Radiohead’s Thom Yorke chatted with Alec Baldwin on WNYC’s "Here’s the Thing" podcast released today to talk about his creative process, how he met his band mates, his son’s musicality and more.
Some highlights from the interview:
On the creation of Atoms for Peace:
Thom Yorke: I emailed friends of mine who I knew liked the record. One was Flea from the Chili Peppers. One was my friend Joey, who’s drummed with everybody. He’s a genius drummer from L.A. Anyway, we got it together and it turned into this thing. It became really exciting, and we ended up calling the band Atoms for Peace and making a record out of the excitement of that. And it was all brand new to me because I’d been in the same band since I was 17 – 16.
On Yorke’s pre-show routine, and how it compares to that of R.E.M’s Michael Stipe:
TY: I stand on my head for a bit and basically I’m completely on my own until five minutes before we go on, and then we’re all in a room together pacing up and down like wild animals and then we’re on. But when we first started doing big shows, it was for Michael Stipe and it does the total opposite. He literally – he’ll be talking to you and then someone taps him on the shoulder and then they’re on. I was like how the hell do you do that, man? I tried to do it like that, couldn’t do it.
On Yorke’s first band and the creation of Radiohead:
TY: No. We were not very good at all, but it was – it was very exciting, like going round to a friend’s house, setting up and jamming and all of our mates would come and hang out – and girls, which I thought, ‘Hmm, this is interesting’ as puberty hit. That sort of felt a bit, because I kept fighting with the drummer. And then when I was 16, I was thinking I really need to get this together, really, and then just went around the school sort of choosing people.
Alec Baldwin: So you went around picking people.
TY: I got Ed because he was dressed like Morrissey and he had some cool socks, and I saw he had a guitar. I had no idea whether he could play or not. I didn’t really care. I got Colin because I knew Colin could play very well and I needed a bass player who could play very well, but he’d never played bass before. His brother Jonny was this mythical musical prodigy, so I roped him in, and then Phil was the only drummer we knew anyway and he had a house down the road that we could rehearse in.
TY: To me, like my favorite singer is like Björk. When I watch Björk sing, I’ve been lucky enough to sort of sing with her and watch her do it.
AB: I was going to say, you’re one of the people who can use that phrase, ‘When I watch Björk sing.’ Most of us say, ‘When I listen to Björk sing.’
On taking up a cause:
TY: I – well in my slack-arsed fashion, I was helping Greenpeace, which was trying to stop drilling in the Arctic. But it sounds like it’s kind of working because the companies seem to be pulling out because –
AB: Shell just pulled out, didn’t it?
TY: Yeah, that’s right. I don’t think that’s entirely down to us, but I think it definitely helped that we were making their life extremely difficult everywhere they turned. But the challenge now is to turn the Arctic into a reserve so it can’t happen. Because what that was going to do was create this gold rush – oil rush – up there, which was just gonna be insane, and this at the same time when the ice is melting. Basically they only started considering it was a possibility because the ice was melting and they thought, ‘Okay, great. Maybe we’ve got a better chance at drilling.’ Which is like –
On Yorke’s son’s musical talents:
TY: My son is a great drummer, but I don’t know if he’ll want to do that forever or not. He’s like not bothered really, which is cool. He just – he comes and hangs out with me when I’m working in my studio. We just hang out, you know. We’re friends. But I don’t think, you know, there’s no burning ambition to be a musician or anything really, even though he’s really good. He does it for pleasure. I mean at that age that’s good, right?
On hanging out with celebrities:
TY: That never appealed. I don’t hang out with people because they are who they are necessarily, unless I’m a big admirer of them. Like I mean, I stalked Ed Norton for ages until eventually he gave in.
TY: Because I’m a big admirer of him. I think he’s brilliant. So I hang out with him a bit occasionally. And Flea, I’ve always really admired Flea anyway, so even before it became an issue of sort of playing with him.
For the whole interview and transcript go to: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/heresthething/2013/apr/01/