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The Dour & The Glory
You join us in Belgium where RADIOHEAD are currently entertaining a rather large festival crowd. So let’s slip away with frontman THOM YORKE as he gives the first interview proper since the release of ‘OK Computer’. Has universal critical acclaim made him any happier? Are Radiohead the new Beatles? And, er, does he know any good jokes?
by Stephen Dalton / Pictures: Steve Double

BELGIUM, ARSEHOLE of the universe. No, alright, not entirely fair. But spend just a day in the primeval slime of Torhout rock festival watching 30,000 inbred Europissheads chucking sodden mudcakes at each other and your conclusions about this charmless little nation might be equally bleak. Torhout makes Donington look like Glyndebourne. This is Hell on Earth and, with Jamiroquai on the bill, the Devil has dearly flogged his franchise on all the best tunes.
Fortunately, Radiohead are here to calm the savage swine with songs from their celestial, mesmerizing, liquid-crystal masterpiece of an LP, ‘OK Computer’. Pearls before swine, perhaps, but pearls nonetheless.
Radiohead take the stage to ‘Fitter Happier’, that chilling robo-hymn to the sedated ideal consumer with its brutal pay-off line: “A pig in a cage on antibiotics”. Ouch. Then ‘Lucky’ wafts in from nowhere, spooked and magnificent. And guess what? The subhumans stop flinging mud and file forward, rapt and awestruck. Neo-classical postrock, melancholy as an antidote to war, anyone?
By the time ‘Airbag’ begins its truculent squalling, the mud-caked hordes are swaying in unison, drunkenly embracing and simulating mass anal sex with each other. No, really. This is Belgium, remember. ‘The Bends’ sends everyone air-guitar mental, then ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ is a woozy narcotic glide.
But during his climactic ascent through the full-throttle prog-punk behemoth of ‘Paranoid Android’, Thom Yorke snaps. His monitors are fucked, he’s being yanked offstage two songs early and there’s an army of grinning liggers with fake plastic smiles cramming the pit below him. Bloodsucking industry androids. Bottom-feeding media leeches. Vox photographers. In other words, the scum of the earth.
His vision clouds over with electric rage. All the bile and beauty and rancid majesty of these songs brim over and pour out of him in one bitter torrent. The vomit, the vomit. He makes a corrosively sarcastic speech about “special people” which nobody understands, then exits the stage. The show’s over and the man everyone’s calling the new Freddie Mercury is in one Wagnerian sturm und drang of a bad mood. Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening,
That’s the thing about Radiohead: they’re never boring. Sombre, yes. Serious, definitely. But always prepared to rage against the obscene until their dying breath, Which could be any minute now, judging by how supremely pissed off the mud people have become since twigging that they’re not getting an encore.
Hard to believe, but Torhout just turned several notches uglier than it was already. Time for a quick getaway.

BACK TO the band’s hotel, a grand neo-classical palace perched on the Ostend seafront, 15 miles from the festival. Very refined, very civilised, very Radiohead. Everyone returns except Thom, who decides to hang on in Torhout to let off steam. Being terrifically English and middle-class, nobody mentions the singer’s ballistic rage, but there’s a palpable tension in the air reinforced by his ominous absence.
Under the circumstances, memories of Radiohead’s troubled Glastonbury headlining slot, their first British show for 18 months, are inevitably to the fore,
“It’s very strange having an hour-and-a-half of music to concentrate on for four months prior to playing a concert, then finally doing it,” muses willowy guitarist Jonny Greenwood, the bastard offspring of Nastassja Kinski and Alex Blur, “It was so screwed up and tense and exciting all at the same time, it just went by in a haze.”
But Jonny’s bass-twanging older brother, Colin, is having more traumatic, Vietnam-style flashbacks to Glasto.
“The first four numbers were brilliant. Then Thom’s monitors went, mine went, the lights went down, then the spotlights on the floor burned Thom’s eyes out so he couldn’t see anyone or hear anything. He started to make mistakes and mis-cues and nearly walked offstage, but Jonny and Ed basically managed to talk him out of it... he didn’t have any monitors for the encores, which is amazing. So it’s really very mixed feelings. But if we’d done that a year ago, we would have definitely left the stage – and our career – in ruins. Ha ha!”
OK, Colin, here’s a test. Some people still perceive Radiohead as sullen emperors of new grave gloom. Prove them wrong: tell us a joke.
“Right. Adam’s in the Garden Of Eden, and God tells him: ‘Adam, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is, I’m going to give you two beautiful organs: a brain, which means you can think of beautiful concepts, communicate with other people and appreciate nature. And I’m also giving you a dick, so you can appreciate the most pleasurable physical sensations, have sex and propagate,’ And Adam says: ‘That sounds great, what’s the bad news?’ And God says: ‘I’m only going to give you enough blood to use one at a time!’ Ha ha ha!!...
“That’s one for the ladies, really.”

SO, RADIOHEAD, how does it feel to have made The Most Important Album In The History Of Rock Ever? Colin grimaces.
“I felt a bit nauseous after getting through all the reviews. I just had to stop,” he frowns modestly. “But what I think is cool is that people are really passionate about our stuff, and then they take it home with them and… I’m making it sound like pornography, aren’t I? It sounds like wanking! Oh my God, I’m talking nonsense… erm, there’s an intimacy there, does that make sense?”
Smooth-talking Ed O’Brien, the towering second guitarist with the Hugh Grant looks, chips in with his own reaction to the reviews.
“I just found it terrifying and really bizarre,” he gushes incredulously. “I don’t think we quite realised the expectation, but for me it’s been very cut and dried. People have either really got it and made it really personal, or they haven’t got it at all. There’s been no middle ground. And the people who have, I find terrifying because they’ve been so intense about it – much more so than about ‘The Bends’. People have said that ‘The Bends’ is so much more accessible than ‘OK Computer’, but that’s not been the case. It was only last year that people got ‘The Bends’; it took a while for it to sink in, whereas this has been almost instant.”
Shiny-domed Bond-villain drummer Phil Selway agrees. “People actually wanted this album from us, whereas people couldn’t have cared less when we made ‘The Bends’,” he mooches gloomily.
Cheer up, Phil. Tell us a joke. “There’s a bird on a perch. He says: ‘Something smells fishy around here…’”
And yet ‘OK Computer’ is hardly Radiohead’s ‘The Joshua Tree’, which everyone was expecting – especially the band’s American record company, now reportedly in a state of hair-pulling shock: ‘The Bends’, which has sold more than two million copies, was a slowburner grounded in classic rock. Bu its sequel is a much more ambitious beast which refuses to sacrifice complexity to bombast or intelligence to bland universality, Radiohead are not Bush.
Indeed, in many ways ‘OK Computer’ is one of the most challenging mainstream albums ever made – but commercially, it could be interpreted as a Blur-style climb down from the big prize.
“Well, when we toured with REM, we saw you didn’t have to go for the big prize,” argues Colin. “It’s nice if you have a big single, but I can’t think that when they wrote ‘Losing My Religion’ they knew it was going to be the most popular thing in the southern Mediterranean since the Second World War – which that single was. But no, there’s definitely no inverted commercial snobbery.”
Is ‘OK Computer’ about technology gone wrong, consumerism running riot or pre-millennial paranoia? What does Radiohead’s chief muso Jonny make of the record’s themes?
“It’s a mess really. One of the things we did was trying to make Thom’s voice sound different for every song, because he was getting sick of the fact that he could sing about garden furniture and it would still sound very passionate. But to me the album’s more about speed and transport rather than the future and technology. The title’s not meant to summarise anything and the songs are very transparent, it’s very clear what they’re about to me.”
Ed isn’t quite so clear. For him, ‘OK Computer’ is the sound of confusion.
“We’ve never had a game plan, which can be completely frustrating or really brilliant and creative. We haven’t learnt that discipline, I really hope we can do a straight-ahead album sometime, with everyone playing at the same time. We haven’t done that for so long.”
Dry those wistful tears, young Edward, and tell us a joke.
“There’s a bloke at home, working in the kitchen. Knock at the back door, He opens the door and looks down and sees this little snail, who says: ‘Can I have a glass of milk?’ The bloke says: ‘Fuck off’ and boots him down the end of the garden, Anyway, three weeks later the bloke’s back in the kitchen, hears a knock at the door, opens it and looks down and the snail’s there. And the snail goes: ‘Oi! What did you do that for?’…
“Alright, it’s bollocks, I know.”

TERRIBLE JOKES aside, ‘OK Computer’ sounds incredibly desolate in parts. It has been taken as a funereally sombre political statement, a savage panorama of a fucked-up world, a blast of cold fury towards technology and even a requiem for mankind. Colin be begs to differ.
“A lot of female friends find the album really romantic,” he protests. “In some of these European shows we’ve been doing, 60 per cent of the audience have been women.”
Jonny cracks a toothsome, lusty smile. “It’s always Ladies’ Night with Radiohead!”
‘Which is amazing,” quips Colin, “considering our conspicuous failure to deal with groupies or the whole sex side of things.”
Oh, humbug. You must come into contact with Radiohead groupies.
“Only by letter,” sniffs Jonny.
“Jonny once had a naked woman hammering on his hotel room at the Hyatt Hotel in Los Angeles, wanting to have her wicked way with him!” gurgles Colin, “But he was actually next door – with someone else.”
Phew! And you thought it was all serious novels and bridge tournaments on Radiohead tours. And, ahem, you were right.
“We haven’t reaped the fringe benefits of fame,” confirms Colin sadly. “But I can’t see the attraction of having a one-night stand when you have to get back on the tour bus with 12 blokes at two o’clock in the morning.”
One of the most impressive aspects of ‘OK Computer’ is that it sounds utterly modem without taking the obvious, creatively bankrupt route of grafting on last month’s cool dancefloor trend. Radiohead are big fans of DJ Shadow and Massive Attack, and plan to work with both: Thom is guesting on Shadow’s next album project while Massive look set to remix the whole of ‘OK Computer’, schedules permitting. But it is these artists’ mastery of mood and sound which the Oxford quintet crave, not their hipster credibility.
After all, confesses Colin, they’ve never been very good at copying other people’s ideas wholesale.
“What we’ve always done is aim ourselves at this trajectory towards other people’s music that we’ve fallen in love with,” he nods. “It’s like a lover’s flattery, we try to emulate these people and always fall short. We aim for the stars – and we hit just north of Oxford, ha ha! Like on ‘Exit Music’ we tried to do a Portishead thing at the end, but it’s all really stilted and leaden and mechanical – and it’s brilliant! Perfect for that bit of the song.”
Jonny agrees. “‘Airbag’ is a classic example of Colin and Phil saying: ‘Let’s make it sound like DJ Shadow’. But unfortunately or fortunately – it doesn’t, because we missed again. It’s that thing of lumbering around in the dark, but still being excited by what we do. We’re discovering these things for the first time rather than getting the pro in to show us how to do it.”
Highly commendable. Now tell us a joke, Jonny.
“A termite goes into a pub and says ‘Is the bar tender here...?’”
Nice one.

DRINKS ARE drunk, pisspoor jokes exchanged and most of Radiohead have scuttled off in search of late-night food when Thom finally arrives back from the festival. The tour bus, it transpires, got stuck in a mudslide and had to be yanked out by tractor. There’s probably a metaphor for the singer’s emotional state in there somewhere, but let’s leave that to any qualified psychoanalysts reading.
Thom is hardly in the best of spirits, but he’s still on for the interview, apparently keen to “get his head around” the post-album hysteria. He darts around the cavernous hotel foyer, seeking moral support, but his fellow ‘Heads have left the building. Eerie silence prevails. Thom seems edgy, vuInerable, in search of protection. This is, after all, the man who has been running shy of the British music press since ‘OK Computer’ was released.
Grudgingly, he grabs a beer from the tour bus and suggests heading for the beach. There’s a sense of grim duty when we sit down in the moonlit sand for Thom’s first substantial solo interview in two years. With softly lapping waves as a backdrop, there’s a charged, electric hush in the air. It’s close to midnight.
“I wish there was someone else with me...” he sighs wistfully.
For fuck’s sake, Thom, you’ve just released one of the most universally acclaimed albums of last two decades. Surely that feels good?
“Yeah,” he nods disconsolately. “I just think now, give it six months…”
What, and everyone will hate it?
“Yeah, whatever. And if they do, fair enough.”
That isn’t going to happen, of course, but there’s no getting through to a paranoid android like Thom Yorke. Speaking of which, what were all those Thom-free Radiohead features and cancelled interviews about?
“I just wasn’t playing according to the rules,” he shrugs. “I chose to do the things that I felt comfortable doing. Only because I’ve felt uncomfortable in the past and it was a way of keeping it together. Making the transition from being at home for a year-and-a-half to then being this thing on the other side of the camera is just a bit odd. It’s quite an intense environment, the British press, and I already had enough to deal with. But I wasn’t trying to pick a fight with anyone, because what would be the point – other than revenge?”
Exactly. Maybe you were still smarting from being critically mauled in your ‘Pablo Honey’ period?
“Yeah, but we totally deserved all that, we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing. Most bands shouldn’t be judged on their first album.”
What about those reviewers who presumed that line in ‘Paranoid Android’ was addressed to them: “And your opinion which is of no consequence at all…”?
Thom laughs. “It was about the people I was at the party with, not me writing about the press! In their fucking dreams...!”

WE DELVE a little further into Thom’s persecution complex, but basically it boils down to this: he’s self-conscious about his appearance in videos and photos, wary of being cast as some all-knowing expert on emotional trauma, and tired of his personality being stereotyped as the self-loathing misfit who wrote ‘Creep’.
“People have jumped on certain things and that’s fine,” he sneers, “because everyone has their ten-second soundbite and everything is always answerable to that, for ever more amen. I was really happy when critics wrote about things other than the whole ‘Creep’ thing. That’s entirely my fault, but it’s pretty boring.”
That must have all changed now anyway. Doesn’t huge critical and commercial success make it slightly easier to, ahem, like yourself?
“Probably. I can’t remember. Self-loathing’s gone out of fashion, you see, and I’m desperately trying to keep up. It was all lies, all made up, I read Generation X and thought: ‘I’ve got this sussed,’ I’ve had to give up on it now, though.”
Withering sarcasm. Cheers. In other words: layoff the personal questions. But for all his spiky veneer, Thom actually seems to be quite a smooth media operator these days. Like, isn’t it striking that Radiohead have enjoyed similar levels of success to Blur, Pulp and Oasis and yet have managed to avoid the same kind of tabloid intrusion?
‘That is my worst nightmare,” nods Thom. “I think that would drive me to stop. But yeah, I don’t get it either. I mean, it was amazing when we were asked to do Glastonbury, but I still didn’t get it. But we did it and everyone came. Don’t ask me, man. I’m as confused as you are.”
It’s really very simple, Thom. Lots of people like your music.
“Yeah, but the bit I don’t get is: what should I do, how should I react, heh heh! There’s no way to react. It’s really weird.”
What have you learned about dealing with fame from superstar mates like Michael Stipe and Bono?
“You learn it’s possible to do more than two albums, and you learn to like the idea of sticking around,” Thom muses. “Just learning to forget how you did something and looking back a few years later and saying: ‘That’s great,’ and still working and carrying on and not having a problem with it and not trying to compete with yourself. It’s a cool thing, it really helps your music, just learning to not have to fight and argue with yourself all the time.”
Maybe you’re in the wrong job, Thom.
“Oh yeah. It certainly feels like that when I watch myself on video.”
Today’s live show didn’t look like much fun either. You seemed mightily pissed off up there.
“Well, all the favourite people I’ve ever seen, like Patti Smith, if she’s not into it she just stops. That’s the only way to deal with it; you either make all the correct movements and dress in the correct manner, or you go the other way. So if it isn’t right I stand there and look like it isn’t right.”
Have you never done the ‘Hello Belgium – you look beautiful!’ thing?
“I did for a while, I went through a phase of trying to talk to audiences.”
Was that in the Hair Extension Period?
“Oh no, it was after that. No, I used to swear at audiences when I had the hair extension, ha ha!”
And now you just throw tantrums onstage.
“Yeah! They’re great! Screaming and spitting... but you learn to realise it isn’t that important, it isn’t life or death. Because if you don’t realise that, you become unbearable and everything falls apart. It basically all boils down to this: Do you get your song on Radio 1? Are you wearing the right shirt? And try not to fuck people off – but I’m not very good at that.”
Hmmm. This cynicism is a bit rich. After all, Radiohead have never had the right haircuts or frequented the cool clubs, but they are nevertheless one of Britain’s biggest bands, both critically and commercially. Despite Thom’s outsider pose, he is living proof that awkward bastards can have success on their own terms.
“Erm, well, we’re lucky then,” he coughs.
Luck has very little to do with it, Thom.

WHICH BRINGS us to ‘OK Computer’. Possibly the most acclaimed album ever, with even its ‘difficult’ six-and-a-half minute first single ‘Paranoid Android’ rocketing to Number Three. How has this affected Thom?
“You can respond in two ways,” he frowns. “You can either maintain your Richard III pose, heh heh, or you can get on a surfboard and go with it...”
But you’re doing both: you’re being Richard III on a surfboard.
“Yeah, and I’m tied to the surfboard in case I lose it, heh heh... No, we’re just trying to ride the wave. The trouble with me is, I worry too much. I worry to kill myself. I watched that South Bank Show interview with the piano player from Shine, David Helfgott, and he said: ‘Oh worry no, don’t worry, no no, don’t worry, worry no, don’t worry, worry’s a killer, worry’s a killer: And I just wrote that in my notebook. Filled up a whole page with it, heh heh!”
You’re not quite that unhinged yet, Thom.
“No, but it would be nice to be more physical, like he is, because I think it takes a lot of guts to be that physical. I have this thing sometimes when a show’s really good, I can’t say anything to anyone but I just go up and touch everybody. And if I’d seen myself ten years ago doing that I would have just thrown beer at me – so I think there’s some progression there, heh heh heh!”
Around the time of the making of ‘OK Computer’, Thom was reading fierce anti-capitalist tracts like Eric Hobsbawn’s Age Of Extremes and Will Hutton’s The Stale We’re In. One interesting contradiction about the album is it seems to be a commercial product bristling with corrosive contempt for commercialism,
“It was about impotence, basically, about that feeling you have when you put down a book or see a television programme that makes you really upset and violent, and there’s no way of expressing that violence, that need to change things. But it’s not the fucking Jam, is it, let’s face it?”
No, it’s much more sophisticated than that. It’s political in that it recognises that puny little pop groups are powerless against the crushing omnipotence of consumerism. That’s what unites Radiohead with the Manics – plus both bands have never tried to disguise their intelligence. Almost uniquely in British rock history, Radiohead don’t seem ashamed of their private education.
“Yeah, but we are ashamed,” sighs Thom. “Like, why should we get the right... but then again, that education had its downside. The ability to talk to other human beings became a problem for several years. We were just pricks after school: like: ‘Oh fuck, it’s a girl!’”
At least you never played the fake-thicko card like some of your Britpop peers.
“That’s because we saw our contemporaries doing it and just thought: This is very weird, why are you doing this?’ And we all knew each other for so long beforehand that if anybody started doing it the others would just treat them like they were an idiot.”
Thom claims that ‘The Bends’ sounds embarrassingly personal to him, and that ‘OK Computer’ was intended to sound more objective and happy. Happy?
“Yeah, I think it is actually. I think ‘Airbag’ is joyful – in a sick sort of way. And ‘Paranoid Android’ is really joyful.”
Erm, sorry, but the whole album sounds like an epic tragedy.
“Not at all,” protests Thom. “It shocks me when people say that...”
Come off it, ‘Exit Music’ is probably the most heart-crushing weepie ever recorded.
“But that was written for Romeo & Juliet! How could it sound any different, knowing the ending of that story?”
Go on then, Thom. Tell us a joke.
“Oh... ahhh… I don’t really know any. Alright then, erm, there’s this guy doing the housework and he hears this little tap at the back door, so he opens it up and sees a snail... someone else has probably told you this already, haven’t they…?

A BRISK midnight breeze whips off the North Sea and Thom shivers inside his battered leather jacket. Time to call it a night, but at least we know a bit more about Radiohead now.
We know they are a sensitive, disarmingly modest bunch who didn’t realise they had made a landmark album until the world fell at their feet in worship. We know their singer is a boiling mass of contradictions who identifies with emotional cripples like David Helfgott, but is probably more akin to a British Michael Stipe. Let’s just hope he doesn’t turn out equally pompous and precious.
Oh, and we also know that Radiohead can’t tell a joke to save their lives.
A few final questions, then. There’s a touching little sign-off note inside the sleeve of ‘OK Computer which simply says: ‘We hope you are OK. Thankyou for listening’. Is this Thom’s trademark sarcasm or is he being sincere?
“Absolutely!” he grins. “It was the very last thing I did and I was really, really, really drunk. I’d done all the artwork and we were just sitting there having a laugh. I typed that and it looked excellent, like an e-mail or something. It was just like: ‘Bye! Thanks then!’ It was what you say when you’ve rung up someone who you haven’t seen for a while.”
It’s as uncomplicated as that? You feel genuine warmth towards your fans?
“Yeah, well, they give us plenty of it. It blows my head off. How could you treat it any other way without becoming a fucking gargoyle?”
Radiohead will be touring the world for most of this year, but in between Thom will be working on DJ Shadow’s latest album project. What’s the plan?
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, there’s absolutely no plan. We’re gonna turn up on the day and sit in a very large room in this cinematic studio with big screens behind us. He’s going to set up his decks and his mixer and sampler and I’m going to set up a microphone in the middle of this huge empty room, heh heh! We’re just gonna sit around and confuse each other.”
Meanwhile, writing has already commenced for the fourth Radiohead album. It should arrive just before the new millennium, which will make all those ‘millennial rock’ quotes about ‘OK Computer’ look pretty bloody daft. So what will it sound like, Thom?
“It will sound like it was done a bit quicker, heh heh! I think it will be more direct. And obviously it will be happier, fitter, leaner, and generally look like it’s just stepped out of a salon, heh heh!”
And with that, the new Freddie Mercury stumbles back towards the vast creeping shadows of the hotel, his frazzled ego trailing two or three steps behind. Out there on the moonlit waves, the ghostly figure of Richard III on a surfboard is just about visible.
We hope you are OK. Thankyou for reading.

Radiohead respond to TEN critical quotes, positive and negative, about ‘OK Computer’.

Jonny: “Chronologically inaccurate. Anyway, it’s impossible to predict the future. I mean, there must have been a time in the ‘80s when Visage looked like they were the future of music and everyone was going to sound like that.”
Colin: “We fade to new grave!”
Phil: “All this ‘pre-millennial rock’ is just becoming so hackneyed. What are people going to talk about over the next two years?”
Thom: “The millennium has got a lot to do with it. Nowhere is it mentioned on the album because it’s unnecessary to mention it, but it affects everything everybody does at the moment. I know it’s just a number, but it does have significance to me. Shame Tony Blair put the Millennium Project back on. Whose pocket is he in?”

Phil: “…for this week.”
Thom: “Not true. We steal from everybody.”
Ed: “If we seriously thought that, we’d split up because then you’ve achieved something, and it would only be destined to get disappointing afterwards. It’s lovely when someone says that, but it doesn’t register.”
Jonny: “We’re just copying lots of records - and getting them wrong. The only skill we demonstrate is we recognise these accidents as being good when they are good.”
Colin: “I’d like it if it was ‘the world’s most interesting regurgitators of old albums’…”

Jonny: “Which Beatle?”
Thom: “Yeah, right. The next time we get of a plane in New York there’s gonna be all these screaming fans that our manager organised.”
Ed: “It’s such a hideous embarrassment, the Beatles comparisons. We’re all huge Beatles fans, they were great innovators – and they were good at throwaway things, and we haven’t been able to do that yet. They could release a record a year.”
Colin: “One of the ideas behind ‘Paranoid Android’ was trying to do a combination of DJ Shadow and The Beatles.”

Ed: “That’s fucking top! I was a huge Smiths fan. When you’re 16 and 17 and you like Morrissey’s lyrics, it was like they were written for us.”
Colin: “We always thought we were a pop band, what’s all this rock business?”
Thom: “We’re not a fucking rock band. We use guitars because we don’t know how to play keyboards. And The Smiths weren’t a rock, band, they were a folk band!”

Thom: “Yes please! I’d love that! Wow! Great! I can’t wait to do ‘Another One Bites The Dust’!”
Phil: “That’s inevitable, if you put out a six-and-a-half minute song that goes through all those phases. Queen is another group we’ve all admired. If you take Freddie Mercury’s voice, we have a similar thing with Thom, that unique quality.”
Colin: “Roger Taylor came to see us play in Southampton once. We were all really tired and we felt guilty because we hardly talked to him.”
Jonny: “I had to write essays about Queen for my music exams when I was 14, which put me off a bit. It was terrible: Queen, Genesis and Paul Simon. That was all you were allowed to like:’

Thom: “Wow! No, but Jeff Buckley gave me confidence to sing in falsetto. And the Cocteaus are cool.”
Colin: “When we were recording ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, we went to see Jeff Buckley play at The Garage. He just had a Telecaster and a pint of Guinness and it was just fucking amazing. Then we went back to the studio and tried an acoustic version of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’. Thom sat down and played it in three takes, then burst into tears afterwards. And that’s what we used for the record.”
Ed: “I was a huge Cocteaus fan. What Robin Guthrie does on guitar is amazing. They are an influence, but there’s no point directly ripping something off.”
Jonny: “You can’t be in charge of what influences you, can you? It can be one live concert three years ago. But I’m excited by that comment, the idea we can do something even approaching that.”
Colin: “But it would be more accurate to call it a rip-off of Boghandle and Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts.”

Phil: “Well, it hasn’t been so far.”
Jonny: “That’s another way of saying: ‘I understand the record because I’m a journalist, but the great unwashed aren’t going to get it.’ Very elitist.”
Thom: “I would have loved to do ‘The Joshua Tree’, I would have loved everybody to be happy, I would love to have a nice big white house on a hill. I’d fucking love it, but I don’t think I could have done it. If we’d wanted to be difficult we could have made a much more difficult record, but it’s not that difficult, it’s a pop record. You could have said the same thing about ‘The Queen Is Dead’.”

Colin: “Cool!
Thom: “Er, yes, it’s pretty dreadful but it’s the best we could come up with at the time. But it’s awful, I hate it, it’s fucking rubbish.”
Phil: “Actually I love the cover, because it all came together in the same studio, and seeing it develop alongside the music, it becomes much more personal. It does have a very distinctive style, I don’t think there’s been a cover like that before.”

Thom: “Fuck, I hope so! That’s what we used to do – crash parties, put Joy Division on and then leave, heh heh!”
Ed: “We used to do that at parties in ‘84, ‘85 – put on ‘This Charming Man’ or Joy Division and the dancefloor would clear. We were always those kind of people at school who would do that, then dance on our own in the corner.”
Colin: “I was at a friend’s flat playing an early tape of the album, and everyone was drinking and talking. Then ‘Fitter Happier’ came on and reduced the room to silence, ha ha!”
Jonny: “But you put ‘OK Computer’ on when everyone’s left the party and you’re looking at the devastation. You put it on and you feel better.”

Colin: “That’s the one I’d agree with.”
Ed: “Erm, I don’t think the fun side of Radiohead shines out from our albums, ha ha! We put rumours around last year that the record was going to be up and fun, but there’s a lot of dark stuff still to come out. It’s good to still be kicking against something.”
Thom: “I’m quite happy, thanks – you c***. If my emotional state does not please someone, then I apologise profusely. But it’s not really worthy of a reply, because that’s the response of someone who doesn’t like our music. You could say that to any blues singer – and wasn’t blues based on slight melancholy, I seem to remember? And wasn’t that in fact the basis of rock ’n’ roll? Am I wrong here, did I miss something?”