Thom Yorke's Heroes And Villains
(Presentation of the article in the NME Originals issue about Radiohead from 2003)
HE'S AN English artist who I got into when my girlfriend took me to a retrospective of his work at the Barbican. I was amazed by his work because it was all the things I'd been trying to do at college but couldn't. He's incredible because he's spent his whole life absorbing different cultures and trying to find a mysticism that isn't normally there in art; his work is full of symbolism.
He's quite old now, 80-something, and he's travelled everywhere, been influenced by everything and it was important to have a retrospective of his work like the one at the Barbican .before he dies so you could see how incredible his work is. He always talks about how he finds creating a really painful experience, how he really despises himself when he's creating and how it always takes him ages, how sometimes he won't think of anything good for six months and then it all comes pouring out; I really identify with all that.
But at the same time he says he never gets too frantic about his work, he's got this thing about conserving his energy, and he tries to absorb all that's around him and see beyond all the physical things, which is such an unfashionable thing to do nowadays. I see him as a modern-day witchdoctor.
I SUPPOSE he's an official intellectual. I can't really remember how I got into him, I think a friend just said, "I think you should read some Chomsky", as you do, and I found a book of his in a .shop. I picked it up and read it and thought it was really hard work, because a lot of what he writes is really dense, but I found this leaflet of his, which basically wraps all his ideas into a few pages, and it's just amazing. It's like reading the new 'Bible' because it explodes every idea or pre-conception you've got about politics.
I read Chomsky mostly when I was in America, which is the perfect place to read it because a lot of it deals with American politics and makes you realise just how powerful America really is - how since the Second World War the States have really ruled the world, and how the Cold War was bullshit. He and his wife have set up this office that monitors all the press, all the media, to try and dissect what is really going on in the world.
He makes his money mostly from giving lectures, I presume, and does the monitoring basically because he feels it needs to be done, which is very brave and admirable.
He's got a huge following in America now, people with Chomsky patches on their jackets and stuff, intellectual groupies. I think he's wonderful because he made me interested in stuff that could've just passed me by.
HARRISON IS an English poet who's best known for his poem 'V', which is about a skinhead daubing graffiti over his parents' grave. I'd run out of books to do at college and someone said, "Read V, it's easy and very quick," and I ended up writing my best piece because it's such a straightforward and wonderful book, I love the way he's dealing with violence and futility, the fact that he feels so powerless against those forces. There's this really beautiful bit in it where he talks about old age and how when his mum passed away the only person his father would talk to was the checkout girl at the supermarket when he went to get his baked beans. That's an amazing image.
I BOUGHT the 'Boy Child' compilation a couple of years ago. When we're on tour I put it on the CD Walkman and it's like I'm standing next to him in a recording session and the orchestra is surrounding us. It's beautiful. I really identify with him and the way the lyrics make you laugh, but when you listen to him like that you can tell he really meant them, that's what so upsetting about them, but also so wonderful. He was so at odds with the whole 'mechanism of pop but at the same time made what I consider to be such great pop music.
THE REASON I picked him is because I really identify with selling my soul and little devils running around and naked women and power, you know. I now feel qualified to talk about selling my soul. I'm sure I've signed my name in blood somewhere...
MY OLD HEADMASTER
I REALLY grew up with a hatred for him because he was one f—ed-up guy. Me was a power-crazy, lunatic, evil, petty little man with ridiculous sideburns who used to flick his hair across his head to hide the bald patch. One of those guys. He banned all electric music from the school because I here was this punk school band that did a gig that got a bit out of hand, so he banned all pop music. I suppose I was in trouble quite a lot for four years or so but then 1 became a good boy and started working, but I didn't mind getting told off because I probably deserved it, it was when he banned music that I really knew I hated him.
Just after I left, the head got the idea of becoming a bishop so he started walking around in bishop's clothing. And he started preaching in the school assembly, even though he wasn't ordained or anything, and he started forcing people to go to chapel. This was the guy that I focused most of my teenage hatred on.
I still hate him and if I see or hear of him I get this deep sinking feeling. Can't say which school, though, because he might sue me. That sort of bloke, a total bloody nut.
MY OLD BOSS
HE WAS the guy I worked for when I left school and before I went to college, I used to sell suits for him. He was the floor manager of our department, which was menswear. I couldn't afford any of the suits that I was meant to be selling, so I used to turn up in an Oxfam suit - which was quite smart - but I still had long blond hair, and he took an instant dislike to me. He used to say, "Why aren't you selling any of your suits?" and I'd say, "Because they're crap and nobody wants to buy them", which didn't go down well. He's one of those blokes who'd drive into work, kill a cyclist and not stop.
One day he took me into his office and accused me of stealing the suits, so I handed my notice in, which was quite a good moment, but I wish I'd told his boss to f— off, because he was even worse — pure scum. He had this twisted little mouth and you could tell he was desperate to make everyone's life hell because his was. Prick.
I DON'T know that much about him but I'm from the school of thought that doesn't actually believe he's dead, it's just an insurance scam or something. He owned the biggest council house in Britain, which is on this hill in Oxford, but he was such a shit that he wouldn't give it up, even though the Poly really needed it because it didn't have nearly enough residential space. I just hated that bloody-minded, selfish greed, I don't know anything about football but I'm willing to believe he f—ed up Oxford United.
Thom was talking to Ted Kessler