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Walter Armstrong Walter Armstrong

Video: Is This “Heroin Song” by Damon Albarn Really as Pro-Drug as Headlines Suggest?

The former Blur frontman's admissions have caused controversy—even though he acknowledges the dangers of heroin and quit using way back in 1999.

4 Substance

Damon Albarn, the British musician best known as the frontman for Britpop group Blur and for his involvement in the Gorillaz project, tells Q Magazine that his use of heroin in the late 1990s helped lead to a creative breakthrough. “[Heroin] freed me up,” Albarn said. “It was incredibly creative…A combination of [heroin] and playing really simple, beautiful, repetitive shit in Africa changed me completely as a musician.”

Albarn’s candor has made headlines and raised hackles for its acknowledgement of the potential benefits that come from drug use. Generally overlooked is the fact that he also acknowledges heroin’s dangers. He told the The Guardian in 2012, “The reality of any experimentation is that it can become habitual, and it can take over your life….You have to have very good intentions [but] even the best intentions in the world can go awry.”

Whether intended or not, one consequence of the controversy is that Albarn’s name is enjoying attention, which can only help sales of his upcoming solo album, Everyday Robots (due out April 29). The lyrics of one song, “You and Me,” include an explicit reference to heroin use: “Tin foil and a lighter, the ship across/Five days on, two days off.” Previously, in Blur’s 1996 UK number one single, “Beetlebum,” he had referenced the drug more obliquely.

Albarn quit using entirely in 1999, partly by spending a long time in Africa with his artist wife. “It was just an inspiring, colorful, bright gorgeous place,” he told the Guardian. “That was [my] rehabilitation.”