Gif by Ian Brooks.
Today on his long-running uber-popular podcast WTF, Marc Maron interviews iconic Radiohead singer Thom Yorke from Rick Rubin’s legendary L.A. studio, “The Mansion.” (Albums recorded there include Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik and more recently LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening.) Maron has used his increasing reputation as a top-notch interviewer to branch out from conversations with working comedians. He now regularly features legendary musicians as well. And while the flinchy Yorke is never going to top the entertainment value of an hour of Iggy Pop, the occasionally press-shy singer counts as yet another big get. Even for a sullen teenage Radiohead devotee like me who’s fallen way out of love with Yorke’s latest work, there’s plenty to dig into.
If you’re not inclined to give the full podcast an hour of your time, here’s what you need to know:
- It only took Yorke 3 1/2 minutes to mention Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, but it took another 10 or so before Radiohead came up. This pretty much sums up the noble but tiresome way his public persona has morphed over the years.
- Yorke went to prep school with “She Blinded Me With Science” singer Thomas Dolby, who was only a few grades ahead of him. That doesn’t seem right at all.
- “Stoners, E-heads, and old musos all mixed in a soup.” He has a strong understanding of what a Radiohead crowd in Phoenix, AZ is typically like.
- Isreal was the first place in the world where “Creep” became a massive hit, which is intriguing in a sort of unknowable way. I feel like it’s a geo-political graduate thesis waiting to happen.
- As much as his persona post-The Bends is wrapped up in the Meeting People Is Easy idea of anti-fame anxiety, extreme alienation, and suffering through life-threatening levels of boredom, it’s sweet to hear him reminisce about the first moment when fans started to flood their small club shows post-“Creep”. He sounds like Ron Weasley when he says “it was wicked.” It’s a word he only uses once again to talk about the thrill of his 12 year old son becoming a really good drummer. Both moments are really endearing.
- Also endearing in a “Stars: They’re Just Like Us” sort of way is a self-deprecating riff on what a shitty painter he was in college, apparently getting kicked out of his university painting program for disappearing for a semester and retuning with nothing but a bunch of “appalling” paintings of Jesus, one of which was titled The Bullshit Machine. LOL.
- Yorke lists his formative influences as R.E.M., Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Joy Division (not, as every review written at the time about OK Computer claimed, Pink Floyd). Siouxsie Sioux made an especially big impression in concert, where she was “really sexy but absolutely terrifying.” During Kid A sessions, the band listened to a “shitload” of CAN.
- Thing that would have baffled and disturbed me as a would-be alt-rock elitist high schooler, and still sort of makes my skin crawl right now: Flea ended up as the bassist for Atoms for Peace because Thom knew him from hanging out backstage at multiple Chili Peppers gigs, where he gushed to him about loving The Eraser. I may have said multiple “Ew”s out loud to no one during this.
- Unintentionally revealing quote about his wanky side band: “Every record you make is hard and if not you’re in serious trouble. Although, actually this Atoms for Peace record was not that hard.”
- Ending quote/vaguely universal truth: “It’s probably the same with a drum circle if you’re stoned enough.”