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Ludicrously Expensive Monkey Vinyl

Jamie Hewlett has taken 400 prints of his artwork from the 'Monkey: Journey to the West' and packaged them up with a double-vinyl boxset priced at £250.

Monkey: Journey to the West is the slightly bonkers but rather wonderful Chinese circus opera that Damon Albarn and co-conspirator Jamie Hewlett created, which is currently packing out a big tent in east London every night of the week. In the artistic equivalent of selling coals to Newcastle, next year they will even be taking it on the road and ultimately to China itself.

Jamie recently turned his hand to creating a doubly-vinyl boxset of the music from the show, containing four numbered prints of his artwork, one signed by Jamie himself, and a cloth-bound 80-page book of the story. There are 2,000 of them available through Vinyl Factory, and they cost £250, so it’s really only one for mentalists and obsessives. But let’s face it, there are quite a few of those around these days, so they’re probably quids in.

Dazed Digital: When we last spoke, you were still working on initial sketches. What have been the highlights since then?
Jamie Hewlett: The highlights have been the many trips to China, and working with a Chinese cast and director. Even after three years, the cast never cease to amaze me with their positive attitude. They’re all individually extraordinarily talented people, and always have a grounded and respectful outlook.

DD: What have been the worst moments?
JH: The worst bits are always the opening nights. I know how many things can go wrong so I watch the show with my hands over my face, peering through my fingers… praying!

DD: My favourite bit of the show was the spider women hanging in silk, what about you?
JH: Volcano City. I really like those costumes, and the fight scene works really well with Damon’s music.

DD: Is there anything you’d change, in retrospect?
JH: Every time I see the show, I want to change stuff – yeah, there’s always room for improvement.

DD: Your animated cut-scenes were neat, like the descent into and rise from the ocean kingdom. Have you thought about doing a film of this?
JH: No, I’ve given up dreaming about making anything animated that is film length.

DD: Did you really do all 2,000 signatures yourself?
JH: I haven’t signed them all yet! I’ve only finished about a thousand so far, and that took a while. I’ll do the rest tomorrow!

DD: What the hell is a 'Monkey Om Box'?
JH: It’s a plastic soundbox with Buddha’s image on it that plays Buddhist chants. We’ve made our own version that plays 13 tunes from the Monkey opera. It comes with a string so you can wear it round your neck. Kids love it.

DD: You just did your first Tank Girl work in a decade for the cover of The Cream of Tank Girl. Did that feel strange?
JH: No, it was fun! However, doing covers is easy… I don’t know if I could manage a whole strip.