Radiohead, hoping to repeat the Top 40 success of ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ with their new 45 ‘Pop Is Dead’, are out on the road prior to returning to the studio to record their second album. Oxtord’s indie guitar popsters play Leicester University (May 6), Leeds University (7), Manchester University (8), Newcastle Riverside (9) and Bristol University (10).
OXFORD'S finest guitar quintet, Radiohead, never find themselves in a quandary when it comes to choosing a recording studio - their manager owns one. Courtyard Studios (near Oxford) may only cost roughly £100 a day , but it didn’t stop the likes of Slowdive from recording their debut album there.
"It's a good studio, even though there's minimal outboard in it," says Thom Yorke. "We recorded ’Prove Yourself’ and a couple of tracks tor the album there, and we were really pleased with the results. Before that, we used to go around doing demos for between £200-400 quid a go, and that can be a severe dent in your pocket. If you're a live band, it isn't that cheap. If you're using sequencers, you can programme it all beforehand, and all you need is a bloody DAT machine, but with a rock band, you need a big space to do it in, and you need all the right mikes and so on.
"You can actually record anywhere, but it's mixing that is the important thing. You should mix quietly - people who mix their tracks at ear-splitting volume really don't have a clue. We go through an hour mixing quietly, take a break, then come back to it and listen to it really f***ing loud, then turn it back down again." In keeping with their spirit-of-'79 sound, Radiohead aren't particularly fond of new-tangled mixing desks, either.
"I pathologically hate SSL desks because they're so frightening, it's like operating a f***ing spaceship,” Thom laughs. “The thing with the modern SSL desks with the auto-faders is it gets to the point where you don't give a shit what the mix sounds like so long as you can watch the faders move up and down - it's pathetic. When we were using SSL, we were trying to increase the dynamics of the album, so we spent two or three days moving everything up and down in the mix. The natural dynamics of us playing the songs were lost because they were being artificially moved about. In the end, we went back to the monitor mixes that we took straight off when we just recorded it - and they sounded great, so we used those for reference.
"I like to work with a desk where, even though I'm not personally engineering, I know what every knob is doing. We used a Trident, which is like an old Seventies desk, when we were mixing the album, and I liked that because it was so simple - even I understood what was going on, and I'm not an engineer."
Thom admits that the sound of “Pablo Honey” is very much the “dry” sound which has been made fashionable by everyone from Suede to PJ Harvey, but doesn't reckon this is necessarily a direct result of budget recording.
"There's really two sides to this," he says. "The best example of last year would be the Nirvana album, which was recorded once and then they scrapped it, went into another studio, spent f***ing fortune on it and it sounded brilliant. This 'dry' thing is very deceptive because people can spend days getting it - it's not just all about being in a cheap studio with no effects. Anyway, I think by the middle of this year you’ll find that the dry thing will have passed, and people will be getting back into effects - cheap ones probably.