Ed and Colin were interviewed by Chris Douridas for KCRW Radio at the Sundance Film Festival on january 25th 2001, the day after studio versions of new tracks, that would be released a few months later, had been premiered at a special Radiohead party. The preview was part of a full night of music at the film festival called “Sounds for Visual Thinkers”, an event designed to draw awareness to music available for movie placement. The two new songs played were 'Pyramid Song' and 'You and Whose Army?'. This is a transcript from an audio recording of the radio broadcast.
Quotes from this interview are used in the following sections:
Chris Douridas: 'Everything In Its Right Place' from Radiohead’s Kid A. Ed O'Brien and Colin Greenwood, members of Radiohead, are with us. I’m Chris Douridas, it’s 'Ground Zero'. We’re actually in the dining area of the Legacy Lodge in Park City, Utah.
Ed O'Brien: Yeah.
Chris: You just started snowboarding two days ago?
Colin Greenwood: Yeah, I started falling over two days ago, yeah, it’s... yeah, it’s good. A bruising and humbling experience.
Chris: Now, you guys have been here at the Sundance Film Festival, debuting songs from the forthcoming album, Amnesiac. We heard, actually, four songs. The album is now due for a june release, and it’s the parallel album to Kid A – that’s what you guys have been calling it in the press – parallel because they came out of the same sessions, essentially?
Ed: Hmm hmm.
Colin: Yes, it’s really... it was over an eighteen month period of recording and we didn’t want to combine all the recordings, because it would be like some... you know, we don’t like double albums, and we didn’t want to tax the listeners attention time - span... so, erm, we started off with one record, and the ones left over we sort of managed to put together. But we are happy with how they work together, both records, I think.
Chris: So, hearing it like that it sounds like they were almost outtakes that you...
Chris: ...or left-overs that...
Ed: No, no, it’s not. That is one of the main things that we’re really trying to get across, it’s not outtakes, it’s like...
Colin: We’d go in for like a week, like every day from 4 o’clock through to 11 or 12, working on the tracklistings for Kid A and with all the songs that we’d recorded, desperately trying to put in the songs that are on the next album, and we just couldn’t make an order fit. So there’s absolutely no sense of these other songs on Amnesiac being left-overs.
Ed: You know, it is some of the best songs we’ve ever... I mean, I think the best song, 'Pyramid Song', is probably the best song that we’ve recorded, you know.
Chris: Everybody seems to feel that there’s a real breakthrough there with 'Pyramid Song', that that’s a powerful moment for the band.
Colin: Hmm hmm.
Chris: Can you speak about how that song came together?
Colin: Er, yeah... Eddie?!
Ed: Yeah, that was... basically what happened was Thom and Phil... Thom did the vocal and the piano, Phil played the drums at the same time. Did the take, that was great. Then strings were added, and it was pretty much finished then, you know.
Colin: Like the idea... the inception of the song was when we were in Copenhagen, and Thom went around the museum of culture, and there was an exhibition of Egyptian underworld and tomb art of people who were being ferried across the river of death, I don’t know what it’s called in Egyptian mythology... and you know, he was very affected by it and he went back and sat behind the piano and wrote it. And we had like an amazing version of it on DAT, which was really beautiful, and that we wanted to work to, but it was on DAT, so we couldn’t use it. And then, you know, we spent the next year trying to piece it together, basically.
Ed: Six months.
Colin: Six months.
['Pyramid Song' plays]
Chris: That’s called 'Pyramid Song', new work from Radiohead’s Amnesiac release. Forthcoming work, due in stores early june. I’m Chris Douridas, Colin Greenwood and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead are with us. There’s a cinematic quality to the things that I’ve been hearing...
Chris: ...on the new album. Lush string arrangements, very orchestral sweeps and things like that. The fact that you guys are here at Sundance and the fact that there is this sort of cinematic approach to the recordings these days...
Ed: Yeah. The whole thing about visualising our songs are quite, you know... Thom always says that when he writes a song or writes a lyric, or whatever, he’s visualising something, he’s got something in his head – a picture or something. And I think that’s the case, you know, and we found that on OK Computer, and the stuff that we’re... the stuff that’s come out – I mean it was, you know, things like the strings and stuff and orchestra were a bit of a departure for us, and we kind of stayed away from it, really, because it can be such a clichéd thing to do. Especially with bands it’s easy... you know, bands with guitars, stick some strings on and you’ve got this epic kind of, you know, thing sound like 'November Rain' by Guns‘n’Roses...
Colin: In our dreams (laughs).
Ed: Yeah right, in our dreams. To be brutally honest, I think that the idea of doing a big budget kind of film would not be up our alley, but something that’s really... something that’s different, you know, something that’s Radiohead, in the kind of the film world, obviously would be ideal. I know that sounds obvious, but something that’s a bit different, and I guess we’ll wait until we get a great script, that comes along and get people who we trust, who think it’s going to be a good idea, and then get involved. It’d be an interesting discipline for us as well, you know to also be... you know, the director of any film has the final say of what goes in and what doesn’t. And that would be quite interesting, someone saying 'no, you can’t put that in', and 'that’s no good there' – no-one ever does that to us, nowadays, so (laughs) future directors, beware!
['I Might Be Wrong' plays]
['Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box' plays]
Chris: New music from Radiohead’s Amnesiac album due in early june. I'm Chris Douridas. Colin Greenwood and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead are with us. On the eve of the release of Kid A, Ed, you described the album, you characterised the album as a new beginning for the band.
Ed: I think a lot of it is... when you’ve kind of like done three albums on the trot like Pablo Honey, The Bends and OK Computer, I think one of the things is, you feel as though you’re kind of in a rut in terms of you’re typecast "oh that’s the band who write epic guitar songs, that...", you know... and I think we just needed to get away from that, wanted to get away from that. And also plus the fact that we’re in a position we didn’t feel very comfortable with, you know... it’s a great thing to be able to play, you know, as we did an arena tour, whatever, and to have done it, but the actual realities of it are it’s just something... some bands can do it really well, but we just did not feel comfortable with it, and all those things and you know, getting older, and we had to make the adjustment of the school band that went to hit the road, and did albums for pretty much seven, eight years on the trot.
Ed: You have to adjust, you know, you get older, you’ve got to find ways of... of growing up, and dealing with the band, so I mean it was, you know... it’s all... when we got our studio and we were in the studio for eighteen months, and it’s all about, you know, it’s all about adjusting, it’s all about carrying on learning, you know, at least we... that’s the main thing, you carry on learning in this band, and you know, the learning process may not be that fun (laughs).
Chris: Do you remember the... you know, in terms of the writing process, and the recording process, where the breakthrough came? Was it a... was there a moment of epiphany, or was it a series of smaller (laughs)...
Ed: It was a series of small ones really. The first one I remember was the one when we were in Batsford and Nigel and... you know we’ve been working in a band context a lot of the time, and one night, Nigel and Thom sort of shut themselves away and did 'Everything In Its Right Place', and heard it the next day, and it was like that was a breakthrough, that was something that, you know, the sound of what they’d done was like, "yeah, that’s really, really... it’s different and it’s something that really excites us". So that was one. But when you’re in the studio for eighteen months, it’s... you have little breakthroughs, sort of... they often come together as well. You often have a really, really creative week, then you’re fallow for like four or five weeks, and that can be very frustrating. It was just a series of... (to Colin) it just went on and on, didn’t it?
Colin: (laughs) Yeah, this saga...
Chris: How did the titles "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" fit into the, sort of, transformations that the band has...
Ed: I think it’s fairly arbitrary, the titles, I mean... you know, I think "Amnesiac", you know, I think there was the idea that it was the forgotten one, you know, the forgotten record, maybe, or something... "Kid A" was just, you know, one of those things that just seemed to fit. It was a name of a sample on... originally on the 'Kid A' song... erm... and I don't know, it’s one of those names that is great from its spawn... Thousands of rumours amongst, you know, Radiohead fans, or whatever, and they all have their own theory, and that’s great, that’s what it’s about. I mean... I think there was a list of names, and that seemed to be the one that fitted the album most closely.
Ed: It’s quite... it’s quite, you know, it’s quite cold, it’s... there’s no emotion to "Kid A", and I think that’s what the record is like, it’s very on a level.
Chris: Kid A debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in the United States. Now, even to some of... everyone's best expectations that was somewhat of a surprise. It was, I think, a revelation, or at least a reminder to record companies that, you know, good music can strike a chord across the so called "demographics".
Chris: Has the success of Kid A altered the plot for Amnesiac?
Colin: I think that the success of Kid A in America has sort of changed certain people in the band’s attitude towards America with regards to like support in America. I think people were taken by surprise by how, sort of, there was a sort of level of success, and we’d sort of forgotten that we’d had like our first record out in, I suppose, ’93, and then our albums... we’d been around for a while, and people had gone to school and college and you know, all that stuff, and been around as long as we have (laughs). So, er... and, you know, and I like that idea that you become sort of woven into sort of the cultural tapestry of people’s lives, you know, over like a ten or fifteen year period, you know. And you’re creating music that people have used to punctuate various sort of periods of their lives, you know. So, erm... you know. So whether it’s like having dinner parties, or whatever, but, erm... I’m rambling now, so, but it’s er, I mean it was cool, you know, it was good, you know, and we sort of like made all these facile jokes about how, you know, we’ve always loved to coming to America ‘cause like America really understands us, you know, and our music, and all this kind of stuff. Cheesy stuff. But the week when the record went number one in America was... it was very strange obviously. We were in New York and it was at number one, and er... but everyone said it was a slow week for music, er... (laughs)... which was, yeah, it was... er... well. How was it for you, Ed?
Ed: (laughs) It was wonderful. No, it was great, it was great. I mean, I think one of the best things for me was that, you know, obviously that people liked it, but you also... it was this amazing thing, we did this gig at, erm... oh, what’s it called?
Ed: Roseland. Yeah, we did this gig at Roseland. And people from different record companies were coming up and saying "I don’t work with your band, I’m with a rival label, blah, blah, blah, blah, but thank you, thank you, thank you, at last there’s something different in the industry, and we don’t have to...", you know, the industry’s become so stale, there are set routes, because that’s the way you do, you know, you’ve got your boxes, you’re a guitar band, you go in that box, you got that one, you’re a hip-hop band, you go in that box... It’s all bullshit, that stuff. It’s economic rationalisation, and I think one of the great things about this record is like hopefully it’ll stir up a few of those fat fuckers, and you know, the head of the record companies, and stuff like that, who’ve – sorry for the profanity (laughs), erm... and, you know, music should not be subdivided into categories, music should be all over the shop, and it shouldn’t... and it’s not consistent, and it’s not rational, and that’s what's great about it, you know. It should be freer (laughs).
Chris: You know, it's really shaken the rug up, you know...
Ed: Well, I don’t know, I mean in reality, I don’t know whether one album can do it, but hopefully it will give, you know, other bands who’ll say "listen, we’ve sold this amount of records", give them the courage... I mean that’s probably a bit arrogant on my part, saying that, but it would be nice to think there would be a... that even record labels would go "ok, well we don’t know everything, we don’t have all the answers, and maybe this band, if they feel comfortable doing it this way, then that’s right", and just, you know, solidarity, bands! (laughs)