Spinning Plates

Radiohead doesn't make albums. It has accidents.

Jonny Greenwood would prefer not to be here, this I know. Talking on an intercontinental phone call to yet another journalist about how great Radiohead, in which he plays guitar, is and how important Amnesiac, its new record, is in the face of the cultural poverty that's replaced the 21st-century music culture is not exactly Greenwood's idea of a good time.

And yet here he is, dutifully chatting with me about just that, being as polite as he looks in all the pictures, telling me things about Radiohead that I will now tell you. Should you listen? Depends on what you think of Radiohead and what you made of Kid A, the talk-talk-talked-about record it made last year when everybody wanted somebody to save rock 'n' roll and the members of Radiohead figured they'd do it, but only by accident. Amnesiac's another accident, but it's one of the best I've heard in a long while.

New Times: There's much less of a circus around Amnesiac than there was around Kid A.

Radiohead: Saving rock 'n' roll by accident.
Radiohead: Saving rock 'n' roll by accident.

Jonny Greenwood: I suppose there's less anticipation, because it isn't three years since we released anything.

NT: Does it feel more comfortable, more normal this time, without the circus?

JG: Yeah, I suppose, except we weren't really in control of the circus last time.

NT: Well, that's kind of what I mean.

JG: Yeah, exactly. The way it's been heard earlier -- we haven't been as paranoid about releasing it to journalists and such. So, yeah, it's all good, really.

NT: It seems like the early reaction is shaping up to be that this is the more straight-ahead companion to Kid A, that it's more direct. Have you been hearing that?

JG: Occasionally, but then some people say it's got stuff that's more . . . oh, I hate using words like "experimental," "obscure," whatever, but it's got stuff that's less standard on it than Kid A as well, I think. There's a song called "Like Spinning Plates," which is certainly my favorite and very upsetting and quite dark music, but in a way there's nothing quite like that on Kid A. But then you've got some quite straight-ahead songs like "Knives Out," where we just enjoyed the fact that you've got five minutes of music that doesn't really change, and it's very . . . in a way it's trying to be the Smiths or something. So, you know, we'll try anything; we're shameless like that.

NT: Was all the music recorded at the same time as Kid A?

JG: It was, yeah.

NT: How'd you decide which record would contain which music?

JG: We basically did a thing of recording, getting all this material together and wanting to release it, and as soon as we decided to split it into two, it just became a lot easier, really. We could put together 40 minutes of music, which is how long we wanted it to be. We had songs like "You and Whose Army" and "Pyramid Song" we wanted to release, and, like I say, it was like a release thing, really -- the fact that we could just do this. We wanted to release them even sooner; at one point we were talking about it being three months between the two records' release.

NT: When you decided what music was going to be on Kid A, did you know then what was going to be on Amnesiac?

JG: We did sort of, but we hadn't put it in order, and there was still things to mix and to edit. It felt like we just finished Kid A and sat and thought about the next one, which we didn't have to record much; that was a good feeling.

NT: Was there at all an attempt to make with Amnesiac something complementary or opposite to Kid A?

JG: No. I think it sounds different as a record, but I'm not sure how. I can't decide how. It sounds a bit like a mess as a record. Complementary? I don't know. I mean, I think it would be cool if people go back to Kid A after hearing Amnesiac and it'd make more sense in a way -- they hear things they hadn't before. People have suggested that Kid A was us trying to be obscure, when we could've done a much better job of being obscure, I think, if that's what we were after. And in the same way, like you say, people are suggesting that this is quite immediate, but I think we could've done a better job of that, as well. I'm not sure that it is. I think it's got more. . . . It's got that one song, "Like Spinning Plates," which is as disturbing as anything on Kid A, really, and sort of my favorite track, as well; musically, I think it's got very beautiful chords in it. I don't know. Who knows? I could say it still sounds like a mess to me but one that I keep hearing.

NT: If you could've made Kid A more obscure and this one more direct. . . .

JG: If that had been what we sat down and tried to do, as people suggested. I think, well, go ahead. It's a very safe record if that were the intention.

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