Radiohead on Their Band Dynamic - The Musicians' Exchange
Radiohead on Their Band Dynamic - The Musicians' Exchange, 23/06/99
By Nancy Price
Whenever you create a band, you create a unique situation - almost like a five-way (give or take) marriage. There is so much that affects this dynamic - everything from basic personality traits to ego size, to talent level to intelligence, to integrity and determination. Then add in complicating factors - such as spending too much time together, or the issue of songwriting credits or other business matters - and you can create a monster... or perhaps still magnificence will emerge.
In the eyes of many (as evidenced, in part, by album sales, Grammy awards and, most importantly, audience reaction), Radiohead are an example of such magnificence. So what is the band dynamic like of such a successful group? I spoke to Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien to find out.
The Odd Couple?
How does the band get along? "Really well - the best we've ever... like the 'Odd Couple,' only there are five of us." O'Brien admits, "We've had a lot of tension - there's a lot of shit in your late teens, a lot of angst and insecurity and paranoia that kind of oozes out. And when you're with people as much as we are, it comes out sometimes. And now, I think we're getting on better than we've ever done, really - there's an understanding.
"We always got on well, but sometimes in the last, say, a few years ago when we were still doing Pablo Honey and the whole 'Creep' thing - and the pressure of it - we were very fortunate in one way, but in another way, for two years of our existence, we were known as the '"Creep" band.' That was very very frustrating, and you get pissed off... and you sometimes take it out on one another."
Time, it seems, heals all wounds. "We're beyond that. We're very very happy with the music that we're making, and if you feel you've been very creative and you feel you've gone out on a limb, you haven't made an easy album, you feel that way if you've basically achieved what you set out to achieve on the last album... If we're creatively happy, then we're also very very happy all together."
How does the band work as a whole?
When asked about how the band works together, O'Brien replies, "It is a democracy - people get involved at different times." He says, "Thom is very active -- he has ideas and stuff like that., but we all get involved in it at different times. If the track has been laid down initially, and Phil and Colin have lots of ideas, and then as Jonny and I, as guitarists, we might chip in." O'Brien sums up the Radiohead band understanding, "You contribute what you want to contribute - if you want to contribute lots, you can contribute lots. If you don't... Everyone has an off day - everyone has days when they can't do anything."
A foundation of friendship
The band has spent a lot of time on the road, but even when they're back home, it sounds like they can't be apart for too long. "We all live in Oxford. If we're back for months, we see other friends and chill out, and then by the second week, we're phoning one another up, saying 'What are you doing?'"
That friendship is the foundation upon which Radiohead have built their remarkable career. It is also what motivates them to move forward. Of the future, O'Brien says he sees the band's goal as, "fairly simply, to continue making good and better records. And remain friends, really. Remain friends and remain human beings." A moment's pause, then he clarifies, "If for one moment I believed that me and the band as a whole had become rock and roll casualties who don't get on, who become twisted... you see a lot of these old rock and rollers - unwilling to take the rough, having had the smooth... then I wouldn't carry on. I'm not interested in compromising our characters or becoming rock and roll assholes - not interested in that at all.
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