Main Index Kid A Sessions Amnesiac Sessions
Kid A/Amnesiac Recording Process
Paul Anderson: “I've got a couple about Phil, a couple of questions aimed at you. One here from Jeremy says 'Are you pissed off that you hardly drum on Kid A, and it's all drum machines?' [laughter] So how much of it is you and how much of it is machine?”

Ed O’Brien: “Most of it's you.”

Phil Selway: “A fair bit. I mean, we didn't actually approach it from that standard band performance, 'here's the arrangement and we're just trying to find what we believe to be the ultimate performance of it'. It would be built up from taking out sections of my drumming, building up loops, and from that to build up a rhythm track. And also, Jonny has this incredible Analogue Systems synthesizer thing, it looks like a big telephone operator's thing. So you know, stuff was coming off that. I think we were just trying to open up the whole process of putting rhythm tracks together, trying to move away from having very rigid definitions of what we did. So if Thom or Jonny came in, or Ed or Colin came in with like good ideas for rhythm tracks as well, then we'd use them. Conversely, in other areas as well! So, yeah, there's a fair bit of me on there. I don't feel left out.”

Paul: “Didn't think so, 'cause I read somewhere that you - for maybe one of the tracks, maybe more - you were just told to go into a room and come up with whatever you could, there was a load of computers in there or something like that, is that right? And you just came up with different loops, sounds, whatever it might have been, so it was truly experimental...”

Ed: “Yeah, it was!”

Paul: “...throughout.”

Ed: “Well, Nigel was really good because he said that - Nigel is Nigel Godrich, who produced it - we had this thing at the beginning of the year, and Jonny apparently didn't enjoy these two weeks, but Nigel said like... we'd completed some songs and we hadn't completed others and we were starting... we'd had the break after Christmas. He said, 'Alright, let's split up into two groups'. And we had two weeks of totally ex... I mean, it was real sort of workshop experimental stuff. And it kind of... I think we got a lot of that stuff out of our system. Nigel said the rules were nobody was allowed to play drums, nobody was allowed to pick up a guitar, the only thing that could be used were sort of electronic, you know, computers, synths, etcetera, etcetera. And it was really good fun. Twenty percent of it was good and the other eighty percent of it was utter rubbish. [...] But it was good for us in that sense, because it kind of freed us up even more.”

Paul: “It was quite cathartic, by the sounds of it.”

Ed: “Yeah, you kind of realize that sometimes it can be quite valid to just... this phrase that we'd say 'Just throw some shit at it', you know, just be random. And sometimes you'd be random and it can make sense out of the chaos, out of that, and find something that really fits in one of them, that's quite exciting.”

Paul: “Was much of it used, from that, those experimental stages?”

Ed: “Bits... I mean, there's one track that's possibly going... that will come out next year. No, but not a lot. I mean, there was like stupid stuff at midnight. There's a track that we nicknamed 'Innocents Civilian' that has us trawling around on the gravel outside.” [...]

Paul: “Was there ever a sense when you were making this album of being in competition with OK Computer? Err, Ed.”

Ed: “I don't know. I mean, you could have asked the same question about The Bends, because I think The Bends is a great album, and in its form we couldn't have bettered it. And I think the same thing about OK Computer. I think the thing about OK Computer was that - I know this sounds strange - but it really was a live album in many respects. Eightyfive, ninety percent of it was recorded live, because we'd honed these songs in live, we'd rehearsed them pretty much, we worked out all the parts, we'd worked out the arrangements, played them live. And so what we were doing on OK Computer was merely... not merely, but trying to get the best performance of the song playing in a room. And on this record there was a feeling of, well, we have to move away from that. And how do we do that? Well, probably one of the easiest ways is to move away from playing live in the studio together. And then there were other things like 'the guitar issue'. I think that the guitarists - all of us - we were fairly bored by the instruments, if the truth be told, but really didn't know, you know... I play guitar, and that's all I play, I'm not like Thom and Jonny, Thom and Jonny are like multi-instrumentalists. So it's like you suddenly get all panicked and you go ‘Well, I'm bored of the thing that I'm playing, but what can you do?’ And I think this whole album was really... it was confronting a lot of insecurities about what you do within the band and how musically we had to change. It was a constant re-evaluation. If we at all felt we were going over old ground it was pushed away. At times it was incredibly difficult, but eventually it's kind of like 'Ah, this is actually really liberating!'"

Paul: “Did any one person drive that?”

Ed: “Thom. Yeah, he really did. And he was really, really, really emphatic about what he didn't want it to be like. He didn't know what he wanted it to be like, you know, he was listening to a lot of Warp stuff, Autechre, Aphex Twin. We'd had like four months off or whatever and we did an Amnesty show at the end of '98. At the beginning of '99 we went to Paris. And Thom was into this thing, and he drove it in the sense that he would be the first one to like 'kick it' if it sounded at all 'retro' for us.”

Paul: “Too much like Radiohead almost.”

Ed: “Yeah, and that was good. Although at times, one felt like... we wanted to change, but sometimes you have to be a bit patient, you know. Change involves a lot of time. Thom was the first one to change, but people move in different ways. If you're a guitarist, you can't then suddenly become a noise/keyboard merchant the next day. You have to be inspired by something you hear or records that you hear, to be able to pick up those ways.”

Phil: “And also I don't think you want to completely cut yourself off from the ways that you've worked beforehand. I mean, there's something about when the five of us are playing together. For us that produces exciting results. And you're worried those elements have gone completely out of the window. But you're right, you do have to go the other way at points. Just so that you can actually see the value of what you've done before, I think. I mean, there are tracks which probably would be recognizable as being in the mold of things that we've done before, but they're not really on Kid A, are they?”

Ed: “No, they're not.”[...]

Paul: “A few questions have come in about the Q interview where it would seem that there was a bit of friction in the band there. Whereby some of the band wanted melodic songs, and other people didn't, and then all of a sudden the barrier went down and it was 'No, this is the way we're going to do it'. And one of the e-mails I had was saying to you, Ed: 'You know, how did you feel after it was quoted in Q that Thom thought that it was ridiculous what you'd thought, that there was no way it was going to be like that...'”

Ed: “[laughs] No, the thing is, it's all about what you remember about it. We rehearsed for a month just playing new material before the Amnesty show, and then two days before we played, we rehearsed the old stuff. But we'd agreed - that's what I remember [laughs] - we'd agreed on fucking three minute pop songs as the antidote to OK Computer's more prog elements.”

Phil: “And looking back on it, when we first started recording in Paris, we didn't actually really sit down, did we, and say, 'This is what we all want to get from this album'.”

Ed: “No!”

Phil: “And that didn't really come till about six months in, did it? You know, where do you start...”

Ed: “Yeah, it was a band who were full of indecision.”
Jonny Greenwood: “I'm not sure what was that different from the last time. It was the same combination of bringing in our favourite records and trying to emulate parts of them and sound like other kinds of music that we like and admire. We're very bad at setting manifestos about what we're going to do, and what we're going to change, just... we drift along really.”

Colin Greenwood: "[...] The stressful side of recording... a lot if it was about what was going to happen. The big fear is, it's easy to go and record, but it's very difficult to envisage what's going to be released and end up in the CD case in a record shop, and so that's really the problem. There's no problem with all hanging out and eating beautiful food every day, and making music and working on computers and playing guitars, but it's a big problem thinking about editing and compiling and presenting."
Ed O’Brien: “When you’ve 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’, you know... and I think we just needed to get away from that, wanted to get away from that. Plus the fact that we’re in a position we didn’t feel very comfortable with. It’s a great thing to be able to play an arena tour as we did, and to have done it. And some bands can do it really well, but we just did not feel comfortable with it. All those things, getting older... 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. You have to adjust. 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 Douridas: “In terms of the writing and the recording process, do you remember where the breakthrough came? Was there a moment of epiphany, or was it a series of smaller... ”

Ed: “It was a series of small ones, really. The first one I remember was the one when we were in Batsford. 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 we heard it the next day. And that was a breakthrough, the sound of what they’d done was like, ‘yeah, that’s really, really different and it’s something that really excites us’.”
Robert Sandall: “Was there a lot of trial and error in the making of this Kid A record?”

Jonny Greenwood: “No, I don't think it was quite that random. There's not a lot of things we threw away or discounted. Is there? Colin, what do you think? There isn't loads and loads of tapes of versions or of music that we didn't like... I think we... some of it was quite slow, quite laborious.”

Colin Greenwood: “What was going on in the studio was conditioned by what was happening outside, really. We released a record when we decided we'd finally had enough of doing a record. We wanted to go outside again really and the reason why it took so long is, because we were all quite damaged by the experience that we'd gone through with touring and promoting the last album.”

Robert: “What was it about that? It's a regularly heard complaint by people who have achieved the global celebrity as you did. What was it, do you feel you were being damaged as music makers by that? And in what ways, if you were?”

Colin: “I think so. I think that's true, because, I mean one of the big differences, you know, when you're in a band, you know, part of the deal is that it's a collaboration, you're working with other people, which is great, so... but you obviously have to get on with people relatively well, so that, you know, if you've gone through a seven or eight year intensive touring gruelling period, you know, and your relationships are not so strong within the group, then obviously, you know, spending money in a recording studio, it's not very, you know, it doesn't help with the music, and erm, the idea of like spending eighteen months on the road, and then coming back and having to reacquaint ourselves with recording skills, and get into new music, and seek new inspirations... er, and the last thing you want to do is turn on a CD player, let alone turn on a multitrack tape machine, it's just, you know... rubbish.”

Mark Russell: “Is that why this record sounds so different to the last one, were you deliberately thinking 'we are going to really stretch ourselves and come up with some new sounds'?”

Jonny: “Yeah, I used to think that was true, but then whenever we start a recording session, it always does feel like the end of the previous one, even if that one was two years ago, it never feels like there's a cut off point. I mean, as a band we're no good at sitting 'round a table, planning our future, planning the next, you know, even the next few days, musically, and saying 'we should try to sound like this', we can't, you know, we're just rubbish at it, it's all a bit aimless.”

Colin: “We wrote... we had our sort of manifesto at the beginning of the last three weeks recording...”

Jonny: “Exactly, we tried it.”

Colin: “...we just went 'round the table, and Thom had this piece of paper, and each of us wrote down what musically we wanted to get out of the following three weeks, and then it was just like looking back at that sheet of paper at the end of the month... 'oh... no.' [laughs]”

Robert: “What did you put on your sheet of paper?”

Colin: “It was just trying to use the live side of Phil's drums. One of the interesting things we did on tour this time was we took some of the songs from Kid A and we put them in a live context, and Jonny and Ed had these things called Kaoss Pads which were like really cheap DJ sample loop things, and so Thom would play the Rhodes and sing, and Jonny would cut up Thom's voice live, and fire it into the audience. Ed would cut up Thom's Rhodes keyboard, and create all these amazing effects in real time for 'Everything In Its Right Place', the first track. And so trying to get some of that into, you know... the sort of constant, you know, idea in the studio, change it live, take what you change back into the studio, it's a sort of hybrid thing.”


Robert: “Do you get involved in writing any of the lyrics for Radiohead?”

Colin: “No. On previous records, we've had sort of copies of the words whilst we've been working them out live, and in our rehearsal room, but on this record, Thom had a long period of sort of difficulty in finding outlets for expression, so it didn't even get to the stage where we had like copies of the words to look at, because he wasn't sure about what he wanted to say with them anyway.”

Mark: “What role did your producer, Nigel Godrich play in Kid A?”

Colin: “He played a huge part, obviously, I mean Nigel's gift is his ability to stitch... put sounds together, and create a sound curtain, that's his talent, that's what he's great at, and quickly as well, so he can put something together very quickly, and he works very closely with us and, you know... it's a very different relationship though with this one because with OK Computer, which we did with him in Jane Seymour's house, we'd rehearsed all the songs, and just went and recorded it in her beautiful old Elizabethan ballroom and stuff, and you know, he got all the sounds up and everything. Well, this record there was a lot more to-ing and fro-ing and working in the studio, so the relationship was...”

Mark: “Did you spend hours and hours creating the sounds and then putting them together, is that how it worked?”

Colin: “A couple of times we did that, yeah, but you know, it was a little more fraught really, this one, because there were sort of questionings and self-questionings of all the respective roles going on all the time.”