates. I can relate to him because he’s a misunderstood genius, too. And he’s got a bright red cock. Actually, I should probably get that checked out.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self?
MN: Don’t treat women like objects. I was guilty of that back in the day. It’s actually better to do the opposite—treat objects like women. That way, even if you find yourself at home alone, there are options.
Aside from that, nothing really. Things have worked out exactly as I planned, so what would I change? But here’s some advice for the next generation. If there’s a dream in your heart, never let anyone tell you you’ve got no talent. Get out there, embarrass yourself, and prove to the world you’ve got no talent. And then give up. ’Cause not everyone can be a genius like me. And at least this way you won’t look back and wonder “what if.” ’Cause “what-ifs” can really mess with your head. What if I didn’t punch that horse or shit myself at that bar mitzvah, etc. Waste of time. Regret nothing. You’ll always fuck up because you’re human, not a robot. Well, for now, anyway.
Bonus 12th question from Claudia O’Doherty: What is your signature dinner party dish and what’s your recipe for it?
MN: Great question, Claudia. It may surprise people to learn that Murdoc Niccals loves hosting a soirée. Course, these days I get my grub bicycled in by some sweaty chump on minimum wage. The second those delivery apps came out, I slung my oven in a skip like the rest of humanity. But back in the dark ages I used to whip up quite a spread. The key is to get your guests totally slotted before the entrées, that way they won’t know what they’re eating. By the time you serve the main course, they’re eating fucking roadkill like it was a chateaubriand. Badger, fox, hedgehog—whatever I could run over in the Rolls. “This meat is to die for, Murdoc! And what’s the savory crumble on the side?” Gravel. You’re eating gravel, mate. Foodies, eh? Oh, doorbell. That’ll be the Macedonian nachos I ordered. See ya.
The A.V. Club: Wait! What would you like to ask the next person?
MN: The greatest inspiration in my life is me. Who’s your greatest inspiration, and what would you say to them if you met?