This is a transcript from an recording of the broadcast.
[recording starts here]
Mark Radcliffe: "This is a chat that I recorded about....what, about an hour and a half ago, in the bowels of the BBC behind the Radio Theatre with Ed O'Brien and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. And, eh, we sort of started... by talking about: the gestation of the new album In Rainbows:
(to interview recording)
Mark: "Um, so: When you came back together to start working on In Rainbows I read a quote from one of you; it might have been Jonny, actually. It said "When we came back together, the studio was dead," you had the long layoff, a lot of kids being born...different, I mean, the studio was dead, it was a fresh start. Is that how it felt, going back?
Thom: "It was a: yeah, there was definitely a corpse involved.
Ed and Mark: Laughing
Thom: "...that had to be dipped in water and plugged into a lightning conductor.
Thom: "Do you understand what I'm talking about?
Mark: "No. Well, vaguely.
Thom: "All right, okay.
Mark: "I mean, you know, but was it something that needed to kind of... Was it a great way to start again, with a fresh slate, or not,(*) did it take some time to feel your way back in?
Thom: "(* starts here) It took a lot of time.
Mark: "Did it?
Mark: "What do you do when it takes a lot of time, though? Do you have, do you sort of play lots of songs? Or just jam without ideas? How do you restart the machine?
Ed: "Well, we did...we did a bit of rehearsing.
Mark: "Yeah? (*) That sounds like a good
Ed: "(* starts here) Back to the apple shed.
Mark: "What, of old songs, you pick your...
Ed: "No, no, no, not of old songs, no way.
Ed: "All new songs.
Ed: "And we did a bit, we tried a bit of recording as well in it, because we've got our own "place" which is a studio as well. So we did a bit of that, and we generally get quite confused and a bit frustrated.
Thom: "We find a...we find a wall and we smash our heads against it.
Mark: "Right... So you don't start with a; do you start with a kind of finished song? Or do you start with fragments of ideas and then work on those?
Thom: "The....song, in a way, is finished, but it can be, some, well, to varying degrees, something can, some things can feel completely finished but not be. Other things come together as it moves down the line...it's pretty sketchy, it's pretty random. I think the, you know.....we sort of had quite a break and everyone was having kids, so, it was difficult to focus, you know?
Thom: "That's, which is kind of understandable I think.
Mark: "I mean, do you have, do you have a big archive? I remember you came in on the afternoon show on Radio one and you did "Follow me Around".
Thom: "Yes! We are very...
Mark: "Which is a good one which has never emerged.
Thom: "I know! We still haven't got rid of it by now!
Mark: "NUDE took ten years to come around, didn't it?
Mark: "Are there loads more like that?
Mark: "In your head, or on tapes, or what?
Thom: "Mostly in my head!
Thom: "Or in our heads anyway.
Thom: "Yes. Yeah Um: Yeah, it's very confusing! There's lot of hard disks with things I can't remember on them!
Thom: "But that's just the way it is. You know...
Mark: "And then what do you do: when you got sort of a rough sense of direction: Is the location important? Because you went to a manor house this time, didn't you? It was sort of like, and you sort of made a wagon train circle of camper vans and slept in those...
Thom and Ed: Laughing
Mark: "Is that how it was?
Ed: "Well that stuff was fun! You know, that stuff is, when we started back up with Nigel, that's the kind of stuff: He was really keen and he was right: Get us out of our studio (*), get us out of our comfort zone.
Thom: "(* speaks here) We'd been there too long.
Ed: "Yeah. Get us in this place, have an experience, and kind of, you hope that the: It goes back to that whole thing like when we did OK COMPUTER and we went to Jane Seymour's gaffe outside Bath. Gaffe, it's not a Gaffe, it's a blooming, lovely place! But, it's...you just, you capture, you have something else. You get something else hopefully. So yeah, and we came up to London, here, did recording, which was good.
Thom: "Yeah, that was: I preferred that, I have to say. I think it's a bit, it's a bit of a nasty habit to get into, frankly. Make a record: Oh: better go find a place to...in order to pitch out in the middle of nowhere and "blah blah blah". It's a bit sort of ridiculous, but we had to do it at that point.
Mark: "Yeah, yeah. And, when you came back to make this record, was the sort of, the journey you'd been on, from being like the Radiohead rock band, through the experimentation; Has it been a sort of elliptical voyage that's come back and affected the way you write and record, and even perform do you think? So the Kid A and Amnesiac stuff which went, it took you further out, and you've perhaps come a bit back around that...
Thom: "Well, the weird thing...
Mark: "Does that make any sense?
Thom: "The weird thing about the Kid A and Amnesiac thing is that, it was one thing like when we recorded it and then it became something completely different when we releart it, so to speak, and played it live! And, it made us realize that what we thought was sort of quite, well, not polemic exactly, but quite, sort of, a left turn, actually when we'd played it as the band, it wasn't at all. So, it was a natural sort of progression. And, I think it's less a sort of going around ellipses and more just ... you're responding to whatever time you're in, and flailing around mostly. I think you don't necessarily progress at all.
Thom and Ed: Laughing
Mark: "But there must be some sense of progression!
Thom: "Yeah, I know...
Mark: "After sixteen years...
Thom: "But, the thing is, I personally really enjoy working in studios, I think it's really good fun, but it's a kind of a drag as a band to do that, you know? So, it's this weird sort of tension.
Mark: "Do you, I mean do you enjoy it? Because I was also reading an interview with you; it said you're impossible to live with, when you're making a record.
Thom: "Oh, right...
Mark: "Well, not just generally, I mean, just...
Thom: "No, well, "generally" I am, yes.
Mark: "But I mean, one would think that, you know, you're in the studio doing what you want to do, you would think...
Thom: "Yeah, well...
Mark: "The luxury: how many people get the chance to make a good living...
Thom: "No, I think...
Mark: "doing what it is they really love.
Thom: "I think that it is, if you go for long enough not doing something new that you're; that inspires you, and that you're happy with, you start to go on a downer, really: because you feel kind; you have no raison d'etre.
Thom: "Because: Ever since I was a kid, I'd make meaning for my life and are able to sort of get through the next week or whatever: with music. So, when that's sort of taken away from you, or it's ceased to make sense, or you're not getting something from it: it's really hard. For me it's really hard, and yeah, I could go and work on my mate's building site or I could do something else. But, basically that's, that's personally speaking the way I'm born and I try not to complain about it but that's the way it is. It just does my head in.
Mark: "And you don't look a natural hot-carrier.
Thom: "No! Not hot, no.
Mark: "No. Well, just as a joke.
Thom: "There are other jobs.
Mark: "We're going to hear lots of you playing live in a second hour of the show, we've asked you to each pick a tune each. Ed, you've chosen some R.E.M. I think!
Ed: "Yeah, well I had an R.E.M. day yesterday! Because, I think "Accelerate" was released, wasn't it! And, I had like one of the, I was telling Thom, I had such a great afternoon: Did the supper with the kids and we listened to Murmur and the kids, you know, they were rocking to Murmur which is such a....it's easy to forget; I mean they're obviously a great band, and there's this whole big buildup about this new album which is great; but, for me it was like also going back to how great they were as well. You know? And Murmur was such a great record, and then obviously Reckoning, and Fables.
Thom: ""Sitting Still", you were saying...
Ed: "Yeah! But; Document, the track I've chosen is Finest Worksong and it's just: they were and they are one amazing band. You know? And they, when we formed our band, R.E.M., and like The Smiths were probably like the; they were people we really looked up to. And then of course we got to meet them and go on tour with them, and that; listening to their records yesterday I suddenly remembered that, that when were told that "You've got the support slot with R.E.M."...
Thom: "It blew my mind.
Ed: "It...it...and it validated everything that we did because we were deeply insecure about what we had just releas
Ed: "The Bends. You know, we sort of still waded in the shadow of "Creep", and the band sort of took us under their wing and, and showed us: you know, you could do this thing and be dignified, and be cool. And you could ask Peter Buck, which I did....you know, ten thousand questions, trainspotter questions about "Murmur", and he was happy to answer!
Ed: "They're an amazing band. And, and I had such a great day listening to their music yesterday, I was like: "I've got to play and hear an R.E.M. track."
Mark: "And this is...this has quite a lot of weight in it!
Mark: "And, so, this is a corker, I think! This is R.E.M. and "Finest Worksong".
Mark: "Finest Worksong by R.E.M., which was a show-and-tell from Ed, from Radiohead. Ed and Thom are here. Whose idea was the whole download thing? Of "In Rainbows"...
Ed: "Our management's!
Mark: "Was it?
Mark: "Yeah? What did you think? Did you think "That's madness", or did you think "Why not?".
Thom: "Um: Well, it was the logical consequence of every record being leaked, previous; the last five records or whatever, or four records.
Thom: "Which was, you know, out of our hands and not our decision, so we wanted to use it in our favour and also, it was, it seemed to be in the spirit of the record, and the fact that we felt really confident about the record meant that we could sort of feel...not exactly reckless, but we could; the priority was just to get people to hear it! Without the usual sort of trawled-out reviews of like: "And here they are, blah blah blah, da-da-da" cut and pasted reviews talking about like... Everybody gets it the same day, no preferential treatment, and it becomes an exciting event! You know, which seemed to be a...
Mark: "Cause it came out: I was thinking; kind of like a comet coming out of nowhere, wasn't it!
Mark: "Suddenly there it was, straight away.
Thom: "Which to me, was sort of, just like a dream scenario.
Mark: "Yeah, yeah: What about the price? I mean, I think I read somewhere that the...you made an average of one pound-eleven per copy. Which is actually more per copy than you'd make if you had a conventional record deal! So do you think it worked out about right?
Thom: "How much...how much did we get for...I don't remember.
Ed: "We used to get about quids.
Mark: "You used to get about a quid
Ed: "About a quid, from EMI.
Mark: "So, one pound-eleven would be good, then!
Ed: "We were eleven (---not sure---) each!
Mark: "I mean, then, you know, obviously a lot of people were saying: "Well, what would you pay, would you pay anything,"
Mark: ""Is it morally right to download it for free?"
Mark: "If someone's a big Radiohead fan and they downloaded it for free, is that all right?
Thom: "Well, the point is, we were using it like the radio. You know. We were using it, the idea of, the piece of work gets passed around, you know, and we're encouraging people to pass it around. And, there's a downside because you could say it devalues it, but the upside is: actually, people get to pass it around! And, they all get to, you know, there's an entire sort of peer...peer-to-peer thing going on on the net, just swapping music! And, we thought that, Radiohead, for whatever reason, has always been sort of high up on that thing, you know, in terms of what people swap around. So, we just wanted to use that, because it was a network --- already there, and they were interesting in waiting to hear what the record was. So, I don't think we really saw it as in any way sort of, it wasn't really about how much we were going to get, that in a way was an afterthought. It was about "Well, let's get it out, and spread the word," and that's it. And, the sort of "pay what you like" was kind of taking the piss really.
Mark: "Yeah! Right, but have you made...you've made what, about the same, I mean as, well, you've not made radically less than other albums, based on...because if you....it's a great...
Mark: "It was a great idea, and it was done, and it was an event, and I can see all that, but I was interested in how you would percieve that event if you'd, um, taken a hundred or a fifty percent pay cut!
Ed: "Yeah... that's right...
Mark: "How would you look at it then?
Thom: "Well we wouldn't...we didn't know.
Ed: "I don't think any differently.
Thom: "We had no idea it was going...
Mark: "Yeah, but you will, at some point.
Thom: "How do you mean?
Mark: "Well you will know whether you...
Thom: "Oh yeah! Well, no, it's in, and it's fine.
Mark: "It's "fine", good, all right, yeah...
Thom: "But the comedy, the high comedy element to me was like when we went to number one in the U.S., and like a huge proportion of that was downloads! Off Itunes and stuff!
Thom: "I thought we were giving it away! And they're still downloading it!
Ed: "That was in January! Yeah....
Thom: "What a deal!!
Thom: "But you know, the other thing is that, it, you know, that that's a higher quality version of it as well, and things like that.
Ed: "And also, you realize that there's a load of people out there who don't know, that, you know, they're scared to go onto a website and download something. A lot of people, if they download something, it's off the Itunes website, that's all they'll do.
Ed: "You know? Their computer's set up to do that, they hit those buttons: bang.
Thom: "But also, we, you know, also the other side of it is we did a normal release as well!
Thom: "So everything went normal without having...
Thom: "And, some people were weirded out by that! But, like, well, if we hadn't done that, to us that's sort of like saying (affected voice) "The internet is the future"! Which is not true.
Mark: "Yeah! Right...
Thom: "I don't think...
Mark: "If you... if someone you were a real fan of, Portishead perhaps, because we're going to hear a track that you've picked, Thom, if they put out a new album download, would you be tempted to download it for nothing, see if you liked it, and then pay what you think what it was worth?
Thom: "I don't know!
Thom and Radcliffe: Laughing
Mark: "It seems to me it would be a fairly fair deal, though!
Ed: "You know....and a lot of people went, and when that, when it was announced, on the Monday or whatever, I went on some chat room somewhere in America...
Thom: "You're brave.
Ed: "And that's exactly what they were saying! If we like it, you know, we'll pay something.
Mark: "I think that's fair!
Ed: "I think that's pretty cool! Yeah!
Mark: "Yeah... it's an "honesty box".
Ed: "Yeah, exactly, an "honesty box".
Mark: "Fair enough! We'll have some Portishead, from the new record! Which I haven't heard yet... And, even as we're talking, in this dingy basement, with an old piano and what looks like Lenny Kravitz's old bedroom furniture...I still haven't heard it! So you can tell us about it, and then we'll be hearing it for the first time when we put this on the show later on!
Thom: "OK, well, the track I chose is called "The Rip", and it's track four on the album. And I just got completely obsessed by it last week! And, obviously it's a long time since they put out a record, so you kind of think, "Wow, what's it going to be like?" and it's pretty damn extraordinary. And, it's just really, really out there; it's a really out there record, and, you know, I think Adj, and Geoff, and Beth deserve to have crowns put on their head by the end of the year for just being the bravest nutters from Bristol!
Mark: "OK! So this is Portishead, and "The Rip"...
Mark: "Uh...that is Portishead and "The Rip", Thom Yorke's own copy, because it's not out yet!
Thom: "It's not out yet, and, yes it's embargoed or whatever that means...,
Mark: "Are you going to get in trouble for playing it?
Thom: "No...we called them and it's cool....because they gave us copies of it and said it was OK to have copies of it, so...
Mark: "All right.
Thom: "If there's any political shouting, well, whatever! You know.
Mark: "Yeah, OK, all right then. It's a quarter to seven in the basement of the BBC...
Mark: "And Radiohead on stage at about ten-past-nine. Congratulations on getting married...
Ed: "Thank you!!
Mark: "You were the last bachelor Ed, weren't you?
Ed: "Well, kind of, yeah!
Mark: "Yeah, I mean..
Thom: "I'm not really "married", not really, no.
Ed: "No! You're not married.
Mark: "No, no... allright. Do you think that , you know, the age you are now and where you are in your lives, I think: what now, let me get this quote right, Jonny, a quote in an interview said: "We were never teenagers," and I was thinking about that...
Thom: "Oh, for god's sake...
Ed: "Laughs loudly
Thom: "He's worse than his brother!!
Mark: "I kind of know what he means, though! I think, you know, I think I am a more convincing fifty-year-old than I ever was a twenty-one year old.
Mark: "So do you think that, kind of, this, where Radiohead are now, do you think that that kind of befits you?
Thom: "Um, hmmm.
Mark: "You're not buying it, Thom, are you?
Thom: "No. I thought I was going to be dead when I was thirty-three, so it's all a bit of a shock to me, frankly!
Mark: "Is that...right... I thought you said you were getting darker as you got older.
Thom: "Oh, yeah, it just keeps...especially at sort of four-o-clock in the morning.
Thom: "I'm particularly dark then!
Thom and Mark: Laughing
Mark: "But, I mean, does it feel like...the confidence of knowing exactly what you're doing, or is it still a sort of voyage of uncertainty every time you do something?
Ed: "It's a huge voyage of uncertainty, I think! I mean, I think that's...that's what's great about it! And, that's what's also really frustrating is that, sometimes we could do with a little more collective self-confidence.
Ed: "A lot of times...
Mark: "Even now? With the success you've had..
Ed: "Absolutely, completely. This last record, we were like... when Nigel started working with us he really...we had to go out on tour to play in front of thousands to beef up our...
Thom: "To remind us...just to remind us of who we are!
Ed: "Yeah! To remind us.
Thom: "'Cause we forget,
Ed: "We forgot!
Thom: "It takes about a week. So, after about three years...sheesh! No idea at all!
Ed: "Yeah: it's funny, and it's one of the problems with the band is that we could do with a little bit more self-confidence, in that way.
Thom: "You should ask Portishead about that, when they get in!
Ed: "Yeah! You should ask them! Yeah, exactly!
Mark: "I mean, what is it... what do you mean by the self-confidence...do you mean the collective band or with eachother, as people? ..Once you get into the room.
Thom: "Uh, I'm not quite sure, but personally speaking I'm deeply cynical about things, and I'm much happier to tear things down than to build things up, so...quite destructive,
Ed: "And, also I think, you look at the history of bands, it's that often with bands, that the way that it goes is there's a window of opportunity. You know, usually it seems to be the greatest bands usually start, you know, around their forties, or whatever, start not making such great records.
Ed: "And it's,..
Thom: "Because they're knackered!!
Ed and Radcliffe: Laughing
Ed: "And, it's fine for solo artists, look at Neil Young, you know? He's always going on it. But, bands, it's harder because in order for a band to make a record you all have to be moving in the same way, and inevitably when you've got little children and families: that's one of the things that we found on this record, some people, four people might be on board, or three, and then two aren't.
Thom: "It...it ain't a job in a sense of like you can clock in and clock out.
Thom: "That's the thing.
Mark: "Do you think it's important that you're all...I mean I know you live in London, Ed, but the rest of you are all staying in Oxford, and again, I read something about Colin, and it said "I think that sort of subconsciously, there's a feeling that if one of you moved to the Bahamas," it would I think his phrase was "Break the juju,"
Mark: "I quite like that! Do you think that there's a kind of geographic quality, that that keeps you together? You need to be relatively close, because obviously London and Oxford, is not that far, is it!
Ed: "Yeah, yeah!
Mark: "You think that that's important?
Ed: "Yeah. Totally... I think it was someone I know, Joe Moss, the manager of the Smiths and stuff, he said that all bands live within ten miles of one another otherwise it doesn't work!
Mark: "Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Ed: "And, there's a certain amount of truth in that!
Mark: "Well, Def Leppard lived on different continents...
Mark: "and look what happened there! Anyway, we're looking forward to...and, if you are arguing that there's no self-assertiveness, who has the final say?
Ed: "Oh, he does.
Ed: "Yeah, he.... You know how it goes. Lead singer, it's all right...
Thom: "says something maybe "GAVEL??" in an affected voice...