Main Index >> Media Index >> The Eraser Media | UK Media | 2006 Interviews


[recording starts]

Steve Lamacq: "It's Sonic Youth on 6 Music, and the track 'Kool Thing'. And we are, as promised, joined by Thom Yorke, who wanted to hear that track, actually. It's one of the tunes he's brought in to play this afternoon. And we'll talk about that in a second. But how are you, for starters?"

Thom: "I'm alright, actually. Thank you very much!"

Steve: "Is life very schizophrenic at the moment with your...?"

Thom: "It's not too bad. I'm working, which makes me happy, to be honest. I don't like doing nothing, it drives me crazy."

Steve: "Oh really... are you one of those people who can't sit around..."

Thom: "I can, um, but I have to, you know... it's... it demands more effort than not."

Steve: "Really... (laughs)"

Thom: "If you know what I mean."

Steve: "What's the rest of Radiohead like, I had this impression in my head... 'cause it..."

Thom: "They're much better."

Steve: "It's about time you all got some hobbies..."

Thom: "Um."

Steve: "Isn't it?"

Thom: "I don't think anybody, actually... do people have hobbies..."

Steve: "You see, I always thought..."

Thom: "Phil bought a boat once. But I don't know if that worked out too well, 'cause now he has three little boys, and that's a full time job."

Steve: "Yeah, of course! Well, I imagined Ed would get into something like Formula One, for me, I think he's got Top Gear written all over him..."

Thom: "Uhm... No? I actually don't know what he does, I don't ask him! No...."

Steve: (laughs)

Thom: "No, we don't get that far."

Steve: "You're probably too busy from talking music."

Thom: "Well, you know, we use people to talk between us, I mean, we don't talk to each other directly any more, we're far too huge for that. (laughs)"

Steve: "Separate cars to gigs. And all that sort of thing. 'We'll have different hotels, you can come around and pick us up.'"

Thom: "Yes. Actually. Don't joke about it!"

Steve: "Have you seen the boys recently?"

Thom: "Oh yes, mhmm, I saw them, was it last night or the night before? 'Cause we're sort of doing all our plans for, um, the recording at the end of the year - he says, taking his noisy jacket off."

Steve: "Right. So... how far have you come since showcasing some of the tracks, 'cause, sporadically, you've done some Radiohead gigs this year."

Thom: "Well, we did... we did like four weeks in the US, after the shows around here. And um, it was really, really good fun. We actually did a big festival called Bonnaroo as well, which was a real buzz, um, biggest buzz I've had for years, actually, to be honest. It's like eighty thousand people."

Steve: "Why? Was is the size, or the fact that you were playing fresh material, or..."

Thom: "Um. Yeah, it was the fact that we were playing fresh material, they seemed to know most of it, which was mad! They seemed to know most of it off YouTube, you know, like... 'cause people are taking their mobiles with the 2 Gig like harddrives and then like mailing them straight onto YouTube, it's just insane! Ermm..."

Steve: "Is that a double-edged sword? Because, on the one hand..."

Thom: "The quality is so whack, I mean..."

Steve: "Is it..."

Thom: "You're not really losing a great deal I don't think. It's... I mean, I quite like that, to be honest. The fact that it's so bitty and well, literally crushed."

Steve: "But the fact that a new song is only a new song the first time you ever play it?"

Thom: "Yeah... it depends on how you look at it, because you can look at it like each time you play it's a different version of it. So it doesn't really matter... how many times. Which is more the Grateful Dead zone, unfortunately, but... luckily we can't play solos! Or... I do keep asking Jonny to play a guitar solo, but he refuses. I don't know why that is."

Steve: "Do you... has he just got one of sort of those sort of mental blocks, 'No, I can't do that, I'm not a guitar hero in that form.'"

Thom: "I don't know. I don't know. "

Steve: "Maybe he's just stubborn."

Thom: "It could be that."

Steve: "So you've been working on some Radiohead stuff, and you're going to record, what, at the end of the year?"

Thom: "For the whole rest of the year after we've finished these festivals."

Steve: "Ah yeah..."

Thom: "Very full on."

Steve: "Have you decided where?"

Thom: "We have! But I can't tell you... 'cause it's all mad, all these very strange places."

Steve: "Or - I was just going to say - is it in a recording studio?"

Thom: "No!"

Steve: "Or is it.."

Thom: "Hell no!"

Steve: "No... So are you going to do the thing where you take around your own kit and set up in places."

Thom: "Yeah. We even got caravans..."

Steve: "Really..."

Thom: "Yeah, don't ask, it's bad..."

Steve: "Ok (laughs) I shouldn't go any further. But also, of course, err... How are the little ones as well?"

Thom: "They're all great, thank you! Um, err, yes, that's all fine!"

Steve: "How old is Noah?"

Thom: "He is, erm, five now. And I have a daughter now."

Steve: "The reason I mention it is because, erm, I think one of the last times we spoke and when the last Radiohead album came out, becoming a dad, I think, influenced some of the lyrics, last time around. And your album The Eraser is dedicated to Agnes, isnt it?"

Thom: "Yeah, but um, I think that's company policy now. I mean, not that this is within the company, but, if there are any arrivals they tend to get first. (laughs)"

Steve: "Has becoming a dad for a second time or - obviously watching now the two youngsters grow up - did that effect some lyrically your new album, at all? 'Cause it played into the first one. 'Analyse'..."

Thom: "It always, you know... it's part of, a big part of my life, obviously. I still feel kind of uncomfortable talking about it, just because it's... on the one hand it seems to be the one thing one shouldn't discuss, a) being a man, which I have a problem with anyway, 'cause that's just downright sexist, and b) that it's the most un-rock'n'roll thing, so you should just pretend that you're not a dad, which is what most people seem to do, which I also think's deeply unhealthy. So I guess I will talk about it, because of that. But it does make me feel uncomfortable. Whether it was a formal part of this record... obviously, yeah, I think, not least of which, because of the context of sort of getting involved in Friends Of The Earth and like a lot of people becoming aware of the global warming thing. Obviously you're suddenly presented with a finite... the concept of a finite future. Much as actually we were when we grew up, 'cause we were presented with the concept of the bomb, you know? And grew up with this bizarre scenario. Remember that... what was the name of that movie? Was it.... umm..."

Steve: "I can't remember, it was shown in all the schools..."

Thom: "Yeah, it traumatised us all."

Steve: "Absolutely, it was basically the nuclear bomb was dropped and this is literally the fallout from it."

Thom: "Yeah..."

Steve "It terrified everyone, everyone had nightmares after that."

Thom: "Rather than actually being a threat, this is a reality and it's just a debate about when it occurs and how it happens. So, I don't think it would be too personal to say I didn't sleep very much for a few months until I sort of worked out a way of dealing with it, and one of the ways of dealing with it was to put it into this record."

Steve: "And so what are you going to be like as the kids grow up... you've got the cool record collection."

Thom: "Just, just embarrasing."

Steve: "Are you going to be an embarrasing dad?"

Thom: "I am the... I'm already the embarrasing dad..."

Steve: "(laughs) Well, one of the things you are gonna have is a huge record collection, which obviously they'll be able to get their fingers on. This is one of the things I wanna talk to you about this afternoon. We just played 'Kool Thing' by Sonic Youth, you've got another couple of selections coming up in a second, but 'Kool Thing', when did you first hear it? Were Sonic Youth very important to you?"

Thom: "It's funny, 'cause I played it on the way in in the car to Chris, our manager, and I sort of sat thinking, I think the first time I heard that was when I bought the album... Goo it's on, isn't it..."

Steve: "It think it's Goo, yeah."

Thom: "Um, in 1991? 1990, 1991, something like that."

Steve: "It was before Nirvana, wasn't it?"

Thom: "Exactly... that's exactly what I'm talking about, because basically... I mean, Goo to me was the record... I used to play it at the club I used to DJ at, and this was the one I used to play every time, you know, at sort of about quarter to two just to clear everybody gradually off the dance floor."

Steve: (laughs)

Thom: "And um, and I just used to... what was it that... 'Are you gonna liberate us chicks from male white corporate oppression?' and that was just... (beams) hah, you know? Kim Deal... that's just the best... the best... I mean, to dare to put that in a song, and then like, um, 'When you're a star, you're gonna fix everything' and then like oblivion, sonic oblivion going on in the background. It was just... it was genius! It's just... I mean that... I'm having a real like Sonic Youth thing at the moment, I've just got absolutely, like everything, although I draw the line at rehearsal tapes, I have to say."

Steve: "(laughs) Right!"

Thom: "Um, you know, the... you're sort of going back to... with a bit of distance... it's basically without Sonic Youth, Nirvana would never have occured, and we certainly would never have occured. I mean, them and the Pixies, that was it. I mean..."

Steve: "You could almost go back a step further and go if Hüsker Dü hadn't actually come out and signed for a major label, then it wouldn't have been cool for Sonic Youth to sign to a major label. And then Sonic Youth wouldn't have recommended Nirvana to Geffen. And from there on you go. It's funny you mention your DJing, though, I was going to ask you about that..."

Thom: "Yeah."

Steve: "When have you started DJing? What was your floor filler? Can you remember? Or did you just have floor emptiers."

Thom: "No, you see... there's a thing, you have to remember it was the students' disco, so it's not exactly what you'd call the coolest slot ever."

Steve: "You can confess..."

Thom: "No, it was bad!"

Steve: "Alright..."

Thom: "It was the Pogues, although, no, you know..."

Steve: "That's not that bad!"

Thom: "...it's ok, but it's like when they come up after the fourth time in the same night... and it was this bizarre scenario, because... another thing today was I picked up Cubic 22, which was like one of the first XL tracks that Richard Russell put out, like this (whispers) hardcore rave tune. And all these like E'd up kids used to turn up as well... So you've got these kids coming up asking for the Pogues - usually they were teaching physical education - and then you had the raving kids up from town - E'd up off their tits! - saying 'play it again, man! Play it again, man!' and like sitting on the back speakers, and you're like, how on earth am I supposed to deal with all these, you know... (both laugh) So there wasn't really a floor filler, 'cause they all had their like particular clans, you know, and then I'd put Sonic Youth on..."

Steve: "Would this be at the Uni? Exeter Uni? Yeah."

Thom: "Yeah."

Steve: "So were you in that... did they have that little booth?"

Thom: "Yeah, that's right."

Steve: "'Cause it's claustrophobic in there anyways! It's like standing in a century box..."

Thom: "I know! It was... yeah. I used to throw beer at people if they got really bad."

Steve: "We'll play another of your selections now, talk us through this one, it's The Bug vs. Roots Man, the track is 'Killer Queen'. Where did you find this?"

Thom: "I found this one on the breeze block."

Steve: "Oh right! Marianne Hobbs' show on BBC Radio One."

Thom: "And err... I didn't know anything about any of it! And... I don't know anything about this sort of music at all! My ignorance is almost complete. But this just is a fantastic record from start to finish to me. It's one of those ones you just play to annoy people, you know."

Steve: "Would you, if somebody said, 'Do you fancy coming and doing a spot Djing', would you go back and do it now?"

Thom: "Um, no, because I don't, I'm... I think part of the requirement of Djing is to have the sort of have the 'Vinyl consumer head-on', which I just don't have. If everyone was sending me the vinyl and I could sit there and go through it every night, I would happily do it. But I feel like I'm out of my depth, because you know, people will say: 'Have you heard (mumbles) hnn hnn, and you know, I'm just honest, I was like, 'Sorry, I'm completely out of touch', you know, I just am. I hate the fact that I am, but I don't have time to keep up. It really winds me up."

Steve: "At the same time... I mean, do you get a chance to listen to a lot of music, though? And... 'cause the weird thing is there are so many places to get music from now, isn't there."

Thom: "Yeah, there is, but you know... the sort of thing that I like is actually kind of hard... there's a really good online shop, Boomkat, which I really enjoy going to, and that's run by mates of ours."

Steve: "Boomkat?"

Thom: "Boomkat, from Manchester."

Steve: "Right..."

Thom: "But it's really... because it's the nature of things, you really... it's the sort of thing where you want to go and spend the afternoon in the shop and go through it all. It's difficult to do online, you know? So, I sort of... for me it's really, really frustrating. I'm not about to lower myself to pay someone to go out and get me this stuff."

Steve: "No. Where's the fun in that, anyway?"

Thom: "Yeah. The whole point is you've got go in and happen upon stuff that you... The whole point is you've got to go into the record shop, feel out of your depth, feel about the size of an ant, and like have to fight all of that off, and walk out going 'hah!'."

Steve: "Absolutely. If your ego is still higher than the counter, then it hasn't worked..."

Thom: "You're in the wrong place! You need to go to HMV."

Steve: "(laughs) You've got to feel it and touch! It's all about the touch. Going back, when you, uh... what were the sort of influences... I mean, I suppose... are there any influences that you've held on to, are there any lyricists or writers within rock music that you've always admired and you still admire now? Or has it changed?"

Thom: "Um, yeah, I mean, it's always changed. You hold the torch to all these people, like um, R.E.M., the way Michael Stipe writes his words will always floor me. So I just... off the top of my head it's really hard. Tom Waits, Public Enemy, Polly Harvey..."

Steve: "I like the way you say 'Off the top of my head' and then start holding your head listening!"

Thom: "Well you sort of rattle it off!"

Steve: "The heads in the hands! So. But I mean, out of those people... So, when R.E.M. come along, what had you been listening to previously? Was R.E.M. like some sort of road to Damascus experience?"

Thom: "Yes, absolutely! Up until then, I mean... everybody else I knew at the time was listening to dodgy heavy metal! Or, you know, like, AC/DC and stuff."

Steve: "How old were you? Thirteen..."

Thom: "Well, very young."

Steve: "Everyone has a metal phase at thirteen..."

Thom: "Yeah. What was the name of it, MSG? Michael Schencker Group, they weren't very good, though, were they? I could see, um, AC/DC was like, fair enough. Queen, absolutely, fine, you know..."

Steve: "But it's when you cross into German metal..."

Thom: "Yeah! That's what, that was the cut-off point for me. Someone gave me that, it's like 'This is way better than any of that'... I knew that the game was up."

Steve: "The Michael Schencker Group came with all those suits that came with the patches on the denims."

Thom: "Did they."

Steve: "Yeah. They gave away a free patch of one of those things."

Thom: "Did they..."

Steve: "Yeah, man. I'm afraid so..."

Thom: "Like the cubs? (Laughs)"

Steve: "'I've done my heavy metal badge! I've been to see (???) live! Give me my badge!'"

Thom: "'I have tinnitus for life!'"

Steve: "Well, what about... what was your first gig?"

Thom: "Oh no. I'm not talking about that, it was like Joan Aumtrading when she did that... we didn't get many gigs coming round Oxford at the time. My best gig in Oxford ever though, was Siouxie and the Banshees and I got to meet Siouxie and tell her that in London recently."

Steve: "Really?"

Thom: "Yeah it was fantastic! She'd just broken her leg, and stuff."

Steve: "She'd just broken her leg? What, before the gig?"

Thom: "She was doing... I don't know, but she turned up and she was on crutches. And they were absolutely... they were just amazing."

Steve: "What was it, the severity of the sound?"

Thom: "No! It was just... the band were like, they were really, really exciting, and they did loads of, I guess it must have been... Hong Kong Garden and all that sort of period. It wasn't that long after that, actually, I don't think."

Steve: "Mhm."

Thom: "To contrast, like the worst gig I ever saw - which doesn't mean I didn't like the band, 'cause I absolutely loved the band - but New Order was hilarious... they played for fourty minutes and they said 'This is why we don't play in this effing town, you're such a boring bunch of c... u... whatevers.'"

Steve: "Yeah."

Thom: "So, that wasn't great. My marque contraste! Siouxee and the Banshees were just genius."

Steve: "And when you got to meet Siouxie Sioux, are you scared?"

Thom: "No! No! She just looked like, you know, a really nice, um, lady, so... I shouldn't use the word 'lady', I'll get told off... uh, 'Woman'. She looked really friendly, so, I went 'ah, wow'... very pleasant lady... person... woman."

Steve: "So, what other things... obviously there's another Radiohead record, this is your own album which is a corker, which I'll mention very quickly in a second. But, any other things you're tempted to do?"

Thom: "Woah..."

Steve: "Write a book?"

Thom: "Nope. Can't string a sentence together. Which is why I write songs!"

Steve: "Stand for the local council?"

Thom: "Now, there's an idea. No! Um..."

Steve: "I'm running out..."

Thom: "Well. What else is there?"

Steve: "Open a restaurant?"

Thom: "Gave up painting, no, couldn't do that. Learn to dance? No... forget that."

Steve: "What about... I see you making films!"

Thom: "Am I? Excellent."

Steve: "Well, I don't actually see you doing it, but I can..."

Thom: "Do you mean acting?"

Steve: "Not so much acting..."

Thom: "No, I can't remember lines..."

Steve: "I think, um, I think you and a bunch of animators and a brilliant film..."

Thom: "I will actualy... I was going to say... the one thing that's always frustrated me is I've never really learned to use all that technology. But then, I have friends who've gone... who've done the computer graphic video course things that you do now to learn whatever Mayer or Meyer software it is, that they use. And I know I'll never do it, but if I was going to college now, that's where I'd go, 'cause I would say that's got to be the wildest place to be - creatively - right now. But, that's from my point of view, you know. I would very much like, erm... I would very much like time with Stanley just to hang out. We've always had this project about buying an old Pickup and driving around the countryside and being Sunday painters. Painting, and getting a bottle of wine. In fact, we have done it a couple of times. There was a particularly good instant on Dartmoor. Where, um, we only had purple and black, and we went out..."

Steve: "This is beginning to sound like something from the (???) show!"

Thom: "Well, that was exactly what it was! That was the idea."

Steve: "Black!"

Thom: "No, no, it was."

Steve: "Black!"

Thom: "Black! We did, that was basically the idea. It was the Sunday painters, but we were doing it for real. And the brilliant thing was, this woman came up and asked directions, and she left real quick... (laughs)"

Steve: "(laughs) Very quickly, one last question, everyone who's been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize is backing the Artic Monkeys to win."

Thom: "Are they..."

Steve: "Yeah. I thought you were."

Thom: "Well, I'm not!"

Thom: "Aren't you?"

Thom: "No!"

Thom: "Who are you backing?"

Thom: "Me!"

Steve: "Ok, that's good! Have you heard the rest of the competition then? Who's the threat?"

Thom: "No, I haven't heard, um... I heard the... what's on there?"

Steve: "Oh, uh, The Editors. Who else is on there..."

Thom: "They're alright! Quite like them."

Steve: "Richard Hawley is in there."

Thom: "Don't know that."

Steve: "Oh, it's a great record."

Thom: "Ok."

Steve: "Guillemots, do you know them?"

Thom: "No..."

Steve: "I wouldn't worry about the opposition. if you know what I mean... (laughs)"

Thom: "I don't think it's about that though, is it really. It seems to be whatever represents whatever it is at the time. So, I kind of think that's not the point, which is a good thing. Uhh..."

Steve: "Well, we'll just put our money on you. How about that?"

Thom: "Uhh... yeah, please?"

Steve: "Ok, it's a deal. We have to push on, 'cause we're running out of time. For more on The Eraser album listen to Tom Robinson's program on Thursday night where Mr. Thom Yorke will also be playing live, here on 6 Music. Thank you so much for coming in!"

Thom: "Thanks, Steve!"

Steve: "And we're gonna play a track by the Liars to finish with."

Thom: "Aha ha ha ha..."

Steve: "Another of Thom's choices, this is 'The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack'."

Thom: "From the Drum's Not Dead record!"

[recording ends]