nigel godrich

anonymous asked:

Do Radiohead perform to a click track? Obviously for some songs such as Videotape, 15 Step and The Gloaming the samples and drum machine are acting as a click track that Phil has to play to. But beyond songs such as these, do Radiohead play to a click track? Thanks.

Radiohead sometimes use a click, but only judiciously.

They almost never do in live performance. In Radiohead’s early days (Pablo Honey, The Bends), they really considered themselves to be primarily a live band, and that has carried through to this day in how they perform (if not in how they make records). Phil has an extremely good sense of time, so as long as he’s playing then there’s little need for a click. 

The only case of click use that I’m aware of is Little By Little on the 2012 tour. The band had a lot of trouble playing that song, and haven’t played it since part-way through the 2012 tour. The studio recording relied really heavily on complex layers of loops, and Radiohead had only recently started playing with a second drummer, so it’s no surprise that they had so much difficulty adapting it for live performance.

In the studio, Radiohead have occasionally used clicks. Their songs would suffer if clicks were used for the whole track, but there are cases (such as establishing the tempo when re-recording a chorus or verse) where a click can make the process a lot easier. I can’t find the source now, but Nigel once mentioned that he would sometimes use a click for the first couple of measures to establish the starting tempo, then turn it off.

Thom Yorke on Nigel and The Eraser

But who could have imposed a deadline?
If Nigel wasn’t constantly on my back, I would have never brought out the eraser. It was pissing me off that he was treating me like a little boy but on the other hand, it was the only way. If it was only up to me, I would waited a month or 2 for stuff to clarify - & it wouldn’t work or it would crap. So his discipline was a big choc for me. 

Did you need to purge yourself from these songs, from these electronic sounds, before going back to RH? 
It needed to come out, it was impeding me. I also needed to prove that I could work alone, to compose with little means: a bass line for one song, a guitar loop (not sure if it’s the right word) on an other… It was interesting to distance myself from song writing. Because I’m not really a songwriter, I don’t listen to – besides a few old ones like Scott Walker or Stephen Malkmus – songwriters… I mainly listen to beats, sounds, grooves… That’s why I can be very frustrated listening to RH: from my defending body ( couldn’t translate this correctly), we make songs. I wanted to distance myself from this kind of format for the eraser. But Nigel was obsessed with the songs and, on those little bits of ideas that I had made him listen to in beginning, he regularly stopped me and said: “But you have a song, you really needed to sing over it!”

Even your singing sounds new: your voice seems to have found some pleasure.
Its exactly that: the pleasure of just sing. I’m much more comfotable with my voice today, finnaly I have no doubts. That goes for saying, when I sing a song like Atoms for Peace, never has my voice been so exposed, so vulnerable. Nigel was inflexible: “I want a bit more echo. –No. – Ok, then a little reverb. –No. I told you I am not doing that on an album.” A lot of the time, he wanted one or two pieces of voice. I needed to trust in him, even if I sometimes had the impression of being naked. Usually, I always managed to hide the words behind the guitar or behind effects. The worst was on OK Computer: I had the impression that this voice didn’t belong to me anymore, that it had nothing to do with me… All measures taken around this album … I had the impression of being a caricature. 

Do you need a bubble to record, an enclosed environment?

That’s something that Nigel and I always argue about. He thinks we always need to completely isolate ourselves, not to have any contact with reality. I end up thinking he is right: during months with RH, we went into the studio as if we were going to work like a normal person, with fixed hours, from 11 to 23h - & nothing came out of it at all. That routine washed us out: we were taking care of children night & morning, & we were killing ourselves over these songs. A failure.

So your presence can be inhibiting?
Yes certainly. I can be even corrosive. Nigel remembers with horror recording Paranoid Android… During a day or two, I pulled a fit, I was unbearable: “I had no positive energy, I couldn’t bear it anymore…” I dropped the whole thing because if I would have stayed, I would have really lost my marbles, I would have burnt the place down(laughs)… Nigel then reunited everybody, behind my back, and they did three quarters of the song. We were already troubled over ten different versions but there, without me on their backs, they found a solution. I can be a real poison in this machine. When my energy leaves me, I become a burden. 

mynameisaline  asked:

I am a complete newbie on this so.. Thom said he made The Eraser using only his laptop, I mean, where did he get the sounds from?

(This post is not meant to discourage you. It is very possible to make an album using only a laptop and plug-ins (digital instruments and effects), or only a laptop and a microphone. Artists did so in 2006, building software instruments or using only samples or only voice, and in 2016 there are countless ways to create music with only a computer. However, that is not how Thom made The Eraser.)

Thom definitely did not record The Eraser using “only his laptop”. Many of the songs where sketched out on his laptop, both using samples and recording live parts into the computer, but the majority of the album was recorded live by Thom in studio (specifically Radiohead’s studio and Nigel’s previous ‘The Hospital’ studio). In this interview, Thom discusses how songs began on his computer, but were augmented later with his live playing. On the finished album itself, it is primarily the sample-based percussion which is sourced/recorded directly from the laptop.

Most of the tracks on The Eraser feature live instruments providing harmonic accompaniment, such as the pianos on Analyse and Cymbal Rush, the guitar on Black Swan, and the bass guitar on The Clock. There are also a lot of moments where Thom adds an extra live instrument, such as the guitar at the end of Harrowdown Hill or the bass guitars during the outros of Atoms for Peace and Cymbal Rush. Some parts are potentially looped and/or manipulated, but clearly sourced from Thom’s live playing – the guitar on The Clock is probably the best example of this. The bass guitars on And It Rained All Night and Harrowdown Hill are others. There’s also Jonny’s single piano chord which Thom sampled and re-pitched for The Eraser.

While it’s not technically a “live instrument”, there is also quite a bit of vocal overdubbing going on: sometimes in unison (The Clock), sometimes with harmonies (The Eraser, Black Swan, Cymbal Rush), and sometimes with melodic counterpoint (Skip Divided, Black Swan). Many of these cases show Thom’s voice being used essentially as a distinct instrument. Thom’s voice is also sampled and manipulated for percussion sounds.

Thom with his Fender Mustang Bass during a performance of Harrowdown Hill at the 2010 Big Chill Festival.

Synthesizers, lush pads in particular, feature strongly on every single song. During one interview, Thom talked about “working out how to make the computers work”. By this, Thom means not only connecting computers and getting software (Pro Tools, Max MSP) to work, but also using computers to control hardware instruments (via MIDI). I suspect that Thom used plug-in synthesizers for sketching on some songs, then used the same MIDI data to control hardware synths – such as Nigel’s MIDI-retrofitted SCi Prophet 5 – for the album itself. On Skip Divided, it seems like Thom may have triggered the bass line on a synth with his computer, but adjusted settings on the synth itself while it was playing – adjusting the resonance to get those squelchy sounds at 1:45-2:14.

Thom clearly also meant controlling drum machines with his computer, as evidenced by the primary beat on The Eraser, and the analogue kick drums on every track. The kick parts on Atoms for Peace and Cymbal Rush are particularly ornate, and were likely sequenced on Thom’s laptop. He may also have controlled the band’s AKAI S3000XL sampler from his computer, since a lot of the album’s percussion is sample based, such as the loop of jingle bells on Analyse, the computer-manipulated hi-hats on Black Swan, the manipulated vocals on Skip Divided, and the cut-up bits of The Gloaming on And It Rained All Night. However, most of this sampling seems to have been done directly on Thom’s laptop.

It’s easy to see how Skip Divided in particular was a product of Thom’s laptop. Most of its percussion is really unusual sounding, clearly the result of modifying samples of his voice and other sounds. For example, what sounds like a computer-manipulated shaker at 1:08-1:36 is actually modifications of Thom’s exhalations and “tsss” sounds (you can hear unprocessed ones at 0:49 and 1:07). The main accompaniment consists of two loops: one of a bass synth, and one of Thom humming. The humming drops out near the end of the song, but is replaced at 2:23 by looped, sped up fragment of Thom’s voice. Modified versions of Thom’s voice also contribute the drone that swells in at 1:38 and persists intermittently until 2:20.

About 75% of Skip Divided could have been done using only Thom’s voice, a microphone, and Pro Tools – and that’s if you don’t count the DAW’s built-in plug-in synthesizers and sample instruments, which Thom may have used for sketching. The synth parts may have been replaced when Thom went into the studio, and the vocal parts may have been replaced with better takes, but the laptop percussion clearly made it onto the album.

Thom and Nigel in the Tottenham House “Control Room” during the recording of In Rainbows.

Thom used his laptop as the center of operations for The Eraser. Each song is based around loops, beats, and commands sent from the computer. Thom filled out these frameworks with live playing on a variety of instruments and rich vocal parts. All of these were eventually put down on tape in Radiohead’s studio, with the finishing touches provided by Thom and Nigel in a similar manner to a Radiohead record.