We’re getting closer and closer to the release of Philip Selway’s debut album. On August 30th ‘Familial‘ will see the light of day in a record store near you. The record features collaborations with Lisa Germano, Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche and Patrick Sansone. The Radiohead drummer has done a number of interviews. Below are some Q & A’s from interviews with Pitchfork, Billboard and Entertainment Weekly. They’re obviously out of context. So, check the links for the full interviews.
Pitchfork: How long have you wanted to do your own record?
Philip Selway: I’ve been playing guitar and writing songs since I was 15 but I started really thinking about making an album around four years ago. But I didn’t know I’d sing on it; I didn’t feel I had a convincing voice at that point. It took four years of trial and error to find out the stretches I could make. It’s a bit of a leap of faith. The first time I actually heard my voice coming back in the studio was when I thought, “OK, maybe I can do this.” Even so, you do feel very vulnerable. When you’re singing, it sounds a particular way in your mind– like how you think your speaking voice sounds like James Earl Jones in your head but it’s really more like Mickey Mouse. [laughs]
Entertainment Weekly: In terms of when you wrote these songs, is “The Witching Hour” [which first appeared on 7 Worlds Collide’s The Sun Came Out in 2009] the earliest?
Philip Selway: In terms of actually completing something that I was happy with lyrically, it was probably “Broken Promises.” When I was working on my initial demos with Ian, the first thing that we did was “Beyond Reason,” and then we did “The Witching Hour” as well. When Neil Finn invited me to be part of the 7 Worlds Collide project, I found my spot in that in the space of a couple of weeks. [There were] all these things which I suppose I’d been working up to doing, but it required something like that to actually push me to [perform] up in front of people.
Entertainment Weekly: So the origins of this album predate that 7 Worlds Collide project by a bit.
Philip Selway: Yeah, they do. That learning process that I was talking about was well in motion by that point. I was finding what my singing voice was and finishing more and more songs. It was getting to that point where I had a lot of music there, and it felt like a body of material that existed in its own right. So it didn’t feel appropriate to bring it in to Radiohead… It would be about seven or eight years ago that I realized things were gaining a head of steam. And then three or four years ago, that’s when I actually vocalized that thing to myself. “Yes, I’m going to make a record. Don’t know how yet, I don’t know if I’ll be singing on it, I don’t know if I’ll be playing guitar on it. But I have these songs, and I’ve got to find a way of doing that.” It also, I suppose, tied in with things that were going on at the time, just in terms of coming up to turning 40… My mum died [in 2006], and that stirred things up in some ways. It felt like a very fertile period in terms of what was going on in my life. [I had] that sense of being at the midpoint in everything, that perspective where you’re equally looking back and looking forward and taking stock of all those significant, rich and complex relationships around you. I don’t think I would have been ready to make a record before that point..
Billboard: Why record a solo album now?
Philip Selway: It’s had a very long gestation period. It’s something that grew out of stuff I was writing on the road and in my own bedroom, going back about seven or eight years. These fragments of music gained a head of steam, and I reached a point where I came to see their potential as a collection of songs that I couldn’t see working for Radiohead.
Pitchfork: Do you feel like listening to Thom Yorke live and in the studio made it easier or harder for you to feel comfortable singing?
Philip Selway: Both. It’s a very high bar to have hanging over you. But, over the years, everybody has very much developed their own voice in what we do.
Pitchfork: Another surprising thing about your album is how little drumming is on it.
Philip Selway: And the drumming that is on there is mostly by [Wilco’s] Glenn Kotche. He’s fantastic. He took drum parts and mixed in all these delicate layers which throw things off kilter. For me, if Jonny [Greenwood] played drums, he’d be Glenn. They work in very similar ways. It was a revelation working with Glenn on the material because, in my mind, I hadn’t heard any drum parts on these songs at all. If you’re working on more of a muted, delicate level, it’s very easy to end up sounding too tasteful, so finding somebody who could scuff up these really rich sounds was great. I just sat there with my notebook.
Pitchfork: What were some of your more angst-y traits as a teenager?
Philip Selway: I have this bizarre see-saw thing with confidence. I was perfectly happy to get up and play drums for the first time during my first gig, but then there would just be this distinct lack of confidence in other areas. As a teenager, I was kind of prone to my periods of gridlock where it was very difficult to access what was really going on. I had very strong instincts about stuff, but couldn’t verbalize the thought processes behind them. As a grown up, I’ve been picking away at that and actually trying to make connections a lot more.
Pitchfork: Do you remember what opened you up to the dark line that runs through this album? A lot of it reminds me of Nick Drake.
Philip Selway: Oh, I love Nick Drake. Five Leaves Left has been a constant companion over the years. But I think also working in Radiohead does all of that, too. It has its own very lovable dark side to it. You get carried along in the push and pull.
Entertainment Weekly: Naturally, people are going to compare this album to Radiohead’s work. Is that a high standard to be held against?
Philip Selway: As I’ve been going through the process of writing and recording it, I know what goes into a Radiohead record. All the different stages, from the writing, through to the self-critiquing, going through it and not letting up on something until you’re happy with it, and jettisoning the stuff that isn’t working. I suppose I’ve wanted to maintain that quality filter. So, yes, there’s a high bar there, particularly in terms of the songwriting. I suppose I’ve not wanted to put something out until I actually felt that it would stand up in that respect. Of course, it’s not going to be Radiohead, because that’s got those five voices going into it. This is me, at the core of it, with other, different musical voices in there, which bring, hopefully, depth to it.
Entertainment Weekly: Do you think it’s healthy for the band to have members going off and doing their own side projects?
Philip Selway: For a band that’s been going on for as long as we have, yes, I really think it is. Each feeds into the other. Definitely. The open musical relationship. But you can only do that when what’s there at the heart of it is a very strong bond — something that still feels very fertile. In no way does us doing this stuff outside feel like it’s running away from that. It’s just complementing that, really. The fact that that is working allows you to do this stuff.
Billboard: It’s been almost three years since “In Rainbows” was released. What is Radiohead up to at the moment?
Philip Selway: We’re working on new material, but we’re not rushing and not sure when it will be finished. We work for fairly intense chunks of time, then step away from it in order to come back with fresh ears. Those times away from each other definitely help the process. For so many years, our reference points were just each other, which is the nature of being in a band, really. But it’s good to go and have the experience of playing with other musicians; it opens your eyes to different techniques and approaches to music.