Thom Yorke: ‘If I was going to write a protest song about climate change in 2015, it would be shit’

The Radiohead frontman plays Pathway to Paris On December 5 to raise awareness of climate change

Thom Yorke has discussed climate change in a new interview with author and activist George Monbiot.

Published by the Paris-based magazine Télérama, Yorke explains how he has responded to climate change as a musician, including turning vegetarian and forming a carbon neutral touring initiative with Radiohead.

Yorke recounted becoming aware of climate change in the late ’90s. He has since worked with Greenpeace, Friends of The Earth and art.350.org.

Asked whether he would consider writing a protest song, Yorke replied, “if I was going to write a protest song about climate change in 2015, it would be shit.”

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“In the ’60s, you could write songs that were like calls to arms, and it would work. Well, kind… ish. It’s much harder to do that now,” he said. “It’s not like one song or one piece of art or one book is going to change someone’s mind. However, things happen gradually and accusatively and that is when it snowballs.”

Offering an insight into the influences behind his music, Yorke explained that he had always been “fundamentally fascinated” by “those who perhaps control the way we think or try to and those who resist that.”

“I believe that any great work of art is, in itself, a form of resistance against a sense of powerlessness,” he said. “I am really fundamentally interested in the difference between – for want one of a better phrase – people power VS other power. I am fundamentally fascinated about the relationship between government and people, and those who perhaps control the way we think or try to and those who resist that. That has always been deeply fascinating to me, since I was 11 years old and read 1984.”

Asked how it was possible to build a movement for climate change today, Yorke responded:

“This society is still run by a bunch of misguided priests who are willing to sacrifice the people on a high altar in order to maintain the economic status quo. The sacrifice is going on up there, everyone is being dragged up one by one, and you have your head chopped off and your entrails pulled out, and everyone at the bottom is going, ‘Hmm something’s not right here’. And the priest on the top is going, ‘Rverything’s fine, we just carry on like we are’, and they’re arguing among themselves, and we’re going, ‘This ain’t right. Why are they killing us all?’

“To my mind, the sense of powerlessness comes from the fact that the seven billion of us have accepted the fact that resources are limited without acknowledging that we have an economic system based on unlimited growth. Mobilising people to get back into politics will only come about when we realise that economics and the environment are two sides of the same coin one and the same thing.”

Thom York is due to perform at Pathway to Paris on December 5. The Radiohead frontman is listed as a solo artist on a bill that also includes Patti Smith and Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea.

The event will take place on December 4-5 at Le Trianon in Paris, France and is planned to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference, which runs in Paris from November 30 to December 11.
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