Kurt Loder: "Kid A seems to be an album made by people who are totally oblivious to what's going on in popular music right now. It sounds like the band lost interest in the whole pop-song format."
Thom: "Well, I guess we did lose interest in it, really. I think, basically, you do something for a while and then suddenly it just doesn't float your boat anymore. It just didn't excite me. At the same time I find it quite weird that people sort of say 'oh, it's...', you know, 'it's not melodic'. Or 'it's not...' And I don't... to me the melodies are just... are still there. It's sort of still the same thing for me. The melodies are just going to a different place, but it's still a melody. If it ain't melody, then it's noise, and it's not noise."
Kurt: "Do you feel that people should sit down and just listen to Kid A all at once? Is that why there are no official singles planned, so you can just take the album as an entity and experience it as a whole?"
Thom: "To be honest, I don't quite know why we don't have singles. I was definitely at the meeting. I was definitely there, I remember, but I probably went to the loo or had a cup of coffee or went off somewhere. There is good reason for that, but I'm not quite sure what it is."
Kurt: "Drifting back, what was the state of the band at the end of the OK Computer tour? Did you feel you were on the verge of having to do something new?"
Thom: "To be honest, it just sort of went wrong."
Kurt: "In what way?"
Thom: "It just went wrong. I'm not quite sure exactly. Personally speaking, I felt like [that] cliché you have in '70s films. I can't remember one in particular, but [it was when] you would have a character and they walk into a room full of mirrors, about a hundred mirrors, but they're all reflecting in on each other, so you get about five thousand of you. [Then there's another] guy standing there with a gun, waiting for the real one, trying to work out which is the real one."
Kurt: "I think that's The Lady From Shanghai."
Thom: "OK. That's what was going on for me personally, so there was just a lot of sorting out to do, really."
Kurt: "Was everybody in the band getting along well?"
Thom: "Yeah. I think we worked together for so long that we needed to go away and rebuild something else. It was like being in the army. Go take some time off."
Kurt: "Why have you decided not to mount a full-scale tour to support Kid A? Or are you thinking of touring?"
Thom: "I think what we want to do is break the cycle of... band goes on tour for nine months, turns into monsters, has to sort themselves out and piece together the bits in order to make another one, you know. Or the thing about making records in order to go on tour and all that sort of stuff. Personally speaking, even though I enjoy playing live, I actually enjoy writing and recording more, 'cause that’s the stuff that will end up lasting, you know. That's kind of the real... for me personally that's the real reason. The only way that I can personally deal with touring is to think of it as, well, you have a set amount of time and you go off and you give it your all. Then, before you get wasted and tired and can't cope anymore, you stop."
Kurt: "In the studio, what part has Nigel Godrich, the producer on both Kid A and OK Computer, played in the recording of the albums?"
Thom: "He's brilliant, because he's like so... He's the voice of reason, really, a lot of the time. [both laugh] When things just get really out of hand, he's sitting there going, 'No, that doesn't work'. Also, he's just really good at knowing when something's sparking off properly. Erm... and also he has the ability to take some like, really, you know... not good sounds and turn them into really amazing sounds. And the way of sort of piecing things together, err, which stops it being just a mess. I don't know. I'm not quite sure how it works, you know. He also bosses us around, which is good. He makes us have meetings every day at midday. It's all very civilised. By the end of the day it's not at all, but at least we have that little bit of civilised Englishness, first thing in the morning."
Kurt: "Is there an example of his handiwork you can point out on the new album?"
Thom: "On 'Everything In Its Right Place', [the vocal sampling] was actually Nigel's thing. You know, you discover these techniques as you go along, bits and pieces. It's amazing how you can take really weird, unformed things and make them coherent. That's the thing that really keeps me interested in music, really. You can just take chaos and refine it down into something that's really, really exciting."
Kurt: "Who has the final say in the studio? Who says, 'This track is done, let's move on to the next thing'?"
Thom: "Well, it's usually me or Nigel, I guess. It's usually the case of, 'I don't want to hear this anymore, blah.' That's what normally happens."
Kurt: "Considering all the effects you employ on the records, what is the studio setting like? Do you have a lot of old equipment lying around?"
Thom: "Our studio is just a mess of broken furniture and lids. We really need a woman's touch in the studio, actually. It's really quite a man's den. It's disgusting."
Kurt: "Is 'Morning Bell' about a breakup or a divorce?"
Thom: "Not really, no. That [one's] actually quite weird. When we came off of OK Computer, I bought this house, this empty house, and it had a ghost in it."
Thom: "It had a ghost in it."
Kurt: "What sort of ghost?"
Thom: "Well, quite friendly, but a ghost."
Kurt: "How did you know it was there?"
Thom: "You just knew. You didn't say it, but you knew. So I filled up a whole MiniDisc of stuff, of songs and half-formed ramblings or whatever. And then there's a lightning strike and it wiped it all. And I was really upset, because there was really good stuff on it. But that was the general vibe of the house at the time, so I didn't think any of it. Then I forgot it, and six months later, I was in an airplane coming back from Japan or something and I didn't sleep at all. I hadn't slept for ages and ages. Suddenly, I was lying there, and I'd forgotten all the stuff from the MiniDisc, and 'Morning Bell' just came back to me, exactly as I had written it, with all the words and everything. It sounds like it's about a breakup, but it's really not. It's about being in this house. So there you go. You know, things are never that direct with me, unfortunately."
Kurt: "Do you still have the house? Do you still have the ghost?"
Thom: "(laughs) Well, he was trapped in the plaster, and we got rid of the plaster and now he's left."
Kurt: "Like a carpentry exorcism sort of thing?"
Thom: "I hate to say it, but yeah. And I really didn't want to do it, but it kind of sorted things out for me a bit in my head."
Kurt: "On 'The National Anthem', there's a horn section that comes in and does a sort of free jazz, Ornette Coleman thing. Was it hard to find these guys? Or do you just kinda go, 'Blow over the top of this'?"
Thom: "The running joke when we were in the studios was, 'Just blow. Just blow, just blow, just blow.'"
Kurt: "Did they know what you meant? Clearly they got it."
Thom: "Apparently that's what jazz people say. So they did, yeah. The reference point was this tonal concept by [Charles] Mingus. I think most horn players are Mingus freaks. I think we're going to go see Mingus' Big Band tonight, actually."
Kurt: "What is Kid A, by the way? What does that refer to?"
Thom: "It was just nonsense. It was nonsense. But then it sort of wasn't as well. I don't know quite why it meant so much to us, because it's just a phrase like any other. But for me, it was born out of an unhealthy obsession with a higher form of... well, I'll tell you. The next stage in human development."
Kurt: "What would the next stage of human development be?"
Thom: "I'm not sure whether it's like a genetic thing or [has to] do with artificial intelligence. But all along the way, while we're making the record and recording, all the time we were away, I just kept meeting people that were talking about it. Talking about the fact that maybe human beings are defunct and maybe human beings eventually sow the seeds of the next higher form of life. They're not quite sure on how to deal with it yet, but they have already started doing it. And I'm reading this really wacko book about stars and pyramids as well."
Kurt: "What is it called?"
Thom: "God, what's it called? I can't remember what it's bloody called. Where's my bag?"
Kurt: "About stars and the pyramids?"
Thom: "Yeah. Where's my knapsack?"
Kurt: "Just show us everything in your knapsack. That would be good."
Thom: "It's all right, 'cause you won't use any of this. You'll edit it out. OK, it's got a terrible cover. Just ignore the cover. It's called Heaven's Mirror: Quest For The Lost Civilization, by Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia."
Kurt: "[Reading cover] It's now a major television series?"
Thom: "Yeah. I saw it while we were working, and it slightly freaked me out. It's a book that has this theory that there are a lot of ancient sites around the world that pyramids and temples are built on which correlate exactly with stars in the heavens and correlate with things like the Mayan calendar, which is like more accurate than our calendar and takes the wobble in the earth into account. A lot of it is about the idea that in all ancient cultures and myths there is a flood, and before the flood there was a higher form of civilization, a higher form of life on Earth that that was wiped out. And in order to tell us that they were here, they left all this stuff. So, within all this, with the symbolism stuff, they indicate that our period is coming to a close and the next period is about to start."
Kurt: "It'll be like an AI period?"
Thom: "Well, I don't know yet. I'm booking my condo on the moon, actually."