Damon Albarn recently admitted to using heroin during the height of Britpop through the end of the 1990s. Albarn first began using the drug while living with his then-girlfriend, Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann. Returning from a tour with his band Blur, he found that heroin had become a part of his home life in his absence. ‘It was just what I found going on in the front room (when I was living with Justine). The telly was on, so I just thought, ‘Why not?’ I never imagined it would become a problem,’ the singer told Q Magazine.
Speaking to Time Out, he defended his decision to open about his past mistakes. ‘It was part of me growing up,’ he told the magazine. ‘Look, I didn’t go out and look for it. I turned up at my house and there it was, made on the table. What should I have done? Leave my life and reject it or stay in my own house with my girlfriend and somehow assimilate it into my life?’
‘I hate talking about heroin because of my daughter, my family. But, for me, it was incredibly creative. It freed me up…A combination of that and playing simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician. I found a sense of rhythm. I somehow managed to break out of something with my voice. I can only say heroin was incredibly productive for me. Hand on heart.’
It wasn’t all love and art, though. Heroin ‘turns you in a very isolated person. Ultimately, anything that you are truly dependent on is not good.’ During his addiction, Albarn didn’t take heroin on the weekend, saying he was ‘five days on, two days off,’ much like the average working or school week for many people in the world. The regimented approach to his recreational activities has had a lasting influence on his work ethic. Albarn adheres to the ‘five on, two off’ rule in his Monday to Friday work at his west London studio.
Miraculously, he gave up the drug with the aid of just two aspirin tablets. ‘I wouldn’t recommend that and I was incredibly lucky, but I did manage it,’ he reflected about his past drug habit.
Albarn revisits this period on his song, ‘You And Me,’ from his solo debut, Everyday Robots. ‘Tin foil and a lighter, the ship across,’ he sings. ‘Five days on, two days off.’ Albarn’s revelations came just a month before the release of his album.
Everyday Robots is a personal narrative that has a brutal honesty at its core, and, as such, it is Albarn’s most autobiographical record to date. ‘What I tried to do with this record,’ he explained, ‘it had to have happened and it had to have a geographical place in time. Every line happened.’ ‘He worked very hard to express things that were very personal but to do it in an interesting way,’ agreed producer Richard Russell. The introspective nature of the album might explain why the singer chose this moment to open up about his past in such frank terms.