Main Index >> Media Index >> OK Computer Media | German Media | 1997 Interviews
Q: Oxford - was that vital ingredient in development of own style, away from London style dictate?

J: Initially very very important. A lot to kick against in Oxford. When started at school, virtually no live places. Oxford was - before rave came along - no bands came from Oxford, no tradition of music, or fostering of new bands. Incredibly frustrating, and the whole Ride thing, securing deal, success, opened it all up. Nowadays get Teenage Fan Club playing at Zodiac, would have been unheard of ten years ago, Suede played recently. Wouldn’t have happened. Now all manner of good bands come from Oxford. Supergrass, The Egg, The Unbelievable Truth who’ve just signed, Candyskins, Swervedriver, 5.30 - now there’s a great tradition of music in Oxford which will hopefully get stronger and stronger. But it WAS important, especially in Thom’s lyric writing, he always kicked against the Oxford middle-class safeness of the place. Now it’s opened up a bit more. Now not so important any more in terms of how band is. Important in terms of being a place to come back to, outside London. Not a big city.

P: I think when first signed, being in Oxford we weren’t sucked into London thing. At same time people didn’t know what to make of us as a consequence. Didn’t hang out at all the parties, the right bars. Taken people a long time to come to terms with what Radiohead are about. Good for us, gave us a lot of space to develop.

Q: Also you had the whole class consciousness of England heaped on you, that whole idea that if you’re middle class you can’t be rock band rebel.

J: But you know, that’s a complete myth. Joe Strummer. Stones. Middle class. Paul McCartney, lower middle class. There’s a lot of good music made by middle class boys and lower class, working class boys. Such a myth. Don’t think there’s so many good bands coming from upper class, cause not so many things to kick against. But you have frustrations being middle classes, frustrations being born into middle classes. That’s what we know about. You’re expected to follow a certain path in life, and if you kick against that there are the pressures from that, be a doctor, whatever. It’s very interesting. Could go on about this for ages. And we haven’t had same pressures parents had. Married very young, had to work very young to feed children. With us all that’s broken down, opening up. We can, at 29, follow these impulses, cause don’t have families to feed. Previous generations couldn’t do that, there was a rigidity to class system in early 60s which aren’t there any more.

Q: The only reason I brought it up was actually because I was amazed at how strong that kind of feeling was when you came up. Would have thought music business more open than that, but they did bother with you.

P: Think they bothered more about us being on major, cause we came in on the coattails of major versus indie debate. But we had decided for us it would have been less hypocritical route to go straight to majors, cause most Indies at the time funded by majors anyway. But because we were in Oxford, not part of London scene, and we weren’t taking any of the accepted credible route, and also there was a diversity to what we do people were confused by us I think. I think part of dealing with that confusion was just to shun us all the time.

Q: The “The Bends” changed everything.

J: Yeah. Can’t put a good record down. It was very important, “the Bends”. Completely different to this. A lot of people felt we were one-hit wonders. The press thought, other bands thought, the public though. The Bends changed that, but it took a while, you know, the best part of a year, a year and a half, for people to live with the album and change that view.

Q: It’s a particular thing with you, the grower phenomenon. Took me two months to like “the Bends”, and the concert in Brixton.

J: Yeah, and it’s the same with “OK Computer”. It’s exactly the same. We’ve experienced same thing. People said there were no singles on The Bends. There were no huge radio hits, but certainly the singles did well enough. And ame thing we’re getting on this album “Paranoid Android” is first single, potentially commercial suicide, but it works, we want it to be first single. Again, it’s challenging, not the most obvious track on the album. I think that’s a good thing. Every album a reaction to the last album. And as long as we retain elements of what’s gone before - my favourite bands are the ones where every time they’ve brought out album it was “what is this?”, and then you get into it. You trust the bandto make these steps. You trust the bands cause they’ve made good music before, and they take you somewhere else. It was like when “The Queen Is Dead” came out, I was - oh God, but after a bit it became like “oh this is the best album of 80s”.

Q: Morrissey...interesting to disagree with, raises thoughts.

J: Great lyricists should do that. That’s what I think Thom is great lyricist. Can look at thing, put slant on it, come up withunique perspective. That’s why none of us I think would be good lyricist, cause maybe we accept it for what it is. But great lyricist have ability to stand back and put into words how we feel. They’re able to shift you over a bit...

P: Thom gets right balance, he’s quite provocative, but at the same they’re not preaching in any way, he doesn’t offer tidy answers, always leaves space for listener to come up with own conclusions.

Q: Do you discuss the lyrics?

P: Not generally. That’s sthg Thom has to sing, so Thom has to feel comfortable with it, has to have his own narrative form in his head. Occasionally we feel sthg doesn’t quite work and suggest that maybe another approach might be appropriate. But we have utmost confidence in Thom’s ability as lyricist. So I’d feel quite inadequate saying: “actually, Thom...”

Q: In what way did recording “OK Computer” differ in recording to “The Bends”? Circumstances very different.

J: We coproduced it with Nigel Godrich. He actually co-produced “Black Star” with us on The Bends, we did Lucky with him, and some B-Side. So that was new for us. Didn’t have a producer figure like John Leckie with years of experience. It was first time Nigel produced anything, first time we produced anything by ourselves. Everything was kind of new. And that whole thing of really not having no kind of past experience in the disciplines of making record, responsibility lying with us and not someone else. So that was different. And the way we recorded was different. Bought a lot of gear. Did some thing s right at the end, mixing, but most of the things on the whole done in our rehearsal room and in a country house for 2 session of a month each. They were not studio environments. Not places where music had been recorded before. Not places where sound separation was ideal, but you know our view is some of our favourite records made between 66 and 74. The records sound greated then, sound great now, but didn’t have the advanced technology. They were good enough. And some of the worst records made in the 80s, when music was very sterile, sound isolation very sterile, very digital, a lot of really bad stuff. Didn’t add resonance, soul or emotion. So weren’t fussed about spill or noise. And we took longer.

P: Did we actually take longer?

J: Not in terms of recording time, but if you count rehearsals, rehearsed a lot longer.

Q: A lot of the songs much more complex. Often guitar lines and bass lines do totally different things.

J: Yeah, yeah. Just to mbe more musically challenged. Would have been easy to do “Bends Mark 2”, do it blindfolded. But we wouldn’t be here today and be proud of what done if hadn’t be musically challenged. Would have lost interest and got bored.

Q: Does Thom bring in the lyrics and then everyone sits down and works out own parts?

P: No. generally Thom will present us with a collection of songs, him and acoustic, some of which very well formed, others half-formed. We start working from those. I think - we work from basis on carrying from basis of those that work best...Some songs just doesn’t work on band context. After that first level it comes back into band context, and we all add our slant to it. Material changes quite a lot at that stage. “Paranoid Android” is very much equal band inputs.

Q: What about the change of self-confidence. I’m sure what happened with “The Bends” must have made songwriting different? And recording.

P: I think to be in position where album is acuytallly anticipated - OK, it brought some pressure, quite a few things we had to achieve with the album, but it also gave us a lot of breathing space. It was not as if we had to fight to have our case heard for this album. It was ging to be heard anyway. It was appropriate point to start. Cause as you say we had grown in consequence. up to that point we needed sthg to kick against. Now we can say, we’re really proud of what we do, we want you to hear. And then we just needed that extra leap of faith to conviction that we could go and produce a good album.

Q: How did lyrics change thorough this change of position?

J: Bends very much one perspective, him. And what trying to do on this album was to distance himself from Thom Yorke persona. So it’s different voices there...he got fed up with being portrayed as not miserable, but angsty uptight young man. And one of the things he wanted to do was to leave each song deliberately ambiguous, so it might well be personal experience, and it might not be. Also they are kind of tales. “Paranoid Android” is the story of an encounter we had in a bar in LA, surrounded by the beautiful people in their Gucci and coked up to their eyeball, the way they are, reacting when confronted with people like us. It’s almost like story telling, but they retain part of THom’s response...and how we feel collectively. The Bends was emotional outpouring, a response to the excesses of promoting and touring “Pablo Honey” and having a hit like “Creep”, whereas “OK Computer” is Thom much more - seeing things on Bends he’d kick against, on OK Computer he’s kind of accepted them and actually seeing beauty in them. Saying: OK, two yeas ago would have shouted and kicked against this, but now there’ sthg strangely beautiful about it. It’s quite positive, although it would be quite difficult to see unless it’s pointed out to you.

Q: Again quite courageous to make that kind of statement and not be afraid of press coming up saying: you’ve sold out.

J: I tell you what was big turning point as a band. About 6 months after The Bends we were asked to support REM. This is a band who you can’t say enough how much they’ve influenced us. The reason I started playing guitar was cause of Peter Buck. Everyone’s always loved REM. To go out with REM, to see them in these huge places. To see them as - they had the coach each, the trappings of wealthy rock’n’roll, and yet they were such reasonable and normal human beings, really lovely, still had such a passion of music, and watched us each night on stage, they were there side-stage watching us. They were such huge fans of us. Amazing thing. The last night we played with them, did our set, and we scuttled off stage and they came and dragged us back on, brought with them a bottle of Champagne, in front of 20000, before they were going on, and they said to the audience: We love this band. And it was so emotional for us, became like our raison d’être. It was amazing. It gave us confidence in what we were doing. I think we’d always been afraid of people touting you as next big thing - it’s all right being the next big thing, but what if you lose your marbles, what if you become an unreasonable human being. That’s not worth it. There’s no question that we don’t wanna become some paranoid fucking rock star living in some house surrounded by huge walls, out of touch it reality. And yet we saw this band, possibly the biggest band in the world, having A GOOD TIME and still fans of music, with the will and determination of making records. It was very empowering. We came back from that tour ready to take on anything. It gave us great strength. And Thom speaks to Michael Stipe a lot, have become great friends. A great help, the experience Thom can draw on. Very very important to us. They are our, dare I say it, elder brothers...

Q: One thing you also have in common is an unstinting belief that the basic set up of guitar, bass, drum can still produce innovative music.

J: That’s right, we are still looking for different musical sound scapes and textures, which is evident on OK Computer, but at the same time - what we have more in common, they were friends and still are, and so do we. The belief that you can do sthg worthwhile musically without selling “yourself” to become the parody of the band that most of these big bands become.

P: And also the belief that the music created by this combination of people is producing the best they can.

Q: Producing yourselves, no fear that might lack quality control by yourselves?

P: I don’t know. If you look where we started from - before we signed were a band for 5 years, working on our own. There were certain practices, ways of working, we established amongst ourselves then, the way we go about day to day affairs. Also we knew we had to go through that stage - big leap from doing 4 track songs at home, and doing proper recordings in studio. For us doing “Pablo Honey”, and “The Bends” we learnt so much from working with those people, especially John Leckie. John Leckie demystified whole pro ess of recording for us. And in the process he’d put responsibility back to us. Saying “do what you do”, when we looked panic/stricken. That was important to us then, gave us confidence to do that.

Q: “Thinking About You” on “Drill”...

J: Haven’t heard that in years...

P: The whole Drill EP was demo that got us signed. Real vitality about that. The first time we met our managers, and when they got someone to come along to se us, confidence that someone interested, enjwent to studio and enjoyed that so much.

Q: Different sounds and textures - piano on “Subterranean Homesick Alien”.

J: Rhodes piano. Felt song needed sthg. Guitars on that song fairly spacelike, drenched in reverb and delay, and we needed sthg rather than acoustic guitar. Thom played Rhodes on that, great feel. Before that he’d play acoustic guitar all the way through to keep rhythm going, but piano turned it into sthg else. To me that song sounds as if should have been done in 71, 72, it’s got that feel of - that classic in-house Motown-type bands had - not saying I liked that, but it roots the whole song in a sound...

Q: Different associations - Sandy Denny Rhodes, and chord structure reminds me of song on third Nick Drake album.

J: Wow. Really. Cool. The same period we’re talking about. A lot of this album - going back to what said - not worried about sound separation. Ironically given that album called “OK Computer”, on a lot of tracks we dispensed with computer technology. That song recorded in rehearsal room, basically a big tin box. No toilet there, real basic stuff outside Oxford. But the sound is like they’d probably have done in those days...

P: That’s always been the important thing about the way we work, how the 5 of us play off each other, not a matter of catching the perfect sound. Rehearsal room - important for us to go back and capture what was for us the essence.

Side 2:

Q: Where do you go to the bog in the rehearsal room?

J: There are good bushes. And if we need to do sthg more there’s always a good dock leaf around.

P: Sturdy bowels.

Q: You said earlier about music that comes back to haunt you and suddenly hits you - what artists would you trust to take you to other places?

J: Would say - me growing up in early 80s, late 70s - The Clash. “Sandinista” being the only kind of glitsch. Smiths. Echo & The Bunnymen. REM. U2 did until “Rattle & Hum”. The Jam. And if I’d lived in 70s and 60s obviously Beatles. And Marvin Gaye. Working up to “What’s Going On”, amazing. Sexual Hearing, what a song, amazing, amazing - but the sound! that horrible horrible 80s synth thing, that slow-dancing fucking awful cafe society sound of that record. It struck me, if he’d made that record in 72, nothing would have touched it... What I love about “What’s Going On”, you could have had any backing fo rhtat, could have been very ordinary. anything would have been enough with that voice. But he didn’t settle for that. He still did more. Music had to be right, sound had to be right. In that way it’s really influenced us. Thom could do - sthg like The Bends, were good, and right for the time, but we didn’t do it full justice. Whereas with this one it was doing it whole, everything had to be right. Of course not everything was right, things we had to leave as they were, but on the whole it’s the best we could do. Music had to be as good as we could get it, cause the vocals were so good.

P: Big difference between live now and then, after The Bends. After rehearsing The Bends we knew performances already much better than album. Whereas now we have to work really hard to achieve live what done on album. Great challenge.

Q: What drummers did get you interested?

P: Initially very much the drummers of that time, Stewart Copeland. Pete Thomas who was drumming for The Attractions, capable amateurs I suppose, but brilliant, amazing feeling in what were doing. As one hopes as one goes on as musician takes on more influences. I’m not sure I ever approached music from drumming point of view though. I think always admired good songwriters than good drummers. The same with all of us, all really admired ability of good songwriter as opposed to individual musician.

J: Or a band to get it across. Always admired Crazy Horse, what they did with Neil Young...might not be technically the most gifted, as CH weren’t and we aren’t...also don’t forget been together long time, good little band, we’re playing best we’ve ever played. We’ve had advantage - lots of bands don’t have advantage of being togheter 12 years, they argue after 5. But because of friendship cause we’ve been in school together... ...

Q: What discovered lately, musically?

J: Not a lot. Did this thing in studio, as a pretty deliberate thing, not to listen to much music. Couldn’t really concentrate on other music. Morricone. Discovering Morricone was interesting, lushness. Marvin Gaye. DJ Shadow. When out on the road, that’s when have time to listen, relax, concentrate on music, so that’s when we go and buy piles of CDs. I find when making album can’t ever really relax. You can be at home, thinking about rehearsal tomorrow, getting focused. We don’t ease into things. We’re quite uptight about it all. It’s got to be right. To do the best album this year, for us, that’s the most important thing.

Q: Touring the release and relaxation after all that.

P: We hope.

Q: Time table?

P: Next month promotion. June start doing live shows. Festivals over summer. USA tour. UK. European tour. Takes us up to Xmas. Touring till next summer. What want to do this time, get back and do recording while on tour this time, getting ideas down.

Q: Baffles me always, a year in the bus.

J: Get used to it. Weird at first. But really enjoy it. Get into routine. Whatever you do, it’s about getting into routine. It’s what we dreamed about for years, so it’s kind of realising those dreams, realising you can have pretty good life on the road if you look after yourself.