Dave Fanning: "OK boys, the album OK Computer. You went away, in true traffic style, to clear your heads and work out what you were thinking. Was there anything special about the place you went to?"
Thom: "Umm, it had loads of things special about it... problem is, when you start talking about it, it sounds a bit.. Spinal Tap, like you said, a bit seventies rockish but it did have a lot of things about it, i mean, i think, a lot of the album was about the places we'd been and to go to somewhere that was totally different from everything that had ever happened before... umm, you know, it was incredibly sort of, it made you realise how powerful the songs were, which was what we needed at that point. It was in a valley, umm, 15th century. King Henry (VIII), one of his wives died there, in childbirth (Jane Seymour), very nastily, and she was still hanging around.. and there were several other people hanging around (haunted house)... I mean, time didn't seem to mean anything there at all... it was just... friends would come over and they'd come and they'd sit down and have a cup of coffee, and then like five hours later they'd leave: "I guess I have to go now then..." it was weird, time didn't seem to matter at all, everything was different."
Dave: "So things were like, mega different, started being under pressure in some ways, I mean you'd write the songs, and play them live, and then taking them and actually [recording them] was a totally different thing?"
Jonny: "Yeah, that's right... it was sort of the things that weren't there, if you know what I mean? Like gold disks on the wall, and there wasn't the body odour of the previous band hanging around like there is in the studio... it was less like a laboratory.
Thom: "We were more... free, in a way, like if we'd had a bad day, and nothing was happening, well that was fine in a way, the clock's not really ticking. And to us that made all the difference, that was what we were looking for.
Dave: "That made all the difference, then, did it? Like nicer and calmer than recording the last two albums, another way to do it... what I mean is, album number 4 may be recorded in the same way?
Jonny: "I think it was, but we still went through the same rubbish that we had with the last album... I don't think we've found an easy way to record-
Thom: "I don't think that you ever find an easy way to record. I also don't think we could ever record that way again, it was just a one-off experience, and we get off on one off experiences... everybody does really.. It's like travelling, which is sort of an extension of touring actually, it's sad really, you have all the stuff in boxes and you just take it out and plug it in... I don't know.
Dave: "Well, you had a few songs that you'd played live on [The Bends] tour already. Was it nice for you, knowing that "at least we have some songs...? A few for instance, you had No Surprises, Paranoid Android and Climbing Up The Walls played live before hand. So did you feel that you had a head start before you even went in [to the studio] compared to Pablo Honey or compared to The Bends.
Thom: "I suppose so, but since our last album we've kind of got away from that "Oh, we'll go in and set up our equipment and play the songs like we do live and then it's finished" and stuff, we kind of wanted to get away, make a studio album, we like the studio..
Jonny: "Not scared of it anymore.
Thom: "Well, I'd always gone on about how that was a different thing, that you couldn't do that and we really wanted to get back to the way we recorded when we first ever started, like a four track over on his [Jonny's] house. We didn't want to say, well we're a live band and we're gonna make the songs sound like they do live, because you're always gonna be disappointed with how they turn out...
Dave: "But did you do the recording in such a way that it wasn't headphones, it was trying to get the live feel...
Jonny: "Yeah, I think you've got to divide playing together, and listening to each other.. and getting the sound of a band playing in a room, which we were trying to move away from, we wanted to be reacting with each other and recording with that.
Thom: "It was actually similar to the way they make jazz records, and blues records... the excitement of knowing that that was what there was, there was no overdubs, and what they played stayed. I mean it can be demonstrated that, for [Pablo Honey] especially, days and days of listening to bass drums and snares, and we wanted to stop that. This time we had days and days of listening to tapes of the same song, which is soul-destroying but at least you feel you're getting somewhere, and the best tape- that's the version people will hear.
Dave: "But getting that, that live sort of feel...
Thom: "Yeah, sort of..
Dave: "But was that part of the reason you went on the road, on the Alanis Morissette tour, to get some of.. something out of the system and let's see what happens when you come back.. you did the tour to do the album...
Jonny: "Yeah, the songs develop more live.. work out faster.
Thom: "It was sort of the fear, you know? I mean we'd just finished doing [The Bends], we can literally do what we want and this is what we always wanted... and we couldn't get started. It was the Stone Roses phenomenon, you know what you want and you want it to sound good but you can't quite get it right... the best way to develop was, well, in front of thousands of Alanis Morissette fans who didn't really care what we did, and that way you've got to get it just right.
Dave: "Well, one of the things about that was, right, you didn't have a producer. It would be nice to get that 6th voice, no?
Thom: "I mean we did, because Nigel Godrich who co produced it, he was sort of like, he ended up doing the same role as John Leckie, finding everyone-
Jonny: "*lovingly* Dad.
Thom: "Yeah, I mean we'd be having all of these strops and throwing things at each other, and he'd just say.. "Ok, we're gonna calm down, we're gonna go out, we're gonna not work today".. we needed someone to do that. I mean, we work really well together, the five of us, but we needed someone to help, be the voice of the mixing desk... and the tape recorder, and say "hello, stop misbehaving"... which was weird for him.
Dave: "OK, so you were telling me about this house, one of Henry's wives dying in childbirth or something... ect., I mean when you came back from the madness of the tour, what was the feel like in a place like that? Was it a happy feeling, or a tranquil feeling, or a scary feeling- I mean you certainly mentioned ghosts in the machine, there was something going on-
Jonny: "Yeah, yeah, there was!
Dave: "It was kind of scary?
Thom: "It was... well he's the sceptic and I'm not, and we joked about it for the first few weeks. I think old places, old stones, they remember things, you know? But none of us saw anything or anything like that. They had nights, most nights I tried to stay up until dawn, I couldn't sleep. That was probably me being paranoid... well maybe it wasn't... I tried going to bed stone-cold sober and it didn't help... it was scary.
Jonny: "I think that's why the songs are all that tempo... Thom kept us awake shouting every night, because he couldn't sleep.
Dave: "Did it do something to the album, then, because it feels... otherworldly... when you first listen to it, it feels haunted, in a way...
Thom: "It is. I mean, beats me why, but it is. It beats me why it would work like that, but the microphones picked up the atmosphere, maybe... there it is. I've heard some wacky stories about people, locking themselves in grim empty rooms, most of the time it never worked, but this time it did, accidentally sort of...
Dave: "Did you ever feel, that, sort of.. I mean there was no pressure, this was never gonna be a Bends2 as such. for instance, The Bends didn't really seem to have a standout track like so many other albums.. there were just these six huge singles... so in effect it was like a Radiohead... in some way. But this was always going to be a different album... commercial after the success.
Jonny: "Well, we were all set up for the big commercial crossover third album... but it got a lot of raised eyebrows... "commercial suicide.."
Thom: "I mean, the feeling between the five of us was that we had to make a record that was good enough to be liked by the people that bought The Bends... that was as far as it went. Our mindset was completely different, the things we were listening to were different, the places we had been and the experiences we'd had were different... we were different people, in a sense, there was no real way we could make a bends part two. The Bends came from somewhere else, and you know. It's different. I know, you hinted.. it's not that much of a difficult record, it's just not as.. straight as The Bends was, more complex, but I suppose it's because we've heard the songs 5 million times, they seem simple to us...
Dave: "But yeah, there was this sort of request to get the same emotion as The Bends, but doing it in a different way.
Thom: "There's that constant insecurity that you have, that's the only emotion you're really good at... that's where it all comes from, everything else stems from that... but I suppose the way that I dealt with it was the thing that annoyed me about The Bends was that I could sing that way.. I could sing anything and it sort of sounded emotional... after a while it's twisted, because everyone's expecting you to sing from that emotional register, it's boring...
Thom: "So this one, it was like every song, different voice, different angle.. because I didn't feel like I was writing about myself anyway... it was all external stuff...
(here the recording breaks up to an almost inaudible degree, so I have transcribed the gist of the question)
Dave: "What about the videos? The video for Paranoid Android, graphic violence, confusion. What happened... was there some idea.
Jonny: "Umm, it was much cooler this time, the artwork was much cooler too... we had Stanley Donwood, who did some excellent artwork, you had that one computer company, one computer on the net and one doing sound editing. It's just another project, like clocking in at midday and recording a few sounds... and saying this might be what we want, and going into RH chatrooms and nosing around, seeing what's happening. It's (inaudible) doing all the nice packing stuff, I love that stuff. Before we had no control over it, somebody said "this is your artwork" but now we have involvement in it, in making an album. Doing The Bends, they sort of... told us to stick with doing pop songs, but with Stanley we were involved, we could influence it...
Dave: "Pablo Honey sold about half a million copies in the US.. do you think there were people in the US who just didn't "get" The Bends?
Thom: "No, I don't think that. They did, it just, we do radio stations, radio stations don't get it, they won't play anything surprising and things.
Jonny: "It's different, people in America owning your record... but those who had it did get it I think...
Dave: "I mean, all that... you said about radio not playing anything [that isn't catchy and poppy] and this album feels like you've gone in and changed things... in order to be different, to them, perhaps?
Thom: "We could have happily done a radio album. But we didn't.
Dave: "Is there a feeling of trepidation about the next album now, because this has been reported as album of the year...
Thom: "In two weeks they'll change their mind, it'll be something else...
Dave: "No, no... The end of the year, when everyone makes top 100 lists, are you telling me OK Computer's not gonna be in the top 3? (NB: couldn't help but laugh here)
Jonny: "Well, The Bends didn't get great reviews when it came out, and then a year later it was album of the year, so... maybe this one is the opposite. You can't tell.
Thom: "I mean, Colin said last night "Let's see if people are still buying it in six months time." Not like we wanted the money.. but... to see if it's good... we don't know.
Dave: "It didn't have massive radio friendly singles..
Jonny: "I kind of think that's not true, but that's sort of not our problem... I mean, when we were doing The Bends, we thought "Oh no, we're gonna have to play this live to the Americans... they won't like it" but we put so much effort into this it was getting to the point where none of it was relevant.
Jonny: "It was like Thom was saying earlier when we did the Alanis tour and we alienated our audience... now people are sort of cool with it, and we wanted to make an album for that group.
Dave: "Like you said, the Alanis Morissette tour as I said there, maybe forget the OK Computer album and play all of the songs... What about touring with REM? These guys were the biggest in the world... still seem to be... and did you look at them and say, wow, it is possible to get to the top and still be good...
Jonny: "Yeah, and still be a band, really, I mean I'm not gonna do any more soundtracks or any solo stuff... and still making new songs, every day. A lot of OK Computer is about what the band was about, slowly dawning on us that maybe we could do this and enjoy it, you know, that's a big part of the atmosphere of the record.. anything is possible.
Dave: "What about a band that maybe has something to say to its fans... I mean, get involved with them and all of that sort of thing... without necessarily preaching about it all the time... having it there at the side. Is that something you'd like to do, have it at the side...
Thom: "I mean, it's like what the news media finds worthy, for some mindboggling reason, and if you're on that if you.. drop your pants or something, then have a little thing on the back saying... I'll stop that now... but if people are gonna be seeing you in that way, you should use and abuse it, but at the same time be knowledgeable, honest about your ignorance.
Dave: "Even like an awful lot of the Manic Street Preachers had a lot of philosophical stuff, books to read, and most people I know got into those through the Manics...
Thom: "Well, it's important.. most rock bands are a distillation of those things, and it's important that whether you be an artist or political issues, those things involve the psyche of the band anyway, so it's important people know what you read, what you listen to... it's important that people know that, because a rock band is basically that, something slightly your own but mainly a distillation of all these things..
Dave: "Like for example when you were on tour with REM and Michael Stipe was there watching the band... do you think that's good, you're all friends, that you didn't have to put out an ad saying guitarist wanted...
Thom: "I don't think that we could do that, I really don't. A lot of what we learned from this time around was that playing together a lot in lots of different rooms, that has a big effect, you know? You know each other.... Also a thing we learned is that once you've finished an album, you stop listening to other music for a while, it sort of confuses you, but once the whole thing's done, you feel... well, I've done my bit... and then you go out and fall in love with other music again. REM standing, watching the bands... supporting them on the side of the stage. I always thought that this was something weird, too keen or eager or something... but now I understand, it's like falling in love with music again.
Dave: "What sort of music did you fall in love with... when the On A Friday band... did you search around for specific stuff or just listen to everything...
Thom: "We were into pixies and the fall... pixies and the fall, stuff.
Jonny: "I remember one moment of trying a rehearsal, when I was about 15, 16, and Thom put on a tape of Pixies Doolittle, and played a song called "Dead", and he was saying, you know... we should sound like this! and that was a real thing.
Thom: "Did I?
Jonny: "Yeah. Great song...
Thom: "I remember seeing them play that live once, in Cardiff, and people coming away from the stage with blood on their faces, weirdest thing I’d ever seen.
*let down plays*
Dave: "How does performing to huge audience, rather than a small one? Do you think, ah, this is just another gig, or do you think, well, there's maybe 15,000 at the back who can't see me, so maybe I should project more, or something?
Thom: "I find it really... it's like anything, it's like sex, you can't make it better, it gets better by you relaxing...
Dave: "Is it like the fact you get intensely lost in the song, and it wouldn't matter if there were ten people out there or ten thousand...
Thom: "It's kind of like videos, our attitude to videos... there was a time when all bands hated it but had to do it, and we're all up for trying it... and that's like playing live.. but when we finished the record we had all these meetings, booking shows... I think it was only a few weeks ago when I got used to it, making it an event, I mean it's a band on the stage but my friends are playing with me as well... it was that feeling of loads of people in the same room, feeling the same things, which was... a good thing, really, if it's working it's something people always remember. I've not really watched many stadium gigs I enjoyed but one I did was with U2 in Cardiff Arms... it was this sort of randomness, where one part they'd be playing songs wrong... you could tell that everybody, 30,000 people all on the same tour, feeling the same thing... it's mindblowing. What's wrong with it, there's nothing wrong with it.
Dave: "OK, to go back to another step now about this fame thing. Do you have a fear or a healthy disrespect for it?
Thom: "Disrespect. But I have a fear of people coming around to my house...
Dave: "and the importance of having a semblance of normal life...
Dave: "You have to concentrate on something that makes you feel like a human being...
Dave: "I don't want to, you know, say anything bad about you... but the fans of Radiohead... do you sometimes think they're kind of obsessive?
Thom: "I don't think they are as much as they used to be. I think there was an unhealthy period of people getting the wrong end of the stick... what I really like about it is that I think everybody who writes to us can see the sense of humour, nothing really important, underwriting everything... it sounds cold to say it, but it's important. I think this album is really... funny in places. I laugh at it, maybe I just have a funny sense of humour...
Dave: "So the reaction you get is important, and the making of the music are the important things... do you want to answer this one, Jonny?
Jonny: "Umm, well we're not doing it because we're just doing music for the five of us and anyone who like it is incidental... I hate when bands say that, it's always a lie... but I think that's the message for making music the audience will like... but people who like you are like you and your friends... when you're playing them a recording you hope they feel the same way you do, that they are like you in most ways...
Dave: "Yeah. Thom, you up there with the microphone, on stage... do you think that you create another Thom Yorke, that isn't necessarily the same one as [The Band] sees? And that's your safety net, that there are two Thom Yorke's?
Thom: "If there was just two of me, it'd be all right... there's about 8 or 9... and that's a shame. A couple of them are complete arseholes... but a few of them are nice.
Dave: "Do you ever worry about... the fame, that it could affect you... mentally, even mental health, let alone physical exertion.
Thom: "I'm reading lots of books on medical health at the moment.
Dave: "Why is that, Thom?
Thom: "I guess just so that I know if it ever comes up. *laughs*
Dave: "Well, I've seen a description of the band... "You're posh and insular and paranoid...".. you're as posh as any other band... you went to college, and you read books...
Dave: "They roped you in with this thing, new grave, with Manson and a few other bands...
Dave: "What about Massive Attack? Is there some talk of a music collaboration at some point?
Thom: "Yes, yes there is, when we get it together.
Dave: "What about the Velvet Goldmine? Is it nice for you to be working on a different project?
Jonny: "Yeah, but I can't see us doing that kind of thing often. I really just wanted to meet Bernard Butler *laughs*.
Dave: "What was going on with that, was Michael Stipe producing?
Jonny: "He was in the corner shouting "That's cool" occasionally...
Dave: "What is it?
Jonny: "It's some Roxy Music covers, of some really rare, obscure, early Glamrock stuff. 2HB.
Dave: "One of the great Roxy Music songs, off an early album...
Jonny: "We got, [Brandie Maxie] he plays sax on the whole thing.
Dave: "How far did you go up, Roxy Music wise? Did you get to the second album?
Thom: "It was third album, wasn't it? Bittersweet. That was the best one.
Dave: "Well, I think all I can say is thank you very much for talking to us.
Dave: "And continue worldwide domination, which is probably something you don't want! *Laughter* Fair play boys, see you.