INTERVIEW: Radiohead's Phil Selway
- Nigel Harding
Consumable was fortunate enough to recently catch up with Phil Selway, drummer for Radiohead. What follows are excerpts from that conversation.
Consumable: The songs on The Bends were played live a year ago. What took so long for the album?
Radiohead: We started last year off in rehearsals with a collection of what we felt were really great songs, and we wanted to do them justice. When we first went into the studio, things were a little stilted for us, we were suffering from studio paralysis really. The only time we'd been in the studio beforehand was when we did Pablo Honey and that was for only three weeks, so we still felt very uncomfortable. And we also had the spectre of "Creep" hanging over us, so it was a time of coming to terms with what we were about as a band and relaxing into studio again.
C: Were the recording session's traumatic? I've heard talk that the band almost split. Was it ever as bad as that?
R: I think if you speak to anybody in any band, at some points when things get particularly stressful, everybody toys with the idea of just stomping out and being a big drama queen about everything. But I don't think we ever seriously contemplated splitting the band.
C:The band spoke last year about their excitement at the prospect of working with producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Verve, Ride). What was It like working with him?
R: It was really good working with John. He's worked on an awful lot of our favourite albums. He's very good at bridging the gap between being a producer and a very good engineer. He comes to you with very much a hands off approach. He just focuses the ideas that are coming out of the band and once you actually get the five of us throwing those ideas off against each other, that is very exciting. John was very good in showing us in how to use the studio in different ways and how to get the best out of our material.
C: Does having three guitarists provide any conflict within the band in terms of song writing?
R: Definitely having three guitarists means that each one spurs the other on but, with all of us, it's a band attitude that we'll do what's best for the song. We don't try to put forward any lead figures as such. I think if anything it makes the three of them come up with some very interesting arrangements. It also opens up far more scope in terms of what you do as a 'guitar band'.
C: The album has received overwhelmingly good reviews in the UK music press. Did you surprise yourselves with the quality of the album or did you always know this was in you?
R: Oh blimey, how do I answer that without sounding really arrogant?! We've always known we've had good quality material. I think at points we've suffered from a lack of confidence in terms of whether we could make the most of it. It was quite frustrating with Pablo Honey, in as much as a lot of very good songs on there - admittedly songs that we didn't do brilliant justice to when we were recording them - became overshadowed by "Creep", so we wanted to produce this album where everything would be of a consistent quality. We feel that most of the songs off The Bends could actually be singles.
C: Do you regret "Creep" being such a big hit so soon?
R: No, not at all. It brought the band to the notice of far more people than we could have possibly hoped for on that first album which hopefully, now that we have a good album to back it up with, will leave us in a stronger position at this stage. At points it did become very frustrating because we didn't have the background for people when "Creep" came out, so inevitably people were going to pick up on us as a 'one-hit-band'.
C: In much of the music press, Radiohead has been described as the 'New U2'. Does this annoy the band?
R: It's lazy journalism isn't it? They'll always try to pigeonhole you somewhere and nobody has ever been particularly successful with us. If, by comparing us to U2, they mean that U2 created their own identity, hopefully that's what people are recognizing in us.
C: Do you enjoy touring or are you daunted by the prospect of a long roadtrip ahead supporting the new album?
R: No, we're really excited about it at the moment. We've had bad touring experiences because towards the end of Pablo Honey we were still playing the same songs that we'd recorded two years previously. So it was almost like being held in a time warp. For us, it's exciting going out and pushing a new record.
C: Is the band eager to build on the momentum of The Bends and start recording more new material?
R: What we hope to do this year, when we have time off, is to go into the studio and start working on material for the third album. We've about twenty songs there, ready to go. We're quite a prolific band in terms of song writing and so we just like to keep people informed of the progress of the band.
C: Are there plans to tour the U.S. soon?
R: Yes, at the end of May we come over and tour throughout June and then we're off to Japan for a fortnight, and then we come back at the beginning of July and tour for another month over here.