Thom Yorke may be the face of Radiohead, but no member is more important to the band’s sound and creative process than guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The composer and multi-instrumentalist makes his presence felt all over Radiohead’s nine and latest album, A Moon Shaped Pool, and he recently stopped by NPR’s All Songs +1 podcast to give host Bob Boilen a behind-the-scenes look at the recording process.
“I guess it feels like every record we make, we finish and have a collective thought that we didn’t quite mean to do it like that and the next one will be different and then we’ll get it right,” he explained. “It’s kind of like rewriting the same letter and getting each draft slightly wrong, so it’s a good motivation force, or a terribly depressing [one]. It keeps us going.”
Check out the full interview, via the link below and scroll down to read some edited highlights.
On recording on an analog 8-track tape machine:
”On the last record [The King of Limbs] we ditched instruments, and we wrote our own software and used computers. This record was a sort of reaction to that — we went to the other extreme and started using magnetic tape again and setting ourselves limits, working within the 8 tracks or the 16 tracks we were allowed to use for each song. So it was far more restrictive than last time, and we found that quite a creative way to work.”
On starting off on the viola and recorder:
“Instead of stealing cars and having a good time as a teenager I was literally playing records like until the age of eighteen — seriously, with no shame. there are bits of records playing on some Radiohead records. If you listen closely to the choruses on The Bends there’s recorders there, and in the beginnings of one of the songs on the new record.”
On recording string sections:
“Our string days are just the most exciting days to record. I live for them. It’s amazing, the whole excitement in the morning of putting out music on these empty stands and, you know, an orchestra are coming later that day and you’ll only have them for four hours and you’ve got to make the most of it. It’s really just the most exciting thing, and then to sit in a room and hear them play. It’s really like nothing else.”
On setting limitations on his guitar effects:
“I try to remember that lots of these supposedly basic things are quite overlooked. It’s funny, the idea of a delay is such a powerful thing — it can do so many creative things with just that one idea, that it can be very distracting to suddenly collect other effects and pedals. It’s good to stay limited. You end up doing far more creative things when you force yourself to be limited.”
On not being perfectionists in the studio:
”We did get 80 percent of the record in about two weeks. We had the limitations and we couldn’t spend days on it. I’m going to sound like an old fogey to say this, but a lot of bands, it seems to me, will go to the studio for a day and then their producer will edit and mix for the rest of the week and kind of construct a song. We prefer it the other way around. You should just be playing and getting it right. You end up with stranger things, I think.”