This is a transcript from an audio recording of the broadcast.
[recording starts here]
Fanning: Good evening Jonny, are you there on the phone?
Greenwood: I am here on the phone.
Fanning: Good man yourself, Jonny. OK. The album's now finished and presumably all ready to go, are you a happy man?
Greenwood: Yeah, it's all done, it's on a shiny CD and we can't change it any more.
Fanning: OK, so what's all this sort of experimental, sprawling, like, Pink Floyd-y bits that I've been hearing about?
Greenwood: Pink Floyd??
Fanning: That's what I've...I've been hearing that you were listening to your walkman, and you've got Meddle by Pink Floyd on it, which was released the same year you were born, or something.
Greenwood: That's true. It's all true.
Fanning: So what do you like about Meddle, is it Echoes?
Greenwood: It is Echoes, I'm afraid. And also the first track, One Of These Days (I'm going to cut you into little pieces)
Fanning: Which you can only hear when you go oneofthesedaysimgoingtocutyouintolittlepieces, and all that sprawling stuff. Did you know that was used in a movie? A really famous movie?
Greenwood: Which movie?
Fanning: It was called....oh God...it was called Zabriskie Point by Michaelangelo Antonioni.
Greenwood: Oh right.
Fanning: Just thought I'd throw that in and try to impress you.
Greenwood: I'm duly impressed.
Fanning: Good, I'm very glad to hear that. OK, now listen, tell us. The first album, Pablo Honey, did whatever it did, and in terms of looking back on history now, people will say that, a bit like one or two other bands (let's mention Bush most recently in terms of what just happened), it seems to have become huge in America, not so well at home, and home only copped on a bit later. But it's not strictly true that Pablo Honey did do hugely well in America, is it?
Greenwood: Exactly, yeah. I'm glad the message is getting through, like....people say “you're huge in America”, but it was just a case of Creep being huge in America, and we were just going around playing it.
Fanning: But one of the times Creep was huge in America, about the time it did become big, was about the time that everything else was happening over here, in terms of the media, in terms of say, Pulp, Blur and Oasis. Do you think that in some ways, in hindsight, that you were glad to be out of the way of all that, and not be caught in the Britpop mix?
Greenwood: Yeah I think so, although now we're getting caught in this new grave n....this new...uh...scene, supposedly. It's been called the New Wave of New Grave. And all these supposedly serious bands like Mansun are being linked with us, so it's funny isn't it? There's always something new.
Fanning: Well do you think that maybe it's because of Thom? I mean there's definitely a few people who probably thought they'd lived their lives to the soundtracks of the last two Radiohead albums in the background, and maybe they take Radiohead too seriously, and Thom's lyrics too seriously?
Greenwood: I don't know. I know that Thom finds some of his lyrics highly amusing and entertaining, but that's just his sense of humour, so I don't know. You'll have to ask him.
Fanning: OK, well you had the second album out, The Bends, which has got through to everybody, and it's sold millions of albums across the world, so what about this new album, actually getting down to record it? When you decided to do that, why did you decide to do it in a big house instead of a studio? Did you want to have as much time as you wanted, or did you want to self-produce? What was the mood after The Bends?
Greenwood: I don't know. The success of The Bends didn't really kick in until we were half-way through recording this one, so it was good. It just felt like we were carrying on from The Bends really. There was no big change of emotion, or change of plan really. And we decided to go to a big house because they're more anonymous. They're not steeped in rock history. There isn't chewing gum on the carpets and gold records from 1974 on the walls, you know.
Fanning: Yeah, yeah
Greenwood: There's no....we've gone into studios before and there's piles of girly mags from the bands who were in the day before. And it's like...oh....what are we doing here? So we decided to turn a big empty house into a studio.
Fanning: And did it work? In terms of the atmosphere, and letting your head get involved in the recording of the third album, did it work?
Greenwood: Yeah, it really worked. It just, um....I mean we had some really intense and pressured time, and some exciting and...you know...happy and confident times, so it kind of...we've been through it all.
Fanning: And how much of this album was done before you went in that house? Or did you sort of let it all evolve as you were there?
Greenwood: We kind of....we're a band that loves arranging, so we spent a fair long while arranging all the new songs into recordable shapes. We like things to be finished before we start recording, really.
Fanning: And how sprawling, or how epic is this album? Could I just say this is the third album, or could I say this is a real departure? I mean, is there room to move, is there room for a different direction and does this album come from a different direction?
Greenwood: I don't know...I mean the common perception (within the industry anyway) was that we were all set up for a big third album crossover. But in a way, I think this album would make most sense to people who know The Bends. I mean it feels like half of the songs could have been on The Bends. And maybe the other half could have been on our next album, if we do one. So it's...it's more for the people who listened to The Bends, rather than the kids in America who listen to the radio, or whatever the industry were hoping for.
Fanning: Do you feel in any way at all that this...like The Bends album, I mean Radiohead would be seem as an albums band, and yet by the same token you had five or six singles being constantly being played on the radio, and as one dropped off another one would come up, and people realised that “my God, this is like a greatest hits album. This is something really special”. Like it's got that, that, that and that on it, I'll definitely buy it now.
Fanning: I mean do you actually see it that way, that the singles were actually a very good idea to just keep releasing?
Greenwood: Well I think it's a bit of a throwback to the eighties, when so many albums were being sold on the strength of one single, and it's still happening now, you know. It's tragic to me, when an album has one good song and the rest of awful. For me, that's what we're fighting against.
Fanning: OK well before I play the single, can I just go back to what I was talking about at the very beginning? What, seriously, what music were you listening to, and if you're listening to a certain type of music before you go in to record, does that influence the eventual recording? Because you were talking there about arrangements as well and everything, I mean if you were listening to something like Meddle by Pink Floyd, and with a track like Echoes it's just like 22 minutes long or whatever, or one of these things like One Of These Days, which is a sort of long, meandering piece of noise, or white noise or whatever, is there anything that you would take from them and sort of then form the new album with it, or something?
Greenwood: I'm not sure, it's like...we're quite snobby in a way. We have music that we like, but as individuals we hear more things wrong with it than right, so that's a great Floyd album but two of the songs are just awful, and you know, this doesn't work and that doesn't work. But having said that, some of the ideas and the emotions behind the songs are quite exciting, so we are kind of scavengers in that respect, yeah.
Fanning: Yeah, and proud scavengers at that. Nothing wrong with that. OK I'm going to play the single from the album now, this is Radiohead, and this is the brand new single called Paranoid Android.
[Song: Paranoid Android]
Fanning: Paranoid Android is the title of the song, Radiohead is of course the band, I'm talking to Jonny. So Jonny, you are playing here soon, this big gig you've got coming up on the 21st of June.
Greenwood: Yeah, the RDS.
Fanning: That's right, do you remember well the one in Galway at the end of July last year?
Greenwood: Oh yeah, of course I do. Classic. And the one at the Olympia in...in...
Fanning: Two days before that.
Fanning: I was at both those gigs, and those gigs were like the two big buzz gigs of the year as far as we were considered.
Greenwood: Yeah, they just blew our heads apart. The last time we'd been in Ireland it had been to a handful of people in Rock Garden. We were just completely overawed by it. It was like living in a cloud for a week.
Fanning: Well that one in Galway, was that one of the biggest headliners that you, as Radiohead, have played to date?
Greenwood: Yeah, definitely. And certainly the one with the most emotion flying around. And still, I'm smiling as I talk about it.
Fanning: Right, so you're going to be playing this one on the 21st June out on the RDS.
Greenwood: That's right.
Fanning: Do you know anything about the live set yet, like what's it going to be? Like first half new album, second half Pablo Honey and The Bends?
Greenwood: (laughs) We've never had that much preparation for anything we've done in our lives, ever. So we'll probably know about half an hour before we play. I don't know...we like asking people what they want to hear and stuff.
Fanning: Yeah, that's true. You certainly did that well in Galway. What about the reproduction of this album on stage? Is it going to be no problem, sort of thing, or will....I'm thinking again of Echoes by Pink Floyd, which they did try in Pompeii and it was sort of half and half, you know. So you'll be OK with the new album, yeah?
Greenwood: I think so. Well like I say, we spend all our time arranging and making sure we can all play it, even if it means one of us has to play a keyboard with the end of your guitar, or whatever, as long as we can play it as a five-piece, and then we'll record it.
Fanning: Do you think, looking back in any way, that when Creep was as successful as it was in the States, and then it became a hit in this part of the world, but mostly in the States, that it looked as though Radiohead were the latest export from Britain, they were on their way, they had a debut album called Pablo Honey. Then you released Stop Whispering and it didn't work. Do you think in some ways that this may actually have been a good thing, and it let you concentrate without any record company hassle on the second album, The Bends, which has now put you where you are/?
Greenwood: Yes, suppose so. I don't know. It's so long ago. Um....I don't know.
Fanning: Does it really feel that long ago?
Greenwood: It does, really. We were struggling to record The Bends, and once we'd started that, everything that had gone before we'd just forgotten really.
Fanning: And what about the end of The Bends tour, that really sorts the men from the mice. How did you all feel at the end of a tour like that? Was it “never again” or “hey great, can't wait to get back on the road”?
Greenwood: I think we were nearer mice than men at the end of it. Touring's an amazing opportunity for travelling, and to play music, and we're into it. I'm getting less and less inarticulate as I've realised that I'm on the radio in Ireland and it's starting to melt my brain, so please forgive me. Start talking. Quick.
Fanning: Why is it starting to melt your brain?
Greenwood: (laughs) I don't know. I've been holed up in a country house, recording for far too long. So I've not seen anybody, nor spoken to anyone. Let alone anybody as far away as you.
Fanning: So what about memories of, for instance, The Bends tour (let's call it that) that I mentioned earlier. Which is like...for instance, one time you were on stage at a gig in Cleveland, and was it you that ended up in hospital?
Greenwood: That's right, yeah. My ear decided to generate noise and blood, all by itself, which wasn't very nice of it. So I got to go and faint in the casualty ward of a Cleveland hospital. It was enormously grim, and nothing like ER either. It was just a dressing so it wouldn't have been as exciting.
Fanning: And Ed fell off the stage and climbed back on, and Thom collapsed in Munich once, didn't he?
Greenwood: (laughs) Yeah, It's just us. We don't look after ourselves very well.
Fanning: Well the band who did all the collapsing on their tour, the Monster Tour, REM; did they look after you in some way? I mean you did play quite a bit with them. How close did you get to them, or did you find them as friends, did you get any good music from them? Or did you just find that you got a dodgy soundcheck and then the big guys would go on later?
Greenwood: No, we got embarrassingly huge amounts of consideration, and they basically would stand in the wings every night and watch us play, and it was like....you wanted to go over and ask them to stop being so considerate and encouraging. And it was lovely of them. And also, they were still massively into rehearsing new stuff and being in a band. We just had a horrible feeling that they might be sick of it all, or just tired and bored with music generally. But it was the opposite; we'd walk past their dressing room and they'd be in there recording. It was cool, and an exciting time. And this is our....you know, they'd done two years of touring, nearly. Mad for it, as our Manchester cousins would say.
Fanning: Well finally when, just with that REM thing, do you think you learned anything at that level, like whether they wanted to or not, reluctantly or whatever, they'd released a couple of albums in the early nineties and stayed at home, and sold 30 million or something and that kind of thing. So they instant they go on the road, they know there's going to be fifty to sixty thousand people at every single gig. Now that's not an easy thing to handle. But it looks as though REM handled it very well by just being interested in the music and not much else, and that's probably the way to do it. Do you think in any way at all, that when it comes to 20-40,000 people you're playing yo every night, that maybe you learned something from REM on that level?
Greenwood: I don't know. What impressed me about REM was that they're still quite pragmatic about it all. There was no false modesty, they were sort of saying...well...they felt like they were doing one of the biggest tours in America that year, which was true. They were saying “we're the main touring band and we've got to put on a good show”. So I think it's good to kind of...have respect for the people you're playing to. But at the same time, the last tour we did in England was only to a couple of thousand people, which sounds like a big number in my head, so we're still at that stage really. So...I can't imagine more people than that coming to see us.
Fanning: OK well on the credits for the new album, it says here Ed is on polite guitar, and you're on abusive guitar. Does that sort of sum up the twin guitar attack of Radiohead? I mean is it as simple as that, Ed's style is more polite than yours?
Greenwood: I think so. I don't have much respect for guitars, or for people who are obsessed with guitars. That's sort of how I try and play.
Fanning: Really? I mean down the years, could you not really point at guitarists like say, Jimmy Paige right now, or John Squire, and say “that's pretty good, I like that, there's no instruments in music quite like the guitar”?
Greenwood: Not really. I just...um...I've done interviews with guitar magazines and, um...they're always depressing for both of us because I usually launch into some detailed question about what kind of pickup I've got.
Fanning: Ah now hold on, I didn't mean that now, back it up. That stuff bores the pants off me. I talking about...I sorta go “wow, listen to that”. I don't want to know what sort of pickup or flange you're using.
Greenwood: Oh, I see.
Fanning: I don't care about that. (laughs)
Greenwood: No, but even like that, I just think of my favourite guitarists as being band members, so I loved the guitar player in Magazine for example, but it took me a long time to remember that it was John McGeogh.
Fanning: Yeah, John McGeogh.
Greenwood: So I've never really considered guitarists as being separate from songwriters or bands, really.
Fanning: I see, the whole enchillada. Alright listen Jonny, thank you very much for talking to us, we all look forward very much to you coming over on June 21st for the gig. The album itself is going to be released a couple of weeks before that, and we'll have it right here on 2FM. So listen, take it easy now Jonny. You must be very pleased that the album is now over.
Greenwood: Massively pleased.
Fanning: Well I'm sure after the tour you'll be well looking forward to going back in the studio again.
Greenwood: Yeah, well we're kind of into recording now.
Fanning: Right. Well thanks a million, good luck, thanks for talking to us Jonny.