Thomas Edward Yorke (born October 7, 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England) is a musician and the lead singer of the English rock band Radiohead.
Q: Does commercial success matter to you?
A:It matters. It’s as much as you can ask for. The rest is bullshit.
Q: Success is part of what you want when you start writing?
A: Jonny goes on and on about this. Anybody who claims they write for *themselves is a liar. Everyone has an audience in mind. The only reason any artist would carry on is in the faith that one day somebody would see or hear their work.
The video of ‘Paranoid Android’ has been censored by MTV. They took all nipples out of the cartoon, but they had no problem with the scene in which a man cuts off his own arms and legs.
What worries me more than anything else is the whole notion that I’m who people focus on, like it’s of significance, you know?
People look at me and think that it’s a complete existence. What really fucks me up in the head is that basically I’m supposed to be endorsing this sort of pop star, ‘Wow, lucky bastard, he’s got it all’ existence. What frightens me is the idea that what Radiohead does is basically packaged back to people in the form of entertainment, to play in their car stereos on their way to work.
And that’s not why I started this but then I should shut the fuck up because it’s pop music and it’s not anything more than that.
But I got into music, because I naively thought that pop music was basically the only viable art form left, because the art world is run by a few very extremely, um, privileged people and is ultimately corrupt and barren of any context. And I thought that the pop music industry was different and I was fucking wrong, because I went to the Brits and I saw it everywhere and it’s the same thing. It’s a lot of women who couldn’t fit in their cocktail dresses and lots of men in black ties who essentially didn’t want to be there, but were. And I was there and we were all committing the same offence. All my favorite artists are people who never seem to be involved in the industry and I found myself getting involved in it, and I felt really ashamed to be there.
I don’t think young people are as demoralized as the media and government would like us to think. The obvious sign of that is how strong and how close personal connections are and how much people are able to build a life for themselves, despite all this stuff that’s been thrown at them.
Q: Radiohead fans tend to be extremely devoted to the band – they seem to connect with your music and ideals. What do you see as the major aspects of your music which people connect with so well?
A: To be really truthful I don’t see it myself. When we play something new, we don’t know how people will react. If I show an idea to the rest of the band I’m terrified if they will respond or not. They are the same. It always amazes me how complex this remains. There was a time when we could make the correct moves and the required response. And that was the time when the shine started to fade. Do people connect with our ideals? I dont know, surely encouraging people to make informed decisions is more useful? ignorance is the biggest problem isnt it? we are no purer than anyone else, no smarter. Equally we are not little rag dolls you play with but say nothing and go back in the box when you’re finished with us.
The sad thing is, if an issue is laughed at and patronised by mainstream media, then it’s up against it big-time. I read some journalist recently lecturing the anti-globalisation lobby, saying, ‘This is the way capitalism works, all capitalism is exploitation and to make it try and do something else, it’s never gonna happen.’ And it’s like, yeah, but where does that leave us? This is somehow God’s will? All this? It’s God’s will that we sit in traffic? It’s God’s will that millions of people are gonna die this year because of some outmoded economic policies? No, it’s not! It’s like some deranged sacrificial altar, the high priests of the global economy holding up these millions of children each year, like (Arms aloft) ‘We wish to please you! Oh Gods of free trade!’ It’s like… give us all a fucking break! If there is a Devil at work, then he rests in institutions and not in individuals. Because the beauty of institutions is that any individual can abdicate responsibility. The assumption that we’re all utterly powerless, that’s the Devil at work.
I wouldn’t be involved with it [pop music] if I wasn’t aware that it was going to be a product. I always wanted whatever I did to end up in the high street, no matter what it was, because to me, there isn’t anywhere else to go. It’s pointless.
We’re at a time when we are being presented with undeniable changes in the global climate and fundamental issues that affect every single one of us, and it’s the time we’re listening to the most hokey shite on the radio and watching vacuous bullshit celebrities being vacuous bullshit celebrities and desperately trying to forget about everything. Which is fine, you know, but personally speaking, I can’t do that.
It annoys me how pretty my voice is…that sounds incredibly immodest, but it annoys me how polite it can sound when perhaps what I’m singing is deeply acidic.
There’s nothing more boring than a rock’n’roll star, someone who has been on the road for 10 years, expecting attention wherever he goes, drinking himself stupid, who is obnoxious, incoherent, uncreative and has a massive ego. There’s nothing more pointless.
On Thom’s inability to read music
If someone lays the notes on a page in front of me, it’s meaningless…because to me you can’t express the rhythms properly like that. It’s a very ineffective way of doing it, so I’ve never really bothered picking it up.
About people’s image of him.
I think that has a lot to do with the expression that’s on my face. People are born with certain faces, like my father was born with a face that people want to hit. (laughs)
Wish us all a safe journey if you still like us and you’re not one of those people i have managed to offend by doing nothing
I haven’t done enough. I don’t have solar panels on my house yet. I haven’t sorted out the heating, my car’s not a Prius, I f—ing fly all the time for my job and I hate it but at the moment I haven’t really got a choice, you know, and all these things. The job I’m in is a job that wastes energy left, right and centre. It’s madness.
It’s like a supply and demand thing. It’s like ‘Well, this is what they want me to do, this is what they want to hear. So I’ll do more of this, cuz this is great… and they love me.’ Suddenly people start giving you money as well. So then you’ve got money and you get used to this lifestyle. And you don’t wanna take any risks cuz they’ve got you by the balls, and you’ve got all these little things that you’ve bought, or you’re attached to. And you start spending all this money… And that’s how they get ya!
I didn’t really come into it expecting to make songs. It started just with random bits and pieces. I guess I thought there would be vocals, but I was thinking in terms of using little vocal shreds, and of making them part of the tapestry, not the main thing. But as soon as we had gone through the initial sketches, it became obvious that they could be quite direct. Nigel basically dragged me kicking and screaming toward the concept of them being actual songs.
On making The Eraser.
You think I have the responsibilty… I have the responsibility to give the fans a good time! (nods at camera, then pauses)… that just sounds… kinky.
My big problem with corporate structure is this bizarre sense of loyalty you’re supposed to feel — towards what is basically a virus. It grows or dies, like any virus. And you use it for your own selfish ends.
On the record industry.
The difference between me and Bono is that he’s quite happy to go and flatter people to get what he wants and he’s very good at it, but I just can’t do it. I’d probably end up punching them in the face rather than shaking their hand, so it’s best that I stay out of their way. I can’t engage with that level of bullshit. Which is a shame, really, and in a way it would help if I could, but I just can’t. I admire the fact that Bono can, and can walk away from it smelling of roses.
The thing that worries me about the computer age is the fact that people know so much about you. It’s an incredible invasion of privacy. And no matter where you are in the world people can monitor you if you’re using your credit card. I heard this weird rumor on the Internet about how the military is funding this great big research project and basically, they believe that in the future, the balance of power won’t be determined by who has the most nuclear weapons, but by who has all the information. I’m not afraid of being taken over by computers though, because the thing is, computers cannot resist. You can always smash ’em up, and they’re totally defenseless. All we need are more people with hammers.
It’s basically [about] having to make a decision whether to do nothing or try to engage with it in some way, knowing that it’s flawed. It’s convenient to project that back on to someone personally and say they’re a hypocrite. It’s a lot easier to do that than actually do anything else. And yeah, that stresses me out, because I am a hypocrite. As we all are.
On celebrities supporting efforts to curtail climate change.
Initially when it came up I tried to be pragmatic. But Blair has no environmental credentials as far as I’m concerned. I came out of that whole period just thinking, I don’t want to get involved directly, it’s poison. I’ll just shout my mouth off from the sidelines.
On rejecting the opportunity to meet Tony Blair for a campaign to lobby government to help stop climate change.
I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape.
I grew up under Thatcher. I grew up believing that I was fundamentally powerless. Then gradually over the years it occurred to me that this was actually a very convenient myth for the state.
Sometimes the nicest thing to do with a guitar is just look at it.
People sometimes say we take things too seriously, but it’s the only way you’ll get anywhere. We’re not going to sit around and wait and just be happy if something turns up. We are ambitious. You have to be.
They’re dangerous people, and what’s really frightening is that they don’t know it, they don’t see themselves as dangerous… they see the danger elsewhere. The danger is always elsewhere. How convenient.