Mention groups like Gorillaz and Blur to the average music fan and the names are immediately recognizable. Mention Damon Albarn, the man at the heart of those groups and several other successful collaborations, and there can be a bit of head-scratching.
Albarn acknowledges that he faces an identity problem as he releases his first proper solo album, "Everyday Robots," last week.
"People have to realize that it's actually me," Albarn said. "In America if I took the number of people who were Gorillaz fans and actually converted them straight to Damon Albarn fans, I'd be guaranteed a No. 1 album in America, which would be very nice. But you can't guarantee things like that at all. I mean round the world between Blur and Gorillaz, there's a (lot of fans). They obviously like me -- but they don't necessarily know I'm me."
"Everyday Robots" is a chance for fans to get to know the 46-year-old British singer and multi-instrumentalist. The 12 tracks, loosely about the disconnection we face in the modern world, are as unfiltered as Albarn gets, full of the kind of personal observations, stories and thoughts that might usually receive a coat of paint in a group setting. "There's no embellishment at all," Albarn said.
The sessions for the new album grew out of the good feelings Albarn and friend and collaborator Richard Russell, CEO of XL Recordings, had left over after their "The Bravest Man in the Universe" collaboration with Bobby Womack. Albarn prefers to work in a collective, but Russell persuaded him it was time to do a solo album with some of Albarn's more melancholic material.
"We had a real aesthetic that was working. It was like what do we do next?" Albarn asked. "Should we start a band? We even thought up a few names, but then we realized we're 44-year-old men at the time. Let's not try and start a new pop band. Maybe our time is over for that."
There's no age limit on creativity, though, and Albarn has managed to extend his career far beyond most of his contemporaries from the classic early 1990s British rock scene. He attributes his longevity to punching a clock every day at a building he owns in London where he has his own studio and administrative offices.
"I put it down to having a very good routine," Albarn said. "Five days a week, 10 till 5:30 -- apart from school holidays."
He also has a sense of when to move on. He enjoyed a long world tour with his Blur bandmates last year, but knew it was time to take a long sabbatical from the band afterward. He suspects he'll soon feel that way about his latest project as well.
"I tend to get that way with everything," Albarn said. "I will take a sabbatical from myself for a while, no doubt, and go back to being someone else. This is the most fun thing to do, so I will continue being myself until it's no more fun. I haven't been myself for so long, it's novel."