How to be like Colin Greenwood - interviews galore

Circus Magazine, 8.1997

Radiohead - Getting More Respect
by Adrian Gregory Glover


On paper it seems that Radiohead have always been about taking chances. They appeared in 1992 with the year's most powerful ode to mopedom, "Creep". The sudden Chinese-style guitar work provided by Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien set up the vulnerable musings of vocalist Thom Yorke with a refrain that brought them into the spotlight ("I'm a creep/I'm a weirdo/what the hell am I doing here?/I don't belong here"). The momentum of "Creep" was so overwhelming that it became a curse and a blessing for the five Oxford, England natives. The blessing was that the song pushed the band's debut full lenth record Pablo Honey to gold record status (500,000 copies). The curse was that the song became the band's identity. The song had such a long run in the public eye that even the follow-up videos and singles from Pablo Honey were overshadowed by its counterpart's staying power.

In '95 Radiohead popped up again with its second effort The Bends, a collection of well-executed songs that for the most part avoids the slash of the wrist mentality that the band was tagged with. It proved to be the tim to Pablo Honey's yang. The songs on The Bends were optimistic in ways that left anyone expecting a "Creep" rehash out in the cold. "Fake Plastic Trees" one of the video/singles from The Bends, gave the culture a taste of the band's ability to create moody music that can mean everything and nothing in the same breath.

"Just" and 'Black Star" also proved to be two other incredible songs that created a mood of their own while staying true to the sound of the overall record. The band was taking chances with their sound and they all paid off.

The music tested well on the road as well. High profile tours with the likes of R.E.M. and Alanis Morissette gave them the opportunity once again to be seen and heard. The passionate and physical delivery of Radiohead, the live band was quickly becoming a trademark -- so much that Jonny Greenwood took to wearing an arm brace onstage to protect himself from finger lacerations and chronic strain injuries and Thom Yorke completely blacked out during a gig.

Physical casualties aside, the second record and tour campaign was not met with the same commercial force that greeted the band the first time around. The songs were great and the live show was compelling but the general public was busy snatching for Alanis Morissette who was busy covering "Fake Plastic Trees."

The band regrouped in their rehearsal studio in January last year to compose tracks for their next album, OK Computer. Released on July 1, OK Computer is a dramatic affair with a very extreme sound, from the heartfelt ballad and second single, "Let Down" to the bouncy "Karma Police." To achieve such extremism the band self-produced the album. Self production is always a hit-or-miss affair, but in this case the vision of the band is all that was needed.

They have been laying to waste the competition at festival sized events this summer as they gear up for a bonafide tour that will commence later in the year. The macabre animated video for "Paranoid Android" has been added to MTV's Buzz Bin and just about the entire music industry is talking about nothing but Radiohead. At their pre-album release gig in New York's Irving Plaza, members of the audience who went to see the band ran the gamut of today's popular music, including Marilyn Manson, Madonna, Courtney Love, U2, R.E.M., Oasis and Blur.

Their worldwide popularity didn't happen overnight. The five began rehearsing together in the mid-80's as a school band in their hometown as On A Friday, and incorporated influences like The Smiths, The Waterboys and The Fall into their performances and songs. Since their first gig in 1987, the band continued to play together and would do so into their colleg careers. Their first demo, the Drill EP, was circulated in 1991 and after the record big-wigs gained interest, they eventually were signed to Parlophone, and changed their name to the present moniker.

The band filled out by bassist Colin Greenwood (yes they are brothers), and drummer Phil Selway are poised to do it all over again. Let's find out if Colin Greenwood thinks it's worth it.

Circus: Over the past few years you've started to get a lot of respect from people in the industry. Other musicians and critics love Radiohead.

Greenwood: God knows why...(laughs) Cool well thank you... you are very kind.

I heard many celebrities attended the Irving Plaza show on June 9. Were you nervous playing in front of so many of your peers?

CG: To be honest with you, no. I think we were more nervous about playing The Troubadour in L.A. I mean them (famous musicians) showing up has got nothing to do with us. It's not real and it's not the real world. All of those famous people just happened to be there and were in town. There was a spotlight you know but next week they will be there checking out somebody else. There is just nothing particularly real about that. It's great that they all turned out and it was such a treat to see R.E.M. again.

From what I hear, Blur went on the Rockline National Radio Show later that night and raved about the show.

CG: That's right they didn't see the whole show. They had to go and do that radio interview. Aaah you see it's really cool to see English bands that enjoy being over here and doing well. God knows that happens over in the U.K. with your American groups. I look at it the way that English and American music ebbs and flows from one direction to another. At the moment there is a lot of cool English stuff happening in America.

With so many electronic bands coming down the pike, do you think that people are correct in saying that rock 'n' roll is dead?

CG: I think rock music or whatever you want to call it goes through periodic like almost revolutionary cycles. I think that's very important and in fact that I think that it is very much alive. It is just constantly in a state of flux. The elements that were around us in the times of The Stones and The Beatles are still around now. Things just keep changing and different flavors are added to the mix.

When self producing OK Computer, did you consider drama one of those flavors?

CG: Yeah! I think the overall mood on the record is starker than The Bends. I think that there is a consistent sound to 80 percent of the new album. I think we made things a little bit more extreme on this record. The important thing for us on this record was that we produce it ourselves. We had to learn how to make decisions amongst the six of us. There was the five people in the band and the engineer/mixer Nigel Godrich. We learned a lot from doing it on our own and in retrospect, we are very proud of this record.

You built your own studio, Canned Applause, for this one.

CG: We bought $140,000 dollars worth of studio gear to record the album with. We had this mobile studio type of thing going where we could take it all into studios to capture those environments. We recorded about 35 percent of the album in our rehearsal space. Which is built like a storage shed. You had to piss around the corner because there were no toilets or no running water. It was in the middle of the countryside. You had to drive to town to find something to eat. In a reaction to that stark, dreary place we recorded the other two-thirds of the record in this opulent country house.

Are you really going to a video for every song on the record?

CG: Well that's more of a goal than a definite thing. It's something that we would like to do. It's kind of like a journey and it's a journey that we hope to get to the end of. It's so expensive so we are not saying that they [the videos] are definitely going to arrive. We've got two being finished and one is done at the moment. We just found out that "Paranoid Android" has been added to MTV's Buzz Bin and that we are all very excited about.

I've seen it, it's a really cool video and the animation is incredible.

CG: Yeah, I think it's great! There was no way that we could appear in it to perform in it because that would be so Spinal Tap. This way we got to keep it twisted and colorful which is how the song is anyway. Every time that you make a video you realize that it's all a crap shoot anyway. You nver know how it's going to turn out until it's done. The only thing that you can do is put total creative trust to the artist that is directing it for you. We decide what happens [in the video] obviously but after that we don't interfere with the artistic process.

With the goal being to complete a video for very song on the record, does that mean there is a concept to this record?

CG: The only concept that we had for this album was that we wanted to record it away from the city and that we wanted to record it ourselves. You couldn't like put on "The Wizard Of Oz" and turn the sound down and find that Judy Garland is speaking the lyrics to "Subterranean Homesick Alien". There is obviously a certain continuity to the record. We try to stay away from all of that especially after the last album. He [Thom Yorke] wants to do something that is more like a collection of snapshots of images and impressions that he has had from the external world. That's where little phrases like "jack knife jeggernaut" [from the lead off track "Airbag"] come from. It's very much a record that encourages you to try to find a space, your own space mentally in the comtemporary world. Just trying to get away from some of the obsessive internalizations that were on The Bends. That record was very inward looking. This is more about engaging things in the outside world.

There were some health issues on the last tour. How are you gearing up for that?

CG: I don't think that we are that unhealthy, to be honest with you. We are not really a party group. We don't do any drugs or drink heavily at all. We don't really even stay out late. It's more like when you start off you don't know how much your body will or will not tolerate. So you try everything as far as doing shows and your body draws a line in the sand. From there you have a point to work from. We know when to say no and turn things down. I wouldn't say that we are a collection of invalids or anything. We are no sicker and probably much healthier than a lot of other groups. This is probably very un rock'n'roll to say but our biggest concern is the amount of flying that we do. Jet lag and the poor circulation in the cabins of these planes is hard on the larynx.

Ever get sick of playing the old stuff from Pablo honey since you have grown so much musically?

CG: On Pablo Honey we play "Creep", and "Thinking About You". The rest of the stuff is... well we only recorded that record in two and a half weeks. It was our first time really in the studio. I don't think it's a bad effort at all. I [think] that it's a seven and a half out of ten record. Well actually six....but then you put "Creep" on it so you have to say seven. It's cool really to have three, well, two real records to pick from. I think OK Computer is the best to choose from.

For those who have not seen the live show yet, what's that like?

CG: It's enjoyable to play material from The Bends in a relaxed way. It's a record that people really like, but it's not the record that is happening now. We are playing The Bends in its entirety, well except for "Sulk". I think it's really nice how it works with the material from OK Computer. We are going to be on tour in America starting in August.

We are going to be using the dates in August as a way of testing out some production ideas. After that in August we are going to be playing 3,500 to 5,000 seat places in England. We will be working with the best sound and lighting people in the business the best as far as originality and so forth. live is the one thing that we really are proud about and we want to get that right. We want to convince people about us and the new record, especially in America.

(Photo of Thom from High and Dry live package CD) Born on Oct. 7, 1968 Thom Yorke once wore clothes most associated with elderly people in college. He was operated on five times in his childhood for a paralyzed eyelid."

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Humo, 22.07.1997

RADIOHEAD : The album, song by song, of the year


In a time when pop and rock have become one big instant-pudding, radiohead have made a 'bavarois' to lick of your fingers. Thom Yorke, singer of radiohead, doesn't know what to be affraid of most: the sudden mega-succes or the praising words in the press.


Thom: There are 2 difficult words that are always coming back in the reviews: 'escapistic' and 'epic'. I don't think we are escapistic. You only take our album on a holiday if you're going to Beirut! (smiles) And epic? I don't know. An epic album is something for background music. If you put on "OK Computer" in a trendy bar, all those trendy posers will choke in their own goatee. Er, I hope so!


AIRBAG

Colin: We wanted an opener like 'Planet Telex' on 'The Bends' : A song that is completely different than all other songs on the album. 'Airbag' swings because Phil dances to drum & bass each weekend.

Phil: DJ Shadow has inspired me. How that man pastes rhythms to each other. The end result sounds a lot different than we intended by the way.

Colin: That's not the first time : We wanted 'Creep' to sound like Scott Walker. That too failed.

Ed: The song was first called 'Last Night an Airbag Saved My Life' as in 'Last Night a DJ Saved My Life'.

Thom: Researchers are claiming that airbags sometimes open spontaneously. Think about that when you're driving around in your Mercedes.

Colin: Airbags are dangerous things. They're lethal.

Ed: What would you know ? You don't even have a licence.


PARANOID ANDROID

Ed: We wanted to make a crossing of Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and The Pixies. No, it didn't become a 'Behomian Rhapsody' of the nineties; it's not complex enough for that and it contains too much tension. It's the song that we played to our friends when they, a long time ago, wanted to know what the new album was going to sound like. You could see them thinking: "Fuck, if that's the new single, what will all the rest be like ?"

Colin: The song is 6 minutes long. That came in handy. While they were listening, we had time to make them a cup of tea.

Thom: 'Paranoid Android' is full of images of people that I saw in a pub the night before we went to the studio. Most lyrics on 'OK Computer' are actually polaroids inside my head.

Ed: In 1994 we taped everything on video, in 1995 we bought Powerbooks. Our next step on the techno-superhighway is 'the polaroid'. If we go on like this, we'll be painting up our tourbus with charcoal next year.

Thom: The video of 'paranoid' has been censored by MTV. They took all nipples out of the cartoon, but they had no problem with the scene in which a man cuts off his own arms and legs.

Jonny: In the video, an angel takes the man to heaven to play ping-pong. Recently someone asked me: "What does your paradise look like?" All I could think of was a big empty room and a couple of radiohead songs that are half finished. It's at times like that that I enjoy being in the group the most : when we're in the studio and take place in front of our amplifiers for days. You can only hear the drums and the voice in that stage. And when finally someone dares to ask "What do you think of this?", then we start working together. That's the most beautiful moment.


SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK ALIEN

Thom: A tribute to Dylan's 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'. (sings) "Jonny's in the basement mixing up the medicine, I'm on the pavement thinking about the government". Do I really hope to be on a spaceship? Why not. I believe there are aliens under the ground. I want to see them. I want to see ghosts. I want to walk on the street smiling, knowing that there are little green creatures with incredible large brains and big, beautiful, black eyes, that are filming us with their videocameras.

Colin: John Power of Cast believes that in the middle of the earth there is a sun where aliens live. They get to the sun from 2 entrances: one on the south-pole and one on the north-pole.


EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)

Ed: We wrote this on demand for the soundtrack of the 'Romeo & Juliet' movie. We were on tour in the States with Alanis Morissette, when we received the video with the last 30 minutes of the film.

Thom: When we saw the scene in which Claire Danes holds the Colt 45 against her head, we started working on the song immediately. I had something with 'Romeo & Juliet' a long time already. I had a crush on Olivia Hussey, who played Juliet in the sixties, for a long time. I first saw the movie when I was 13. I just couldn't believe why Romeo & juliet, after they had made love, didn't run away together. Romeo should have packed his bags, jump out of the window and elope with her ! Romeo was an asshole. I thought then.

Ed: The worst I think is that 'Exit Music' only starts at the end-credits. It will have to compete with the sound of chairs clapping up.


LET DOWN

Jonny: Andy Warhol once said that he could enjoy his own boredom. 'Let Down' is about that. It's the transit-zone feeling. You're in a space, you are collecting all these impressions, but it all seems so vacant. You don't have control over the earth anymore. You feel very distant from all these thousands of people that are also walking there.

Ed: It's about the lack of control. You feel more sad than angry. But why Thom sings 'crushed like a bug in the ground', I don't know.

Thom: I am fascinated by the sound that insects make that are being crushed. Especially wasps make a strange sound when you crush them.


KARMA POLICE

Ed: When someone in the band behaved like an asshole, one of the others always said: "The Karma Police is gonna get you". I suppose it's all rubbish that your destiny depends on your deeds in a previous life, but you have to trust on something.

Thom: Karma is important. The idea that something like karma exists makes me happy. It makes me smile. I get more sympathical. 'Karma Police' is dedicated to everyone who works for a big firm. It's a song against bosses.


FITTER HAPPIER

Thom: I had writer's block for 3 months. In that period I could only make lists of words. It took me a long time to figure out that the only way I could translate my thoughts was with these lists.

Colin: We used a computervoice with the voicebox. It's weird how much emotion there is in that voice.

Thom: That voicebox is the most emotional voice I've heard in ages... I'm not standing behind the lyrics any more. Sometimes your ideas get entangled with other ideas and then you have to apologize for the original idea because it doesn't make sense any more. That's what happened with 'Fitter Happier'. Now, I listen to the piano part.

Ed: I love the lyrics. "Fitter, happier/more productive/comfortable/not drinking too much/Regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)": We used that advice in a lot of magazines to promote the album. I think that some people really believe that message and think that we are some kind of health-freaks.

Jonny: We use 'Fitter Happier' as an intro at concerts. Earlier we used pieces of minimalist composer Messaen. Discover that man, and you'll think that Philip Glass is way over-rated.


ELECTIONEERING

Ed: When you have to promote your album for a longer period, in the United States for example, you fly around from city to city for weeks to meet journalists and record company people. After a while you feel like a politician who has to kiss babies and shake hands all day long.

Thom: The sentence "when I go forward, you go backwards and somewhere we will meet" is about: Not giving a damn about that bullshit. After a while, you get this attitude of "You're all in this circus, but I laugh with it". On the other hand, I do need those votes of course (smiles).

Ed: If Tony Blair can behave as a pop-star, why shouldn't we feel a bit like politicians ?

Phil: We are the New Labour of Rock !

Thom: The songs are far less personal than the ones on 'The Bends'. I didn't feel that same need to tell my own story. I was much more involved in other peoples world, and I put my own thoughts in perspective.

Colin: The lyrics are more like trips in Thoms mind than really personal thoughts.


CLIMBING UP THE WALLS

Thom: Some people don't dare to sleep with the window open, because they're afraid that the monsters that they see in their imagination will come inside. This song is about the monster in the closet... I found the sentence "the crack of the waning smile/15 blows to the skull" after I had read in the New York Times that 8 out of 10 mass murderers in American history committed their crimes after 1980 and that they were all males between 30 and 40, who had just lost their job or had just been through a divorce.

Ed: We recorded the song in the house of actress Jane Seymour in Bath, where The Cure recorded 'Wild Mood Swings'. We recorded in the library. That's were the er...'gothical' mood of the song comes from.

Jonny: For the 'white noise' flashes at the end, we used 16 violins that were just not playing the same. It may sound blasé but we were a bit fed up with rock-arrangements. They haven't evolved since 'Eleanor Rigby' of the The Beatles. We discovered the Polish composer Penderécki. Since than, all we do is steal from him ! (smiles)


NO SURPRISES

Thom: We wanted it to have the atmosphere of Marvin Gaye. Or Louis Armstrong's 'Wonderful world'.

Colin: It's our 'stadium-friendly' song. The idea was: First frighten everyone with 'Climbing up the walls' and then comfort them again with a popsong with a chorus that sounds like a lullaby.

Thom: I wanted a song that sounded like new double-glass: Hope-giving, clean and safe.


LUCKY

Ed: When we recorded 'Lucky' for the benefit album for Bosnia, everyone was full of praise because we had written a new song. Actually, we only did that because we're terrible with covers. The record only made it to #53 in the English charts though. We were ashamed. Our contribution to the good cause didn't make any money.

Thom: It was double painfull because all 5 of us thought that 'Lucky' was our best song. I remember that I was really happy when Jonny came up with that sample of the choir.


THE TOURIST

Jonny: That is MY song. I was surprised that the other 4 let me do it. 'The Tourist' doesn't sound like radiohead at all. It's a song where there doesn't have to happen anything every 3 seconds. It has become a song with space.

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Melody Maker, 31.05.1997

Interview: MARK SUTHERLAND

RETURN OF THE MAC!

Last week we coaxed most of a rather reluctant Radiohead out to talk about their astonishing new album. Now Thom Yorke joins in for an exclusive track-by-track run down of 'OK Computer'. Plug in right here...



"AIRBAG"
Originally titled "Last Night An Airbag Saved MyLife" in,a typically tongue-in-cheek tribute to lndeep's 1983 disco hit,'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life', this makes for a brooding, claustrophobic start to the album.

Colin: 'We wanted it to be like 'Planet Telex' off' The Bends' -- a start that's not really anything like the rest of the album. It's quite dancey. That's cos Phil's been attending drum'n'bass nights.' Phil: 'I told you, I thought it was a line-dancing evening! It was actually DJ Shadow who inspired it-the way he cuts up beats is amazing. The end result doesn't really sound like what we were aiming for, but that's probably a good thing.'

Ed: "It's about the wonderful, positive emotion you feel when you've just failed to have an accident; when you just miss someone and realise how close it was and stop the car and just feel this incredible elation. There's something joyous about it -- life suddenly seems more precious."

Key lyric: "In a jack-knifed juggernaut, l am bom again...

Thom: 'Airbags go off spontaneously, so researchers claim. I think that's a cool judgement, don't you? Driving along in your Mercedes.'

Colin: "They're actually quite dangerous things. They can kill."

Ed: 'What would you know about it? You can't even drive!"


"PARANOID ANDROID"
Hyper-complex vaguely prog-rock multi-mood epic, ranging from acoustic angst to pure white noise, yet perversely chosen to be the first single from 'OK Computer". Perhaps because all those clearly defined segments make it a "Bohemian Rhapsody"
for the Nineties. Allegedly.

Ed: "Well, when we wrote it, one of the references was 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. But the other was the Pixies.'

Jonny: 'It's not actually complex enough to be "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- there's only really two different bits there. Plus it's way too tense."

Ed: "It's not a "Bohemian Rhapsody" for the nineties-- it's just a handy reference point. It's like "Creep" was meant to sound like Scott Walker...it just didn't come out that way. But "Paranoid Android" is the song we play to people when they want to know what the album's like, cos it should make them think, "What the fuck is going to happen on the rest of the album?'"

Colin: "Plus it's so long, we have time to make them a cup of coffee while they listen to it."

Key Lyric: "When I am King you will be first against the wall/With your opinions which are of no consequence at all..."

Ed: "It's not about the press, if that's what you're thinking. Thom wouldn't be that specific."

Thom: "Everybody has an opinion. People make professions out of it. Most of it is white noise. It is not personal, OK? 'Opinions are like arseholes, everybody's got one'. What liberates 'Paranoid Android' is a sense of humour -- Marvin the paranoid android. The bleakest things can be said with jokes -- re, 'The Fast Show' : it's funny."


"SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK ALIEN"
Sprawling, freeform, spooked-out sounding, tale of alien abduction. Title is a homage to Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", apparently.

Thom: "Yeah! Jonny's in the basement mixing up the medicine, I'm on the pavement thinking about the government..."

Colin: "When we were doing 'The Bends', John Leckie told us about this hollow earth theory that John Power of Cast has. Apparently, there's a sun revolving in the centre of the earth and there are holes in the north and south poles that aliens fly into. We, er, weren't completely sold on it to be honest, John."

Jonny: "Americans believe in alien abduction but that's about it. I'm a fully paid-up subscriber to Sceptical Inquirer magazine. If you go into a newsagent in America you'll find 30 mags about UFOs, aliens, the supernatural, etc and Sceptical Inquirer, which has all these scientists providing logical explanations for everything. Thanks to 'The X-Files' and everything, it's become the lazy option to believe in all this stuff, but science fascinates me far more than aliens."

Colin: "Yeah apparently there is now neurological evidence to prove the existence of a human soul. They've had big meetings about it in the Vatican, because obviously the Roman Catholic church are very keen to control it. Er, I sound like John Power now, don't I?"

Key lyric: "I'm just uptight..."

Thom: "What do I think of 'The X-Files'? And which Spice Girl do I like?"


"EXIT MUSIC (FOR A FILM)"
Brooding ballad specially composed for the movie, "Romeo & Juliet", where it appears alongside another Radiohead song "Talk Show Host". Significantly, Radiohead are first heard just as the characters are discussing Romeo's "black portentous humour".

Thom: "I like the film very much, it's just my sort of thing -- not quite as many bodies as 'Hamlet'."

Ed: "It's the only song we've ever done on demand. We were on tour with Alanis Morissette last September when we got sent through the last half hour of the film. It looked great so we did this song straight away."

Colin: "Soundtracks are a bit naff nowadays: they just stick on some contemporary music. We wanted to be a bit more intelligent than that."

Ed: "The only thing I don't like is 'Exit Music...' appears over the end credits, so it will just play to the sound of loads of chairs banging upright."

Key lyric: "Pack and get dressed before your father hears us, before all hell breaks loose..."

Ed: "Thom looked at Shakespeare's original text and tried to incorporate lines from it into the song -- but he gave up on that quickly. But I still think it fits with the film amazingly well, especially as the lyrics are actually quite personal."


"LET DOWN"
Old school Radiohead song, with Thom crooning away in Bono-esque style. Despite the title, sounds resigned, rather than angry.

Jonny: "It's like when Andy Warhol said he enjoyed being bored. It's about that feeling that you get when you're in transit but you're not in control of it -- you just go past thousands of places and thousands of people and you're completely removed from it."

Ed: "Feeling let down is just down to your insecurities and paranoia most of the time, which is why the song sounds sad rather than furious. It's about not being in control of a situation."

Thom: "I am fascinated by how insects are squashed, especially wasps -- the cracking sound and the yellow gak, just like people.'

Key lyric: "Crushed like a bug in the ground..."


"KARMA POLICE"
Ignoring the appalling track record of the word "karma" in pop music (Boy George, George Harrison, etc), Radiohead use it to project an Orwellian vision of the future and write a bonzer tune to boot.

Jonny: "It was a band catchpharse for a while on tour -- whenever someone was behaving in a particular shitty way, we'd say, 'The karma police will catch up with him sooner or later.' You have to rely on something like that, even though we're probably just kidding ourselves. But it's not a revenge thing, just about being happy with your own behaviour."

Key lyric: "This is what you get when you mess with us..."

Thom: "Karma is an important idea. I like it. It makes me nicer to people. It fills me with joy. This song makes me laugh. It was Ed's idea."


"FITTER HAPPIER"
A computer speaks a random spiel of modern-living buzzphrases to a soundtrack of tinkling piano, screeching violin and, er, that's it, actually. Weird.

Colin: "Thom didn't want to have to say it, so we were messing around with a computer voicebox. We really liked the way the emotion still comes across, so we kept it."

Thom: "The computer was the most emotional voice I had ever heard, at the time."

Colin: "It sounds like Stephen Hawking is guesting on the album. Maybe he should have been. I use to see him when I was in college, toddling around in his wheelchair."

Key lyric: "Concerned but powerless..."

Thom: "Are the lyrics a reflection of my own life? Yes."

Ed: "It's about the lack of naturalness in modern life. I'd like to see the lyrics printed as a full page advert in one of those dreadful magazines like GQ or FHM, cos some people might believe all that stuff."

Colin: "Really, it's an exercise in finding meaning in things that seem to be random and chaotic and out of your control. A bit like life, really."


"ELECTIONEERING"
Big, scary, searing rock track. Nothing to do with Tony Blair and his New Dawn for Britain, etc.

Ed: "Basically, it's about those times when you go out to a territory and have to sell yourselves and sell your record. You can meet some very cool people but, if you're pissed off or tired, it feels like a huge propaganda machine and you feel like a politician -- kissing babies, shaking hands..."

Jonny: "We're not a political band, but we are political people. One of the first things I can remember is Margaret Thatcher coming to power, so just the fact that it's changed is revelation enough. We had a hell of a party that night."

Ed: "It was weird all those people going down to Downing Street to mob Blair. He's definately the first pop star PM."

Colin: "The first New Grave PM more like. He IS the New Seriousness."

Phil: "Where does that leave us, then? Perhaps we're the Labour Party of New Grave. New Radiohead, New Danger!"

Key lyric: "When I go forwards, you go backwards, and somewhere we will meet..."

Thom: "This is about getting beyond the dirge, they are all bullshitting, but I'm already laughing. On the other side, I trust I can rely on your vote."


"CLIMBING UP THE WALLS"
Even bigger, even scarier rock track. Thom Yorke does his best to sound demented, but is out-done by the monumental chaos going on behind him.

Colin: "It's quite horrible, isn't it?"

Ed: "We always knew that song had an atmosphere and it was very easy to capture. The white noise is loads of violins."

Colin: "We recorded in in the ballroom of this old stately home. Dare we say there was something Gothic about the environment? It was certainly very New Grave of New Grave."

Key lyric: "In the crack of your waning smile/15 blows to the skull..."

Thom: "'Was it an accident that of the 10 largest mass-murderers in American History, eight have occurred since 1980, typically acts of middle-aged white men in their 30s and 40s after a prolonged period of being lonely, frustruated and full of rage and of 10 precipitated by a catastrophe in their lives such as losing their jobs or divorce?'
"New York Times October 17 1991 -- quoted by Eric Hobsbawn in 'Age of Extremes'."


"NO SURPRISES"
In contrast, the simplest, most stadium friendly song on the album. Built around the chimes from a jewellery box. Lovely.

Colin: "Scare the living daylights out of 'em, then soothe their brow: that's the Radiohead way."

Ed: "It was meant to be like a nursery rhyme. Strangely, it was the very first song we did for the album. Didn't exactly set the tone, did it? If it had been the first single it wouldn't have been a very true representation of the album. It's a bit like Louie Armstrong's 'Wonderful World'."

Colin: "We'd like it to be a single at some point we're not making any promises. We are the New Labour of Rock, after all."
Key lyric: "A heart that's full up like a landfill..."

Thom: "What is fad today is rubbish tomorrow. I am an emotional dumping ground."


"LUCKY"
Highlight of the Bosnia-aiding "Help" album, included here largely out of embarrassment at the way it fared when released as a single.

Ed: "Yeah, number 53 with a bullet or something. That was pretty bad considering it was for charity and it was the best song we'd ever done. It did seem to make a difference to how people perceived us though -the broadsheets started to get interested in us and stuff. And it was a brilliant thing to be involved in. We're very proud of it, especially as we took the hard option and recorded a brand new song. Although, admittedly, that's only because we're so bad at covers. Always have been even when we were a school band we couldn't do them.'

Key lyric: "I'm on a roll..."

Thom: "It's our song, we want it on our album and it fits exactly where it is."


"THE TOURIST"
Written by Jonny, the calm after the storm. Features minimal vocals and maximum mellow Eric Clapton-esque guitar.

Jonny. "I'm still amazed that everyone else in the band let it on the LP. It was a bit of late runner. We were packing up and leaving when we decided to do it.'

Thom: 'What do I think of Jonny's songwriting? Whenever I am tired, he is there and awake.'

Key lyric: "Hey man slow down, idiot slow down..."

Jonny "We just wanted a song where we weren't paranoid about making something happen every three seconds and where we could record it with space.'

Colin: "But not record it with Space. That would never have worked,frankly.'

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How to Be Like Colin Greenwood

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Melody Maker, 24.05.1997

Interview: MARK SUTHERLAND

ROUNDING THE BENDS

It's been over two years since Radiohead's "The Bends" first took our breath away and hinted at the beginning of the end for Britpop. Now the frontrunners of New Grave are back with a mad, bad and dangerous new single. We chased them to Oxford, expecting a chat. Thom Yorke, however, had other ideas...

This episode of 'The Professionals' begins, as so many episodes of 'The Professionals' do, at a deserted farmhouse.

A lone journalist has been lured to Oxford on the promise of a story. He is met at the station, only to be bundled into the back of a car, driven into the surrounding countryside and dropped off in the middle of nowhere at a top secret location. Not that there would seem to be much of interest here to the outside world: some decaying farm machinary, a few containers full of potentially lethaI agricultural chemicals, some cows ... but wait, this room must be important. Why else would the sign on it read 'Danger Low Oxygen! Do not enter sealed room: you will pass out in 30 seconds and die in minutes!' Before the journalist can investigate further, however, there is a commotion outside. As the first spots of rain begin to splash on the dusty ground, five men emerge from a neighbouring outhouse, carrying themselves with the natural 'us against the world' swagger of the gang. More to the point, at least two of them look like they'd be a bit tasty in a street fight, so now seems a suitable time to make a getaway. But, as he treads gingerly down a dirttrack alleyway, there is a sudden screech of tyres and roar of accelerator pedal. A revved up Almera, driven by a slight man wearing the unmistakeable savage haircut and permanent grimace of the TV villain, rounds the corner and powers towards the hapless hack. It seems a collision is inevitable but, at the last minute, a dive-cum-forward-roll saves his skin. The Almera disappears into the distance, with only a cloud of dust and a echo of a half-remembered, in-car conversation ('Stop whispering!'. I can't!') to prove it was ever here. A further search of the farmhouse and extensive inquiries in town reveal nothing and the journalist returns to London empty-handed. Time to call in Bodie and Doyle...


RADIOFREE
OXFORD

The real Professionals are already here, of course, and operating under the code name Radiohead. But their leader is being anything but professional and, consequently, even Bodie and Doyle might find them an impossible case to crack. Because what the above, Over-dramatic and largely fictional introduction is actually trying to say is The Maker went all theway to Radiohead's Oxfordshire farmhouse studio only for singer/figurehead Thom Yorke to decline to do an interview. True, the other members of the band - guitarists Jonny Greenwood and Ed O'Brien, bassist Colin Greenwood and drummer Phil Selway-remain geniality Personified and will gladly answer questions on anything and everything. True, after immense pressure, Thom will eventually share a few state-of-mind sound nibbles via the fax machine. And truer still, Thom doesn't actually try to run anyone over or, indeed, even drive an alI-action Almera (it's a knackered old Fiat Punto actually, 'Top Gear' fanatics). But this week's episode of 'The Professionals' is sorely in need of some drama...

It might not matter if there wasn't so much to talk about. But there is. Because Radiohead have just delivered the long-awaited follow-up album to 'The Bends'. You may already know the first single, a sprawling, spiralling epic called 'Paranoid Android' that has probably already blown your mind into tiny little bits via the beautiful madness of the current Radio 1 playlist. What you won't know is that, in a month or so, the aIbum, 'OK Computer', is going to come into your Iife, sweep up those tiny Iittle bits, put your mind back together and then blow it alI over again. Just for a laugh. Just because it can. It's a record that amends explanation but the one person who could explain it seems rather more interested in playing silly buggers.

In the weeks prior to this interview, The Maker was made aware that Thom was unhappy with the way he's been portrayed in the past and wouldn't do a one-to-one interview, so a happy medium of a chat with the entire band was negotiated. And certainly, as we meet at the group's office near Oxford, the vibes seem affable enough. We all drive off to the farmhouse where the band rehearse and record-that 'Danger: Low Oxygen!' sign is actually nothing more than a burglar deterrent, though it might explain the sense of claustrophobia that so often invades Radiohead recordings where Thom, resplendent in a new butcher-shop crop and with what looks like his shopping list written in Tipp-Ex on his hand, joins in an impromptu 'jam' 'session', shares a joke or two about the piles of dangerous-looking anti-oxidants lying about the place and seems perfectly happy to play the rockstar for the benefit of the cameras. lmmediately afterwards, however, Thom simply gets in his ca r and drives off at speed. He doesn't even say goodbye, let alone explain why the Maker readers, who have always loved and supported Radiohead, shouldn't have access to the thoughts he'd already shared with a couple of those clappy-happy monthly music mags who never gave a flying fuck about him or his band until the platinum disc signs appeared before their eyes. It's the weekly music press, however, who've been cast as the villains of Radiohead's public image. In championing the band, like everyone else, have inevitably concentrated on the man who writes all the lyrics, sings alI the songs, dominates the videos and stands at the centre-front of the stage when they play live. And consequently, we've got it all wrong. Radiohead, you see, are a band.

Well, hold the fucking front page. Of course Radiohead are a band. Radiohead wouldn't be Radiohead - hell, wouldn't be The Greatest Rock Band On God's Earth Right This Very Second were it not for jonny and Ed's famously fractured guitar sound, Colin's monumental bass and Phil's thunderously inventive drumming. But roll over Guitar Monthly and tell Control Zone the news: these things don't make sparkling front cover copy. Leave that stuff to The Professionals. Lyrics, being best mates with Michael Stipe, the immense Pressures of having your most intimate thoughts exposed to a worldwide audience -these things are interesting. And The Professionals, by their own admission, know very little about it.

'It's OK though,' says a hideously embarrassed-looking Ed, once it's clear Thom will not be joining us,'Thom trusts us to explain everything.'

Oh, what the hell. We have come all the way to Oxford, after all, and Colin assures us he knows what New Grave is while Jonny says there's a lovely little restaurant just down the road; we might as well give it a go. But any mention of 'paradiddles' or 'production techniques' and we're outta here.

Ed O'Brien stares long and hard into the tape recorder, takes a slug of lager and confesses: 'The Bends' completely and utterly changed my life.'

Not a bad start. Perhaps he'll make a dysfunctional figurehead for a generation yet. Tell us more, Ed.

'I don't live with my dad any more. I mean, I miss him and everything, but it seems like a major upheaval to say, Yeah, I've got my own place."

Oh dear, oh dear and, in a very reaI sense, oh dear. A record that's sold over two million copies worldwide; that's been acclaimed as one of, if not the landmark rock releases of the Nineties; seen Radiohead become pals with everyone from Michael Stipe to Mark Owen; single-handedly slain the Britpop beast and given birth to a new 'movement' to take its place ... and 'the others' in Radiohead think it hasn't changed their lives. And, in truth, it probably hasn't much, beyond an even healthier bank balance and an even greater freedom in the studio.

Thom, well, that's a different story. He's had to put up with everything from worldwide adulation to having various sections of the media speculate wildly as to the state of his mental health. Later, he will comment, 'Most of the time the attention being placed on us was really funny,then sometimes it wasn't. A lot of time and effort was spent getting to the point where this was not relevant but, in the meantime, at least Radiohead are aware of the affect that monumental album had on other people's lives.



SMASH HITS

'The weirdest people in the weirdest places are united by that record,' grins Colin, the saucer-eyed king of the rambling anecdote. 'We've heard so many stories about how its really popular with ravers, who play it during their post-rave comedown spliff. And The Daisies, who share the same management as us, got stopped in their van in London on the day of an IRA bomb. They were surrounded by armed police who wanted to know who the hell they were. Then they mentioned our name and this copper with a gun goes, 'Oh 'The Bends' is brilliant, and the mood relaxed instantly.'

It's even stranger that 'The Bends' should have such a far-reaching impact when you consider it was released at the commercial height of Britpop. As the spotlight pinned Oasis, Pulp and Blur in its harsh glare, "alternative" music became one big hedonistic knees-up in which, if Radiohead were invited at all, they were cast as the miserable gits sitting on the stairs trying to bring everyone down. It wasn't their party, but they cried anyway.

"What I really hated about Britpop," fumes Colin, "was all that tiresome irony. As if bands shouldn't be serious things."
"We don't do irony," confirms Ed. "The only times we've tried were when we were in America, where it just goes over everyone's heads, and on 'Pop Is Dead', which was rubbish. Surprisingly, those Saturday morning TV show offers didn't come pouring in."

An offer to play the 1995 Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, however, somewhat surprisingly did.

"We had to do that just because it was so bizarre," smiles Ed, whose lanky, grunge heart-throb looks aren't actually so far away from the teen lust object profile. "There was Take That, East 17, Boyzone and us, doing 'My Iron Lung' of all things. We were stood at the side of the stage for half an hour before we went on and it was bedlam -all these girls just screaming and screaming and screaming. And then we went on, there was this awkward silence and then the screaming started again -for entirely different reasons. It seemed like the entire audience suddenly burst into tears, tugged at its mum's sleeve and demanded to be taken to the toilet."

Once out of the country, however, their chosen role as Britpop refuseniks was harder to stick to.
"Abroad," sighs Colin, 'We were asked endless questions about it, as if we really fitted the Britpop blueprint. The Bends' was many things, but it wasn't really, chirpy was it? lt was more like a darkness lumbering over the horizon with gun turrets strafing the Britpop hordes with misery. Er, sorry. Got a bit carried away there."

Well, maybe. But those misery bullets clearly hit a few targets-so many, in fact, that 'OK Computer' will arrive into a world that has come around to Radiohead's way of thinking. Britpop lies buried in an appropriately shallow (new) grave- and is now being danced on by moody types in black nail varnish playing epic, wind swept rock and espousing something called The New Seriousness. Certainly,even this irony-despising band can find a little black humour in the fact that 1995 saw radiohead dubbed 'the new U2', while 1997 sees a whole crop of 'new Radioheads - (hello Mansun,Travis, Longpigs et al) and irrefutable proof that not even U2 want to be U2 any more (hello their techno-tinged 'Pop' album).

'It's just bloody weird, really, isn't it?' says Ed, toffity. 'I mean, I quite like Mansun, but I'll be a lot more interested in their second album."

So, New Grave: is it all your fault? 'No,' Says Jonny, whose black clobber and angular on the-run-from-Suede cheekbones mark him down as the group's most likely goth sympathiser. 'Definitely not. No, really. Blame the Manics, not us. We don't wear enough make-up to be truly New Grave.'

As he says this, Jonny snatches his hand away from his glass of sparkling mineral water and hides it under the table. He is wearing black nail varnish.



BENDING RULES

When Jonny Greenwood was 14, he was already a shit-hot guitarist, but he was also a bit of a worrier. One day, he was suddenly thrown into a blind panic about his ability, deciding that he couldn't possibly be a successful musician if no one in his family was musical. He scoured the family archives, but all he could find was a grandfather who briefly took up the euphonium. Even now, his confidence is regularly shaken by another who has 'absolutely no understanding' of what he does. He played her some stuff recently and she demanded to know what 'that bomtibomtibom stuff in the background- was. "That's the drums, Mum," Jonny sighed. Perhaps this is why he and the rest of the band are touchingly unsure as to whether their records are actually any cop or not. By the time 'The Bends' came out, Jonny had already decided it was rubbish.

'I remember thinking some of the songs were OK,' he smiles, 'But that was about it.'

And, even as 'OK Computer' emerges into a newly Radiohead-friendly world, to be greeted by a massive fan base champing at the bit, they are worried. Very worried.

'I hope we don't lose people who liked the Bends',' frets Colin. 'But the way I see it is, if this was the first album you ever heard by us it would be pretty difficult to get into. I don't think we'll be getting new fans in the way the Manics have.'
'Maybe we should be feeling more secure nowadays,' admits Jonny. 'But really, we've got no gauge as to how popular we are, let alone how good we are. It's one of the few arguments for rock journalism, because the people who actually make records have no idea as to whether they are any good or not.'

Nice to know we have our uses. So, just to put Jonny's mind at rest, let's reiterate that 'OK Computer' is an astounding album, at once a solid continuation of, and massive leap forward from, "The Bends". There is less of the heart-rending stadium balladry that broke the band worldwide (though "No Surprises: and "Let Down" will still see lighters hoisted aloft in ice hockey stadiums the planet over) and rather more in the way of headfuck experimentation (the DJ Shadow-inspired drum loops on 'Airbag', the constant gear changes on 'Paranoid Android'). There is less harrowing personal angst (although "Climbing Up The Walls" is the most scary thing they've ever done) and more interest in the world beyond Thom Yorke's personal diaries.
Significantly though, while it's every bit as brilliant as 'The Bends', it's nowhere near as commercial. Their record company is still, in public, talking 'OK Computer' up as the album that will make them a genuine stadium-level concern, but the harsh facts are the internal sales forecast was actually adjusted downwards once the americans had heard the record. Ironic, really, that Radiohead should respond to commercial success in exactly the same way as their nemeses Blur- by getting seriously weird on us. A reaction to the pressure (ha!) of following up 'The Bends'? 'What?' says Colin. 'Like, we either top 'The Bends' or we top ourselves?'

"People said we were under pressure after 'Creep'," points out Jonny, not entirely unreasonably.

"And we came up with 'The Bends'. But we weren't really trying to 'top' it as such. Although it did seem like we were being set up to do The Big American Crossover Album, like The Joshua Tree' or whatever, but we just, wanted to carry on where we left off.' 'Then again,' points out the thoroughly charming, if dubiously trousered Phil, 'when 'The Bends' came out everyone went on about how uncommercial that was. Twelve months later it was being hailed as a pop classic. The record company were worried there wasn't a single on it -- and we ended up with five top 30 hits from it!'

Perhaps this is why 'Paranoid Android' has been chosen as the first single from the album (assuming you don't count their 'Help' contribution, 'Lucky', that is, which is really only on the album cos of its hideous failure as a 45). Because, frankly, it sounds like nothing on earth, let alone a snappy 180-second single. Inspired in equal measure by Pixies and, um, Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody', over the course of nearly seven minutes, the song mutates from a chiming, plaintive anthem, to a spasmodic free jazz 'workout' to a white noise freakout and back again.

Apparently, when it was first played to one Radio 1 producer, he had to go and have a bit of a lie down afterwards. Which hasn't stopped the station plugging it at, every opportunity over the last few weeks and even making special trailers that go "In 93, we brought you 'Creep', in 94, 'My Iron Lung'..." etc (highly amusing, considering Radio 1's reluctance to playlist the band in the past). But even so, it's hard to imagine the band playing 'Paranoid Android' to their A&R man and instantly having him whoop, 'Now, that's the single!'

'That's precisely what he did do, actually,' smirks Colin. 'I think the record company knew we'd want that one, so they were trying to call our bluff, as it were. But it does feel like a victory to have Radio 1 hammering merry shit out of it, cos it's hardly the radio-friendly, breakthrough, buzz bin unit shifter they can have been expecting.' Well, exactly. And mostof the album follows suit. ln another hitherto frowned-upon outbreak of irony, the only track adhering to the 'new U2' blueprint is entitled 'No Surprises'. The rest of the record, meanwhile, is full of them (surprises, that is), as Yorke explores typically oblique themes of future paranoia, techno fear and the dehumanisation of society to a relentlessly challenging soundtrack. There's little danger anyone will interpret this album, as some did with 'The Bends', as a sort of pre-emptive suicide note. Although, once you throw in the album title, songs like 'Karma Police' and "Subterranean Homesick Alien' and the accompanying messily futuristic artwork, some might view it as a, er, Orwellian concept album.

"Oh God,' blanches Colin. 'What a ghastly thought. That makes it sound like Rick Wakeman and his Knights of the Roundtable On Ice or something' "

Something like "Fitter, Happier', however, where a computerised voice sifts through an oddly emotional list of modern-life-as-rubbish concerns ('Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in waII) / Concerned (but powerless') does betray a pre-occupation with precisely where the planet is heading.
'On this album, the outside world became all there was,' says Yorke, and the most irrelevant material took on stunning beauty and breathlessness. This is because I had sorted the internal stuffout. l wrote down what was around always and my singing 'identity' felt very loose. I am an airhead on this record.

"Have you ever been to the Sony Building in New york? That is the future. I'm just taking Polaroids of things around me, moving too fast. Why? How can you indulge in self-analysis when all this amazing shit's going on?' Hmm.
'I think Thom suddenly woke up to what was happening around him,' explains Ed. 'He's certainly no longer talking from just one perspective. The lyrics are a reaction to everything he had to go through last time. But you could probably tie the songs on 'The Bends' into a concept. The only real difference between 'OK Computer' and 'The Bends" is 'The Bends' felt completed and this album doesn't."

"Yeah," says Phil, suddenly awaking from soundbite slumber. "'The Bends' was like 'Star Wars' -- a neat, separate entity with lots of explosions but not much plot And 'OK Computer' is the Empire Strikes Back, more ambitious, more complex, with more loose ends, but ultimately much better.'

He pauses to admire this analogy, until spotting its fatal flaw. 'Our next album won't be 'Return Of The Jedi' though,' he adds, hastily. 'Because that was rubbish."

"And 'Pablo Honey' was actually something like 'Battlestar Galactica'," chips in Colin. 'A low-budget, poor quality version of the real thing.'

Blimey. Who needs Thom Yorke, eh? Typically though, just as The Professionals finally stumble across some award-winning dialogue, it's time to leave.

In a few minutes, Radiohead will clamber into their sensible, non-rockstar cars and prepare to go back to their sensible, non-rockstar houses, secure in the knowledge that, despite one or two minor hiccups, they have got the job done like The Professionals they are.



PARTY POOPER

In a few days, The Maker fax machine will whirr into action, finally informing us, amongst other things, of the "reason" why Thom Yorke wishes to withdraw from the media spotlight. ('If it affects my work, if it affects or represses what I want to say in the future, then it is bad, that's all.') And, in a few weeks, Radiohead will head straight back into that spotlight, off on another massive world tour that will probably keep them away from those non-rock star houses for at least a couple of years. By the time they get back, the new millennium will be just around the corner.

'All these millennarians and adventists and obscure Swiss cults who think that something amazing is going to happen on millennium night are just deluding themselves,' smiles Colin, by way of a parting shot. "I think it's just going to be one big party.' Thom Yorke, as ever, sees things rather differently.

'Britpop was a party to which we weren't invited? " he snorts, derisively. 'Well, now we're not having a party, so no one's invited. Ha ha ha ha."

As they say on those Professionals-inspired Almera ads: Tell me about it.

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How to Be Like Colin Greenwood

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