A new Radiohead tribute has been released. “Corporate Love Breakdown” is a Bluegrass Tribute to Radiohead. The album is released by CMH Records and features tracks from early Radiohead (‘Stop Whispering’) to the band’s latest releases (‘2+2=5’ and ‘Myxomatosis’).
Jesse from Old School Freight Train, said that the Radiohead songs are difficult to begin with: “It’s very difficult transcribing the kind of intense and complicated music that Radiohead produces. What you’ve got is a band constantly switching meters, bringing with it a lot of odd time signatures. Plus, it’s tough deciding who would play the various melodies. Bluegrass versions of material like this are also quite difficult, since there are no drums in bluegrass, and the heavy drums are such an integral part of rock. So, it’s like, how do you rock without drums.”
Interviewed by James Curtiss of CMH Records
Throughout the interview, Mr. Curtiss will be referenced as CMH and Jesse will be referenced as OSFT…
CMH: So do you remember exactly when it was the first time you heard Radiohead?
OSFT: I think like my most people my age, my first experience hearing Radiohead was probably hearing “Creep” on the radio, or seeing it around MTV. I think at that time I was either in Junior High or High School.
CMH: Are you as a band influenced by any rock bands, or any one in particular?
OSFT: Well, I mean, not directly. The majority of the work that gets put into any of the “Pickin’ On” releases is rather unorthodox approaches to the artists being paid tribute to, especially, since there is such a big difference between traditional bluegrass and modern rock. But bands like Radiohead, who are incredible musicians, bring really thoughtful compositions to the table when they create their own rock music. A lot of the same things we like about Radiohead’s music we try to bring to our own particular style of Bluegrass music.
CMH: Who initially approached you about this project?
OSFT: I don’t know. When you are working on the contract recordings with CMH, you get approached by a number of different people. We might have asked for this one, actually. When we are enthusiastic about a band, we may suggest one that we might have liked. We did that with the tribute to Coldplay.
CMH: How did you go about choosing the songs?
OSFT: Oh, “Paranoid Android” was something I definitely wanted to do, since that’s one of my favorite songs. In particular, we approached it in the same way a lot of modern jazz artists have, since the parts that Radiohead has written lend themselves to a jazz feel. Like what Brad Mehldau had done with the song on his record “Largo”. Quite a few modern jazz musicians have done treatments of these songs.
CMH: What were the biggest challenges you found in arranging these songs?
OSFT: The songs are difficult to begin with. It’s very difficult transcribing the kind of intense and complicated music that Radiohead produces. What you’ve got is a band constantly switching meters, bringing with it a lot of odd time signatures. Plus, it’s tough deciding who would play the various melodies. Bluegrass versions of material like this are also quite difficult, since there are no drums in bluegrass, and the heavy drums are such an integral part of rock. So, it’s like, how do you rock without drums.
CMH: Did you record the songs in pieces or as a group?
OSFT: Everything’s live. No over-dub. That’s how we do everything.
CMH: Did you find any similarities between Bluegrass and Radiohead’s music?
OSFT: No, I didn’t. There may be similarities to what we write, maybe, but generally this is a whole new experience. The truth is Radiohead is the most un-bluegrass, anti-bluegrass thing out there.
CMH: What do you think Radiohead fans will enjoy about this record?
OSFT: Probably the irreverence. Obviously we’re faithful to the music, and we worked hard on these recordings, but we had a lot of fun doing it. I think we brought faithfulness to the tone of what makes a Radiohead record, but they’ll definitely dig the irreverence. It’s not an album of just what sounds have sold before; this is something we care about.
CMH: Do you think there are elements you’ll bring into Old School Freight Train’s writing from Radiohead’s songs?
OSFT: Compositionally, they have some classical influences. That’s something we include in our writing is that element of the classical composition. Really, it’s about the subtleties you can take with you.