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Radiohead interview: more blank than frank - The Radiohead Interview

2006-03-29 10:55

We talk to the band in an attempt to discover the meaning behind Yorke's enigmatic lyrics, but in the end the elusive auteur confounds us with some of his trademark oblique strategies.

M-WEB: What's up with the album title: "Hail to the Thief"?
PHIL (drums, percussion):
We always have quite a long list as we're going along, sort of potential titles. You know at some point or other, each one has their day. For the period that record was written in and recorded there were dark forces at work that I think, you know, fed themselves back into what was happening lyrically there. For us, I think that comes across as quite a strong aspect of the record. So, something like that...we felt to do justice to what was a strong record we needed quite a spiky title.
THOM (vocals, guitar, piano, laptop): I'm not quite sure, but it seems to work for me. To have called the album itself "The Gloaming" would not have done justice to any of the music at all. The music totally I think is quite bright, or if not bright, then energetic and positive, you know? And the performances and that sort of attitude and everything was sort of like that. I mean it has this sort of shininess - which is a happy sound, I think. Well, relatively speaking for us. (Almost laughs) But lyrically it comes from a different place. The force of the music gave me license to explore all these things really.

M-WEB: You've actually written a single, what's happening?
PHIL: It just felt as though there were singles on this record. Kid A just didn't feel like the kind of record that you could present in that way. And I don't think we were in the right place emotionally or whatever to actually kind of put together the approach that we're doing at the moment. But everything for us is always led through what we've recorded. We felt that there were tracks on there all along which had potential as a single.

M-WEB: "Sail to the Moon" has a distinct nursery rhyme feel. Tell us more...
THOM: Well it was written for my little boy. Which I've decided to sort of be honest about 'cos it's fairly obvious I suppose. It's just a very personal song, I think. I mean I got back into singing... I really love the fact that I mean, if you, I think that the band really did an amazing thing with that.

M-WEB: How about a definition of a Radiohead song - "Backdrifts" seems a pretty desolate vision of the world, doesn't it?
THOM: There's lots and lots of different interpretations. I mean the lyrics are incredibly ambivalent deliberately. But it sort of came from a certain type of light that I saw, a certain type of smell. It's not particularly anything...Basically this pure blind panic which I kept encountering in different forms. And it ended up being a song called "Backdrifts" that had this sort of florescent light. That's probably not very helpful. I can't really explain it. I mean...(sighs)
JONNY (guitar, toys): It was the point when we managed to work out how to make all the boxes and machines talk to each other I suppose. I guess that's what happened with it really.

M-WEB: "A Punchup at a Wedding" is a fabulous name for a song. What's the story?
I just had this thing in my head about this... it's just like a punch up at a wedding. Nobody knows what's going on. It's just a riot.

Few bands are as adept at carving constantly evolving sonic paths as Radiohead. Now, after a hiatus of almost two years, and with lead singer Yorke having rediscovered his love of lyrics, Radiohead return with their latest acclaimed slice of aural art, Hail to the Thief.
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