Paul Anderson: "I never thought I'd ask any members of Radiohead if there was any jazz element to their music? But on this track there certainly is, so I mean, tell us about 'National Anthem', Phil."
Phil Selway: "'National Anthem'... We actually started recording that song over two years ago? After the last UK tour we went in and we were finishing off a B-side, and the rhythm track for 'The National Anthem' was actually hatched then. And at the time it wasn't really working. So we left it for two years, came back to it, and something started to gel there, really." [...]
Paul: "So this is a two year old song? I didn't realize it was quite as old."
Ed O'Brien: "It's older than that. I remember we rehearsed it when we were rehearing for The Bends
, in our rehearsal studio, we rehearsed it. And that would be back at early '94. But then it sounded sort of... there's a great band called Kitchens of Distinction..."
Paul: "Oh, why weren't they huge!"
Ed: "They were great. And it was sounding distinctly Kitchens of Distinction. I think, you know, there's a semi sort of rip off going on there."
Ed: "So, you know, give it five years, everyone forgets!"
Jonny Greenwood: "It was basically written around a very old song, a bassline from about... ten years ago?"
Colin Greenwood: "Thom demoed the song on the four-track when we were all at school when we were about sixteen or seventeen around like a Boss Doctor Rhythm drum machine and a sort of guitar fuzz bassline. And then we were finishing the touring on OK Computer
in the winter of '97 and we had to record some b-sides for the last single releases of OK Computer
, and everyone jumped in the bus to go to London, and I didn't go, 'cause I was like (laughs)... for various reasons, and they cut 'National Anthem' and decided it was too good to use as a b-side for OK Computer
singles. So it sat on a shelf for another two years. And then Jonny added all this amazing stuff with the Ondes Martenot and found sounds on radio stations, including the orchestra at the end, which is where the 'National Anthem' title comes from. It wasn't originally called 'National Anthem', it was called 'Everyone'."
Mark Russell: "There's a very unusual brass arrangement on that. Did you do that, Jonny?"
Jonny Greenwood: "It started with Thom saying this track should really sound like... by the end it should turn into a Charlie Mingus track. And Thom has these ideas quite often, and sometimes they're best ignored, and sometimes they're genius and he's completely right. And we pretty much just got a brass section into the room, and I scored out the rough tune, and Thom and I stood in front of them conducting, sort of... I say 'conducting', it wasn't Simon Rattle, it was more just jumping up and down when we wanted it to be louder and faster and calming them down at certain points. I'm sure it looked ridiculous, but it sounds on tape pretty good, I think."
Mark: "It's a very 'spiky' sound. Is that what you wanted?"
Jonny: "It is, yeah. We wanted them to play around with the rhythms of what was happening, and do crossbeats, and be taking it in turns to take solos, really. A bit like Charlie Mingus, the organised chaos of that, the fact that it's not random. There's a structure going on, but it's very loose around the edges."
Mark: "And the soloing seems to get more intense towards the end of the track. Were you trying to sort of build up the noise quota?"
Jonny: "Yeah, well, the very last high note is actually done on the lowest instrument, which gives some idea of the sweat and the red faces going on in that room, it was just... it was intense."
Robert Sandall: "Charlie Mingus - as a musician - obviously is tremendously diverse, extraordinarily prolific arranger and performer. Which bit of Mingus were you aiming for here?"
Jonny: "I suppose like the Blues & Roots