"There was a really cool momentum"
Thom Yorke speaks to Ben Thompson
Did the US live shows you did for The Eraser in 2009/10 lead to Atoms For Peace?
Originally this was all just for kicks, really. It wasn't supposed to be any major commitment. We only did a couple of shows to begin with - just to see how it felt - but then we did a few more dates across the US and it was obvious that we needed more material because the shows were pretty short. At the end of that it made sense to go straight into the studio and carry on for a couple ofdays just to see what we could get out of it: there was a really cool momentum and a lot of excitement. We wanted to put down this intangible thing that was happening when we played, but initially it was just a free-form thing, sparked off by small beat ideas on my laptop - mostly just rhythms. Even when we first got together in the rehearsal space in Laurel Canyon everyone was buzzing, and I found myself hoping It could be an ongoing thing. Turned out everyone did.
Did the The Eraser and Radiohead's The King Of Limbs remix projects have any Impact on this album?
The remixing of the songs from Eraser was fascinating for me - just to hear my voice thrown into other places at the hands of other younger artists I admired and was influenced by. So perhaps that got me thinking, but I don't think it influenced the Atoms record much, other than to encourage me to step further away from a "these are the chords, this is the song, that's it" mentality. But really it had its own path and momentum. Nigel and I are experimenting now with remixing on the fly as a kind of performance thing - collaging musical ideas and taking them out of context. I'm finding that very exciting. It's something I've watched Flying Lotus and Four Tet do so well, among others.
There are some deliciously wobbly keyboard sounds.
Ha ha! Well, I can't help reaching for them random LFOs [Low Frequency Oscillators]. There was one very queasy '70s Korg keyboard I bought a few years ago that ended up all over the place. I think it may have been broken. Out of tune is much sexier than in tune.”
This ensemble balances people who have worked with Beck, and members of Red Hot Chili Peppers - did you consider yourself the fulcrum?
Well, it's not a normal band set-up, because the programming and laptop mentality plays an absolutely central role and informs what we play. It's a strange Heath Robinson creation and Nigel and I are not sure how it operates. And it's no longer a machine because now it's got these amazing humans in who can move as fast as it, and throw more ideas back without blinking. So I guess l just sit and respond to a curious machine with a notebook and keyboard. [Maybe] I'm an operator?
Would it be fair to see Amok as a more abstract record than The Eraser but perhaps more tightly targeted musically?
I don't know if Eraser was that specific. One song was, but to me in an abstracted way. But I have noticed when I was looking I back at the words in the artwork to Amok how there is a weird detachment. I think it is something I see around me a lot right now. There is a lot of fear and panic out there and not much sense ofa future, and these are not things easily expressed in lyrics. Perhaps it is to do with that. Or perhaps it is a response to the playfulness in the music - ie the exact opposite.