More from the Thom Yorke interview with The Believer

by Jonathan on August 10, 2009

Thom Yorke

Stereogum has more from the intereview Thom gave The Believer last month. In it, Thom talks about his dislike of CDs and a new “plan” to distribute future music which unfortunately, he’s very vague on:

THE BELIEVER:…This isn’t the end of Radiohead album art as we know it?

TY: No, we’ve actually got a good plan, but I can’t tell you what it is, because someone will rip it off. But we’ve got this great idea for putting things out.

THE BELIEVER: In a digital realm?

TY: In a physical realm and a digital realm. But, yeah.. no, I can’t tell you what it is. [Laughs] Sorry to be so vague about everything.

///

THE BELIEVER: Do you think [the In Rainbows pay-what-you-want method] worked?

TY: Oh, yeah. It worked on two or three different levels. The first level is just sort of getting a point across that we wanted to get across about music being valuable. It also worked as a way of using the Internet to promote your record, without having to use iTunes or Google or whatever. You rely on the fact that you know a lot of people want to hear it. You don’t want to have to go to the radio first and go through all that bullshit about what’s the first single. You don’t want to have to go to the press. That was my thing, like, I am not giving it to the press two months early so they can tear it to shreds and destroy it for people before they’ve even heard it. And it worked on that level. And it also worked financially.

BELIEVER: Do you think this method would work for other bands who aren’t as known as Radiohead?

TY: With the press, we’re in a lucky position where we don’t really have to rely on a reviewer’s opinion, so why would we let that get in the way? If people want to play it for themselves, why don’t we just give it to them to listen to? I just don’t want to have to read about it first.

BELIEVER: And that style of release definitely promotes the album as a work of art, rather than a bunch of singles floating around the Internet.

TY: Oh, that’s interesting. I appreciate that. Unfortunately, a lot of people got the album in the wrong order.

BELIEVER: What about the idea of an album as a musical form? You think that the format is still worthwhile amid iPod shuffling?

TY: I’m not very interested in the album at the moment.

BELIEVER: I’ve heard you talk a lot about singles and EPs. Is that what you’ve been moving toward?

TY: I’ve got this running joke: Mr. Tanaka runs this magazine in Japan. He always says to me, “EPs next time?” And I say yes and go off on one, and he says, “Bullshit.” [Laughs] But I think really, this time, it could work. It’s part of the physical-release plan I was talking about earlier. None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again. Not straight off. I mean, it’s just become a real drag. It worked with In Rainbows because we had a real fixed idea about where we were going. But we’ve all said that we can’t possibly dive into that again. It’ll kill us … Jonny [Greenwood] and I have talked about sitting down and writing songs for orchestra and orchestrating it fully and just doing it like that and then doing a live take of it and that’s it — finished. We’ve always wanted to do it, but we’ve never done it because, I think the reason is, we’re always taking songs that haven’t been written for that, and then trying to adapt them. That’s one possible EP because, with things like that, you think do you want to do a whole record like that? Or do you just want to get stuck into it for a bit and see how it feels?

///

THE BELIEVER: In some ways, the way Internet singles work is close to the way things used to be with the music industry in the ’50s, before full-lengths were the thing, and radio singles were what defined artists.

THOM YORKE: Right, and if you forget about the money issue for just a minute, if it’s possible to do that — because these are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about — and you look at it in terms of the most amazing broadcasting network ever built, then it’s completely different. In some ways, that’s the best way of looking at it. I mean, I don’t spend my fucking life downloading free MP3s, because I hate the websites. No one seems to know what they’re talking about. I’d much rather go to sites like Boomkat, where people know what they’re talking about.

BLVR: Boomkat is great.

TY: It’s brilliant. To me, that’s a business model. It’s like when I used to go to music shops in Oxford. You’re looking at this and you’re looking at that and there’s a whole line of other things going down the side saying, “You’ll probably like this,” and “You might like this.”

BLVR: I love those stores where everything’s hand-selected and the clerks write little descriptions about the music.

TY: Yeah, and you can listen to it all. I mean, Boomkat is very specific with the type of stuff they flog there, but I can’t see why that wouldn’t work for all music.

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  • DSam

    Great interview, but the media is taking it all out of context. Lots of sites overreacting, Thom didn’t say they won’t be ‘ever’ doing another album. And he already has a plan for the artwork issue, he seems to have a lot of entusiasm for work, is making music, I don’t get all the negative sentiment about the state of mind Radiohead has right now.

  • steller

    Exactly, this news should be taken positively. It’s not like I’m an In Rainbows basher but what the hell was the concept behind that, apart from making something aesthetically beautiful. It sounds like they’re trying to do something to the degree of the Kid A follow up to Ok Computer – - something conceptually brilliant, which is probably what the true Radiohead fans want anyway. And as far the music industry goes, why should anyone make a full length album anymore if we’re all just gonna pick and choose the songs we want and download them off iTunes. Obviously that option does have positives, like, if the album has three great songs and the rest are shite fillers.. I’m glad I don’t have to pay full price (not referring to In Rainbows). But it sounds like, if it’s gonna be full length, they might as well take the time to put some personality into it and make it worth the album price.

    This is the best news I’ve heard from the band in a while. Seems like just a matter of time before we get our hands on another Radiohead masterpiece.

  • Yuriy

    Come on, people! Don’t you see? They are tired of everything. All these talks about new concept of music distribution… yeah…it’s maybe interesting, but…. pretty obvious that they are just tired.. even of making music….
    So we shall wait and see

  • Chris

    I’m excited to hear that they’re trying new things, but I wouldn’t get all bent out of shape and say this portends the end of Radiohead. Look, they were saying similar things before Hail to the Theif and In Rainbows. It’s just part of the process, the part like anyone else has where they say “Oh, God, I’ve got to do this?” Making music is actually quite a bit of work, especially when you consider the time and energy the lads put into it.

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  • Grrravy

    I think Thom and Johnny know that they make some of the world’s most beautiful music together. I doubt Radiohead will never truly end any time soon. I think a lot of their future musical endeavors will just be in shorter formats like EP’s and maxi-singles. Looking forward to their new concepts!

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  • Meh

    Oh, my! Why does everybody overanalyse everything? What Mr. Yorke says is that he is more interested in EPs than in LPs for the moment. Nothing strange or alarming about that. But the constant babble and theories around so simple a statement probably do make him want to throw it all away and move to a deserted island…

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