Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the duo behind the Grammy-winning Gorillaz, have a hectic summer ahead of them.
The pair have created the opening credits for the BBC's coverage of the Beijing Olympics, inspired by the Seventies TV show Monkey. They depict the characters Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy, created by Hewlett, performing different sports on their way to the Bird's Nest stadium, accompanied by new music from Albarn. 'Maybe the BBC want to do something different,' Hewlett told OMM. 'I've sat and watched lots of old title sequences, and this is going to be very different.'
Meanwhile, Monkey: Journey to the West, the opera the duo produced with director Chen Shi-Zheng, which premiered at Manchester International Festival last year, is moving to the Royal Opera House for seven performances from 23 July. Based on the ancient Chinese legend of enlightenment, the reworked version involves 40 Chinese circus acrobats and martial artists, plus Chinese singers and traditional Chinese instruments.
Albarn has also confirmed there will be an album of new material later in the year. At last month's Love Music Hate Racism carnival, he revealed he was finishing off a record that has 'got about 80 or 90 musicians on it'. It is still untitled but, said Albarn, 'There's a monkey or two in there at least. It's not an opera, it's a proper record. And it's all in Mandarin.
'Monkey, like Gorillaz, is a part of myself and Jamie's ongoing creative process,' Albarn told OMM. 'When we started this it was very much coming from the unorthodox. Through a fascinating and terrifying period of events, it's starting to feel more orthodox.'
Tickets for Monkey at the Royal Opera House are available from roh.org.uk or on 0207 304 4000.