Main Index >> Media Index >> Hail to the Thief Media | UK Media | 2003 Interviews

LK: I've got a friend at last, I'm not alone, it's Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. Thank you for choosing to spend Boxing Day with me

JG: Aw, it's lovely. You're very welcome

LK: And it's like one of those specials, isn't it, on American telly, Kenny and Dolly or something

JG: I know, yeah we should be...

LK: You got all the props?

JG: Send no money now

LK: Anyway, it's your shout now because you've brought your box of vinyl in and you've got the turntables, and I'm going to sit here... if you want anything, if you want a nut cracked or a tangerine peeled, you just tell me

JG: Sure

LK: And you can tell us what you're going to play for us

JG: Well, one of the benefits of being in a band is obviously lots of traveling, and one thing I've learned to do from very early days is to pick up the Yellow Pages and look for record shops, and so slowly as we've been touring for ten years now, I obviously have lots of records, and they've sort of become like postcards for me, so I thought I'd bring in records from various places, partly because I can remember where I got them, and partly because they've obviously become very important to me musically, so that's the idea

LK: That's nice, so you can like pick a record out and say “I got this at so and so's record store in Memphis” or something

JG: Yeah, I hope I don't actually do that, I mean but inwardly I am probably reminding myself of when I found it or, you know... exactly

LK: Because there's that time when you're on tour that you wake up... you've done a great gig the night before, you move on, you wake up somewhere and you've just got perhaps loads of time on your hands until the soundcheck in the afternoon...

JG: Exactly

LK: And you've found yourself wandering around and passing the time... I mean I've been on tours with people where I've ended up going to the hairdressers when I didn't need my hair doing...

JG: It's boring, yeah. Keith Richards said it's five years playing and twenty years hanging around

LK: Yeah, so it's good you're using your time effectively. Well, let's have a song then, shall we?

JG: Ok, sure. Well the first thing I started collecting was Jimmy Smith records, partly because... erm... they just, you know... it's just an exciting sound the Hammond organ, and it became very important to me for collecting records, partly because it was the first thing I'd look for, and I even had a routine, and the first thing in every shop was going to the jazz section and going to “S” to see what Jimmy Smith records they had, and to see how expensive the shop was, and that kind of stuff, so it became like a gold standard in a way for me, I can kind of gauge a record shop on looking at a few different standards as to whether it's going to be any good, whether it's worth staying there for the rest of the day

LK: So what would you expect to pay for a vinyl album like that?

JG: I don't know, there's all this snobbery about which era you get, whether you get the original 1950's... so, you know, anything up to sort of fifty dollars, I suppose for a very original one you know, which is a lot of money, so I probably avoid that, I don't mind to pay you know, not quite as much as that

LK: (check)We have an old album in the studio on a Friday, I never pay more than three pounds it's so cheap

JG: Well, you see, that's what's great about vinyl is that you can go out with ten pounds to most record shops, and come away with ten records, and some of them will be magical, and if they're not, then it doesn't really matter

LK: Let's have a bit of Hammond organ then

JG: Sounds good. This is called Prayer Meeting

[plays Jimmy Smith - Prayer Meeting]

LK: Jimmy Smith's Prayer Meeting, that's Jonny Greenwood's first bit of vinyl. Thank you for joining us. Jonny's brought his own records in today, so it's a bit of a party. What are we going to have next, then?

JG: I was going to play some Captain Beefheart because this reminds me of a very strange day off we had in Linköping, which is in Sweden, I think, although it was such a vaguely trippy day, I can't be sure. It might have been Norway. Anyway, it was a real day off, and we were nowhere near any kind of city or any kind of concert, or anything to do with Radiohead, and we were wandering around... it was one of those days when you really do feel like you're in a different country, and there was a record shop, bizarrely, selling somebody's... obviously somebody's collection from the seventies, and there was this compilation that's got a Captain Beefheart song called Give Me That Heart, Boy, and it's... well he's... kind of one of those harmonica players that shouts through the harmonica while he's playing, and it's all the whoops and the shouts that make it so exciting

[Plays Captain Beefheart – Give Me That Heart, Boy]

LK: Was that the first time you'd heard Captain Beefheart, or were you a fan of his before you found that in the shop?

JG: That was the first time. That was just it, it was just a famous name, and I thought I've really, you know... I've got to finally hear some, and it was ninety Krona looking at the... so, which I've no idea how much... Is that a lot of money? Who can remember?

LK: I don't know, but it's pre Euro. Do they have Euros in Sweden now? It's Sweden though?

JG: I think so, yeah

LK: Yeah

JG: And it's strange, because you end up with this weird triangle of... I now associate in my head Captain Beefheart and this very obscure town in Sweden, and being in Radiohead all together, and they all kind of come together with that record. But anyway...

LK: It's really good, don't you think, to discover music from before you were actually around, because Captain Beefheart predates Jonny Greenwood, doesn't he? His main stuff was... well, not before you were born, just about the time that you were born...

JG: Right

LK: I think it's good to go back, and not everything's got to be “new, new, new, new, new”, go back and discover where that music came from

JG: Yeah, and the interesting thing about him was that he stopped doing music and just became a painter instead. That's quite inspiring, and I kind of really admire people who change career practically, but carry on at the same time

LK: And what would you do if there was no more Radiohead or no more music for you?

JG: I don't know what I could do, that's the trouble. That's why I admire it

LK: You could be a plumber, the world needs plumbers

JG: Yeah, I could do, yeah

LK: Alright, well anyway it's a day off today, it's Boxing Day, lunch is laid, this is Liz Kershaw and Jonny Greenwood's records, and you've got a big box of vinyl here. Some of them look in really good condition, some of them are a bit yellowing and well loved, obviously. But what's your next one, then? What are you fingering through there?

JG: I was going to play some soul music. It's quite mellow for a nice Boxing Day afternoon. It's by Francis Lai, who's probably more famous for writing the music to Love Story, but he wrote lots of other soundtracks, and this is to a film called Le Passager De La Pluie, and it's only forty five seconds long. It's called Th?me De L'Américain, and its... there's something very seductive about soundtrack records, because there's no other form of music where you have things that are just thirty seconds or fifty seconds long, and then stop, and they're finished, and there's something very (check) about it

[plays Frances Lai – Th?me De L'Américain]

LK: A lot of French films are very sort of thin on music, aren't they compared to like British and American films have got music, it might be subliminal, but it's there all the time. If you watch European films, this is my impression, anyway, there's a lot less music in them...

JG: Right

LK: They let the acting and the dialogue stand alone a lot more than we expect our films to do

JG: Yeah... yeah, I think you're probably right, and there's more... I think because of that, there's more emphasis placed on the scores, there can be in European films, and French films especially.

LK: But you've just... I know you don't particularly today want to talk about your work, because you've got a day off, but you've done a soundtrack this year, Bodysong...

JG: That's right

LK: Would you like to another one after that experience?

JG: I think another one would be interesting, but it would be a lot more restrictive than that. I mean, this one that I did had no dialogue to work around, and had no restrictions at all, but yeah... I don't know. Maybe. I can see myself writing car chase music and sexy music, it would kind of be fun, I think

LK: And is it lonely work, doing a film score, compared to being in a band?

JG: Yeah... it is quite self involved, yeah obviously

LK: Under your fringe

JG: Yeah, but it can... you know, I had fun, I got some fun musicians in and it was a good laugh, really

LK: Right then. A bit of sherry? (laughs)

JG: Oh, yeah!

LK: It's what you do on Boxing Day! (laughs) What are we having now?

JG: Erm... I...

LK: Another French one!

JG: Another French record. Yeah, well, France is good for record shopping, and one revelation was realising how much great music was recorded in France in the sixties and just isn't talked about much in England. I think we have a vague notion that there's kind of Johnny Hallyday and nobody else, and it's all a bit naff

LK: And Petula Clark, but we sent her over there in the first place

JG: Right. Whereas the truth is that they were, and probably still are much cooler than we ever were, and the epitome of that is probably Jacques Dutronc and I'm going to play something that's as close to Christmas as I can for any of his records, because it's called The Daughter Of Father Christmas, you know, but in French. Already, you know Father Christmas getting it on, (LK laughs), it's rather nice, so we should hear some stylish sixties French music

[plays Jacques Dutronc – La Fille De P?re No?l]

LK: Ah, it makes me want to (check) a monocle and light a fag

JG: It's very much that kind of thing, isn't it?

LK: And be a bit moody and sophisticated

JG: Wonderful. I'm even going to open it and show you the inside

LK: Go on then

JG: I think he might even have a fag on the go

LK: Steady on! We have American listeners! He does look very easy on the eye as well, doesn't he? Gorgeous and... he's got a fag!

JG: Of course he has

LK: Yeah!

JG: And wafer... and wafers on

LK: Yeah

JG: He looks fantastic

LK: That is so cool

JG: So cool

LK: Right then. You were promised that you wouldn't get the usual diet of music that you get on other radio stations at Christmas, and certainly we've not had any Band Aid, and we've not had any Wham!, so far, and I doubt we're going to get any of that with Jonny Greenwood either, so what's next out of the box? Magic tricks in the box?

JG: Ok, next I was going to play some Oscar Peterson, and he's... his music is something that drives me crazy in a way, because I found this record and I like it so much, it's one that I look for in other shops, and buy again to give to friends, it's so good, and... but I also keep buying his other records trying to find the same record again, thinking he must have done other records like that, and I haven't found any and it's driving me crazy, but then maybe, you know, I should just stop looking and have this one record. And it's just really joyful and effortless, and it's the best kind of up jazz I think that's been recorded, and it's a track called Brotherhood Of Man

[plays Oscar Peterson – Brotherhood Of Man]

LK: This track is from Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, he's brought his records in

[6 Music jingle plays]

LK: Do you enjoy creating the records as much as you do playing them, do you like think “oh, I've got all this great stuff in my house”?

JG: Yeah, I don't... I mean, I nearly turned into that slightly anally retentive sort of “I'm not going to play any of these”, like I found all these unplayed Smiths records, unopened Smiths records a few years ago, and I very nearly started thinking “maybe I should leave them”, you know “maybe I shouldn't open them”, and it's like I just found myself becoming, you know, somebody who puts them in alphabetical order and doesn't let people touch them, when at the end of the day, you know they're just technology like anything else, and sort of like... and you know, it's to be heard, and I like vinyl because it's cheap, partly, and because it seems to survive better than my CDs

LK: I bet you've got a really good stylus though, haven't you? I bet you don't abuse your records

JG: Yeah, well again I think I (check) for old record players as well, slightly older I should think

LK: But you get more weights on the arm, don't you?

JG: Yeah, you know, they're not really that precious and they're just (check) than CDs, but I'm a big fan of vinyl

LK: Right, so the next song then. What have you got in here?

JG: Sure. How about some Throbbing Gristle?

LK: Mmmm!

JG: Why does that sound very Christmassy?

LK: I think I had a lot of that yesterday (laughs)

JG: (laughs) You probably did, yeah

LK: So you're not a vegetarian are you?

JG: No, (check). So, yeah, I'm selecting Throbbing Gristle just because it's fantastic music, but I'm going to play it at the wrong speed on purpose, because it's an electronic track that sounds great at forty-five, again another advantage of vinyl, and it's (check) and you'll love it, it's kind of... it's kind of quite dancy in a way, and it's Throbbing Gristle. It goes like this

[plays Throbbing Gristle – (check title)]

LK: I know that you're a fan of vinyl because you can change if from seventy-eight to thirty-three to forty-five...

JG: Sure

LK: but you must... you must know by now that you can treat things in the studio

JG: Yeah, of course

LK: Yeah, you can do it electronically can't you, but it's not as much fun

JG: Exactly

LK: Right, I enjoyed that, it's kind of surreal. It's like a Boxing Day that I've never had

JG: That's good

LK: Yeah

JG: That's good then

LK: I'm usually sitting there with my folks being forced to watch Morecambe and Wise or Emmerdale onmibus

JG: I know!

LK: Oh, yeah. It's good to get out, actually

JG: I think it is. Hear some records, eh?

LK: Yeah. Right then, we're running out of them now, actually. What have you got left? What shall we have next?

JG: I was going to play some Willie Mitchell

LK: Yeah!

JG: Errrrm, yeah... I'm always being told by my wife not to buy records just for the covers, but I always do...

LK: Let's have a look then

JG: And I often get home and have to throw... not records away, but, yeah, throw them away pretty much, just because they're so terrible. But this one I got for the cover, and it's great

LK: Oh, yeah!

JG: Yeah, it's... you know it's... you just know it's going to be good, looking at this, it's like a train (check) and there's titles like Everything's Going To Be Alright, I'm Moving On, Let's Do The Stroll, That Driving Beat, and it's just like a classic soul record where the drummer is much louder than everything else, which I love in this kind of music, and I was going to play the first track, which is called Everything's Going To Be Alright

[plays Willie Mitchell – Everything's Going To Be Alright]

LK: Oh, that's great. That's uplifting

JG: Really?

LK: Yeah. Well, it's getting a bit thin now, in Jonny Greenwood's box of vinyl. So, what have we got now? (check) Willie Mitchell. It is a great sleeve I believe. Looking at that is like being in York railway museum with the huge locomotives that are scary even then. That's a good one as well. That looks like... oh, what a great sleeve that is! Go on, describe it

JG: Ok. This is a scientist who meets a space invader, and there was a whole series of scientists meeting various (check) things

[plays track]

LK: Back in 1981 and we should explain to the younger listeners what space invaders were (laughs). Kind of a prototype electric... a very, very early computer game, wasn't it?

JG: I think they're all playing it on their Nokias now anyway. It's on mobile phones

LK: Is it? Yeah, if you wanted to get somebody a space invaders machine for Christmas, an original one, there's a website that offers the old arcade games like that, and it like was five hundred quid for the original green and black screen space invaders

JG: It's weird, isn't it?

LK: Do you like computer games? Are you into them?

JG: I do. I'm kind of frustrated that there seems to be only one or two good games a year when potentially it could be, you know one of the most exciting things to do but no-one's really coming up with a new way of you know, interacting with the world that they create, except waving a gun and running around, which is exciting a few times, and then you kind of want it to be better, and you want kind of films that are being made when you can meet some of the other (check). I'm still waiting for that to happen

LK: (check) about furniture and interior design

JG: It's slowly brightening up, but I'm not sure I want to be an interior designer

LK: No

JG: Anyway...

LK: Well, I hope you got all the games you wanted for Christmas anyway, and that's actually the last couple of records now. Yeah, two left. So what are we going to have?

JG: Ok, well I'm possibly going to leave a few out, because they're not very... they might be a bit of a challenge for people with hangovers and suchlike today, but let me see... how about some Brazilian music?

LK: Ooh, yes

JG: Ok, so this is... I think it's... it's hard to know which is the title and which is the artist or the music, but I think Bataku Batacava (check name). It's easy to buy lots of vinyl that is (check) Brazilian, but is more about people sort of being (check) in their bedrooms in the sixties, and so I had to kind of get rid of lot of records like that that I bought thinking they would be great and cool things like percussion, and isn't percussion great, but really it's kind of hard to find one that's this, which is... it's just percussion and a flute and it's such an exciting rhythm that I suggest we dance, Liz...

LK: Yeah, why not? Less sitting around, get some exercise going

[Plays track]

LK: Oh, I enjoyed that! Yeah!

JG: Bit (check)

LK: Bit of a samba

JG: So anything else? Is that enough?

LK: Erm... well I think we could have one more. Have you got anything to go out with a bang? Do you think we need... or would you like to come down after that dancing around?

JG: Bang? Erm...

LK: Yeah

JG: Yeah, ok, well what about some... I've got this record, which says on the front The Sound Of Tomorrow...

LK: (laughs) They always say that! Hey, that's a great cover! That's got a flying saucer landing on some rocks in the Nevada desert, or something. Who the heck's that?

JG: It's by Ferancian Tyker (check name) who were trying to do tomorrow's music about forty or fifty years ago, and this again was bought somewhere slightly less exotic and exciting than Paris or anywhere. It was got in Moreton-In-Marsh, a kind of Cotswolds town, and I found it in the Oxfam there while we were recording Kid A, and wanted to base a song around something from one of these records. I'm going to play the track that we tried to sample and tried to turn into this music, and just gave up, because in a way it already works left alone, it doesn't need to be sampled and edited especially, and it very much is the sound of tomorrow. It's a track called... errr... track five, it's called Loose End Meringue

LK: Ooh, that's very tomorrow

JG: Yeah, nineteen forty... err... nineteen fifty two, I think. Yeah, it's fifty years old

[plays track]

LK: Did you see that programme on the radiophonic workshop at the BBC?

JG: I didn't, no, but I have a few of their records

LK: Yeah, what they could do without any of the equipment that we've got today, with bits of tape and...

JG: Yeah, it's still the best way, and when you try to recreate that stuff using laptops, which I sometimes have to try and do, it's not quite... it's like keyhole surgery, you're reaching in to do something quite intricate, and it doesn't sound the same as plugging things in and out, really

LK: I'm sure that if he's still around, I bet that Fernancian Tyker (check name) would be dead flattered that you found him in an Oxfam shop in the Cotswolds, and tried to incorporate him into a new Radiohead album.

JG: Yeah

LK: I think he'd be chuffed to bits. Well, I've have enjoyed myself. Thanks for coming in. Thanks for keeping me company at broadcasting house today

JG: You're welcome

LK: And we'll do it again sometime. When are you next touring, because you've done a massive stint, haven't you?

JG: Oh, we're doing Japan in the spring, so I'll come back after that with some mad Korean and Japanese records

LK: Yeah, see what you find!

JG: I've got a Korean record, but I won't inflict it on you, because it's a bit like the Korean Scott Walker with loads more vibrato. A bit too weird

LK: No play it! My brother's just been to Korea

JG: Right

LK: Yeah, go on

JG: It's a bit alarming. Sadly it's outside the building...

LK: Awww!! Ok

JG: I'll bring it next time. It's a deal

LK: Alright then. See you soon