Monday, May 21, 2007

About trying to record at Canned Applause (while recording OK Computer):

The problem was we could go home when we wanted. It was just around the corner. Sot it was really impossible to commit yourself to it mentally when you knew you had to go home and do the washing up. We had to go and find somewhere else, and it had to be a big place too.
--Thom Yorke (Exit Music: The Radiohead Story by Mac Randall)
There was nowhere [at Canned Applause] to eat or defecate, which are two fairly basic human drives.
Jonny Greenwood (Exit Music: The Radiohead Story by Mac Randall)

About recording at St. Catherine's Court

The fact that it was a big country house was a source of acute embarrassment, but it's like, fuck it, we love private rooms. We didn't want to be lab rats in the studio, so it was the logical thing to do, and it had the most fantastic sounds. All this stone everywhere, fucking amazing. And the weird thing about it is, when we started recording, we were taking tapes home and we'd play them for our friends, and they'd go, 'it just sounds like a house.' Which was really exciting. Blows away every studio in London.
--Thom Yorke (Exit Music: The Radiohead Story by Mac Randall)
About recording at St. Catherine's Court:
It was wonderful going somewhere that wasn't designed for recording. Recording studios now tend to be quite scientific and clinical. You can't really impose yourself without getting over the fact that there are fag burns in the carpet and gold discs all around. It's good to go and decide that we'll turn this beautifully furnished living room into whatever.
--Jonny Greenwood (Exit Music: The Radiohead Story by Mac Randall)

Friday, May 18, 2007

a lot of creative people hear voices, a lot a creative people have crazy thoughts, a lot of creative people want to jump off bridges. so fucking what?
--Thom Yorke
...that's part of what 'myxomatosis' is about - it's about wishing that all the people who tell you that you're crazy were actually right. that would make life somuch easier.
--Thom Yorke
About the influence John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band had on The Bends.
... Thom later claimed Lennon's cut-to-the-bone lyrical approach was "something I could rail against while we were doing our record (The Bends): 'Well, I really love that, but I don't want to do it like that .'" Yorke was mastering the art of meaningful concealment. "I know what's true and what's not," he said, "and nobody else does.... I took a step back from what I was writing in words. I just sort of treated that as another instrument rather than this is me personally giving you all, everything in my would. You do that once, and you never ever want to do that again."
--Exit Music: The Radiohead Story by Mac Randall

2000-10-19 | Lola-da-musica | Dutch TV (VPRO)

Q: What's it like having a writer's block? How does it work in practice, or doesn't work in practice?
Thom: What's it like? (long silence) It's like losing someone you love!

Q: What happened after you came back from the OK-Computer tour?
TY: It was a mess, a pretty bad mess, for quite a while, personally. Because basically I found myself in a place I didn't wanna be, ended up in a place I didn't wanna be and didn't recognize myself, and wasn't really interested in what we were supposed to have done. I didn't have much to hold on to really, in any way! Two years writing block, writing things and throwing them away, I guess that's where Kid A started and the bits and pieces that went with it. The idea was there was no plan at all, we had just lots of ideas, half formed ideas and hoped that some of them would see themselves through.

Q: Did you find the specific reason why you got into the writer's block?
TY: Yeah, I didn't really know...I don't think I knew until finishing Kid A what it was all about or the reason I had such a terrible block. But it was really because I had felt that I totally lost control of any element of my life, of anything I was involved in. And ultimately being so incredibly angry it was inexpressable. When we finished the record I just realised that this was what it was all about.
TY: What I find interesting in taking on programming and editing and sampling is it stops you trying to emote. There's something I find incredibly exciting about just leaving something to run, just listening to it, not actually play at the time, not singing along.
The other thing is that we all are kind of really heavily obsessed by 'Remain in Light', the Talking Heads album and the way they did that and the sort of emotions that go with that record. It kind of not got the same emotional range like any other Talking Heads record. It's like totally out from over there somewhere.
The other thing was the way David Byrne was writing the lyrics for that record. He had notes, no songs. Start a rhythm, here's a riff and it keeps going. What I admire about 'Remain in Light' is that everything is essentially fragments 'cause he's taking things from notebooks. So what I often tried to do with the writer's block thing was just basically have all the things that didn't work and stopped throwing them away, which I was doing before that, and keeping them and cutting them up and throwing them all in a top hat and pulling them out. And that was really cool because what it did was that I managed to preserve whatever emotions were in the original writing of the words but in a way that it's like I'm not trying to emote. It's just part of what's going on, so we're not printing the words on this record because the words are just part of what's going on.
Q: What songs are made that way on this record?
TY: 'Kid A' is, 'National Anthem' is, 'Everything in its right place'. If we have chosen to finish this record and go on then that's what everybody needs to know (still very agitated) you know what I mean? Other than that you're just digging dirt. (somewhat less agitated).
--Thom Yorke
The reason you create music or art or write is in order to put things in a way you can possibly deal with it, and death is one of those areas. (Becoming annoyed) But we don't seem to spend much time with it, do we? If you're accused of being morbid or bleak, then you're onto a good thing, I'd say. Cos our culture is the most fucking desperate culture, desperately trying to avoid anything vaguely depressing, which is alarming because what's the result? Well, we all know what that is, don't we? We're at a time when we are being presented with undeniable changes in the global climate and fundamental issues that affect every single one of us, and it's the time we're listening to the most hokey shite on the radio and watching vacuous bullshit celebrities being vacuous bullshit celebrities and desperately trying to forget about everything. Which is fine, you know, but personally speaking, I can't do that.
--Thom Yorke
If people get it, they wouldn't think it's depressing. When people always say that fucking annoying thing about how my work's so depressing, well it's not because.. it's just words, and I put the words to music which I think it's an uplifting thing, otherwise there would be no point in doing this at all.
--Thom Yorke
I spent a lot of time trying not to do voices like mine. The voices on "Karma Police", "Paranoid Android" and "Climbing Up the Walls" are all different personas. I think "Lucky", the lyric and the way it's sung, is really positive, really exciting. "No Surprises" is someone who's trying hard to keep it together but can't. "Electioneering" is a preacher ranting in front of a bank of microphones.
--Thom Yorke
On how the band write songs:
Thom comes in with lots of lyrics, a melody and chords, and usually he strums it on acoustic guitar. we then take it from there and beat it up and arrange it. sometimes they need a lot of arrangement. sometimes they need absolutely nothing. sometimes thom will present a song and it's so obvious how it should be done. those are actually the hardest to do - the ones where we have free scope and it can go in any direction are the easiest ones to do.
--Ed O'Brien
It's one of our strengths and also one of our great weaknesses. Emotional honesty.
--Thom Yorke?
Tips for song writing:
Don't try... once you try, you're fuckdd
--Thom Yorke

The Sunday Chronicle

Q: Which pops up in your song "Vegetable": "I am not a vegetable/ I will not control myself."

THOM: A lot of things I write come from really simple ideas. That was a funny song because I had a lot of phrases floating around [in my head]. But the principal image I had in my head was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and all the people who sit around the main area in the film but don't actually do anything except drool or go to the toilet without knowing it. But when you read the book, you find out that The Chief is the main character, and that's the brilliant thing about it - nobody speaks to him because he's the idiot.

The song "Anyone Can Play Guitar" is slagging off that whole "I want to be Jim Morrison" thing. When they released Morrison's lyrics as poetry, I thought, "Oh, God." It just showed what he was - a real piss-head. There were flashes, though, and he was very good-looking. And in that sense, I'd like to be Jim Morrison.

Q: So instead of the "Lizard King", you'd like to be known as....

THOM: Any reptile would be fine.
--Thom Yorke (The Sunday Chronicle | San Francisco)
I: Who is this "Creep," exactly?

THOM: "Creep" is more the way people look at you. The guy in the song doesn't necessarily believe that he's a creep, but he's being told he is. But these things change. "Creep" is the term for someone who follows people around and drinks on his own in bars and stuff, but the idea came from a rocky relationship I was having. I find it very disturbing that there are thousands and thousands of these wonderful love songs which aren't really wonderful at all, and it's evident that the people who were writing them have never even been close to anything resembling the emotions they represent. Love songs have been killed by mainstream music, and to actually write a love song is kind of a peculiar thing to do these days.
--Thom Yorke

1994-06-11 | Melody Maker

Does the generally quite pensive Mr Yorke find it easier to write sad songs or happy songs?
"I don't write happy songs," he says. "Besides, emotions aren't defined as happy and sad, are they? Unless you're in advertising. There's a whole range of emotions and the ones I don't tend to write about are the ones that go: 'I love my job/I love my life/I love my wife'. It's like, you're f***ing sad, then, aren't you?"
--Thom Yorke


I tend to use everyday objects and everyday things that happen, rather than anything desperately cosmic. Because it's the way I am, it doesn't mean that the emotions behind choosing these things are any less relevant, it's just I can't write about green people and fluffy clouds because, not only would it sound ridiculous if I said it, although certain people could get away with it, but also, it wouldn't make any sense to me.
--Thom Yorke


To what extent is your song-writing therapy for you?
Certain things I put in songs, because that's the only place I can put them, and other things I put in songs and actually regret that I've done it, because it's so personal that I can't look at it straight in the eye again. So I think sometimes it's too much like therapy, but everyone else tells me 'No, no, it's great. Wow! It's really upsetting," and I'm going "yeah, but it's me! Eeurgh!"
--Thom Yorke
We write pop songs, As time has gone on, we've gotten more into pushing our material as far as it can go. But there was no intention of it being 'art.' It's a reflection of all the disparate things we were listening to when we recorded it.
--Thom Yorke
On American radio stations:
There's a line in Karma Police about 'he buzzes like a fridge' and when you're driving around, and you have the alternative stations on in the background, or in your hotel room, it's just a fridge buzzing. That's all I'm hearing. I'm just hearing the buzz. It's really odd. It's kind of funny though really. You have to laugh

--Thom Yorke

2006-04-03 | NME

Yorke said that despite rumours that the follow-up to Hail To The Thief will have a political feel, in fact the opposite is true.

He said: "It's about that anonymous fear thing, sitting in traffic, thinking, 'I'm sure I'm supposed to be doing something else'.
Interestingly enough it's similar to OK Computer in a way. It's much more terrifying. But OK Computer was terrifying too -some of the lyrics were."


About Amnesiac:
It was all finished at the same time as Kid a. That's why it was quite hard. We had like a board of sketches, a list of about sixty sketches--some of which were songs, others just sequences or ideas for sounds. Then it got narrowed down and narrowed down until we had a block of stuff which felt like it fitted together. And then Kid A pulled itself together very easily and really obviously but Amnesiac didn't.
--Thom Yorke


About Amnesiac:
I read that the gnostics believe when we are born we are forced to forget where we have come from in order to deal with the trauma of arriving in this life. I thought this was really fascinating. It's like the river of forgetfulness.
--Thom Yorke


About Kid A:
I was completely blocked, because I couldn't sustain anything through a whole song to make it convincing, and I couldn't sustain a thought to the end of a sentence, and I couldn't sustain playing the guitar over four chords without thinking it was shit. And then eventually when the confidence came back, it came back in the form of not having a problem with that, actually using that. Saying, "okay, this is just fragments." There's much more confidence than OK Computer.
--Thom Yorke


About Kid A:
What we're hearing in our heads is much more like this disjointed, fragmented thing, very much a landscape. Well, the artwork is very much a landscape--for fear of sounding prog-rocky. It wasn't about people as such, not really about observing characters. It was very much about objects that you have no emotional attachment to at all. I consider the album to be incredibly unemotional. It's not in any way trying to pull you in. The vocals are like a grammar of noises.
--Thom Yorke


When we did OK Computer, all the vocals were first takes because (a) I couldn't do it again afterwards and (b) it was about being in the moment. The lyrics are gibberish but they come out of ideas I've been fighting with for ages about how people are basically just pixels on a screen, unknowingly serving this higher power which is manipulative and destructive, but we're powerless because we can't name it.
--Thom Yorke


Pablo Honey is all a reflection of us. It's cynical and nervous, and it doesn't make sense. And you get the feeling at the end of it that something's wrong, but you can't quite work out what.
--Thom Yorke

2003 August | Mojo

It's all there on the songs that emerged from the tortuous recordings for The Bends. Written at the height of the band's obsession with Morrissey's Vauxhall And I (and, according to Thom, you can hear as much), "My Iron Lung" remains an alarming metaphor for the success of "Creep": "Here is our new song/Just like the last one/A total waste of time/My iron lung." "High And Dry", by contrast, is heavy with the weariness of 300 nights away: "Kill yourself for recognition/Kill yourself to never ever stop."

Following his return to his basement flat in Oxford, one evening saw Yorke falling into "a sort of drunken coma and singing a song which became '[Nice Dream]'. That song refers to a story by Kurt Vonnegut where this crystal's been found that turns all water completely solid and someone drops it into the sea. If you want to kill yourself you just put your finger into the water."

2004 | Third Way

Does it bother you when people interpret a song in a way you didn’t intend?

You have to take a deep breath and just go, ‘H’mm, that’s interesting!’ and then forget about it. I think that has always been the hardest bit: having to finish a song and accept the fact that people probably won’t get it. Because it’s so obvious to me, to all of us, at the time and it’s such a headfuck when we are called ‘depressing’. They just don’t get it. Depressing music to me is just shit music. It’s like air freshener – just a nasty little poison in the air. I remember being pinned down in a bar once by this guy who just went on and on and on and on about how ‘No Surprises’ was the most depressing piece of music he had ever heard in his life and why on earth would we choose to inflict that on people? But we don’t choose to inflict anything on anybody – and anyway I just don’t hear what he was hearing. And then you think, ‘Well, I’m not doing this to be loved anyway, so that’s OK.’

So, I’ve sort of learnt not to – well, I say that. It’s all bullshit, of course – I hope I’ve learnt not to think about it, but you do think about it. Because what we choose to be engaged in is trying to communicate with people.

But sometimes people may find things in a song that you didn’t intend which they really appreciate.

Yeah. It’s quite amazing when things take on extra meaning, but you have absolutely no idea when it’s going to happen or where it’s going to come from. ‘No Surprises’ was the most peculiar one on the last tour, because it had the line ‘Bring down the government. They don’t speak for us.’ When we were in the US, even though it is such a slow, passive song (and it was written in 1995, ’96), every night we’d get this stir in the audience and people would start screaming and shouting. Oh, it was really amazing.

And then a song like ‘Myxamotosis’ – when we did it in the studio, we kind of liked the sound of it but it really frustrated us, because we didn’t really understand where it was going; and then we played it live and the last three or four times we got this absolutely amazing reaction. It was like a train crash, you know? And sometimes these things happen.

The other interesting thing, I think, is that sometimes really powerful music can presage things that then happen. Like any artform, there’s that element of seeing into the future, no matter how dimly and naively. I’ve had it with artwork as well. Amnesiac came out in the summer of 2001 and almost every other image on the album is two towers collapsing. That freaked us out a bit.

You have said of some of your songs that it’s almost as if you received them.

A bit, yeah. I mean, all the good bits are received. All the bad bits I’ve had to hammer out with my own tools – fill in the gaps.

Given that, and that strange sense sometimes of presaging the future, do you ever feel as though there’s something not otherworldly but maybe sacred...?

Oh yeah! I was thinking about this last week, that I should count myself most lucky just to be able to stand back and look at what goes on around me – having the time just to zone out and absorb things and think about them. It’s an incredible privilege, because most people’s lives are full up from the moment they’re born to the moment they die, and I don’t have that. I spend a lot of my time watching that process without actually participating in it. Which is a kind of shamanic thing to do. That’s always been the role of artists in a way, and it’s incredibly important that someone’s doing it. (I would say that, wouldn’t I?) But you know what I mean? It’s not as easy as it sounds, either. For me, it’s quite difficult. In some ways, you are tempted to fill your life up with other noise instead. I see other people do it with all these incredibly important things they have to do all the time. It’s very easy to exist in this perpetual state of activity and then you’ll never be nudged in the direction you need to be nudged in if you’re trying to write. I do believe there are things pushing me in certain directions, but that only ever happens if I’m zoned out enough to let it happen.

Probably the most sacred thing I have to do is sit and watch, or go off and… Just go off, basically. I guess I see it as something religious, really. It’s not simply about doing nothing, it’s about being able to get to the right head space.

Can you put a name to the things that are nudging you? Do you have an explanation for it?

No, not really. It’s sometimes quite scary. I feel like a bleeding nutter. What happens is that there are certain periods when things that are happening here and now will take on a meaning they don’t normally have and become incredibly significant. It’s not my only inspiration, but it’s one that’s usually very formative in terms of moving on.

The closest description I’ve ever heard of it is the bardo thing in Buddhism. (I haven’t read it for ages, so I’ll probably get this wrong.) The simplest way to describe it is that when you’re about to drop into your deepest sleep you slip into that subconscious region where you may wake up or you may go further into sleep; and that’s a very important time in Buddhism, not for spiritual enrichment but for an opening into the beyond, that being able to see the strands that hold things together.

I don’t see it as clearly as that – I mean, I can’t meditate, I wish I could – but there are times when things take on such significance that I’ll write down what’s happened or I’ll try and write the music that went with it or whatever. And those are the things that, when I look back a few months later, are the things that are really powerful. All the endless-hard-work stuff will not be half as good.
--Chipping Away: Brian Draper Interviews Thom Yorke (2004 October)

2006 August | Paste

As we discuss the Orwellian nature into the world’s collective psyche, Yorke’s other side begins to appear, the one similar to Toto sniffing around the Wizard’s curtain. Unlike what most critics would have you believe, Yorke isn’t a pessimist; he’s a realist with a might big spotlight. Yet, continually using one’s influence as an artist to shed light on the atrocities of modern life isn’t really in the job description, though it’s always tempting.
“I wouldn’t want to take on that kind of responsibility, but I think I can’t help finding myself—given the particular weapon I have at my disposal—wanting to use it occasionally in certain circumstances. But I thin it’s best used inside the music; that’s where you can have the best effect. Some people are able to do it—Neil Young, Bob Marley; Bob Dylan’s done it endlessly. Lots of rap does it; Public Enemy does it endlessly, so it’s possible to do and do well. But I always have to be aware when it comes to writing and when it comes to music, you don’t just come and say, ‘I want to put this in the song.’ It naturally evolves, and it’s naturally a part of what’s going on … Anger is an energy source for me, especially lyrically when I’m presented with something I consider utter madness … My writing is a constant response to doublethink."
--Thom Yorke

2004-04 | The Rest is Noise

This is not a Radiohead quote but it describes very well the way the band work on a song:
A Radiohead song is usually written in three stages. First, Yorke comes up with a rough sketch; then Jonny, who studied classical composition in school, fleshes out the harmony; finally, the others digest it for a while, working out their parts on their own. It can be months, even years, before a song comes together in a way that satisfies all of them. Take away any one element—Selway's flickering rhythmic grid, for example, fierce in execution and trippy in effect—and Radiohead are a different band. The five together form a single mind, with its own habits and tics—the Radiohead Composer. This personality can be glimpsed in the daily bustle of the group, but you can never meet it face to face, because it lives in the music. A lot of what has been written about Radiohead—there are six books, hundreds of magazine articles, and millions of words on the Internet—circles around an absent center.

Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
I think this guy actually spoke to the band and they told him how they work, so that is why I'm including it. The article is very well written and I really recommend it.