Thom Yorke recently gave a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, an issue on which Yorke is a prominent activist. In the interview he discussed politics, the music industry and new Radiohead music. Here’s what we learned.
1. He doesn’t want to be a politician
“The Green Party asked me for help, and in some way I did. But I couldn’t ever run… The problem of politics is that you have to make everyone happy. And I’m terrible at that.”
2. He’s not yet convinced by Jeremy Corbyn
“For me the last English elections were a shock, I didn’t think the Conservatives would have got such a high percentage. But that’s already provoking a reaction – there are lots of young people joining the Labour party to follow Jermy Corbyn. He has a lot of integrity for a politician. But he’s still Labour. Let’s give him time and we’ll see if he succeeds. The real worry now is that the Conservatives think they have the right to do what they want, and they’re doing terrible things.”
3. Radiohead doesn’t actively try to innovate
“We keep ourselves free to be inspired by everything at the same time. Like when we recorded ‘You And Whose Army’ – in our heads we were redoing The Ink Spots. At least those were our intentions, I don’t think others would have understood that. The problem is when you say ‘I want to make forward-looking music’ and already it’s a declaration of intent that risks confining you. And it’s not necessarily a good way of beginning work on music. Usually we begin in a bit of a retro way, but we never know where we might end up.”
4. He compares YouTube to Nazi Germany
“People continue to say that this is an era where music is free, cinema is free. It’s not true. The creators of services make money – Google, YouTube. A huge amount of money, by trawling, like in the sea – they take everything there is. ‘Oh, sorry, was that yours? Now it’s ours. No, no, we’re joking – it’s still yours’. They’ve seized control of it – it’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. Actually, it’s like what everyone was doing during the war, even the English – stealing the art of other countries. What difference is there?”
5. The new Radiohead album isn’t ready yet. Or is it?
“[Johnny Greenwood] he never said that [it’s ready], it’s just that journalists misunderstood him. It’s not ready. Not yet. But I couldn’t say anyway. I’d get in trouble. But no, it’s not ready.” Right.
6. He doesn’t want to talk about Tidal
Asked, ‘Have you tried to take part in other streaming services? Like Tidal?’ he said, “Hmm… so… no, I can’t respond.”
7. He thinks browser advert blocker ‘AdBlocker’ is funny because it puts sites in the same position as artists
“The funny thing is that YouTube has said ‘that’s not fair’. You know? They say it’s not fair – the people who put adverts in front of any piece of content, making a load of money, while artists don’t get paid or are paid laughable amounts – and that seems fine to them. But if they don’t get a profit out of it, it’s not fair.”
8. Listening to his old material confuses him
Speaking about his reaction to his old music, he said he thinks, “‘Who the hell are these people? Was I really like that? I definitely don’t remember making all this.’ But it happens to me with more recent things too. I listen to my first solo album ‘The Eraser’ and I say to myself: ‘I don’t remember this person.’”
9. He was happy when David Byrne spoke out against Spotify
In 2013 Yorke labelled the streaming service “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” after he and Nigel Godrich, co-creator of Yorke’s solo album ‘The Eraser’, earned “f*ck all” from the service. Discussing other Spotify critics in the new interview, he noted, “When Byrne sided against Spotify it was a relief for me. Finally, I’m not the only one to say ‘Hey, excuse me, it’s not fair that it works like this.'”
10. His Bittorrent release, ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’, wasn’t a great success
“But there needed to be an experiment. It was a reaction against everything that was happening. People were always only talking about Spotify. I wanted to show that in theory today someone can follow the whole chain of music production, from start to end, on their own terms. In theory. But in practice it’s very different. You can’t take on all the responsibility. But I’m happy I did it, to have tried it.”
11. He likes dancing and does one or two hours of yoga per day
“I’m a terrible dancer. I improvise. Since I was young I’ve liked dancing. I do yoga now. One or two hours a day. I need it, it restores me, helps me to face the difficulties of life.”
12. He’s into Japanese metal
“I’m obsessed with a Japanese metal band, Boris.”
13. He’s more passionate than ever about climate change
“Compared to a few years ago, these days countries are learning the hard way that the effects of climate change are starting to come to life. George Monbiot, the English environmental writer who I talk to a lot, says that we have to tax the oil industry.
“It’s still us using oil. And you know why? Because it’s convenient. It shouldn’t be convenient any more. It’s not right that fuel used for flights isn’t taxed. It can’t be convenient to fish in Canada, take it on a flight to China to process it and take it back on a flight to Canada.
“In 2009 I went to the conference for climate change in Copenhagen and it was very interesting to see how it works. No one wanted to take responsibility. Now even the energy industries say ‘please, we need an agreement, we can’t go forward like this.’ We have to hope and do everything we can because with Paris something can really change.”