Sunday, March 25, 2007


Thom Yorke on Thom Yorke

Radiohead's Thom Yorke likes to think a lot. He says he worries too much, worries about losing the plot. Yet his explicitly personalised, emotive lyrics have made him the anti hero in a new generation of British rock'n'roll stars. Whether as a genius outsider, madman or tortured artist, Thom has always been the subject of black and white, one-dimensional media profiles. In this self interview he faces his multi-dimensional other selves and, for the first time, we get a close-up, full-colour, snapshot of the real Thom Yorke.

It's been a year since Radiohead released The Bends, and now one of the best rock albums of '95 is back by popular demand, firmly entrenched in our national charts at number four. Amazingly, the Brits failed to award them one of four nominations. Their last but one single, "Just", a charity record for the Help EP, was even refused a playlist by Radio One on the grounds that it was not "radio-friendly". Yet despite the media support afforded to many other bands, Radiohead have gone supernova through: nakedly brilliant songwriting, stadium-tilting sound, non-stop touring schedules and just being themselves.

27 year-old Thom Yorke is a difficult man to define. Like the difference between his one slightly sleepy eye and his other wide eye, there's a distinct contrast to his personality. One side of him is inward looking, the other looking out for answers to the outside world. The band are an internal support group; each member with their own neatly cohesive responsibilities. But as the focal and vocal point, Thom is pressured to play out the roles defined by the music. It burns him up inside, saps the poetry from his soul and conflicts with his passionate belief in artistic responsibility.

In The Bends, we see Thom's collective voices compressed and decompressed, like reflections in a hall of mirrors, into comically exaggerated lows and anthemic, epic highs. On stage, Thom's self-deprecation evokes an empathy and hysteria rarely witnessed in pop audiences. Seeing Radiohead live is less a group experience and more a personal revolution. During climactic moments, like the chorus for "Just", when he sings, "You do it to yourself, just you, you and no-one else", it's as if he's speaking to each and everyone there. So, do you ever have a laugh?

"Whenever anyone puts a microphone in front of me, I'm serious because I want to get these noises out of my head. At home I've got a very puerile, juvenile sense of humour. The people that make me laugh more than anyone else are Jonny and Ed. We've known each other since we were 15, so how can you not mercilessly rip the shit out of each other? It's just like when you're a kid; it's no different."

The Bends was an ecliptic moment in Radiohead's trajectory; a point where the pressure of producing a follow-up to their two million-selling debut Pablo Honey saw their fears and desires overshadowed by an honesty to find themselves. And just as The Bends was an evolutionary progression, so their new recordings, according to Thom, see Radiohead continuing to experiment; redefining their sound surroundings, with some purely computer-originated songs, others stripped down, unplugged and semi-acoustic.

Radiohead have already gone through several pop cycles. The New Wave of the New Wave failed to pick up on the not-so-new Radiohead, and, in its arrogant and self perpetuating publicity driven schemes, Britpop ignored them. They carved their own niche in the collective consciousness of the record-buying public. The Radiohead of today are anarchists in a highly politicised pop game, art students who didn't believe in college, rock'n'roll stars who don't write about cocaine. They're doing it their way. Thom: This is a quote, and I think this is you. 'The history of our times calls to mind those Walt Disney characters who rush madly over the edge of a cliff without seeing it. The power of their imagination keeps them suspended in mid-air, but as soon as they look down and see where they are, they fall.'

Thom: Well, am I looking down? I don't think I'm looking down. I sort of understand the Walt Disney bit, though. The cartoon character bit. I understand running off the edge of a cliff, the expression on the face as they look down. I suppose it means something about the suspension of disbelief, and I suppose what you are trying to ask me, is 'What are you doing? I can understand that, but it's better than working in advertising which is what my dad wanted me to do. And I'm looking down and I'm not falling.

Thom: No, but other people in your position do. Why should you be any different?

Thom: I don't say I'm any different at all. I just worry about losing it, you know? I spend most of every fucking day worrying about losing it. I've got to stop swearing as well, because some woman just wrote me a letter saying she really likes my music, but she's 50 years old; our music (laughs) and she's 50 years old and she doesn't like the swearing. (laughs)

Thom: Really? That's interesting. That's really interesting that you'd actually get worried about that. It's pretty pathetic, isn't it? You're really 'Be nice to everybody, nice big grin, shake hands, worry about wasteful packaging, worry whether people are going to break into your home while you're asleep. You worry about not having written back to fan mail. You worry about what to say to important people. You worry about what to say on stage in front of people. You're just a worrier. You're about as intuitive as a brick. You spend half your life worrying, more than half your life. You should fucking get a life, you should be enjoying what you're doing. Get on with it, enjoy it. Suck it up. All those lovely people being nice to you. It's what you always wanted.

Thom: I didn't know what I wanted. I don't think anybody knows what they want. We did a show in Los Angeles. It's a Christmas radio show; they have these every year and everybody does it who wants to be liked by the radio station that year, and we did it. And we thought we were going to hate it, but we turned up and everybody there, like Lenny Kravitz and people like Oasis, were talking to us and saying: 'Hi, you know, I really liked that song' or something and you're going, 'Er, thanks very much'. And that was great, and it was like being at your own birthday party, but you don't know anybody, but they know it's your birthday and I don't know. No, that's bullshit. Anyway it got a bit out of hand because all the people there - except for a few like Oasis and Lenny Kravitz who we have respect for - were just fucking clinging on, you know? And they got this crazy look in their eye, and apparently a lot of them were on coke. I didn't know that; they said it's the coke paranoia thing. There was one particular famous ex-celebrity who I can't name who was really ready to punch me and was giving me a lecture about not behaving in the correct manner towards him because he came up to me and he says: 'Hey, man, you know, I really love you, man, you know, your album's great, you know, we want to make music like you' and I'm talking to somebody else and I'm thinking, 'Well, I'm not impressed', and it's not like I'm having a fucking go or anything, I'm just not into talking to him simply because he's another famous person, ex-famous person in this business. I'm sorry, but I didn't get into this to go to the parties and fucking talk to other famous people. I got into this because I really love what we did and I really love the other blokes in the band and that's why I got into this and get out of my face, you know? But I didn't say any of these things, I just sort of said nothing. And there was this famous model there and I snubbed her because I was a bit out of my head at the time and I was a bit stoned. Anyway, I couldn't do it, you know? I wasn't really able to communicate with anyone except for people I really knew. I suppose the novelty of these people has worn off and I just sound like this sulky kid who has had a big birthday party but didn't get the present he wanted and, you know, someone should just slap him around the face. And this guy was quite prepared to do that.

Thom: OK, this is an obvious question. Why did you want to be famous then?

Thom: Because I wanted to meet REM and Elvis Costello (laughs) and now I have. But really we just started making tapes when we were younger. First me on my own, and then me and Jonny, and then with the others. And we'd play them to people, and they'd really like them and they'd take them home and they'd actually play them at home and I was really into this. Or I'd be at a party or something and someone would give me a guitar and I'd play a song. I mean this is all when we were sort of 15, 16 and it was the first time that I found something that I really loved and I suppose that I just loved the attention, so I wanted to be famous, I wanted the attention.What's wrong with that? But there is also something really seriously fucking unhealthy about it.

Thom: You haven't really answered the question. You've said 'Oh, I want to be loved'. And that's not the real fucking reason, is it? I think you're a bit of a fucking prat.

Thom: Yeah, I agree. Um... other reasons to be famous. I think this discussion is so fucking lame. There's no point in continuing it, really. My favourite answer is: 'Because that way more people get to hear what we do', but that would be a lie, because I'm sure if you asked other members of the band they would agree, but it isn't the only reason. I just get really wound up because I think that when we got involved in what we do, we were so naive. I still think we are naive and I used to sort of want to hide it and now I'm proud of it because I think the most offensive thing about the music business, the most offensive thing about the media in general, is the level of cynicism and the fact that people really believe that they can pawn off endlessly recycled bullshit with no heart and people will buy it. And people do buy it, so I'm wrong and they're right. Just to end this one; whenever I get lost about this, then the others always pull me up. And this is not just about me; I mean I'm doing this interview on my own because I think it's a good idea because I'm not very good at dealing with day to day press interviews, as most people in my position aren't, because they get very precious about the way people think about them. I'm not that precious about the way people think about me, but I am precious about offensive stuff that people write and I am precious about headlines like the one that was put in the NME, 'Thom's Temper Tantrum'. This was a while ago, before Christmas. As they put it, I threw a tantrum in Germany and left the stage and nobody could understand what had happened and everyone was really pissed off and the whole audience were really angry and wanted their money back or whatever. The article was run like that and it was sort of second or third hand. What actually happened on that night was that I'd been really, really ill for quite some time and I didn't know whether I would be able to do it or not and it's very difficult to tell but after a while, if you're doing a tour, there is a point where you have to just carry on. It doesn't matter how ill you are, you still have to get on stage, and that really fucking does something to your head after a while. When I tried the soundcheck I got really worried because I couldn't sing anything. And when the show came round, people had driven hundreds of miles to come and it was snowing and it was like three or four foot deep and I just thought: 'There is no way I'm not doing the show because these people have travelled this far'. So I got up on stage and I thought it would be alright, but after three songs I lost my voice completely and I was croaking and I just got really fucking freaked out. I got tunnel vision and I don't really know what happened. I threw stuffaround and threw my amp around and drum kit and ended up with blood all over my face and things. I cried for about two hours afterwards. I want people to know what happened that night. I'm sure no one gives a fuck and I'm sure the NME don't give a fuck, but what they wrote in that piece hurt me more than anything else anyone has ever written about me.

Thom: I think you've said enough about your fucking precious bullshit. It seems that you're a graduate of the Sinead O'Connor school of media handling and don't you feel it's about time you grew up a little? Stamping your little feet comes across as rather laughable under the circumstances, don't you think?

Thom: I think that has a lot to do with the expression that's on my face. People are born with certain faces, like my father was born with a face that people want to hit. (laughs) I do stamp my feet out of frustration really, but I don't do it as much now because I feel that we're in more control of what's happening.

Thom: Do you think that people who read this find this level of agonising pretty offensive?

Thom: I think the only reason that I'm able to think like this is because we've been off the wheel long enough and I've been at home long enough to start to see a lot of things for what they are. What worries me more than anything else is the whole notion that I'm who people focus on, like it's of significance, you know? People look at me and think that it's a complete existence. What really fucks me up in the head is that basically I'm supposed to be endorsing this sort of pop star, 'Wow, lucky bastard, he's got it all' existence. What frightens me is the idea that what Radiohead do is basically packaged back to people in the form of entertainment, to play in their car stereos on their way to work. And that's not why I started this but then I should shut the fuck up because it's pop music and it's not anything more than that. But I got into music, because I naively thought that pop music was basically the only viable art form left, because the art world is run by a few very extremely, um, privileged people and is ultimately corrupt and barren of any context. And I thought that the pop music industry was different and I was fucking wrong, because I went to the Brits and I saw it everywhere and it's the same thing. It's a lot of women who couldn't fit in their cocktail dresses and lots of men in black ties who essentially didn't want to be there, but were. And I was there and we were all committing the same offence. All my favourite artists are people who never seem to be involved in the industry and I found myself getting involved in it, and I felt really ashamed to be there.

Thom: It sounds to me like you're going around in ever-decreasing circles.

Thom: Yeah, I agree. I don't know if anybody else has this feeling. When you're walking down the street and you catch your reflection in something like a car window or a shop window and you see your face and you think, 'Who's that?'. You know: 'That's not me, that doesn't represent who I am'. And I think I've recently discovered what the problem is and it's a feeling that essentially you're just in a room full of mirrors. You can shoot at all the reflections, but basically it's all meaningless because you're just trapped and you put yourself there. I've realised recently that it's actually worrying about it that's the fucking problem. It's actually saying, 'No, this is me, that's not me', and being precious about who you are, because I believe now that everyone changes all the time. I think the most unhealthy thing for a human being is to feel that they have to behave in a certain way because other people expect them to behave like that, or to feel they have to think in a certain way because what happens then is basically your mind goes round in circles. I was getting really freaked out the other day because I was talking to Jonny when we were in the studio, and I woke up one morning and discovered that during the night, as a dream or something, my mind was going round in a trap. Like it was going round and round and round and round. It was like four or five words just going round in my head and it went on for about an hour and I couldn't stop it. And Jonny said he had the same thing. He went to Israel with his wife after a tour and he'd just got out of the bath, and picked up a towel to dry himself. Then once he put the towel down on the floor, he stood there completely freaked out for a half an hour because there were so many different places to put the towel. He'd become paralysed and got really really scared, because his mind had gone into a lock and wouldn't stop. So I get scared about my mind going round in circles but I think that's only because I'm constantly aware of my own reflection and I feel that's an extremely unhealthy thing. And I feel sorry for anyone who actually starts to believe their own reflection because I've done it. What a wanker!

Thom: Well, I think you're being very dishonest. I think that you're a little shit like every other narcissistic little boy in a pop band. Your particular angle in life is being the tortured artist, which frankly is already appearing fairly tired. It's about time you lightened up.

Thom: You're right. I'll lighten up. At the moment I'm really excited about what we could do, but just as much, like 50 per cent of the time, I'm thinking how close it is to just being completely banal. I guess that's what's supposed to happen. The best thing for us is to just keep turning stuff out and not worrying about what people think. The thing that paralysed us for the first two or three months of recording The Bends was the fact was that we were paralysed about what people would think. We were paralysed about who we were supposed to be. We were paralysed about how we were supposed to be. It's pretty difficult not to love the attention. And I kind of went through a phase of going to London a lot and going to parties and things. Part of me really wanted to do that, wanted to go out and sort of soak up this beaming fucking sunshine coming out of my bottom or whatever it was, but you know... Maybe I should have done it, but it's not my thing, that's all. I'm not good at taking compliments, but I do it. I think it's more that people have put this level of significance into it, to the point where it's really taking the piss. The reason I'm proud of the fact that people have jumped to The Bends now is because I know how difficult it was to make. The record is a document of a period of time and that was a difficult period of time and the fact that people really like it makes me very proud. I don't really care who wins Brit awards because nobody else does.

Thom: It sounds to me like you're desperately trying to find something to fight against.

Thom: I didn't come here to be attacked by you. Just fucking lay off, alright? (laughs).

Thom: No wonder you don't talk too much: you don't seem to have much to say, Thom.

Thom: I don't think I do have.

Thom: Do you enjoy getting drunk on your own, then, Thom?

Thom: Stuff comes out, and I like it because there's a sort of comfort in it. Being pissed out of your head and on your own, but it's a bit softer. I think that I should ask you some questions now. You're the one that's been trying to pick a fight with me. Why do you follow me around everywhere?

Thom: What do you mean, 'follow you around'? I'm just another voice in the tape recorder, part of the interview. What do you mean, 'follow you around'?

Thom: You know what I mean. Why do you make me do that stuff? Why do you make me hurt people?

Thom: You sound like some dodgy John Hurt serial killer character.

Thom: I don't mean 'hurt people'; people say I get in a state, and I think it's because you're around.

Thom: I think you're just creating this as part of a convenient excuse for your bad behaviour.

Thom: You've always got a fucking answer, haven't you? You've always got a fucking answer.

Thom: I think this sounds a little bit too much like a very bad '80s thriller, or something. You're trying to create some sort of persona thing. Anyway I don't think this is really for the public domain. Do you?

Thom: No, but this is the first time I've ever talked to you.

Thom: No it's not. That's bullshit.

Thom: Everyone has different sides, and at least I don't go and harm anybody. Except maybe the fish in the pond. I think maybe this house is haunted. I tell you about the fish. It was during a Christmas and I bought this house and there were these two beautiful oriental fish that lived in a pond at the bottom of the garden and my other half went away for a few days and one of the things that was left on a note was 'look after the fish', because at that time there was ice and snow covering the ground. It was like two foot deep or something ridiculous. Now I let these fish die because I couldn't even be fucking bothered to get my shit together to go down to the bottom of the garden and knock a little hole in the ice to keep these fish alive. So when I eventually remembered that they were there, I saw them belly up in the ice and one of them was, his little mouth was right next to the last hole that had been made there in the pond. A last gasp for breath of air and I couldn't even fucking manage that.

Thom: Poor little Thom.

Thom: You're the wanker that wants me to sleep with all these women. But I haven't done it, and I won't.

Thom: But you know they're still there.

Thom: I don't think it's any of your business.

Thom: Of course it's my business.

Thom: OK then, but I don't think it's anybody else's business.

Thom: Everything is their business. That's the whole point, Thom. This tape's running out. Have you got anything else you want to say in this somewhat random interview that we've been doing?

Thom: I want to say that I did this for a reason. It was a good idea because I wanted to just take a different photograph. You know, a different reflection in a different shop window. But maybe I just kind of forgot what it was I wanted to do. I wanted it to be some sort of deep psychological experience. I wanted to be locked in a room for a day, but my life being what it is, I couldn't do that.

Thom: So let's find you a cheery question to end this, shall we? After all, this is the media. Do you think you'll ever get to heaven, Thom? Or maybe just the top of the charts?

Thom: Only if I get rid of you.

Thom: Absolutely no chance whatsoever…

1995 July | Select

Just like The Beatles!

Yes, it was Hard Day's Night type band-household domesticity for the 'Head...

After completing their respective college courses in 1991, schoolboy pals Colin Greenwood (bass) and Ed O'Brien (guitar) returned to Oxford and rented a semi-detached house near the centre of town. The house's blue plaque credentials were confirmed when they were joined by fellow Radioheaders Thom Yorke (vocals) and Colin's brother Jonny (guitar).

[ pic of semi-deatched house with caption "Oxford: their Beatles-style communal home rapidly became 'a fucking hole'" ]

Thom: "At first it was quite a nice house but we turned it into a complete fucking hole. We'd just begun taking the band seriously so there were musical instruments everywhere. We ripped half the wallpaper off taking the Hammond organ in and out. There was always fag ash everywhere. Plus, the carpet would roll down the stairs every time you went up them.

We all lived there in the course of the year but people would drift in and out. Techinically-speaking, Phil had a room there but most of the time he couldn't bear to come round. I felt sorry for the landloard because he could never work out who was living there. We'd get angry phone calls saying, The rent is overdue! And we'd say, Sorry, call Phil...Also, the record collection was huge. I was sleeping in the living room so I moved all the albums in there. We'd have evening of just sitting around listeneing to records which was really nice.

Colin and I got into cooking. But all the things we cooked had to have pesto in. Colin always referred to it as the 'pesto slop'. It would taste great, though. You know, idiot food. But a month after I moved out I ate some pesto and started feeling really sick. I haven't eaten it since.

I'd do it again if we had to. I mean that's what we're doing at hte moment really, living toegher on the tour bus. Except the good thing is, you don't have to clean out the toilet - not that we did anyway.

Colin: It was only really me and Thom who stuck it out all the way through. But it was a bit eerie because the woman who'd lived there before had died. I think she died in the house. And Ed and I kept finding things which had obviously belonged to her. Combs, half-empty fag packets, stuff like that. One day we found this half-eaten pork pie down the back of the soda. It must've been there for months but you could still see the teeth marks. Of course, being morbid people we managed to convince ourselves that she'd choked on it.

Thom had got into dance music at college and kept on playing theses awful house records. God only knows what they were. I was working at Our Price and in the evenings all I wanted to do was sit round and listen to the Pale Saints. But Thme would stick on this horrendous techno music. He got pretty short shrift from the rest of us.

I don't remember us socialising much. I think we spent most of the time trying to avoid each other as much as possible. We didn't really argue though. Jonny never did the washing up, he'll admit that, but he'd only just left school. I don't think he'd quite got his head round this living together business. The only other thing was that one day Phil came back and I'd eaten all his honey. I mean, the guy hadn't been there in weeks but still got really angry about it. He still brings it up to this day!

I don't know if I'd do it again. Maybe if it was a house in Trinidad. But it would have to large enough so we never saw each other.

1995-07 | Select

Just like The Beatles!

Yes, it was Hard Day's Night type band-household domesticity for the 'Head...

After completing their respective college courses in 1991, schoolboy pals Colin Greenwood (bass) and Ed O'Brien (guitar) returned to Oxford and rented a semi-detached house near the centre of town. The house's blue plaque credentials were confirmed when they were joined by fellow Radioheaders Thom Yorke (vocals) and Colin's brother Jonny (guitar).

[ pic of semi-deatched house with caption "Oxford: their Beatles-style communal home rapidly became 'a fucking hole'" ]

Thom: "At first it was quite a nice house but we turned it into a complete fucking hole. We'd just begun taking the band seriously so there were musical instruments everywhere. We ripped half the wallpaper off taking the Hammond organ in and out. There was always fag ash everywhere. Plus, the carpet would roll down the stairs every time you went up them.

We all lived there in the course of the year but people would drift in and out. Techinically-speaking, Phil had a room there but most of the time he couldn't bear to come round. I felt sorry for the landloard because he could never work out who was living there. We'd get angry phone calls saying, The rent is overdue! And we'd say, Sorry, call Phil...Also, the record collection was huge. I was sleeping in the living room so I moved all the albums in there. We'd have evening of just sitting around listeneing to records which was really nice.

Colin and I got into cooking. But all the things we cooked had to have pesto in. Colin always referred to it as the 'pesto slop'. It would taste great, though. You know, idiot food. But a month after I moved out I ate some pesto and started feeling really sick. I haven't eaten it since.

I'd do it again if we had to. I mean that's what we're doing at hte moment really, living toegher on the tour bus. Except the good thing is, you don't have to clean out the toilet - not that we did anyway.

Colin: It was only really me and Thom who stuck it out all the way through. But it was a bit eerie because the woman who'd lived there before had died. I think she died in the house. And Ed and I kept finding things which had obviously belonged to her. Combs, half-empty fag packets, stuff like that. One day we found this half-eaten pork pie down the back of the soda. It must've been there for months but you could still see the teeth marks. Of course, being morbid people we managed to convince ourselves that she'd choked on it.

Thom had got into dance music at college and kept on playing theses awful house records. God only knows what they were. I was working at Our Price and in the evenings all I wanted to do was sit round and listen to the Pale Saints. But Thme would stick on this horrendous techno music. He got pretty short shrift from the rest of us.

I don't remember us socialising much. I think we spent most of the time trying to avoid each other as much as possible. We didn't really argue though. Jonny never did the washing up, he'll admit that, but he'd only just left school. I don't think he'd quite got his head round this living together business. The only other thing was that one day Phil came back and I'd eaten all his honey. I mean, the guy hadn't been there in weeks but still got really angry about it. He still brings it up to this day!

I don't know if I'd do it again. Maybe if it was a house in Trinidad. But it would have to large enough so we never saw each other.

1995-04-24 | Rocksound


Avec "Creep", Radiohead avait prouvé, il y a deux ans, que les Britanniques pouvaient aussi jouer la carte grungy et faire parler d'eux aux Etats- Unis. "The Bends", nouvel album mordant et magistral produit par John Leckie, voit le groupe osciller entre Smashing Pumpkins et Nirvana. Rencontre avec Colin Greenwood, bassiste maniéré à souhait et Thom Yorke, chanteur blondinet possédé.

Autrefois, les groupes faisaient leur apprentissage en tournée et trouvaient la route du succès au bout de quelques années. Maintenant, la plupart des multinationales s'attendent à ce que leurs artistes décrochent d'entrée le gros lot. Ceci s'avère quelquefois possible dès le premier disque mais frapper d'entrée un coup de maître peut également avoir de fâcheuses conséquences. En effet, les musiciens qui ont peaufiné leur répertoire pendant un ou deux ans se voient tout à coup obligés de créer d'autres chansons alors qu'ils tournent aux quatre coins du globe. De deux choses l'une: soit ils craquent et mettent au bas mot cinq ans à concocter leur disque suivant (n'est- ce pas les Stone Roses?), soit ils font plaisir en produisant un disque bizarroïde qui déçoit leur publique (EMF) avant de recommencer le jeu de l'oie à zéro. Radiohead m'ont l'air d'être l'exception qui confirme la règle. "Pablo Honey", le premier album du quintet britannique, s'est vendu à plus d'un millon d'exemplaires mais le groupe vient de pondre "The Bends", un deuxième disque encore meilleur que le précédent. Thom Yorke (chant, guitare) et Colin Greenwood (basse) concèdent cependant que "Tout aurait pu foirer. On avait tellement tourné qu'on avait presque oublié à quoi ressemblait un studio. On savait aussi que ce disque serait extrêmement important et que, si ça ne marchait pas, les choses allaient se corser pour nous. En plus, même si on n'avait pas vraiment décidé que cet album devait à tout prix être différent, on ne voulait pas non plus que ce soit une copie-carbone du premier. D'ailleurs, on avait beaucoup progressé depuis 'Pablo Honey' sans avoir eu l'occasion de le prouver. Les répétitions s'annonçaient bien mais, une fois qu'on est entré en studio, ça a tourné au cauchemar. Finalement, on a laissé tomber pour donner quelques concerts au Japon et en Australie avant de participer à deux ou trois festivals. Lorsqu'on est rentré, on a décidé d'abandonner une partie des sessions et on a recommencé au Manor près d'Oxford. Cette fois, on était plus près de chez nous, la confiance est revenue et on a réalisé que ce n'était pas la peine de s'éterniser et que les premières prises sont souvent les meilleures", explique le chanteur.

Si le quintet d'Oxford avait le dos au mur, c'est un peu à cause du succès de "Creep" aux USA et 1993. Thom, Colin, Ed (O'Brien- guitare), Phil (Selway- batterie) et Jonny G (le frérot de Greenwood- guitare) avaient formé le groupe sur les bancs de l'école avant de signer chez EMI il y a quatre ans. Ensuite, il avaient fait leur petit bonhomme de chemin en publiant une série de EP's, ces 45 tours quatre titres si prisés des collectionneurs. Mais les médias britanniques préoccupés par Suede et The Auteurs avaient quasiment ignoré la sortie de "Pablo Honey" et de "Creep". Aux Etats- Unis, les radios alternatives commencèrent bientôt à diffuser ce titre rageur parce que , selon Colin, "ils croyaient que Radiohead était un groupe américain. J'ai également l'impression que les adolescents et les étudiants se sont identifiés un maximum aux sentiments de rejet et de dégoût que véhiculent les paroles". C'est peut- être pour ça que certains ont replacé Radiohead dans le contexte grungy de Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Beck, etc.
Thom monte sur ses grands chevaux: "Et puis quoi encore? On n'a pas pondu 'Creep' pour devenir les porte-parole d'une génération! Bien sûr, le salaud en question (c'est la traduction du titre) est un personnage frustré au possible et les guitares barbelées qui explosent tout à coup ont contribué au succès de le chanson. En fait, Jonny a un style bien à lui, influencé par les Stooges et le Pixies. Il joue ce qui lui passe par la tête et incorpore des trucs inattendus. Il tripatoullait ses boutons et ses pédales et c'est comme ça que le son de 'Creep' a enflé", confesse le chanteur qui en a "ras le bol d'analyser cette composition sous tous ses angles. Ca fait deux ans que ça dure et, franchement, ça commence à me taper sur le système. Y'a même un con de journaliste l'autre jour qui m'a demandé si je regrettais d'avoir créé cette chanson. Et puis quoi encore?"...

Qu'il le veuille ou non, "Creep" a propulsé Radiohead sur la scène internationale à un moment où des tas d'artistes originaires du Royaume-Uni avaient du mal à traverser la Manche et l'Atlantique. Mister Yorke pousse un long soupir. Il connaît la question sur le bout des doigts et admet que "la scène britannique contemple trop souvent son nombril. Les journalistes montent en épingle des nullités: ça tourne en rond, ça ne va ne va pas plus loin que Londres, Manchester et Glasgow comme un animal apeuré dans sa cage. Les maisons de disques prennent un malin plaisir à sortir plusieurs versions du même simple avec des titres bonus différents pour faire grimper le disque au hit-parade. C'est débile mais, comme ça, on se débarasse de nos fonds de tiroir. Cela dit, les yankees ne valent pas mieux même s'ils ont moins de préjugés. Là- bas, le business ronronne tranquillement comme un gros chat paresseux. Ils font des trucs bizarres comme importer le CD d'Iron Lung au lieu de le presser. Pas question de publier un single si l'album n'est pas prêt!" s'exclame-t-il.

Radiohead ont réalisé "The Bends" avec l'aide du producteur John Leckie(Stones Roses, Magazine, XTC) qui "a fait des pieds et des mains pour mettre le groupe à l'aise", affirme Colin. "En studio, il nous laissait toucher tous les boutons de la console. C'était génial, surtout lorsqu'on est allé à Abbey Road où on a mis en boîte le grand orchestre qu'on entend sur certaines plages (le grandiose Fake Plastic Trees par exemple). John voulait motiver les musiciens classiques et roulait d'énormes joints pour que l'odeur s'évapore dans leur direction. Il paraît que c'est une tradition qui remonte aux Beatles."

Justement, puisque l'on parle des Fab Four, autant évoquer les paroles de la composition intitulé "The Bends" qui font un clin d'oeil pseudo-nostalgique aux 60's. Thom me lance un drôle de regard avec son oeil gauche à motié fermé: "Quand t'es dans un groupe, on te dit constamment que les 60's étaient fabuleuses et que depuis, musicalement, tout fout le camp. Allez, écoute un peu les Beatles et leurs reprises de classiques du rock'n'roll", lance-t-il au deuxième degré. "Au bout d'un moment, t'as envie d'envoyer les nostalgiques dinguer. Mais, en même temps, quand tu tombes sur l'orgue de MacCartney à Abbey Road et tu te dis que tu as loupé le coche, que ça ne sera effectivement jamais pareil. La génération des 60's a eu une énorme influence politique et ça ne risque pas de revenir de si tôt.", ajoute le blondinet à la dégaine d'oiseau effarouché.

Le bonhomme ne paie pas de mine mais sur scène il se comporte volontiers comme un hybride électrique de Bono et de Kurt Cobain. "Planet Telex" semble ainsi prendre le relais de "Zoo TV" tandis que les ballades comme "Fake Plastic Trees" et "High and dry" évoquent la majesté dramatique de "With or without you". Yorke fait la grimace: "En fait, on a failli baptiser le truc 'Planet xerox' mais les avocats ont vite réalisé que la multinationale risquait de nous intenter un procès. Quant à 'Fake plastic trees', la mélodie me trottait dans la tête depuis belle lurette et j'ai pondu des paroles plutôt méchantes qui risque de filer la chair de poule si on les examine de plus près. Au départ, c'était juste moi et ma guitare. Puis John Leckie a embelli le résultat et, lorsque je suis de mauvaise humeur, je me dis que c'est la chanson idéale pour faire sensation dans les stades. Un soupçon de Soul Asylum, deux doigts de REM, un zeste de U2...". Thom se fout visiblement de moi et je décide de répliquer en lui demandant si "High and Dry" fait allusion au décès de Kurt Cobain. Il éclate de rire. "T'es encore à côté de la plaque! Non, dans la chanson, le type qui prend des risques pour qu'on parle de lui c'est Evil knievel, un cascadeur casse- cou qui sautait au-dessus d'énormes véhicules en moto. Finalement, il s'est planté et il a passé l'arme à gauche. J'utilise bien sûr cette métaphore pour faire également allusion aux problèmes qu'ont les rock stars mais, ne te frappe pas, on n'a pas une vie si moche que ça. Au début, des sessions, les nuages avaient l'air de s'accumuler à l'horizon mais, depuis qu'on a bouclé le disque, le temps a tourné au beau fixe."

Un bulletin météo de Radiohead? On aura tout vu!

1993-10 | Creem Magazine

by Chris Nadler

Rock cynics, er, critics, love to banish a band to 'one-hit wonder' status whenever possible. Most recently, the members of radiohead found themselves being served with such extradition papers. These self-proclaimed purveyors of "angst music for angst people' barely
had time to pop open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the not-
so-surprise success of their ode to self-loathing, 'Creep,' before select critics began writing them off as yet another lucky novelty act that happened to be in the right place at the right time.
And, those critics hastened to add, that time would soon be up. Upsetting news for a band that only formed (in Oxford, England) in 1991.
The band members-Thom E. Yorke (vocals, guitar), Jonny Greenwood ('abusive' guitar), Ed O'Brien ('polite' guitar), colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums)-aren't letting it get to them, though. Truth Is, 'Creep' Is not an atypical track on their album, Pablo HoneV. In other words, folks buying it cause they like the single aren't likely to be disappointed or feel like they were hoodwinked. The guitars stutter, clammer, crackle, and howl in pain throughout Pablo's 12 tracks. Best of all, for those who felt a kindred spirit in "Creep," the neurotic tone of that song pervades the CD.

A Writer reviewing a show you did with PJ Harvey at the Ritz in New York advised the band to savor the moment, as 'Creep' would be your one and only shining moment. Do comments like that bother you?
THOM: [laughing]No, they may be right.
It doesn't worry you that 20 years from now, you might be introducing a new song and the crowd will be chanting for 'Creep'?

THOM:[Chuckling) I think worry Is something I do anyway, whatever It's about. So whether It's about that or something else is irrelevant. I suppose the thought that we might be represented by just the one song bothers me, yeah. It pisses me off, but at the same time I'd like to get on with my life, thank you very much. I should be grateful.

Tons of people must've gone, "Hey, I resemble that song," when they heard 'Creep, and listened to you sing such lines as "Cause . I'm a creep/Yeah, I'm a weirdo.' What kind of letters did you all get?
Ed: Obviously, the lyrics are personal to Thom, but they are also applicable to almost everyone. A lot of people have written in. It's amazing the number of letters we've received from people saying, -My god, this Is my song. I'm sure It's written about me."

They're so vain!
Ed: It's nice, though, because a lot of these people might be insecure or going through a bad time. I was that way with the Smiths. When I was a teenager, all I listened to were the Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen. That's what I really got into. I was sure that Morrissey was penning lyrics for something I couldn't express very well. He was penning my thoughts.

So Just what do people write In these 'Creep'-Inspired letters?
THOM: Usually they're looking for something that we can't give them or that I can't give them.

What does that mean? Stock market tips, points on your next album, Daisy Fuentes's home phone number?
Thom: Well, I don't know. I mean, we're not really qualified. Some people see It as humor and some people don't. They see It all the way down the line as tragic or whatever.

Were you at all concerned that you might be lumped In with other so-called shoegazer bands?
Thom: Not at all. Obviously, the press likes to try to neatly categorize music. We're the underdogs, and In a way that's been nice, but we're constantly sort of hitting our heads against a wall.
We have a love/hate relationship with the press back home, for Instance.

Work with me on this one. If you were In a shoegazer band, what kind of shoes would you wear?
Thom: I'm gazing at my trusted green Converse that I wore our whole tour. I suppose I'd get some boots. I like Doc Marten boots. I'm just more into practical stuff, really. I pretty much dress In black and white.
Ed: Sandals. Definitely sandals, because I normally wear only boots. So sandals would be a nice relief. I always wanted a pair, but I never had the guts to buy any.

Gotcha. By the way, do you want me to write 'hint, hint' In parentheses or just let our readers Interpret that revelation on their own?
Ed: (laughing) Did I mention that I'm a size 8?

Let's talk about the new single. 'Stop Whispering.- We singled that on out months ago In Creem, before the album was even released In the States. Ed: It's a new version that they're playIng, you know. We re-recorded It.

Hey, the Police did that with 'Don't Stand So Close to Me.- Are you going to keep re-recording It, like an annual event?
Ed: {laughing} We were just never happy with the version on the album. For us, It kind of lost the plot. So we rerecorded It In a day and a half-, It's more atmospheric now. Like a Joy Division from the late'70s, early'80s.
Thom: It does sort of blow to do that sort of thing, but It was quite old when we went Into the studio and we didn't have an angle on It. Later, on the album, we discovered what the angle was.

Ed, you've been dubbed tlhe 'polite' guitarist while Jonny's known as the 'abusive' guitarist. How were those roles arrived at?
Ed: Jonny plays more a lead role. I actually hate lead guitar. The only lead guitarist I like Is Jonny Greenwood. He's a riff-monger. I'm much more into people like Peter Buck and Peter Townshend.

And let's face it, you probably meet a lot more girls being polite than you do being abusive.
Ed: [laughs] In fact, it's really weird, because Jonny is the
most polite one out of all of us.

That's even worse. You get the girls even though he deserves them. There's one more thing we need to get straight. Your official bio suggests that you all like to dress up.
Ed: As what?

Supposedly you fancy western gear,specifically, dressing up as Billy the Kid.
Ed: [laughs] No! That's not true.
Thom: Those are the band's standing jokes.

So you're saying that Ed doesn't dress up as Billy the Kid.
Thom: Well, he might do It.

Let's say you suddenly felt an uncontrollable urge to dress up like someone or something, then, who would It be?
Thom: Ghandi. Definitely.

Bambi? You are creepy!
Thom: Yeah. Then I could shave my hair again.

Wait a minute. Are you saying Bambi, as in the lovable deer whose mother was killed in a forest fire?
Thom: Bam-? No, GHANDI! {laughs}

Truthfully, now, is everyone in the band neurotic?
Ed: It's strange. We did some gigs in Israel. We also did a radio show while we were there, during which they asked us to name some of our favorite records. Afterward, our manager said,"My god, you guys are melancholic! Every recored you picked was a melancholy tune, downbeat and slightly depressing." It's not something we realized that that's the kind of music we get off on. It gets down to a primitive level. A spine-tingling thing. But we're not wrecks, by any means.

1993-09-25 | Melody Maker


At last! Radiohead have finally charted with 'Creep' and are subverting the nation's youth! On th eve of the band's triumphant US tour where their debut album, 'Pablo Honey', has just gone gold, Dave Jennings speaks to head 'Head Thom Yorke about fame, fortune and the rigours of touring.

Thom E Yorke sounds breathless, amazed and exhilarated. Radiohead's singer has had plenty of surprises in the past couple of years -- but this is the most astonishing yet.
"Getting to Number Seven - whoa! That's as silly as America!"
And this with a re-release that the band vehemently opposed for ages.
"We did a lot to interviews where people asked us, 'Are you going to re-release "Creep"?'
And we said 'Oh no! Not in a million bloody years! Over our dead bodies!'
'But then we got back from America and just thought, 'Why not?' l suppose the song won in the end.'
Now that "Creep" has crashed dramatically into the Top I0, Thom can say that without fear of contradiction. But Radiohead's devastating psychodrama of rejection and self-loathing was largely ignored by press and public alike when first released last year.
Radio One deemed the song "too depressing", declined to play it, and "Creep" fell short of the Top 75. The band went on to score minor hits with "Anyone Can Play Guitar" , "Pop Is Dead" and their debut album, "PabloHoney" but it looked as if their early masterpiece was destined to remain a too-well-kept secret.
Then, earlier this year: Radiohead toured America for the first time. As soon as they arrived, Thom saw a portent of things to come...
"My first memory of getting to America was that we drove overnight from Paris, caught the ferry, drove to Heathrow, then flew to New York. So in 20 hours we covered Paris, New York and London, and then we drove straight out to Boston. I woke up on a coach, walked into this hotel in Boston at seven o'clock in the morning, switched on MTV, and there was 'Creep'! It was like, 'Oh my God. . . "
"Creep" eventuaIly became a Top 40 hit in America, "Pablo Honey" did likewise, and the quintet from Oxford we're suddenly thrust into what must have seemed like a parallel universe. The single's success led to a particularly surreal national TV appearance on 'The MTV Beach Party", with the band performing their bitter ditty next to a swimming pool while surrounded by people who looked like extras from "Baywatch".
"It was all such a contrast to what we were used to," remembers Thom. "The gigs can be so unpredictable -- it's like going to Mars or something, but it's enjoyable.
"One of my favourite memories is of driving through New York in a white limosine. It was like 'Jim'll Fix It'! You couldn't take it seriously, but at the same time it was wicked fun. We really didn't know what to expect from day to day, and that was really exciting. The thing I like most about America is that it's silly. That's a relief sometimes."
Yorke did however, also get to see the sinister side of The Land Of The Free.
"In Dallas, there was this hotel we stayed in, and there were loads of homeless black guys who just hung around the hotel because they had nowhere to go. And there was this one cop who used to stand outside the hotel and spend his whole day trying to do them for jay walking."
Just the black guys?
"In Dallas, the only people on the streets were the black homeless guys! A lot of the big Southern cities were like that.
"In America, it doesnt' really occur to anyone that you might want to go for a walk. The attitude is like, "Why do you wanna do that? Go take a cab!"
"But if all you saw was the inside of hotels, with everyone being nice to you and everything
being beautifully clean, you'd go mad very quickly. So what we tended to do was just disappear during the day, and go exploring each city -- never really seeing much, because you're only there for one day.
"Me and Jonny [Greenwood, one of Radiohead's guitarists] were mad enough to waIk through Dallas! We were lucky -- we got lots of weird looks, but didn't get into any scrapes. But our sound engineer got mugged at knife-point in NewYork."
"Creep" may have been a Stateside success, but it wasn't necessarily understood.
"A lot of journalists said 'This is a joke song, right?'" says Thom, still sounding astonished at the memory. "Well, yeah but no...I was quite shocked by that!
"It is an outsider's song, and I suppose it touches not a nerve with a lot of people -- but it's not a nerve I'd want to tap again. I couldn't, anyway. Itwas
an accident first time.
"I suppose it is ironic now, because I have to ask myself all the time whether or not I'm still an outsider. I think I am. I've just been pushed into a different corner.'
Because you're no longer doing many ordinary things?
"That's right. l have to look for ordinary things to do now -- like finding an ordinary house to live in. I was in a basement flat before, which was actually very oppressive. I couldn't write there. lt was a bit weird, a bit dark. But I was never there anyway."
Well, at least now he's in a corner lit by limelight, and one where he's unlikely to get bored. A hell of a lot of frantic activity has been
going on in Thom's corner. We speak on the day he's moving across Oxford from that basement flat to a more spacious new home; and he's squeezing the change of address into his schedule on the day before Radiohead are due to cross the Atlantic again, to go on tour with Belly. It's just the latest excursion in a round of touring that's kept the band ludicrously busy for the past two years.
But Thom isn't weary of it all yet.'
"I'm really looking forward to playing in front of a lot of mad Americans again,' he says, cheerfully. 'I really feed off the energy when we're out there.
"And I'm actually looking forward to doing some more gigs -which is pretty peculiar, after doing about 100 already this year! But I think that after this huge lump of touring, we're going to disappear completely and not come back until we've written the album. We're going to do a Stone Roses, but not as bad. No legal wrangles!
'While we've been touring, Jonny and I have been writing a hell of a lot. We've got a lot of half-written songs, but we've never been able to just sit down and work on the new songs.
This is pretty clearly a sore point.
"Pablo Honey" was a huge commercial success -- particularly in the States, where it's outsold
Suede's eponymous debut LP by a factor of 15 to one. Nevertheless, Thom admits to being dissatisfied with Radiohead's first long-player; and so keen are the band to move on that they have, he tells me, been throwing new songs into their live sets despite the lack of rehearsal
opportunities, learning them as best they can at sound checks.
"We've been really pushing ourselves to do that, because otherwise we'd go completely
doolally. It's a good way to keep excited about what we're doing, to put in a song you hardly know. The audience might think it's a shambles, but it helps us!
"The second album is going to be much better than the first. The first one was quite flawed, and hopefully the new one will make more sense. I like the first album, but we were very naive. We didn't really know how to use the studio.
"The reaction when it come out was very ambivalent. People went, 'Yeah, there's something there' but it was difficult to find'. And "Creep" was one of the songs on the first album where we did start to realize what a studio could do - that there's a lot more to it than just going in, setting up and trying to make it sound like it's live.
"The first album was quite varied and there's still going to be a lot of styles. lt's going to be a lot calmer and a lot simpler, without being boring. The hysteria will be more subtle. We're learnin to play quietly again, and to rely on the strength of the songs.'
GREAT. But come on Thom; these concerns are for the future. Savour your success.
Let's get corny: how does it feel to be in the Top 10 with that song- probably one of the most emotional extreme hits ever?
'Well ... now we know what we can do when we try! Because it took off in other places, we realised its potential; but we were shocked that so many people picked up on it so heavily.
We thought it was a good song - but you don't sit around at
the end of a recording session saying, 'Hey, this is going to be a hit in America, guys!' 'When it first came out in Britain, we were stiII at the stage when we were thinking, 'We've only just started'. We kept saying to the record company, 'Leave us alone! We don't really know what we're doing yet!' We were just learning the ropes, which is a really naff thing to do in the public eye but we didn't really have any choice.
"Touring changed our attitude. We started getting more confident about what we were doing, and became a professional band rather than just this amateur outfit who'd been given a load of money and didn't know what to do with it.
"That attitude reached the record company. Everyone was really excited about 'Creep', and when we came back from America, it seemed really odd that the country we were coming back to didn't know about it. We thought every one would slag us
off for it. But then we thought, 'Hang on -- we'll be in America! So if this doesn't come off, we'll already have done a runner!"
These days, Thom's almost redundant when Radiohed play 'Creep' live. A roomful of voices variably sings every word of the song for him.
"Yeah - but that's great, isn't it? I had thought,
'Oh God, this is silly. This one song that we write, and everyone goes mad over it. But the main thing is not to let it affect how you work and how you write, and to keep pushing yourself harder all the time.
"Peter Buck said recently in an interview that if, in your career, you write three songs that people go crazy about all over the world, so that everyone knows them wherever you go - then you've done what you set out to do. I read that and thought, "Yeah!"
Two years into his career, Thom's a third of the way to that target.

1993 Fall | Fender Frontline

Creeping Into the Limelight

You know the feeling. You're finally secure in your own wretchedness, at peace with the fact that your clothes aren't the hippest
and your friends aren't big wheels. But then you're drawn to someone so perfect, so unattainable, you just want to weep--and
instead you end up berating your pathetically uncool self and sneering at this special person't position. Yeah, right.

Last year, English pop sensations Radiohead eloquently cast that feeling into their first single, "Creep". Vocalist Thom E. Yorke's
initial quiet despair is cracked wide open with a jarring, fragmentation grenade of a guitar riff that grabs you ears and twists hard.
When the video hit MTV earlier this year, U.S. masochists lapped it up--much to the Oxford quintet's surprise.

"It's frightening," confides soft-spoken "abusive guitar" player Johnny Greenwood, the one responsible for the soul-ripping blast that
diffuses Yorke's depression like any good manic swing should. "We still feel very much like a new band, really. It just feels very

Indeed, "Creep" -- from Radiohead's debut Capitol Records album, Pablo Honey--seemed to take over the airwaves rather
suddenly. But the song actually languished for months in the band's native land, partly because, Greenwood says, journalists there
were more interested in Radiohead for the group's release of a cleaned-up version, in which the object of desire is merely "so very
special." (The version on the CD expresses the same concept, albeit a bit more stringently!) Greenwood says they initially balked
at going radio-friendly, but ultimately decided that, if Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth could do it, so could Radiohead. "But, sadly, we
didn't get away with it," he notes, in reference to the band's lambasting by the press for "selling out." (Curiously, by the end of 1992,
those very same writers had changed their tune, voting "Creep" one of the year's best singles. Go figure.)

This minor controversy has fortunately not overshadowed Radiohead's real noteworthiness as one of the most exciting new pop
bands around. They've managed to translate heaps of angst into a fetching fusion of loudness and introspection, and the appeal is
cemented by creative three-guitar interplay among Greenwood, Yorke, and "polite guitar" player Ed O'Brien, ably propped up by
Colin Greenwood's inventive bass and Phil Selway's rock steady drumming. Each member has distinct musical tastes--from
classical to country--but Radiohead's unique sound is a focused blend of punk, new way, and grunge. Educated ears will, however,
notice an undeniable question from The Hollies' "The Air That I Breathe" near the end of Creep--and rest assured it was

"What happened was, we wrote 'Creep', and the middle eighth just guitar playing a tune," says Greenwood. "And Ed
stopped [us]and said, 'This is the same chord sequence as that Hollies song,' and then sang it. So Thom copied it. It was funny to
us in a way, sort of feeding something like that into [it]. It's a bit of change."

The press kit contends that Radiohead is "the antithesis of rock'n'roll," but the band is grounded in rebellion, and what could be
more rock'n'roll that ? They twist typical subjects like romance into festivals of simultaneous self-hatred and lashing out, with
Yorke's poetic lyrics venting frustration, anger, and yearning, channeled through rampaging, grimy riffs that are barely held in
check by the songs' tight structures. And, although optimism pops up regularly on tunes like "Anyone Can Play Guitar" (the second
single) and the plaintive soul tonic "Lurgee", you get the feeling that Yorke is one troubled individual.

Not exactly, says Greenwood. "Like the rest of the band, he sort of doesn't have any friends, really--which is a bit weird. We got
back to Oxford after touring...and it was really sad. We all got home, and I phoned up one or two people that we knew, who were
away, and then we ended up sort of phoning each other up again."

This group of college chums started playing music together for the same reason most people do: out of boredom. With such a
guitar-heavy sound, it's shocking to learn that earlier editions of the band, which officially became Radiohead in 1991, were not so
axe-intensive. Weirdly enough, the first incarnation included a horn section. "It was just basically the same [kind of sound] but with
saxophones," says Greenwood. "It's hard to believe, but we had three of them, and it harder and harder to write parts for them."

Although Colin, Radiohead's bassist, is Jonny's older brother, it wasn't easy for Jonny to grab his own slot. "The rest of the band
are basically [Colin's] friends," Jonny says. "So it was me following them around and begging them to let me be in their band for
two or three years. And they finally let me in on the harmonica, actually, and then the keyboards, and finally the guitar."

While still novices in the big world of rock, Radiohead is adjusting nicely to the lifestyle. Extensive touring in the U.S. and Europe
has connected them with adoring fans, who mostly just want to talk, says Greenwood, although there was a rather bizarre groupie
incident in Los Angeles, which is a naked young woman appeared at his hotel-room door. "Luckily, I wasn't there," he says. "I was,
like, miles away. But it was described to me. I felt very, very thankful [to have been away]."

The band has also rubbed elbows with the newly canonized PJ Harvey, opening up for them in New York and Los Angeles, which
Greenwood says was a real honor. "She's really great," he enthuses like a fan-boy. When Radiohead hits the road again in
September they'll pair up with Tanya Donelly's band Belly. "We can't wait," he says, confessing like a schoolboy that, when Belly
played a gig at London's Town & Country club, "Tanya kissed me, and I nearly fell over."

While the band will certainly soon be working on material for their next album, Greenwood says he prefers the road life.
"Recording doesn't really excite me as much, not yet, anyway." The guys travel by bus in perfect harmony. "Four of us just sit in
the back playing bridge for most of the journey and stuff like that," he says. "No exciting scandal." They've made a point of
exploring the cities they visit, he says, and he "fell in love with" Chicago Seattle. But his favorite souvenir was from Israel, where
he met his current girlfriend. "I'm very attached to [her]... She's staying with me right now."

So it would seem that these boys aren't such creeps after all. Anyway, notes Greenwood, the tune itself isn't necessarily negative.
"It's not a bad thing to be, in some ways. Part of the song is about following the girl around and dying to be part of her kind of
special group, but it's also about knowing what you are."

1993-08-18 | Evening Standard

British Nobodies Rock USA

Tim Cooper

A BRITISH band have become overnight stars in America despite being virtual unknowns in their own country.

Now Radiohead hope their success will spearhead a new wave of British pop in America.

Radiohead have taken the country by storm with their year-old single Creep which -was deleted here after selling only 6,000 copies. It burst into the US Billboard charts at number 39 and their debut album, Pablo Honey, is at number 32 in the charts.

Radiohead, who met at Abingdon School in Oxford and formed the group in 1991, have performed their hit single on America's top-rated Arsenio Hall TV show.

'It was our first live TV show and we were very very scared,' guitarist Jonny Greenwood, 21, said, back in Oxford after the band's first US tour attracted sell-out crowds and rave reviews. 'Our singer, Thom, was so nervous that he was actually shaking.'

Radiohead - singer Thom E. Yorke, guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood (Jonny's older brother) and drummer Phil Selway - are the first new British act to win mainstream success in America since EMF and Jesus Jones. But they were already established at home.

Jonny is as mystified as anyone over the band's sudden success in America but blames British radio for their failure to break through here - Creep did not receive a single play on daytime national radio.

It is a gloomy anthem of self-loathing sprinkled with the F-word and a miserable refrain.

Jonny said: 'I don't think we can explain what the Americans like about us but they do like classic English angst pop and they seem to find us very English.

'I was scared with the reaction we got in America because we still feel like a new band - we've only been touring for a year in England.'

Now he hopes other British bands will cash in on Radiohead's success. 'There's a feeling in America that there's been a bit of a gap in English music over the past 10 years, so I hope this starts something off.'

Creep will be re-released here next month and the band appear at the Reading Festival on 28 August and The Garage in Highbury on 1 September.

1993-08-15 | LA Times

Obsessed with a Misery that Begets Company

Steve Hochman

In rock -- perhaps more than anywhere else -- it seems that misery loves company. So now, in the tradition of Morrissey and the
Cure, the members of Radiohead have achieved the oxymoronic situation of having a song about how miserable they are cause
fans to tell them how wonderful they are.

For Thom Yorke, the band's singer and the writer of the self-loathing anthem "Creep," the guitar-driven first single from the debut
album "Pablo Honey," it's a dream come true.

"I remember being 8 years old and telling my guitar teacher that I was going to be a rock star and the teacher laughing his head
off," says Yorke, 24.

Radiohead, he says, grew out of a longstanding friendship between him and his Oxford, England, mates Jon and Colin Greenwood,
Ed O'Brien and Phil Stewart, whose influences ranged from Queen to Joy Division.

"It was never a case of just playing music," he says. "We were obsessed by it, but we were also obsessed with pushing the band
and with success."

And success it is having. The album has sold a solid 400,000 copies in the U.S., while the "Creep" single is nearing the 300,000
mark. How is Yorke enjoying the new-found fame?

"It lives up to what I'd imagined and more. It's like joining the circus or something."

But perhaps the ultimate punch line to the dryly humorous "Creep" -- which includes such lines as "You're so very special/I wish I
was special/But I'm a creep/I'm a weirdo/What the hell am I doing here/I don't belong here" -- is that Yorke isn't really miserable.
The song, he explains, isn't about how he feels, but is simply an observation of a character. Ditto for "Prove Yourself," which takes
the theme a step further.

"People have immediately said that we're a down band, that we write exceptionally depressing songs simply because of 'Creep,' "
he says. "But I'm not actually trying to discuss directly the personal sort of teen-age melodrama."

The irony is that as fans read their own meanings into the song, the effect has been to make Yorke, in some ways, a bit depressed.

"These songs are very personal," he says. "But 'Creep' has been taken into so many contexts that it's everybody else's song now,
and I have to let that lie, sadly."

1993-06-24 | Washington Times

Radiohead's Creep is Wonderful Person

Matt Neufeld

In a way, all creeps are outsiders to some degree - so perhaps that's why the British band Radiohead's "Creep," with its insightful
lyrics praising individuality, has become the anthem these days.

Beside celebrating standing up for individual rights, " 'Creep' is a celebration of the creep as well," says Radiohead's "polite guitar"
player, Ed O'Brien, 25. "A celebration of all those feelings of people feeling like an outsider, an outcast.

"People say, 'I heard "Creep" and I know those lyrics were written about me, that it's about me.' And that's wonderful."

"Creep" is the powerhouse introspective single, currently all over radio, from Radiohead's decidely melancholy, somewhat dark,
alternative rock debut album "Pablo Honey" (on Capitol Records, the title taken from a Jerky Boys telephone routine).

And Mr. O'Brien and his bandmates, lifelong friends who formed the band in summer 1991, couldn't be happier with their
newfound success - and with their debut American tour that brings them to the 9:30 Club Monday night; call 202/393-0930.

"We should be quite buzzing [excited] by the time we get there," Mr. O'Brien says, with obviously genuine enthusiasm. It was
mostly American bands such as R.E.M., the Pixies and Sonic Youth, he says, that influenced Radiohead. (Mr. O'Brien does give a
nod to British counterparts the Cure and the Smiths). "We're desparate to play dates there. It should be quite intense and

"First and foremost, Radiohead is a live band. The best way to get into Radiohead is to see them live. It's very passionate, it's very
intense. It's not the type of gig where you sit in the back and drink and have a chat. You will see five guys totally absorbed onstage
in what they're playing."

And there's much for the five Oxford-area residents, in their early and mid 20s, to play. Other songs on "Pablo" speak out
politically, too. Mr. O'Brien points to songs such as "Stop Whispering," - "about people not standing up for their rights: Stop
whispering and start shouting" - and "Vegetable," which he says warns people not to be dehumanized, not to be vegetables.

But there's no preaching from Radiohead, promises Mr. O'Brien. "I hate the whole thing of people on record lecturing," he says.
But he does like "bands who actually play and write good songs," of which he believes Radiohead is included. "Songs are most
important to us. That is essentially what Radiohead is about."

1993-06-07 | Chicago Sun-Times

The Radiohead Vision Creeps Onto Airwaves

Cristi Kempf

Radiohead; Trash Can Sinatras 7 p.m. June 30 Metro, 3730 N. Clark Tickets, $ 8; all ages (312) 559-1212

The woman who inspired Radiohead's song "Creep" may never know just how special she is.

At least, that's what guitarist Jonny Greenwood would have the world believe. Singer Thom Yorke, who laments about being a
"creep" and a "weirdo" in the presence of an angelic vision, will never see that woman again, Greenwood says.

In fact, they've never met.

That special woman turned up at this concert in Exeter, England, where Radiohead's members went to college, Greenwood, 21,
explains. "Thom was mortified, because he's never spoken to her or anything. He just followed her for a couple of days or a week
or whatever about two or three years ago. And here she was. He was very shaken up after that."

Mortification aside, "Creep" is actually a happy song, says Greenwood, whose band has just been booked for June 30 at Metro.
"It's about recognizing what you are."

So is Yorke, who wrote the lyrics, a creep or what?

"Oh, no!" Greenwood says. "He can be quite, ummm, childish, I guess. And he's very creative. But not a creep, exactly. No."

Creeps or not, Radiohead, whose members now live in Oxford, has struck quite a chord with its first single off of the album "Pablo
Honey." "It's turned into one of those anthems, like Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,' " says disc jockey Carla Leonardo of WKQX-FM
(101.1), who categorizes the tune as "anti-social."

Some have tagged "Creep" a "chick song," figuring its power-pop balladry appeals mainly to young women, "Q-101's" target
audience. But Leonardo, who gets many phone requests for it, exclaims, "God, no!"

"Most people who call are guys and they all sound like weirdos!"

Greenwood says Radiohead "just knew 'Creep' was going to be successful."

He should know, after giving "Creep" its sharp little teeth in the form of some out-of-the-blue loud guitar bursts.

"I didn't like it. It stayed quiet," says Greenwood, referring to his initial opinion of the song. "So I hit the guitar hard - really hard."

Radiohead has won critical acclaim here, but all is not rosy in England, where, Greenwood says, "Creep" was much less warmly
received. As in the United States, radio listeners hear that the woman is "very special"; on the CD, the phrase is "------- special."

Perhaps doing a sanitized, radio-friendly version is a "bit of a sellout," Greenwood says. "But then we thought, Sonic Youth has
done it. We thought it wouldn't be that bad. But the British press, they weren't impressed."

Also unimpressed, but for different reasons, is Mother Greenwood, who has another son, Colin, also in the band.

"My mom wants me to be a lawyer," Greenwood says. "Occasionally I play the music for her when she demands to hear it and she
always just says, 'Who is that singing? I don't like the singing.' And then she says 'Who's doing all that bumpety-bump noise?' It's
all noise backing up horrible singing as far as she's concerned. She's not a show-biz mother."

But, no doubt, she's very special.

1993-05-15 | Billboard

Contagious Creep

David Sprague

"Self-loathing is something we can all relate to," says Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, by way of explaining "Creep," the season's
most contagious rock anthem. "Every day, we see people who are better-looking or richer or more worthy than we feel."

The song, taken from the British band's Capitol debut, "Pablo Honey," has climbed into the top 10 of Billboard's Modern Rock
Tracts chart and also is receiving strong video play at alternative outlets.

"It might sound miserable, but it's actually a celebration of being a 'creep,'" says O'Brien, who adds that the quintet never intended
to release the ditty until producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie captured a practice version on tape. That very recording,
released with the barest of overdubs, seems like an unlikely sing-along -- except to O'Brien.

The group's five twentysomething members would seem to have little reason for harboring such self- deprecating feelings. All
natives of Oxford, a posh suburb dominated by the renowned college, they are, as their bio states, "the antithesis of the rock'n'roll

Though Radiohead formed some six years ago, it wasn't until the members all dropped out of various colleges two years back that
the quintet decided to pursue music seriously.

While drawing intense industry scrutiny, Radiohead remained the immovable force, replacing the traditional round of London
showcase gigs with an intensive spate of shoes on its home turf. Within three months -- after a gig to which more than 30 label
reps made the trek -- the band was signed by EMI in the U.K.

"I was always interested in the way bands were set up, as much as in the music," says O'Brien. "We wanted to stay in control, like,
say R.E.M. For us, that's paramount. We're not rock'n'roll idiots or sad cases."

The guitarist points to Radiohead's active touring schedule (the band played more than 100 shows in the U.K. in 1992) as evidence
of its commitment. Furthermore, Capitol intends to bring the group stateside this summer and fall in order to build the song's buzz
into a band-directed frenzy.

"We know this is a band with a future, not a one-hit wonder," says Tom Curson, Capitol VP of artist development, who says the
label plans to keep its focus on independent retail outlets and college radio.

"Our central challenge is breaking this band in an alternative context -- one that stays true to their vision," says Curson.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

1993 | Circus Magazine

Radiohead Plays For Creeps

by Mordechai Kleidermacher

If you've ever felt like a complete good-for-nothing loser (who hasn't?), Radiohead's your kind of band. These polite chaps from stately Oxford, England who say "so kind of you to come" when you show up at their gigs are flying the geek flag high with their misfit anthem "Creep." It's a glum-but-catchy ditty with these self-flagellating words: "I wish I was special. You're so fuckin' special. But I'm a creep. I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here." Not exactly the life of the party, but Radiohead doesn't mind. "We're not really a have-a-good-time band," explains singer/guitarist/lyricist Thom Yorke in soft British tones. "I've got this thing that pop music can be something completely different than what it is at the moment. Pop as a medium is very stale. The radio tends to be full of songs that aren't that honest or frightening enough. Occasionally you get songs where you say, wow, someone's actually
tried desperately to rewrite the world how they see it or paint a genuine picture of what they're seeing. You see it with songs like 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' or 'Another Brick In The Wall.' We're trying to do something a little bit left of center that makes people realize they're still alive. We're very much part of the Generation-X philosophy, I suppose."
Radiohead signed on about six years ago. The band's members (Yorke, bassist Colin Greenwood, drummer Phil Selway and guitarists Ed O'Brien and Jonny Greenwood, Colin's brother), all in their mid-twenties, attended the same school and were reared on bands like Talking Heads, Magazine, Elvis Costello and R.E.M. The band's released two previous EP's, '92s Drill and Creep, which ignited a record industry buzz. At one Oxford gig more than thirty labels came down to hear Radiohead's melancholy mix of dreamy vocals and gnashing guitars. "It was scary," says Colin, "every record company in the country was there. We couldn't get them all on the guest list so they had to pay."
"Creep"'s hitting plenty of raw nerves as the band's debut album, Pablo Honey, steadily creeps up the Billboard charts. As far as what inspired the song, Yorke says, "I just wrote it in a drunken haze about five years ago. I thought it was crap." Not a surprising assessment from a self-proclaimed "Creep." But is the song autobiographical? Yorke says that's not
important: "I don't think people are really actually interested whether it's me or not. I mean they identify with the song, not with me."
And for all you creeps looking to bond with the main "Creep," Yorke says back off. "I get letters from people who obviously think I'm a creep," he says. "Therefore they think there must be something in my head they can relate to, and they try and get at it, and that really pisses me off. I mean I understand why, I wrote the song, but that doesn't mean people are allowed to get in my head."
Boy, what a creep. But then again, it takes one to know one.

1991 November | Curfew

In 2001, around the time that his first child was born, Thom Yorke took the habit of spending the early evenings driving alone around the fields and by-ways surrounding his home just as dusk was drawing in. "I've got one of these cars with the natty blue headlights and the colours of the headlights got mixed in with the wild-life running into the bushes. The twilight invoked a dream-state within me. It's incredibly beautiful where we live but I used to listen to this Penderecki tune that's really ominous and scary and I'd just get this perverse sense of foreboding."

These solitary drives helped inspire the ideas that bolster up much of what would eventually become Radiohead's 6th album. "I wrote a lot of stuff quickly: pages and pages of notes that seemed pretty incoherent at first. Most of it was taken from the radio because -suddenly being a parent- I'd be confronted by the radio giving a news report every hour of the day. It was during the Afghan war and it would ring bells in my head. I'd sit there making mad lists on pieces of paper of the people in the public eye that I had it in for." (laughs)

"We were taking six months off and Ed asked me, 'Can you put down some ideas for the new songs you've got kicking around?' I wasn't trying to write anything -I was just putting demos together for the others to listen to. When we got together I said, 'If nobody likes this new stuff, it's fine by me -we'll start again'. But I got good responses from everybody else."

In early 2002 the quintet reconvened at their Oxfordshire rehearsal/recording studio for six whole months of ironing the new material into workable shape. "We're an old-fashioned band in the sense that we work very intensely on our arrangements", claims Jonny Greenwood. "The rehearsals were all recorded endlessly and we'd eventually got a compilation of the best songs, so that once we reach the studio we could present Nigel (Godrich) with finished material and work quickly."

The group also began performing the new material live at European shows during the same period. For Colin Greenwood, "One of the starting points for the new album was "I Might Be Wrong", the live compilation of songs from "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" we recorded a couple of years ago... It gave us an idea of what could happen if we went in and recorded songs for "Hail To The Thief" after having played them in concert."

In September 2002 the group flew out for recording sessions in Los Angeles at the virtual insistence of producer Nigel Godrich. "I remember us recording "Kid A" in a country house in the middle of nowhere and Nigel would keep telling us "we should be doing this in L.A.. We could be eating sushi right now", recalls Jonny. "and we'd be standing in some market square in Oxfordshire at midnight and there weren't even any street lights! So we said, "Nigel, you can have it your way this time. But only for two weeks."

"Nigel dragged us out to L.A.", adds Ed O' Brien, "because he'd done three records there -two with Beck, one with Travis. We'd always been hesitant about working in Los Angeles because -let's face it- Radiohead mixing in with the Hotel California mind-set doesn't sound like a potential marriage made in heaven. But we quickly realised you can function out there without becoming tarnished by whatever else going on there. It was the best recording experience we ever had. We finished one song each day we were booked. We didn't over-scrutinize. We didn't get too cerebral. We trusted in ourselves, Nigel, the studio and the songs and just let go, really."

Phil Selway concurs: "During the time-off from touring "Kid A" and "Amnesiac", Thom started distributing these CD's with new songs -just a vocal, a guitar or piano. We'd listen to them, let the songs seep in and -over time- ideas would develop about how to best develop them. This was the opposite of "Kid A" which involved no preparation beforehand and enormous pressure in the studio. Occasionally that can be stimulating but too often it becomes incredibly daunting. Two months of pre-production meant we could work much faster in Los Angeles where we ended up recording a song a day. On "Kid A" we were recording one track every one and a half months!"

Ed O' Brien again: "This time we captured our actual energy -an energy that's been missing since "The Bends". Climate affects the way you make music and a lot of "The Bends" was re-recorded in the sunshine during the summer of 94. This time, we had good weather and each day we'd leave the studio at about 5.30 and drive up to Griffith Park Observatory for a walk and look around. Looking out over L.A. reminded me of "Bladerunner": no green spaces, all grids, motorcars and sandy-coloured buildings."

These sunny promenades did little to lighten the menacing and depraved images percolating from Thom Yorke's imagination into the lyrics he was coming out with on the sessions. The Brechtian "We Suck Young Blood" was inspired by his trips through Hollywood. "It's got a sex thing about it -sex being a form of currency in Hollywood. There's a malignant quality to it -a dark force devouring everything in its path. It's an expression of that desperate urge to be somebody at any cost, even if it means being preyed on and sucked dry by every scheming parasite in the world. You find examples of this in the music industry and the porn industry but it could just as easily relate to the way the extreme right seduce young people to enlist in their ranks. Fascism starts with the embittered 50 year old sado-masochist who finds dysfunctional teenagers who he then works on for a couple of years until they become transformed into homicidal little skinhead motherfuckers."

The album's final song "A Wolf At The Door" features a lovely set of chord changes courtesy of Jonny who quickly noted his music was "too busy and too pretty so Thom basically started shouting on top of it. "The ultra-paranoid, they're coming to take me away sentiments he expresses are "a basic documentation of the nearest I ever came to having a complete nervous breakdown. It's about fear -real or imagined- that still makes total sense."

And then there's "The Gloaming" -a rhythm track solely developed by Jonny and Colin that became one of the album's key dispatches as far as its creator is concerned.

"The Gloaming" was going to be the album title" (according to Colin, the rest of Radiohead vetoed the idea for "sounding too proggy")."It's the subtitle now. It refers to a general all-enveloping darkness that's slowly taking over mankind: like some plague from the middle ages that seems to be on the horizon again. In the middle ages, everyone was obsessed by people who were "possessed". The same thing is happening now. The same sense of a malignant force ripping apart civilisation. Then towards the end of the record I read a 'Murakami' book called "Wind-Up Bird Chronicles" and it all fell into place in my head. That's what I was trying to say about the darkness that envelops people. They don't know it's happening to them and they think they're doing the right thing but the rise of fascism and ignorance are what they're really calling into play. And that to me is the real "thief". The thief is someone who takes possession of one's soul in order to inhabit their body. And with the few politicians I've encountered personally, I've always got the sense that there's fuck-all going on behind their exteriors. If I met Blair, I wouldn't say anything. I'd just sit and watch him. I'd sit and watch his mouth move and see the air flying around."

"Hail To The Thief" is not without its moments of benign ecstasy "Sail To The Moon" is an exquisite sonic dreamscape to rival the likes of "Street Spirit" and "Pyramid Song", and a tender-hearted salute to Yorke's infant son. But then there's that belligerent techno bass line punching its way through "Myxamatosis" causing Thom to wail peevishly on about his Drop The Dept experience of "watching the politician as 'whirlwind of nothingness', just telling you what you want to hear in order to get your signature and then forgetting you ever existed. That was a mind-blowing experience. All power corrupts. The closer you get, the uglier it becomes. They're not even human beings. These people are possessed."

Track 2 "Stand Up- Sit Down" also sets its control for the heart of darkness by inviting its listeners to "step into the jaws of hell" at the song's outset. "It's actually a line from the book of Common Prayer", Yorke retorts. "I just felt compelled to put it in a song". Still, "Thief's" apocalyptic imagery shouldn't camouflage the sense of exhilaration the music summons forth over and over again. Ed O' Brien likes to talk about "how Radiohead have finally found their swagger" with the live-in-the-studio recordings that predominate "Thief" and Yorke is the first to agree. "The music sounds really positive to me. We came off the "Kid A"/ "Amnesiac" experience and we'd all become really confident with the things we'd learned and just wanted to carry on and enjoy it. And celebrate the way we were playing as a unit. The music sounds extremely confident to me. There's a darkness to it but it's also really shiny and bright."

Colin Greenwood remembers: "The running joke when we were making this record was that if we recorded a track that stretched over 3mn 50 sec., we'd say "Oh fuck, we've buggered it then. It's gone on too long." Of course, the irony is that the first single we're releasing is actually the longest song on the record. ("There There"). It was all recorded live in Oxford. We all got excited at the end because Nigel was trying to get Jonny to play like John McGeoch in Siouxsie And The Banshees. All the old farts in the band were in seventh heaven."

The first sound you hear on the album is the first sound that was recorded at the first session at Oceanway studios: Jonny plugging his guitar into an amplifier followed by a percussion track from a nearby lap-top, all recorded live. "The sound of us plugging in and beginning again". The end result is Radiohead's most powerful album to date, a musical mind-bomb that issues us all a very direct wake-up call from our slumbers in the comfort zone and asks us to consider what life in the New Millennium really has in store for us. And whilst it's true that "Hail To The Thief" is also the title of a book about George Bush's dubious election victory in Florida, the world is full of other equally tricky customers and Radiohead are shining their collective torch-light on all of them on this new album.

Colin Greenwood is more than happy with the results: "One of the best things about the record for me are the words -the bleak humour and the clarity. I'm not worried about Americans possibly not buying our records as a consequence of us being outspoken about certain issues. People need to focus on bigger issues instead of whether George Bush is an idiot or not".

His younger brother concurs "We'd never name a record after one political event like Bush's election. The record's bigger than that. Hopefully it will last longer than Bush unless he's getting a whole dynasty together, which is always possible. One of the things Thom's singing about is whether or not you choose to deal with what's happening. There are a lot of lines about escaping and avoiding issues, about keeping your head down and waiting. Everybody feels like that from time to time as much as they feel frustration about things they can't change. It's a confusing time right now but that doesn't mean that we're issuing any kind of manifesto. It's more like we're summing up what it's like to be around in 2003."

Thom Yorke of course has his own particular take on the new album's controversial contents: "We don't have to stand on a soap-box and preach because hopefully we're channelling it through the new record. We didn't start out to make a protest record at all. That would have been too shallow. As usual, it was simply a case of absorbing what's going on around us. The title of the record goes so much deeper than just being some anti-Bush propaganda. If we got into a situation where people start burning our records, then bring it on. That's the whole point. The gloaming has begun. We're in the darkness. This has happened before. Go read some history.

If we were threatened in any way for simply making a piece of art - that would be bad. Then it would be time to move to somewhere obscure. Like the moon ."

Friday, March 09, 2007

2006 May 21 | The Independent

Thom Yorke: Protest singer
Thom Yorke is able to do whatever he wants: not content with being the creative genius of Radiohead, the 37-year-old is about to release a solo album and can breezily turn down invites to Downing Street. So why, wonders Nick Duerden, has the king of guitar rock become such a grump?

Published: 21 May 2006
In a little over a month's time, Thom Yorke releases his first solo album. This is a typically unpredictable move from someone forever at pains to follow no other script but his own. His band have recently embarked upon a mini UK tour, showcasing up to six new songs and thereby suggesting their seventh album was imminent. Not so. These songs, Yorke has since explained, are merely works in progress, part of a teaser campaign, if you like, to sate impatient fans and to remind everyone else that Radiohead remain an ongoing concern.

But from July, Yorke will be a solo artist. The album is called The Eraser and has been produced by longtime Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich (it features, in part, "bicycle wheels and a prosthetic arm" in lieu of regular instruments). Yorke is adamant that this latest move not be misread.

"As you know, the band are now touring and writing new stuff and getting to a good space," he recently posted on his website. "So I want no crap about me being a traitor and whatever, splitting up [the band], blah blah. This was all done with their blessing. And I don't wanna hear the word 'solo'. Doesn't sound right." A peculiar thing to say given that The Eraser is, unarguably, a solo record - but then that's Thom Yorke for you: even his fansite missives sound grumpy. Still, what did we expect? The man is no more likely to mellow with age (he is now 37) than he is to commandeer a team of huskies and go trekking to the Arctic Circle.

Radiohead, of course, are the leading band of their generation, unwittingly responsible for myriad soundalikes (Coldplay, Keane, Snow Patrol, Athlete... take your pick). The quintet formed in their native Oxford back in 1988, initially under the name of On A Friday. By 1992, they had released "The Drill" EP - which today, incidentally, brings a tidy sum on eBay - that established them as an uncommonly emotive guitar band who took inspiration from various quarters (The Pixies, REM, even Nirvana) while making a sound quite their own. A year later came "Creep", their signature tune, whose cranking guitar chords and plaintive refrain, "I wish I was special", promptly elevated them into superstars for the abject and forlorn. A hit everywhere, Radiohead suddenly became a global concern. Events were to proceed rapidly from this point, the band's members often scrambling to keep pace.

If Pablo Honey, their 1993 debut album, was notable largely for its promise than its innovation, then 1995's The Bends made them the country's leading guitar act. Thom Yorke, formerly an affable, if awkward, young man had now become A Tortured Artist. His crooked teeth and lazy eye brought him condolences he didn't welcome and a cruel mockery he couldn't abide (Liam Gallagher once laughed at his "fucking cabbaged eye"). But rather than shy away from attention, he dyed his hair blonde, then shaved it off altogether. He took to scowling, not just with his face but every coiled inch of his five and a half foot frame. He griped, newly transformed into a perennial malcontent. The band's 1999 Meeting People Is Easy documentary would suggest that there are few things in life more dissatisfying than being in a successful rock group.

Creatively, though, Yorke was reaching the height of his powers. Alienation and millennial discontent had rarely sounded so thrillingly ornate as on 1997's OK Computer, and its breadth of imagination shamed the band's competitors, toiling with the old verse-chorus-verse approach to songwriting. In it's masterful opener, "Airbag", Yorke sings: "I'm back to save the universe." Many agreed, and the album has been voted the best record of all time in innumerable magazine polls. The four other members of Radiohead were, presumably, thrilled. This was what being in a band was all about, after all: success, worship, the burgeoning of the bank balance.

For Thom Yorke, however, things started to go awry. It's clinical depression, said some; a midlife crisis come early, say others. Whatever the reason, Yorke's cheerless worldview seemed only to be compounded by his group's success.

Over the next five years, Radiohead would become an altogether different kind of band. Fans - and, more pertinently, the record company - may well have wanted more of the same mesmerising and, ultimately, "commercial" music, but its frontman had other ideas. While it has never been officially acknowledged, so far as studio recordings went Yorke effectively rendered his band unemployed. For the next three albums, Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001) and Hail To The Thief (2003), the singer belligerently ploughed ever deeper into the field of computer-generated electronic music.

These were deliberately bewildering records, jarring and elliptical and obtuse, from which one could infer Yorke's bleakening mood. In spite of their anti-easy listening content, each reached number one in the UK charts. Yorke was duly mortified but he had, perhaps mercifully, finally found a worthy vent for his ire. He became a face for Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign, and took an active part in Friends of the Earth's The Big Ask, a crusade for a new law to force the government to cut carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent each year.

"We have to do something dramatic," he said recently on the subject. "There is no way climate change will be dealt with unless it's structural - as a law. We can't address the issue on a voluntary basis." On why he felt moved to lend his name to such a worthy cause, he commented. "You have a certain amount of credit you can cash in with your celebrity, and I'm cashing my chips in with this."

Recently, Friends of the Earth asked whether he would meet with the Prime Minister at Downing Street to discuss the issue further. He declined, saying that Blair was a man with "no environmental credentials. I have no intention of being used by spin doctors to make it look like we make progress when it is just words. I don't want to get involved directly. It's poison. [So] I'll just shout my mouth off from the sidelines."

Last year, Radiohead severed ties with their record company after 13 years. Just as he takes issue with so much in life, Yorke also takes issue with conglomerate-owned record companies who work their artists like Trojans to then reap the vast majority of the financial rewards.

Noel Gallagher once said that the path of the solo artist is "a very long road to loneliness". But life can't all be bad for Yorke. He is happily married, after all, to his university sweetheart Rachel, and the father to young Noah, five, and Agnes, two. Those who have heard his imminent solo album have described it as "customarily brilliant", and reports from the recent Radiohead tour suggest the band still have creativity to burn.

But then his curmudgeonly nature is surely the key to what makes Thom Yorke such a fascinating artist. If he were happier, it might be harder to tell the difference between him and the likes of James Blunt. Dissatisfaction is the emotion on which he thrives, and thank goodness for that. The snarl suits him. m

'The Eraser' is out in July on XL Records.