July 1st marks the 20th anniversary of OK Computer’s release in the US. Radiohead is marking the occasion with a deluxe reissue featuring rarities or unreleased music as well as original sketches, artwork, and other archival pieces dating back two decades. The band also spoke to Rolling Stone for an expansive new cover story documenting the “catatonic” period during which Thom Yorke and his bandmates wrote and recorded OK Computer.
“Back then, the person I saw in the mirror kept saying, ‘You’re shit. Everything you do is shit. Don’t do that. It’s shit,” Yorke recounts in the interview. As the band was holed up in St. Catherine’s Court recording OK Computer, “Ghosts would talk to me while I was asleep,” Yorke adds. “There was one point where I got up in the morning after a night of hearing voices and decided I had to cut my hair. I cut myself a few times. It got messy. I came downstairs and everyone was like, ‘Uh, are you all right?’ I was like, ‘What’s wrong?’ Phil [Selway] very gently took me downstairs and shaved it all off.”
The paranoia Yorke felt “was much more related to how people related to each other,” he explains. “But I was using the terminology of technology to express it. But I was using the terminology of technology to express it. Everything I was writing was actually a way of trying to reconnect with other human beings when you’re always in transit. That’s I had to write about because that’s what was going on, which in itself instilled a kind of loneliness and disconnection.”
(Read: Top 50 Albums of 1997)
The band admits that it was in a similarly dark headspace while writing last year’s A Moon Shaped Pool, to the point where the band members were still uncomfortably talking about it with Rolling Stone. Much of that anguish had to do with the death of Yorke’s longtime partner, Rachel Owen, who was battling cancer. “There was a lot of difficult stuff going on at the time, and it was a tough time for us as people. It was a miracle that that record got made at all,” Yorke notes.
On a more positive note, the band is looking ahead to what the future may hold. Most excitingly, Yorke is open to the idea of recording live as a band, for the first time since 1997. “I’ve always been extreme about resisting us being a drum-guitar-bass band,” Yorke says. “But if that’s what people want to try, I’m too old to be standing there with a hammer and saying, ‘We must do this, we must do that!’ I would like everyone to feel free.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Yorke and guitarist Jonny Greenwood have strong words for the Britpop movement. “To us, Britpop was just a 1960s revival,” Greenwood says. “It just leads to pastiche. It’s you wishing it was another era. But as soon as you go down that route, you might as well be a Dixieland jazz band, really.” Yorke adds, “The whole Brit pop thing made me fucking angry. I hated it. It was backwards-looking, and I didn’t want any part of it.”
Read the full interview here.