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Thom Yorke In His Own Words: Radiohead Frontman’s Best Quotes

on October 09, 2013, 2:00pm
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haters gonna hate thom

When Thom Yorke talks, everyone else shuts up. Because whenever the Radiohead frontman opens his mouth, the resulting quote typically dominates the headlines, and not just because he’s leader of one of music’s most illustrious acts. Like Morrissey, Yorke doesn’t hold back, whether the topic is regarding his own band, other people’s bands, or politics of his native UK. Recent, Yorke made waves when he referred to music streaming service Spotify as “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” In light of these comments, we’ve compiled a list of Yorke’s 45 greatest quotes, rants, and tirades.

Thom Yorke on fame

thom yorke nipple Thom Yorke In His Own Words: Radiohead Frontmans Best Quotes

“Being in a band is about wreaking revenge on the world. It’s like when you get chucked by your first girlfriend. You just say to yourself: ‘I’m going to be famous one day, and she’ll regret that…'” The Observer, 2000

“The process of success is like this slow-drying glue that sets around you, that slows you down and gums you up. And while all that’s happening, your own life’s going on at the side of it, with your own relationships and your own experiences and that becomes sort of calcified as well.” The Observer, 2000

“I want to be alone and I want people to notice me — both at the same time.” Melody Maker, 1993

“I tell you what’s really ridiculous: going into a bookstore and there’s all these books about yourself. In a way, it feels like you’re already dead.” Tour Diary, 2003

“I wake up on a normal day and I go out for a meal with my girlfriend but someone is sitting there watching me for a while. Then he comes up and asks me for my autograph and it’s like ‘Well, yeah, I could give you my autograph but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to because I’m here with my girlfriend — this is my space and you’re invading it.’ I mean, I don’t want to be seen as malicious or nasty, but it gets to be too much sometimes.” The Trigger, 1995

“I hadn’t figured out that bands and girls went together. I went to a boys school, and I didn’t realize that most guys join bands because they wanted to get girls.” Interview Magazine, 2013

“We’re from England and English people aren’t impressed. There’s this automatic assumption that any degree of success means that you’ve… You’ve cheated. Or you’re full of shit or whatever. We’re fascinated by the fact that in America celebrities live on that higher plate. They’re untouchable. It’s fucking mad.” Meeting People is Easy, 1998

“Getting everything you want has nothing to do with anything.” Esquire, 2013

“It’s easy to be miserable. Being happy is tougher — and cooler.” Alternative Press, 1997

Thom Yorke on Radiohead

radiohead 2011

“It’s a fine line between writing something with genuine emotional impact and turning into little idiots feeling sorry for ourselves and playing stadium rock.” The Times, 1995

“We operate like the U.N., and I’m America.” The New York Times, 2000

“Us on hard drugs? That would be horrible. We’d probably end up sounding like Bryan Adams.” Q, 1997

“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.” Curfew, 1991

“Sometimes, I’m in a real state after a show, and I can’t talk to [the fans], and I always feel bad afterwards. I remember when I was in that position, getting drunk, talking to Everything But the Girl, and we had a really nice chat when I was 15. And then I’ve met some other guys who were total assholes. But now I realize that sometimes you’re just too tired to deal with it. But when you walk out of a venue like that and say ‘No autographs’ then it’s like ‘Fuck you!’ But the idea of having your body scent critiqued right on the spot, total strangers kissing your head…. It’s nice. It’s the only fucking kiss I get. It’s the only time I get any physical contact with anybody.” Alternative Press, 1995

“The hardest part about being in Radiohead is listening to my own music.” Uncut, 2001

Thom Yorke on other artists


Image via deviantART

On Muse: “I draw the line at Muse, because they openly slag us off, as well as openly rip us off. And that’s like, ‘How fucking dare you?’ You know, there’s one thing to imitate and then to slag off the person you are imitating. That’s just not cool, that’s incredibly bad karma.” Backstage interview 2001

On Flea: “I felt that certain bass lines on The Eraser needed him to be able to exist onstage,” Yorke said. “It’s a recurring joke with Nigel [Godrich] about my bass lines. He said that I imitate Flea when I write them. He said to me that Flea should play them, so that it would be Flea imitating Thom Yorke imitating Flea.” Les Inrocks, 2013

“Aphex Twin opened up another world that didn’t involve my fucking electric guitar, and I was just so jealous of that whole crew. They were off on their own planet.” Dazed & Confused, 2013

“Apart from R.E.M., Neil Young has absolutely inspired everything, the way I write lyrics, all the time. “He’ll bang away on his acoustic and he’ll create this most monumental thing.” BBC, 2013

“If you want to be entertained, go and see Hanson.” Melody Maker, 1995

On Oasis: “They’re a joke, aren’t they? It’s just lots of middle-class people applauding a bunch of guys who act stupid and write really primitive music. Then people say ‘Oh, it’s so honest.’” London Calling, 1995

On Miley Cyrus: “When Miley grows up, she’ll learn not to have such a sense of entitlement.” US Weekly, 2009

On Pixies: “Doolittle changed my life.” Coachella, 2004

On the Spice Girls: “I agree with whoever said they’re soft porn. They’re the Antichrist. I don’t want any part of it, and if I had kids, I wouldn’t want them to have any part of it, either. I’d move to an island where you can’t get hold of any Spice Girls stuff.” Rolling Stone, 1997

“I have to say, I don’t like a lot of the DJ culture that goes around it. I don’t like this sort of, get paid a lot of money and the DJ comes and he just fucking does his set. Which is fine, ‘cause he knows it works and he’s worked hard at it-but sometimes, you’re like, ‘Really? What, really?” Rolling Stone, 2013

Thom Yorke on his creative process


“A tortured soul is a tortured soul and will eventually cease to function in any useful way unless they get help. Unless they sail to the land of happy every now and again, where everything is the right way up, then they will simply fall off the edge of the world. A good way I’ve found to navigate is with songs and music.” Details, 1997

“I can’t write at home because home is home, and when I try to pick up a guitar it’s like, ‘Oh, he wants to write something,’ and suddenly all these ghouls come up and start looking at you saying, ‘Oi, go ahead, write something good.’ On tour, your whole existence is music anyway…I exist mostly in this. My life outside the band is this big [he pinches a hair’s breadth of air] and the band is my life, like 99.9 percent. That sounds horrible, it sounds really crap, but it is true. What a sad twat I am. I obviously need help.” Alternative Press, 1995

“We write pop songs. As time has gone on, we’ve gotten more into pushing our material as far as it can go. But there was no intention of it being ‘art.’ It’s a reflection of all the disparate things we were listening to when we recorded it.” Entertainment Weekly, 1997

“I absolutely want no part in any suggestions that our decision to use some electronic instruments is some kind of lifestyle choice. It’s not. You use the instrument to help you get across a certain thing that you want to get across. That’s all.” The Observer, 2000

“In order for me personally to stay OK about what I do, I have to see through whatever it is that’s appearing in my head. That’s my instinct, anyway, but then the best things are often those that go somewhere you weren’t expecting. … ‘How to Disappear’ on Kid A, for instance, I had no involvement in that at all after the demo stage. Jonny did everything else. We managed to turn it into this incredible thing. … That’s the qualification for a song that goes on the record. Each one has had that happen to it. That’s the best thing in the world. It’s why I keep doing it.” The Observer, 2000

“A lot of it is just fucking work.” Magnet, 2003

Thom Yorke on politics

thom yorke

Photo via Dazed Digital

“The people in charge globally are maniacs. They are maniacs, and unless we do something about it these people are going to deprive us of a future.” MTV UK, 2003

“I think we’ve entered an era of utter absurdity, where we’re quite prepared to let the loonies take over. And that’s not just an American thing, that’s absolutely everywhere. It’s happening in Britain. We’re quite happy to let governments be influenced by corporate power and vested interests.” Magnet, 2003

On David Cameron (Prime Minister of the UK): “I can’t say I love the idea of a banker liking our music, or David Cameron. I can’t believe he’d like The King of Limbs much. But I also equally think, who cares? As long as he doesn’t use it for his election campaigns, I don’t care. I’d sue the living shit out of him if he did.” Dazed and Confused, 2013

On Tony Blair: “The Blair years I was most angry with. Still am. Just the level of hypocrisy. I always feel strongly that line in “The Gloaming”: “You are murderers/ We are not the same as you.” We are still the generation who went into an illegal war. And the guy who took us there is giving lectures around the world and sitting in his lovely house with an armed guard. Every time I sing those words, I think of him sitting there. Thinking ‘What the fuck, how did we let him get away with that?'” BBC News 2006

“One of the interesting things here is that the people who should be shaping the future are politicians. But the political framework itself is so dead and closed that people look to other sources, like artists, because art and music allow people a certain freedom.” Resonance Magazine, 2001

“I’d like to run for President. Or Prime Minister. I think I could do a better job.” NME, 2003

Thom Yorke on technology

yorkespot Thom Yorke In His Own Words: Radiohead Frontmans Best Quotes

“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 rumour on the Internet about how the military are 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.” Unruly Hearts, 2012

“I mean, I always hated CDs. Me and Stanley Donwood always hated CDs. Just a fucking nightmare. There’s a process of natural selection going on right now. The music business was waiting to die in its current form about 20 years ago. But then, hallelujah, the CD turned up and kept it going for a bit. But basically, it was dead.” The Believer, 2009

“I’m not afraid of computers taking over the world. They’re just sitting there. I can hit them with a two-by-four.” Q Magazine, 1997

“[Spotify] is the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” Sopitas, 2013

Thom Yorke on the music industry

radiohead 540x287 Thom Yorke In His Own Words: Radiohead Frontmans Best Quotes

“I never thought it was a particularly soul-enriching thing to pay lip service to these so-called alternative radio stations and meet the programmers who were just middle-aged men who had no fucking clue what they were doing at all.” Magnet, 2003

“A good thing for new music would be more of the mainstream loosening up a bit and letting stuff through. Radio 1 won’t play anything fucking decent. You need to sort the radio out.” NME, 2006

“I think a lot of the time the reason that people pirate, is they want access to good music. And they don’t get it because the radio is so shit.” Radio 1 interview 2010

“There’s a line in ‘Karma Police’ about ‘he buzzes like a fridge’ and when you’re driving around, and you have the alternative stations on in the background, or in your hotel room, it’s just a fridge buzzing. That’s all I’m hearing. I’m just hearing the buzz. It’s really odd. It’s kind of funny, though, really. You have to laugh.” Meeting People is Easy, 1998

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