As the frontman for Blur and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn helped shape the British mainstream during the '90s and beyond, first establishing himself as a Brit-pop icon before expanding into hip-hop, opera, electronica, and world music. Born in London on March 23, 1968, he was raised in a bohemian household, studying a number of instruments (piano, guitar, and violin) during his youth and befriending Graham Coxon, a fellow student at the Stanway Comprehensive School, as a 12 year-old. Albarn later studied drama before joining the little-known synth pop outfit Two's a Crowd; at 15, he also won the regional heat in the Young Composer of the Year contest. While a student at Goldsmith University, he again crossed paths with guitarist Coxon, and together they formed a band called the Circus. With the additions of bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, the group rechristened itself Seymour before finally settling on Blur upon signing to Food Records. Their debut single, "She's So High," cracked the U.K. Top 50, while the follow-up, "There's No Other Way," went as high as the Top Ten; however, the baggy beats and shoegazer-inspired textures of Blur's 1991 debut album, Leisure, earned the band unkind critical comparisons to the dying Madchester scene, and with the follow-up, 1993's Modern Life Is Rubbish, they consciously set out to evoke a more traditional pop sound.