Thom Yorke On Wankers & Confronting Who You Are
Interview by Brian Raftery
May 30, 2006. Loews Hotel Philadelphia
Read his Thom Yorke profile in SPIN magazine
Brian Raftery: Do you think sort of the reputation that you may have accumulated of being slightly humorless–do you think that’s fair?
Thom Yorke: No, I think its widely unfair, but whatever. It’s not my control. I’m humorless when I think people are wankers. You know, I’m not tolerant of idiots.
David Gerlach: Idiots and wankers. That’s Thom Yorke, lead singer and songwriter for the band Radiohead. Today we tackle the challenges that just about everyone faces: confronting who you are and being comfortable with yourself and your life…even if you’re a huge rock star.
[Music: Radiohead - “Karma Police”]
David Gerlach: Writer and author Brian Raftery interviewed Yorke in 2006. It was for a profile Brian did for Spin magazine.The pair sat down for a few hours in a Philadelphia hotel. Yorke had a new solo album out. But then Brian asked Yorke–who was nearing 38 at the time–how he felt about getting older. This is Blank on Blank.
Thom Yorke: It’s a fucking weird thing because I’ve always wanted to do that thing of growing old disgracefully, one way or another. What I think is a bad idea is to say to yourself, “Well, you know I wish I was 20 again. I could do all this shit again. That would be great.” I hated it. I used to fucking hate it. I used to go through really bad, bad periods. And hey, now it’s no different! No…(laughs)
[Music: Radiohead - “I Will”]
Brian Raftery: Am I wrong in hearing a lot of bleak things in the lyrics?
Thom Yorke: I have many bleak thoughts. I mean, don’t get me started, man. It’s one of my specialities, apparently. I’m concerned for our future, generally speaking. I’m concerned for my children’s future. I guess it’s an environmental thing as much as anything.
[Music continues: I won’t let this happen to my children.]
Thom Yorke: When I got involved with this Friends of the Earth thing, I made the mistake of doing the launch of their campaign with them.
[Sound clip from Yorke’s media appearance for Friends of the Earth: Helping raise awareness is the singer Thom Yorke from the rock band Radiohead...]
Thom Yorke: It was me and this guy Tony Juniper and we did this whole day of media.
[Clip continues: Bit of a change for you, Thom, from Radiohead to Friends of the Earth, saving the world.]
Thom Yorke: And I kept saying to them, are you sure you want me to do this? I’m kind of the last person on earth you want representing you at this point. I fly around the world for my job. I don’t have an electric car. I don’t have solar panels on my roof yet, and I’m a musician. I’m not an expert, and this is science, man. And it was a terrible day—horrendous. It ended up being live on TV. I was talking to this guy Jon Snow…
[Sound clip from Channel 4 News with Jon Snow]
Thom Yorke: …from Channel 4 News in Britain, and he said, “Well, what are you doing personally?” And I’d been up since 7 o’clock and I’d only had three hours sleep, so I said, “Not enough.” And it was one of those really awful TV moments where it’s silent. Even Jon Snow’s ear thing is completely silent. And even Jon Snow’s like, “Oh” and I’m like, “Oh, why do I do this?”
I don’t want to make records that just talk about that, but to me I can’t help being part of what’s going on. Because you have your close life and then you have the wider things going on. And that’s what you have. That’s what you have to write about. What the fuck else am I going to write about? I could write about how rich I’m not. I could write about how difficult it is being a rock star. Why the fuck would I do that? If you’re a taxi driver in LA, why the fuck would you want to know about that?
Brian Raftery: When you think about the world at this point… how do you keep an awareness of those things and still get up every day, and still talk to your kids and make them feel good, and not have it weigh down your life so much where you can’t think about anything else?
Thom Yorke: I have periods like that, which probably means I should be sectioned. That’s the way it is. But also I’m not a pessimist. I feel positive because I have to be positive, and also because, when it comes down to it, it’s all about how we should be caring for each other and how we interact and how we connect with each other and blah blah hippie bollocks. And also about–how do I say this without sounding really revolting–you have to get up every day and have love in your heart. There you go. That’s sounds American. I sound like some sort of lunatic.
David Gerlach: That’s Thom Yorke on the challenge of confronting yourself and who you are. Many thanks to Brian Raftery. Brian is now a contributing editor to Wired magazine. Check out all of his work at brianraftery.com. Amy Drozdowska produced this Blank on Blank with me. Our sound logo comes to us from Jeffrey Alan Jones. And for all the journalists, interviewers, authors and documentary filmmakers listening: we want to hear your unheard interviews. So drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. Blank on Blank is presented by the Public Radio Exchange.PRX.org. That’s all for now. I’m David Gerlach. Keep listening.
[Music: Radiohead - “Exit Music (For A Film)”]
Music: Radiohead “Karma Police” | “I Will” | “There There” | Exit Music (for a Film)
Photo: BondBeterLeefmilieu via Flickr
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