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24 September 2014
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Thom Yorke of Radiohead talks to BBC World Service

BBC Radio DJ Steve Lamacq presents a four-part series, The Radiohead Story, starting on Monday 21 April on BBC World Service.

It tells the story of the band from their early schooldays in Oxford, through to their latest recordings.

All five band members, including enigmatic frontman Thom Yorke, tell their story.

There is also a rare opportunity to hear key moments from the band's career from the BBC archive.

Talking to Steve Lamacq Thom Yorke said:

On the album's title

"The others felt very strongly about it (Hail to the Thief) as a title. I mean I really, really struggled. I couldn't think of anything that really seemed to work for ages.

"I think partly because the artwork for the record, what Stanley did was he used all these words and stuff that he'd seen in LA and all these notes that I had scattered around the place so everything was words . . . everywhere I looked and titles and phrases so I was a little bit paralysed when it came to thinking where the album was coming from.

"But they were really into it because its this crazy jubilation about it - this Emperor's new clothes thing about it, like whey hey isn't this marvellous in a kind of pure blind panic written on their faces I guess. I ‘m not quite sure, but it seems to work for me."

On the new single from the album There There

"It made me cry when we finished it actually, I blubbed my eyes out. Then I went to LA and Nigel played me the mix and it just made me cry, I was in tears for ages, I just thought it was the best thing we had ever done.

"There was something about it, I loved what he did with the guitar sound and the way he mixed it and just the way it is really jubilant to me that song in a funny way.

"Also at one time I thought it was the song that we were going to lose which I was really upset about because the melody stayed with me for about four months without going away which is really unusual as it doesn't take me long to get bored and I really never got bored of this song."

On the critics

"Basically I don't read anything that anybody writes now about us at all, cause I just can't anymore, and the main reason for that was that I happened upon by accident basically a review of an Oxford gig which was just like one of the biggest days in my life obviously for all of us.

"Whoever this person was just tore it to shreds, but they couldn't think quite how to tear us to shreds really so they tore the audience to shreds and just basically said who are these people, a bunch of students, white middle class, which is not the case at all.

"But what's the point in arguing, but this person managed to totally and utterly ruin that day for me forever and it shouldn't have done and I should be big enough to ignore it and there was a lesson there which I've learnt now, but I just didn't understand how someone, just because they had access to a keyboard and a typewriter, could write off an event that meant an awful lot to an awful lot of people and there be no answering back, no nothing, that was it, the end of the story.

"Obviously that happens all the way through your career if you choose to do this for a living or stand in front of a stage you're asking for it, that was the most upset I've ever been about anything ever written even right from the beginning."

On his emotions

"A good place to put anger is in music, better than a lot of other places."

On Radiohead's working practices

"Sabotage I think is very important in the way we operate. I think we are unhealthily paranoid about complacency to the point where it is just silly and I am delving into complacency on this record anyway, simply by just sort of saying we are going to let this happen now, i.e. I am not going to sabotage absolutely every single moment of every single day like normal, which I think went down quite well with the others funnily enough.

"But I think it just happens anyway, I think that part of the creative thing for us really is that if something has happened in the past we can 100% guarantee without fear of contradiction that it will never work again. So don't even go there and if you do go there it is purely by accident - so that's all right then!"

On the decision to sign with EMI

"Everything was a horrendous learning curve. I don't know what happens now, but when we signed to a major record label there were lots of independents and the independent thing was very strong and signing to EMI was a bit like okay, we are going to have to spend the first three years apologising for this anyway, which was fair enough, but the joke about it at the time was that we knew that most of those independents were either being signed up and a lot of them were being bought or went under and really we thought that what we were doing was pop music anyway and we didn't expect we could attain that sort of integrity or whatever the hell.

"We basically didn't want to get into a discussion about it so it was like, oh well, okay we'll sign with a major and actually we had a good thing going with EMI.

"The way that these things pan out it was extremely stressful because, like any band when they sign, we were incredibly naive and didn't understand how these things worked and didn't understand, I didn't understand when I was getting very personal attacks very quickly within the music press, I kind of didn't get it.

"I know I've got one of these faces that people want to punch but I can't help that, but it was a bit odd, it just took a while to get used to that idea.

"We were really paranoid of falling into traps, of falling into a hole and never getting out again and we had only just started.

"Then the creep thing happened, we were in America and everyone was all over us like a rash and we were doing the most horrendous press and promotional things, which I really don't think there is any point in doing."

On creative difficulties

"The fall out from that was horrendous, we got to the point where we scrapped everything and started again because we were just so messed up, we didn't understand, that was only a couple of years later, we just could not work out why we had got into this, it ceased to make any sense to us.

"You talk about the songwriting and we were doing it but there was no life to it. We just didn't understand why we were doing it, it was really weird, it was like someone had nicked it off us or something."

On participating in a Drop the Debt protest

"A few years ago Drop the Debt thing just stuck with me when we went to Cologne. I've talked about this before, how all these nice old ladies and Quakers and stuff were protesting at the G7 or 8.

"We handed in this petition with millions of signatures to Schroder at this thing in Cologne and there was a protest that turned into a riot back in London, but somehow the British press were just writing it up as if all these old ladies and Quakers were somehow anti-capitalist lunatics and it was all part of the same co-ordinated protest, which was just nonsense.

"The whole thing was just written up so badly and everyone was ignoring the fact that it was millions of people's signatures on this thing and it just stuck with me how utterly powerless people are to represent what really goes on if people elsewhere see a nicer, more convenient story to be written another way if they can write off the wishes of millions of people in a split second editorial decision, which I feel is immoral."

The series of four programmes starts on Monday 21 April on BBC World Service.

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 BBC radio networks.



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