Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood, international man of mystery

Spin: Mr. Bloke? Do you always take calls at hotels under an alias?

Colin Greenwood: It's even more necessary when we're in Japan-fans are always calling up.

Right now, to a lot of people, Radiohead seem the sovereign artistic operation in rock'n'roll.  What, if anything, connects "Creep," The Bends, and OK Computer?

When we rehearse, we're always trying to aim for something else. But we never quite succeed in getting there. For example, we used to call "Creep" the "Scott Walker song." Of course, it doesn't sound at all like him. We wanted it to-we're enormous fans-but it fell short.

But many of your fans have this romantic notion of your music as being somehow sourceless-especially OK Computer.

Completely the opposite. To us, it's rooted in obvious things-what we've listened to, that is. At the same time, the ways in which our music is rehearsed and played and recorded are, if not sourceless, placeless. We are kind of one step removed, not really in the center of things. Well, Oxford is in the center of England, but it's not really a rock'n'roll town, and we don't record in a rock'n'roll place. We rehearse at an old fruit farm-an apple shed, really. I suppose that's where the Pink Floyd comparisons come in. They were from Cambridge. It's that whole middle-class thing.

Class, that little-discussed rock'nroll issue.

 There's no point apologizing about where you come from. The thing about rock is that people are not just interested in bands because of where they want to go. It's where they want to escape from that matters. Sometimes the actual places they're escaping from don't really exist.

When you're onstage, audiences often get blown away by that famed Radiohead presence. Maybe that's why rock stars drop your name as often as Prada's these days.

[German film director] Wim Wenders came to a show in Cologne last year with his son, who is a Radiohead fan. Wenders had listened to OK Computer because he was going to the concert. He liked it, but he didn't think there was a way it could be replicated live. He was amazed that it was.

Your studiocraft does tend toward the ambitious.

We always talk about doing simple pop records, then end up doing some silly long things-no, I didn't say that.

Well, ambitiousness hasn't stranded you.

I was having drinks yesterday in Sydney at the top of the ANA Hotel, on the 36th floor, looking down on this neon cityscape of bridges and rivers. In ten days, I'll be in Tokyo.

So do Radiohead enjoy being rock stars?

Enjoy? You can never say that. It'd be a guilty pleasure, like saying one would enjoy 18 chocolates.

1997 ranking: -

James Hunter