Jonny Greenwood says he pretended to play keyboards when he joined Radiohead

"The first thing I did was make sure my keyboard was turned off when I was playing"

Jonny Greenwood has revealed in an interview that when he first joined Radiohead he would turn his keyboards off during rehearsal.

During the conversation with NPR’s Fresh Air Greenwood discussed his rise from legendary guitarist and keyboardist, to award-winning composer. Earlier today (February 8) he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for Jane Campion’s film The Power of the Dog. Listen to the full episode below.

Thom [Yorke]’s band had a keyboard player — [whom] I think they didn’t get on with because he played his keyboard so loud,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross. “And so when I got the chance to play with them, the first thing I did was make sure my keyboard was turned off … I must have done months of rehearsals with them with this keyboard, and they didn’t know that I’d already turned it off.”


Greenwood also shared that the Radiohead frontman didn’t notice he wasn’t playing at first.

“They made quite a racket, quite a noise. It was all guitars and distortion — and so I would pretend to play for weeks on end and Thom would say, ‘I can’t quite hear what you’re doing, but I think you’re adding a really interesting texture because I can tell when you’re not playing,'” he said. “And I’m thinking, ‘No, you can’t, because I’m really not playing.’ And I’d go home in the evening and work out how to actually play chords and cautiously over the next few months, I would start turning this keyboard up. And that’s how I started in with Radiohead.”

Jonny Greenwood during a live performance of his ‘There Will Be Blood’ soundtrack

He also discussed his approach to film scores, including his work on Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, and Pablo Larrain’s Spencer.

“My reaction when Paul asked me was excitement,” Greenwood said about the first time Anderson reached out to him, asking if he’d score 2007’s, There Will Be Blood. “I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit like being in a band with somebody — except I’m in a band with Paul and the people who are making this film.'”


Outside of today’s Oscar nomination, Greenwood received an Academy Award nomination in 2018 for Phantom Thread and a Golden Globe nomination for The Power of The Dog.

Meanwhile, he’s also set to embark on a tour with Radiohead’s side project The Smile. They announced UK and European tour earlier this month which kicks off in Zagreb on May 16. The trio – comprising Yorke, Greenwood, and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner – released their debut single ‘You Will Never Work In Television Again’ and its follow-up, ‘The Smoke’, in January.

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