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Radiohead recently released “Harry Patch (In Memory Of),” but don’t hold your breath for a new full-length. In an interview that appears in the current (July/August 2009) issue of The Believer, Thom Yorke tells the magazine “None of us want to go into that creative hoo-ha of a long-play record again. Not straight off.” He tells interviewer Ross Simonini a lot more, too. (Full disclosure: I’m a Contributing Editor at said magazine and have an interview with Phil Elverum in the same issue.) Part of the Q&A’s on-line, and I transcribed some of it. All of it’s worth a look. They begin by discussing sustainable options for touring, then Yorke gets into his dislike of CDs. As he puts it, “I always hated CDs … I’m happy to see the CD format disappear.” This leads into his thoughts on the digital realm — a place where it’s not necessary to include album art — and Radiohead’s possible movement beyond “physical” releases.

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.

At one point, Yorke says “In Rainbows was a particular aesthetic and I can’t bear the idea of doing that again,” so Simonini asks:

BELIEVER: So what’s the next sound?

TY: As a band we haven’t gotten together much. I’ve just been working on stuff.

BELIEVER: Electronic?

TY: Well, yeah, ’cause my inability to play drums dictates certain electronic drums. Computers are pretty nice at tidying you up. It’s great. Actually, it’s not that great… but I’ve been working, keeping myself going. It’s like a limb. I need to keep exercising it. Otherwise ti goes dead, floppy.

Like this? Find out more (like how to get a physical copy of the magazine) at The Believer. This issue also includes a great traveling diary by Michelle Tea kept during her time with the Gossip in Paris during Fashion Week.

Comments (65)
  1. Evan  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    Hi I’m Thom Yorke and I’m too lazy to go through the creative rigors necessary to make 10 or 12 songs. What a fuckin’ joke.

    (expecting the biggest downvote this side of the mississip)

    • Dano  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      I’m actually with you. And I think Thom was a bit pissy in the interview, too. Too bad everyone’s kissing their asses so much these days. I wish the band would just start rocking again. In Rainbows was a snore.

    • sloan  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      I don’t think anyone’s going to bother giving you the attention you clearly want so bad.

      • sloan? is that you?

      • Evan  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

        Why is it that when someone has an opinion other than “omg I luv radiohead” they get called names and are accused of just ‘wanting attention’?

        that’s a double-standard you have going there, buddy. Now suck my cock

        • sloan  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

          Evan, I wasn’t aware that you made an actual critique. It just looked like you were just talking shit and just generally acting like a petulant little cunt. Actually, as I read your original post again I still think that.

          The best part about guys who like to say “suck my dick” to other guys is that deep down inside they mean it.

          • Evan  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

            It’s sad that you think insinuating that I’m gay is a good insult. Really sad, actually. Why would I be insulted by that? I’m not gay, but if I was it wouldn’t make me any less of a human being.

          • sloan  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

            Dear Ass, I live in West Hollywood. Half my friends are gay. You’re the one using “suck my dick” as a slam, you are the homophobe. You’re such a douche. Go away.

    • anon  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      RH could throw some songs together and release it as a full-length album, but they care about quality. They like to take time and release decent material that isn’t “forced.”

    • Actually, don’t expect that because every since people have been required to log in to vote, no one’s posts have recieved especially high or low reviews.

    • But they’re ten or twelve of the best songs they can produce at the moment that are textured very well, fit together thematically, are very well played, sung beautifully, and are written extremely well; I doubt anyone can do that on a whim.

    • WallabyJoe  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

      I wouldn’t necessarily put it that way, but I sort of agree with you.

      In 1969 CCR released three full-length albums:Bayou Country in January, Green River in August, and Willy and the Poor Boys in November. Elton John released 11 albums, many of which were his greatest classics, over a 7-year span (1969-1975). Even the Beatles, who all but wanted to kill each other by the end, were kicking out at least one a year. I guess what I’m saying is that with very few exceptions, for better of worse (Ryan Adams, Robert Pollard), no one has that sort of enthusiasm for the album anymore. Maybe it’s the “death of the album” people keep talking about, or maybe it’s just a laziness that’s become the norm. It’s just disappointing, I guess, and I wonder if maybe a band having that much trouble getting in the studio to create new music should even try again? (That saddens me, because I love Radiohead, but I’d rather have no new Radiohead than terrible, lazy, obligatory Radiohead who hates what they’re doing.)

  2. Big Fan  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    I’m a huge Radiohead fan, but doesn’t Thom say this like every time? Though, it’s interesting to hear him talk about now really being into the album as a few years back they wouldn’t even put their stuff on iTunes because it’d “kill the album.”

    Then again he’s apparently making a song for Twilight. Full of interesting contradictions this man. Love him.

  3. Good Riddance you overrated egomaniacs. I feel ashamed that I once listened to radiohead in my life, they are a good indie initiation band, nothing more.

    • your mother  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      Shut up.

    • ummmmmm  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

      When was Radiohead “indie?”

      AND

      You should probably listen harder…

    • jjazznola  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

      “indie initiation band” Huh? What exactly does that mean? They are better than just about any indie band I have ever heard. This interview was just Thom being Thom. I love Radiohead but I would like to see them go in a different direction. Their last few releases all kind of sound similar. So take your time guys until you come up with something fresh.

  4. faygo face  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    i already have their new full length, they released it a year from now. but i traveled through time to download it (FYI, in the future you can download stuff without a computer, but i promised not to say how). thom’s a cool guy, we had sandwiches together. also the new album is good but not great. new ICP is better. holla, ninjas.

  5. Forget it, Stereogum. It’s Trolltown.

    I’m sure whenever and whatever they release next, it will be brilliant.

  6. So confused. This article is published about a month ago, then out of the blue Pitchfork, MBV, NPR, and now Stereogum “report” it as “news.”

    Furthermore, it’s being completely sensationalized with headlines like “No more Radiohead LPs” or “Radiohead not releasing any more albums” [I know those aren't verbatim, but they capture the same overblown sentiment]. At least Stereogum left it at “not coming anytime soon,” which is much closer to what Thom Yorke was talking about in the first place.

    For once, the internet was way behind on something and is looking foolish stumbling all over itself trying to make this a new story.

    PS. The Phil Elverum interview is GREAT.

  7. Nick Jonas (spy)  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    How was the Gathering of the Juggalos? Oh, and I hope I’m not the only one who will be dreaming about Thom’s new physical + digital future release approach every night in anticipation. Though, the In Rainbows model wasn’t anything groundbreaking…MEH.

  8. anon  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    They know what they’re doing, so I look forward to any released material.

  9. Evan  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    Furthermore, Yorke is trying to destroy the Long Play format and god help me, if he succeeds in doing so, I’ll throw away all of my Radiohead albums.

  10. whatever they do will be great.

  11. I completely agree with everything he has said in this interview. Radiohead’s smart enough to know where music is going and they’re the only band, now, who can take us there.

  12. Grapfruit Tahitian  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    Thom’s hearing the steel drums but doesn’t want to play that…

  13. I’m also a little confused as to why this is being called “news” a month after it was published. Read the actual interview (the whole thing, that is). It’s not nearly as disconcerting as a lot of headlines make it out to be. (I also thought it was a pretty relaxed and informative interview, as far as Thom Yorke interviews go.)

    Plus Yorke has been talking about the possibility of moving away from releasing full-length albums for about ten years now. Actually, he tends to bring up a lot of things in interviews that have yet to materialize. That whole “no more touring” thing never really happened, now did it? Being as they’ve released Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows since then (as well as going on three world tours), I’m not exactly convinced that it’ll be eons before we see the next Radiohead LP.

  14. Eric  |   Posted on Aug 10th, 2009 0

    My interpretation of this was that he doesn’t want to go into the studio for the sake of making an album. I think I read in an interview (with Colin?) that they usually don’t go into the studio with an album in mind, just because they have songs they want to record and maybe that’ll end up being an album. They tend to make what some people call “concept albums” because as he said about In Rainbows, their albums tend to have a particular aesthetic and I guess they don’t want to force a certain sound on the music, but they also don’t want to put out a release that doesn’t go together and make sense creatively. Like the report about them talking about breaking up before releasing In Rainbows that surfaced a couple of months ago, they seem to be their own toughest critics and when they thought their material wasn’t really up to par, they would rather break up than release something they’re not entirely happy with. I kind of see this as something similar that they don’t want to release a collection of songs and call it an album just because it’s 40+ minutes. They want their albums to actually have some unity and if it doesn’t, then they’re not going to force it or call it an album for the sake of it.

  15. To be fair, before every major release after OK Computer Radiohead was really fucking close to breaking up. Their manager actually advised them to break up before they started to record In Rainbows… So I can see what Thom means. It’s just too fucking stressful. They’re old men now, in and around their 40s. The absolute perfectionist attitude that’s needed to make these amazing albums is just too much. They’ve given enough already… they deserve a well needed rest with a bunch of EPs.

  16. who are we to say what art is unless we made the art itself?

  17. I think the only thing sadder than this is that there is a Brittney Spears Kohls ad on the right side of this page. Really Stereogum?!?!?

  18. I like Radiohead (particularly enjoyed “In Rainbows”) and respect everything they do but I hope the concept of an “album” doesn’t go away. I hate not listening to an album all the way through–I still think there’s real value in hearing the whole thing. But I still don’t have an iPod, so maybe I just missed the whole boat.

  19. Joeeeeeeeeeee  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    Look yea, Radiohead take a long time between their album releases for sure, but to me it sounds like they are trying to do something new in the same vein as the release of In Rainbows, like something just as cool so I’m ok with waiting. I have to say they’re certainly not an indie introduction band, I mean maybe they aren’t the absolute best group out now, but they’re pretty great and they invented a large amount of the modern/indie music of today so they deserve respect for that.

  20. I read this as “We are going to wait till the next decade to make the best album of that decade as well, so that we can have 3 best albums of the decade o, and be one of the only bands to be entirely relevant in three decades, unless you count bob dylan or perhaps david byrn.” But then again I’m a mark

  21. i’m double postin i realize, but I keep thinking of other artist that have been relevant in three decades or more, i.e johnny cash… a lot more actually, so whatever

    but best album of 3 decades? I don’t think so.

    but this is all on the presupposition that no one out does kid a in the next 3 months, which I’m, still hoping pavement will get back together and make an album with jeff mangum.

    oh dreams

  22. Zing Zing  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    “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…”
    =
    The sites you’re reading this on, if not Boomkat, are shit. You’re a fool for interviewing me beyond this point. I’ll laugh until my head comes off.

  23. surgeonkerosene  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    i don’t think it’s fair to call them lazy by any means. realistically, the dynamic of a band is a difficult thing to live in… these are people you may work with very well sonically, but personally, it’s alot to invest over a long period of time. that being said, time and family and whatnot also puts restrictions on your ability to be a functional, full-time-studio band, over time.

    i think they’re probably looking at the future of the band in a realistic, mature way. they all have families and kids and partners, and after over a decade of making music all the time (not to mention the pressure post OK-C), maybe they just feel they can relax with the whole ‘album pressure’ thing. In Rainbows was a success, so why not release MORE over a short period of time than spending 2 years dwelling over sounds in a studio, endlessly hoping to tie it all together?

  24. i am confused too. Tom says these things all the time.

  25. Lem  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    Radiohead are hypocrites!!!!!!!! Why did they release their album on CD?

    They sign a deal with Sony to distribute and promote In Rainbows.

    They still sold over 500k cd’s in the USA alone. I want my money back if CD’s are dead.

    • anon  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

      They’re not hypocrites. CDs are a popular format for music sales, so they sold In Rainbows on CDs; that doesn’t mean that they have to like it.

  26. Gil  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    Fuck.

  27. anonymous  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2009 0

    I like how Thom said they don’t want to get into a new album “straight off” as if In Rainbows came out last week. Uh, it’s been almost two years.

  28. It’s sad, cause I know the CD will die out one day. I’ll sure miss holding a physical copy. And album art I’ll miss the most.

  29. Grace  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2009 0

    damn, I really wanted an album from these guys but i just I’m gonna have to wait a lot longer:/

  30. I’ve come to terms with this. This is a genius move from a genius band. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

  31. I wonder if this new leak of “These Are My Twisted Words” is a part of Thom’s secret new plan for releasing music?

  32. brand'n  |   Posted on Aug 13th, 2009 0

    (Full disclosure: In case you were wondering, my job is better than yours.)

  33. Radiohead has been working for over a decade as one of the world’s most popular bands. Reaching such cultural pinnacles as OK Computer / Kid A / In Rainbows provides great reason for every band member to feel inclined to “slow down” a little.

    The music industry is turbulent, and Thom is simply explaining that the band is using this opportunity to get away with planning something much grander and more calculated – instead of feeling the pressure to record and sell another album.

    One hopes Thom never stops exercising his limb.

  34. tessa  |   Posted on Aug 13th, 2009 0

    BUT …. an ep may be on it’s way sooner than you think:
    http://consequenceofsound.net/2009/08/13/new-radiohead-ep-due-out-monday-august-17th/

    Or not.

  35. Cerebus  |   Posted on Aug 17th, 2009 0

    EPs are common with indie rock and electronic music. Very. I love the idea of Radiohead releasing an ep (or a few of ‘em) before their next album. As Thom kind of pointed out, it allows artists to try something in small measure without forcing a full-length of something strange on their fans. It also keeps the production costs lower. Lastly, as a huge Radiohead fan, but not an obsessive one, I always find it interesting how much crap they take for not releasing an album every week. If you look at the sum total of their singles, eps, albums and dvds, they’ve actually released quite a large amount of music. Add to that the ridiculous amount of unreleased material floating around teh internets and there’s really nothing to complain about in that regard.

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