Main Index >> Media Index >> The King of Limbs Media | 2009 Interviews NME
This week: Ed O'Brien, Radiohead

NME: Last week Nicky Wire claimed you didn’t care about illegal downloading when you sold millions. Fair point?
Ed O’Brien: “That’s a load of old bollocks. If it was just about self-interest I’d be going: ‘Fuck the file-sharers, because we want to sell more copies of ‘In Rainbows’. This [leading artists’ rights group Featured Artists Coalition] is not about self-interest at all. For me, this all started about four years ago. I heard an interview with Quincy Jones, he was asked about the ‘phenomenon’ of file-sharing. Quincy said, ‘The genie is out of the bottle – there’s a whole generation out there who don’t pay for music. Whatever you think about it, whatever your judgement is, is not the issue. It’s there, it’s a fact, deal with it. It’s all about forward thinking. Is the pint half-full or half-empty? In my mind the pint is half-full. That’s where I come from, and Nicky Wire has got it completely wrong. That’s just not the issue.”

What do you make of Lord Mandelson’s plan to potentially cut off file-sharers’ internet connections?
“It’s just pathetic, and we all know it’s completely unrealistic. And it’s not enforceable. I know that there’s a Swiss ISP that you can pay £3 a month to, and it makes all your traffic undetectable. And this is what will happen.”

The government is currently planning to cut off connections if illegal downloading doesn’t drop by 70 percent by April 2011. Any chance Mandelson will get that drop?
“No – how can he? You know that, I know that, the person on the street knows that. Anyone who knows anything about the internet knows that it’s not going to happen. It [the legislation] basically appeases the record industry. It’s all politics, it’s all fucking politics.”

You want the same ‘three strikes’ rule and to reduce the internet speed of file-sharers. Pretty similar to Mandy’s plan...
“You’re right, it’s not a million miles away. We all have different views, but it’s a compromise that we [the FAC] felt comfortable with. I mean, the key difference is the suspension of the account [rather than reducing speed] and we felt very strongly that that’s not realistic. I think Mandelson has good intentions. Part of it has to be applauded. It’s like everything in life – it’s not black and white. There’s good stuff in it. He’s talking about it being the record company’s responsibility to license more tracks.”

With other FAC musicians you’ve started holding seminar-type events across the country for young bands. What’s this, ‘An Audience With Ed’?
“We’ve been particularly bad in this country, we’re sort of... a little bit bitchy, a little bit one-eye-over-the-shoulder. When Radiohead were a band in Oxford when we started, we were doing our own thing and it was great but we were thinking, ‘How do we get there? How do we make a record? How do we do all of that? Should we move to London?’ We were lucky because Ride blew the doors wide open to everyone and suddenly people came to Oxford. lt was still pretty difficult, although we had a lot of luck. I think the reason I’m doing this now is because I’m a little bit older and feel like I want to pass some of this stuff on.”

Any time for Radiohead in between fighting the system?
“Don’t get me wrong, the band is always number one. Thom was in LA doing his solo stuff, that gave me a bit of time to do my own thing, do more stuff for the FAC and this file-sharing thing. But it’s a very separate thing from Radiohead – cross-collateral invasion of these things can be dodgy.”

So it’s full steam ahead with new material, then?
“Ohhhh yeah! We start rehearsals tomorrow. It’s early, early days – all will be revealed when we’re further down the line and we’ve got our chops up. I’m not going to say anything more than that.”