thom yorke interview


Do you suffer from depression?

“This is why I get defensive,” he replies, sinking back into his chair. "People reflect this back onto the music we make as well and it makes me quite angry. Depression is a medical condition, and in this country especially it’s very badly stigmatised and it damages the people who suffer from it. If you suffered from dyslexia, for a long time that was stigmatised. And now it’s sort of encompassed and you can have treatment. If you suffer from depression, you are stigmatised. You’re a freak, you can’t get a job – things like that – if you’re medically depressed.”

He lurches forward, boring a hole in the table with his gaze. “For there to be a culture of antagonism towards music that involves depression or any form of self-expression where perhaps the artist suffers from depression, well, you know, the artist is a freak and will get attacked for it. And it will reflect back in the music. And I think that absolutely fucking stinks.”

People trivialise it? “Yes, and I have a problem with that. Because that shows utter irresponsibility and lack of respect for, not just me, but anybody who suffers at all from depression. It can be an illness – I’m not saying it’s an illness for me because I I’ve sort of dealt with it. But for a lot of people it really is an illness, and for the sake of them I think it’s highly offensive.”

Was there a single event or period which shaped his mental state?

“Depression’s not like that. When you say you suffer from depression it’s a condition, it’s something that’s there, that’s all. It’s not particularly strong, it’s not particularly destructive, it’s not particularly bad - I’ m very lucky. Lots of people are much, much worse – lots of people can’t leave the house. They’ve got no idea why, maybe they never will find out why. And all the drugs they get given don’t work, or whatever, and all the therapy is completely pointless. That’s kind of not the point.”

Uncut, august 2001

So, what is an iron lung?
Thom: it’s an artificial respirator. They were used on polio patients in the ‘50s. You’d be stuck in this huge steel box, and your head was the only thing that could move. You’d just live like that for the rest of your life.

Your new album is called The Bends. I’m afraid to ask…
Thom: The bends are what you get when you’re scuba diving and you come up too fast - you get too much nitrogen in your blood. You can die from it. I wonder if you implode or explode or what.

What happened to your long white hair?
Thom: it broke off. Honestly, I went to the hairdresser’s to get it dyed, and when they toweled it, my hair just fell out.

You met at an all-boys school in Oxford. What was that like?
Jonny: It was a bit like Alcatraz. My housemaster would measure the bottom width of our trousers - we wore drainpipes back then. Then he’d send us home to put on wider ones. It was that kind of place.

Did you get into a lot of trouble?
Thom: I was fond of missing lessons. I’d go into town, which just meant I’d wind up in fights. Well, they really weren’t fights, because the other guys’d hit me and I’d fall over.

Mademoiselle, 1994 


It’s 1:30pm and the gig (undoubtedly one of the best gigs I and, by the looks of it, Wolverhampton, have ever seen) finished hours ago.
Thom says he should talk to me now before he loses his voice, or consciousness, or both. Not only is Thom exhausted, he is also, as it turns out, deflated. (…)

Does the generally quite pensive Mr Yorke find it easier to write sad songs or happy songs?
“I don’t write happy songs,” he says. “Besides, emotions aren’t defined as happy and sad, are they? Unless you’re in advertising. There’s a whole range of emotions and the ones I don’t tend to write about are the ones that go: ‘I love my job/I love my life/I love my wife’. It’s like, you’re f***ing sad, then, aren’t you?”
Thom is not a happy man right now, it must be said.
“I’m a fucking wreck at the moment.” He proves the point by putting his head in his hands. “I’ve got no idea if I’m gonna be able to sing. I’ve no idea whether my foot will be all right, or anything. I’m constantly going "Aaaaagh!”

“I don’t understand what I’m moaning about,” he says. “I’m constantly saying, 'Why is this a problem? You’re doing this, this is great. You’re playing in front of 2,000 people at the Astoria tomorrow.’”
“Why is it a problem?” he repeats my question.
“It’s a problem because I’m f***ing ill and physically I’m completely f***ed, and mentally I’ve had enough. It may be great because of that but it may be awful, and it all just rests on me, and I’ve never been in that position before, not in Britain. I don’t care about anywhere else." 

Me thinks it’s time to cheer things up with a couple of quickfire opinions on contemporary pop issues.
The New Wave Of New Wave, Thom?
Kurt Cobain?
I thank you.

Melody Maker, june 11th 1994