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Radiohead: They're Not So Angst-ridden Once You Get to Know Them, by Gabriella

Formed in Oxford, 1987, the alternative rock band Radiohead (named after a Talking Heads song) has gained strong international popularity over the years with works such as Pablo Honey (1993), The Bends (1995), and most notably the Grammy award-winning O.K. Computer (1997). Unlike previous efforts, however, the band's latest album, Kid A, is somewhat lacking in accessibility causing critics to proffer less than enthusiastic reviews. In the following interview, the band members talk with NY Rock freelancer, Gabriella about the new music.


I can't help but think Kid A sounds a bit like Can and Kraftwerk....


It's true. Can and Kraftwerk were the bands we've been listening to a lot, but also Charlie Mingus. We wanted to show some new angles in our work. It felt a bit like we were in a dead-end street and that was really frustrating.


After the success we had with OK Computer, I did feel like I'm in some sort of creative prison. It was time for me to break out of it.

I heard that you worked with an Apple Notebook and a vocorder program to get some weird sound effects.


Thom sang through the notebook and the same time Jonny's keyboard was hooked up and we made all sorts of weird experiments, a little bit like the Beastie Boys maybe. They also tried a lot of new and sometimes weird sound effects. It was a very creative, relaxed atmosphere and we really enjoyed working together.


I enjoyed the way it all worked out and the way we worked. We didn't have to push ourselves to work. We wanted to get things done, to experiment and find new angles, leave the old paths, you know. We tried to treat the album like a song, let the album develop itself rather than giving it a shape and moulding it into a shape. And it worked. It was a completely different way we used for work and it was rather liberating. We had about 40 songs but only a few made it, only a few of them were what we wanted on the album. We toyed with the idea of making it a double album but I think that would only have confused everybody even more. So we decided to stick with the songs we picked.


For me, Kid A is a bit difficult to get into. What is your take on it? Did you plan it this way or was it something that just happened?


I don't think it is so hard to get into it. The way Thom sings those first few lines about Kid A, that's such an excellent opening for the whole album. It really shows you where we're going and what is happening in the album.


The lyrics seem to be angst ridden. Fans may start to worry about Thom's health and state of mind....


Thom isn't half as moody and unstable as his lyrics can make you believe he is. I think a lot of people take the lyrics too seriously and read too much into it. They only show a part of Thom's personality, maybe the dark part, but it is still not the whole guy. He used his voice like an instrument and we used the lyrics like pieces in a collage, pierced something together and created an artwork out of a lot of different little things.


There is no point in taking the lyrics alone, apart from the music. That's one of the reasons why we won't have a lyric sheet with the album. You just can't separate it.


Thom is really fed up with being the spokesperson of a lost generation until all eternity, with all their fear, angst, loneliness and post-millennium neurosis. He's trying to escape that fate by moving, always moving forward, never standing still, always developing....


How did it all start? You just met in the studio and said, "Let's experiment a bit and see what happens" or did you have some rough plan, an idea in mind?


I think it was the first time we didn't have a clue what we were going to do, what we were doing. We were just experimenting. We'd been in this state for about a year, just fooling around, trying out stuff and listening to what we did. Then it finally started to get into shape... After about 18 months.


You once said that the track listing is almost painful for you, that you have such a hard time doing it, compared to the rest of the creative process, one would think it was just a breeze....


The track listing is always the hardest part for me. It is so difficult and almost painful. I can only use the old metaphor about songs being like children. My songs are my kids and some of them stay with me. Some others I have to send out, out to the war. It might sound stupid and it might even sound naive, but that's just the way it is. I talked to Bjork about it and she agrees. She says she feels exactly the same way about her songs.

Editor’s Note: Radiohead are Thom Yorke (vocals), Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, xylophone), Ed O’Brien (guitar), Colin Greenwood (bass) and Phil Selway (drums).

December 2000

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