Ed O’Brien’s Kid A Diary
22 July 1999
thom arrives & plays a new song on the acoustic. sounds great but has no name, so now on referred to as the song with no name. we move on to “lost at sea/in limbo” after only nine months work its starting to sound like its getting somewhere. good in fact. The others sound ok too.( everything, everyone/the national anthem). highlight of the day is attempting 3 part harmonies on “neil young *9”- not the harmonies themselves, but phil cracking up because he feels a bit like that drummer from the eagles. a fucking brilliant rehearsal. its great to be in our band.
23 July 1999
start by working on ‘optimistic’. i really love the words, especially the line “this one just crawled out the swamp” reminds me a bit of PJ Harvey’s blues stuff. cool. a couple of interesting jams. one of them is jonny’s who bemoans the fact that his stuff never turns into proper songs. its good but he doesnt realise it, as hes already bored of it by the time he plays it to us. finished by playing ‘neil young *9’ or as cozzie calls it the ‘phil is don henley’ song. It sounds even better today. don’t go on too long as its warm and unusually summery today so drive home and get caught in the inevitable friday traffic jams.
27 July 1999
a pretty frustrating day, but now we’ve been doing this for so long, you realise it can’t all be like last week. it starts well with a different version of ‘how to dissapear’ and ‘everything in its right place’. we then get sidetracked by a couple of loose ideas for songs (one is very like the Fall). However we have definitely lost our way with ‘ you and whose army’- it was sounding great last week, so what happened today? time to go home.
28 July 1999
it may well be that because we are working on completely new material it seems that we have not moved much today, like yesterday. but we discussed ‘ follow me around’ and how we would like to approach it, rather than just start playing and thereby fall into old habits. plank says he likes the ‘remain in light’ style jam we had which is good because we were pretty nonchalant about it. ‘de la soul’esque jam at end.
29 July 1999
warts and all, warts and all……… the last two days were brewing up to this…..working on ‘up the ladder’. 30 seconds into it & it sounds utter shite. thom stops it. lack of energy. phil gets pissed off. we talk a bit. start up again with a dose of the ‘fuck you’s. sounds better almost immediately. funny that. oh and the new song from 22nd is called ‘move along’ for the moment. also played the cminor. lovely sunny day.
30 July 1999
spend the first 3hrs on ‘up the ladder’. things are happening; jonny brings in the ‘missy eliot’ chord??!! thom starts singing lyrics from another song, cozzie comes with a catchy riff for the chorus and phil is ..funking. with that going on its very easy for me. working through something is such a cliche but if youre in the right frame of mind its so true. finish by playing “lost at sea/in limbo” , “optimistic”, “c-minor song”. it would be great to have another look at “you and whose army?” next week, and rescue it for the ‘lets leave it for a while’ pile. plank’s not here today as he’s in Lobo, Norway with Mike Scott- they have no nights in summer.
3 August 1999
start by working on ‘lost at sea’. thom thinks weve already recorded the definitive version whilst in paris. not sure about that, mind you he admits that thats because of the way hes singing it (which hes only done with a tape alone whilst driving). i really like this new version, as much as anything for its relentlessness and energy. anyhow move onto a new song ‘cuttooth’ – its got a ‘neu’ thing about it – long and hypnotic…. finish with attempting to rescue ‘you and whose army’…
4 August 1999
first time since starting this that i have had absolutely no desire to write anything about today. 24 hours and a good rehearsal (thursday) later things are a little clearer. yesterday or rather today (the 4th) there was very little played but a lot of talk. the problem we have found is that we are essentially in limbo – for the first time in our time we have nothing to get ready for, except ‘an album’, but weve been working on that since january and nothing substantial has come of it, except maybe a few harsh lessons in how not to do things*. its like how do we start this – when we made our last three albums, there were time restrictions – we no longer have these. are we going down ‘stone roses’ territory? the result of this somewhat frank discussion is that we need a plan and something to aim for… *not quite true in hindsight – we have recorded some good stuff (not much, though).
5 August 1999
much better today… the sun shines in and out of our rehearsal room and we get a lot done… start with ‘optimistic’ (still sounding great – jonny tries some cool ondes martenot on it – the high stuff is good, not however when he follows the main riff). move on to ‘up the ladder’ – sounds better with more space. segway into ‘follow me around’ and a reworking of the ‘cminor song’ (in a stax stylee). jonny meanwhile is attempting to put the vocal mic through his analogue filters – which looks like a remake of an old telephone exchange. “hello vicar, yes ill put you through to mr kipling”… so the last two songs are punctuated by sudden bursts of unearthly noises, both extremely good and extremely bad.
6 August 1999
last day of the week and last rehearsal for a couple of weeks as the eclipse takes place next wednesday. so we run through most of the songs. i think that these rehearsals will be viewed in hindsight as where we turned a corner (or hope so). obviously working on the songs and playing again has helped, but just as importantly we have been forced to confront certain things – like what the fuck are we doing exactly – how do we set up the next bit of recording so that we dont start 20-odd songs and not finish one of them. its taken us seven years to get this sort of freedom, and its what we always wanted, but it could be so easy to fuck it all up.
31 August 1999
kick off with ‘cuttooth’, the song with little structure and the only certainty is a bass riff. it makes you wonder how ‘neu’ did their thing – it always sounds spontaneous on those 12 minute epics, but did they have to rehearse intensely? did it require a degree of editing? then move on to the ‘c minor song’ – jonny thinks that maybe it’s getting a little too tasteful and nice and he’s right. it sounds too slick. finish with ‘optimistic’.
1 September 1999
i read a rumour from the internet [never believe a single nuance – sd] that we are supposed to be collaborating with ‘godspeed you black emperor’ on ‘how to disappear’ – this person cited a number of chance occurences, including such impossible coincidences as ‘they came to see us at a gig’. if that were sufficient corroborating evidence then, judging on the bands i’ve seen recently, you can hear us with ‘the divine comedy’ and the mighty ‘asian dub foundation’. twice around ‘follow me around’ – mmm. not great, but salvaged by ‘you and whose army’ – jonny thinks that voice and guitar are all that’s needed until the end part; and it sounds right; or at least it’s definitely a place to start. run through ‘optimistic’, cuttooth’, and ‘up on the ladder’ for nige, who’s down for the day to do some wiring and ‘studio arranging’.
2 September 1999
i have, up until now, never written a diary about what we’ve been doing; largely due to lethargy, but also because there are times when you have no desire whatsoever to document a particular occasion. and anyway i’ve always been suspicious of those who, like bill wyman, record such daily details. great bass player, though. but what has been interesting about this is that for me this is first time i am aware of the cyclical nature of our behaviour; patterns emerge. today was much like a day four weeks ago. things came to a head. and although you wish that there weren’t days like this, it actually probably aids the creative process. so maybe the next few rehearsals will be great. time to swig back a bottle of wine and contemplate the frail nature of it all.
3 September 1999
after only 2 months rehearsal and 3 months recording, it’s been concluded that what we should be doing now is trying to get basic arrangements. we’re like fucking lasers, us. we spend almost the entire rehearsal working on ‘cuttooth’ (the song with no arrangements up until now) and surprise, surprise, it already sounds a lot better. when you have a song that does not have the usual distinction between verse/chorus/middle eight, there need to be other markers that define the way the song progresses. and we’re getting there.
7 September 1999
there seemed to be a lot of breaks today, which often means that we’re worrying about something. recording worries over whether the ‘canned applause’ mobile setup will be ready. management swing by to answer fraught questions and generally alleviate anxieties. oh yes, music is what we’re about (easily forgotten sometimes) and ‘everything in its right place’ sounds good.
6 September 1999
a good and long rehearsal. pick up where we left off on ‘everything’ and move swiftly on to ‘optimistic’ – it’s blinding – definitely the most formed of the songs to put to tape – it comes from the swamp. the music is interrupted by the new bulletin board on our all-new singing and dancing website. v. exciting. and of course most of the messages posted are concerned with the atrocities in east timor. what’s the betting that international forces fail to enter east timor before mass genocide is once again committed. if this sounds flippant – it’s not meant to – sorry. back to the music – return to ‘up on the ladder’ -thom has a new arrangement – start stripping the song apart – already sounding better.
9 September 1999
‘knives out’ sounding quite ‘smiths-esque’. especially phil who has got that mike joyce thing down to a tee. on to ‘optimistic’ -must record that soon before we lose it (remember ‘lift’?). ‘up on the ladder’ sounds pretty grim. ‘say the word’ (or c-minor song); great drum, bass and vocals – personally getting a bit anxious over it, as i can’t find anything that works with it, or rather i have an idea but can’t get the sound right. makes me a bit neurotic. finish on what i used to call the ‘jonny scott walker song’ – very short and sweet. last diary piece for a couple of weeks. how was it for you? i’m finding it a little difficult to set the right tone, but as i’m not a journo i guess that’s fair enough. hopefully this is going to be an ongoing thing throughout recording and maybe even touring, so it will get better.
27 September – 2 October 1999
The day to-day journal / diary seems inappropriate for us last week. After having reviewed it, it reads as if I’ve become a kind of unofficial spokesman for the band – which is bollocks quite frankly, as that is certainly not the purpose. That may be the knock-on effect of having select magazine print some of it up. You know you can get a bit self-conscious and in this business and forget why you initially shared something. And what were those reasons? A mixed bag really, a bit of an attempt to de-mythologise this whole process of making a new record. It might be of interest to some to hear from one of the horses’ mouths (or arses) what is going on. And it’s actually pretty interesting for us if only to reassure me/ourselves that there are patterns which emerge, only when documented in the way we work that ensures that you don’t get too down when things aren’t going to plan.
A lot of this week was spent setting up. The right environment to work is crucial if your going to attempt to do anything vaguely different, then your surroundings have to reflect that. Equally so, what has become increasingly evident is the need to change our approach to recording on a lot of the songs. The approach or setup is crucial. For instance the way we worked the on the last record was to rehearse everything to such a standard, where most of the parts have been so finely tuned, that recording was largely a matter of capturing the best performance. And that’s fine, but recording in this way tends to mean that the songs have a certain way of sounding. i.e. – Pretty good in a live/band context.
Well that’s not enough now, and I think there is a feeling that unless we change our approach often were just going to become (?) of ourselves and even dull. There was a wonderful moment this week when we were all crowded around the TV watching this programme documenting the story of hip hop and it was the classic years from ’88 until ’92 with RUN DMC, Public Enemy and NWA – etc. Some of the greatest records ever made, and they interviewed Hank Shoucler – he was the fella who produced Public Enemy in the early days – and made the great “it takes a nation of millions…” album. And he was explaining their methodology – the way they recorded. Basically they all set up with samplers, Devo, drum machines. In the same room and recorded. Now most of it we said sounded like a mess, but apparently there were great moments, that were then cut up and from that the basic track was constructed. The effect of hearing this was like “well why the fuck can’t we do this” – it could be so exciting. We have the means to make a communal racket so why not harness some of this technology and use it within our own sphere. I mean we’re not going to make a hip-hop record, much as we’d like to, but what was exciting was the idea that kind of approach, or something similar offered us a necessary alternative to the way that we have largely worked until now.
Once we have done this then we might really get somewhere.
4 October 1999
Start working on ‘knives out’ and ironically after Fridays night’s talk of new ways and approaches, we set up as a 5 piece and play it live. Not really happening & it feels as though we’re heading down ‘say the word’ territory like last week. Thom wants more energy in this version in contrast to the Copenhagen version which ‘floats’ along. It’s decided that Thom and Phil should play it together. The energy levels are noticeably higher. They bang out seven takes & Nigel does his thing editing together the best bits from different versions. Bangin!
5 October 1999
Pick up from where we left off on ‘knives out’. It is felt that we should try and finish it or at least something. C’s overdub bass, the Johnny follows on guitar. It doesn’t seem to be happening. Then someone puts the Copenhagen on. It sounds better in terms of actually puts the song across – Nigel loves the feel of this version, but doesn’t think it’s quite good enough. The prospect of restarting and & attempting the song is quite daunting and also adds the anxieties of not completing stuff – Nigel says we should be. It feels like we need a break. (not the holiday type – we’ve had enough of those) no, the watershed type.
6 October 1999
Start working on a band loop called ‘fast track’ – Thom had a rough arrangement on cubase last night. Nige and I then do some guitar sounds using my new toy. The first Roland guitar synth, which sounds pretty different. Jonny does a couple of background radio tracks. We then do a bit of editing and pruning. Nige is really into this thing of throwing down random shit and then simply keeping the really good stuff. It’s a cool way of writing if only because you end up with that you couldn’t possibly contrive to do. Set up sounds/studio for optimistic – to be played tomorrow. Phil is playing this old jazz kit which used to belong to plank’s great uncle, but it’s ended up here via coz’a double bass teacher.
7 October 1999
‘Optimistic’ is possibly my favourite ‘band’ song that is played together live in a room. Sounds fucking great. We do about 9 versions. In most there are some amazing moments. The penultimate take would seem to be the one. As its Thom’s birthday today at recording, takes a backseat in the evening – but we do manage to have a small reunion of the conga’s on percussion. It isn’t for midnight – they do add their customary sound to ‘Optimistic’. Their last gig was on ‘paranoid android’ at St. Catherine’s. Brilliant day.
8 October 1999
A slack day. Nursing hangovers & generally tired from the previous nights celebrations. Nigel wants to do a bit of editing on ‘Optimistic’ – thinks we have a better ending on one of the other versions. Do a ‘head count’ on songs in their current status. It’s pretty encouraging as there are about 5 or 6 which could be finished fairly quickly. But of course we don’t want to do that yet – that would be far too pragmatic. Thom and Nigel download a loop of Thom’s onto tape to be added to it. As I write he is attempting some vocals. A weekend is nearly here – good timing. Completely knackered.
12 October – 15 October 1999
“we’re smashing our heads against the wall”
“this week we have been mostly working on optimistic”
“it would be ideal to finish optimistic”
“lets just do the end and edit onto the original take”
“the drums for Rachael’s songs sound like nothing else”
“Jonny, how the fuck did you manage to get them sounding like that?”
“I’ve been doing this all afternoon and need to get out”
“I can’t play that on this guitar”
“gorgeous smell in here, Nigel”
“Eddy and I like the mach 3”
“I really like the late roll, the long one”
“It’s not as sleazy as the one before”
It’s Friday yet Tuesday feels like yesterday – have we finished optimistic? No. And it could be tempting to abandon it in favour of starting something new. But then we know we aren’t to far away. We must see this thing through if for no other reason that it’s needed confidence.
23 November 1999
not such a great start to the week. of those six songs that nigel mixed only one is right – kid a. but nigel is pretty optimistic about the others, he knows what he wants to do with them. so we draw up another list of songs to be worked on in the next three weeks.next a meeting with chris, bryce and brian (the management). they’ve left us alone up until now, realising that we needed time – time basically to sort our shit out. i think their aim was to refamiliarise us with the workings of the this industry that we operate in. for instance nowadays if we want to tour, about five months notice is required, for booking the venues, notifying our crew, etc. it seems like a long time for just some gigs. part of the problem is we’ve really given it no thought at all – and suddenly you’re presented with these facts of life. we want to do gigs,but we have to make this record – and then we don’t even know whether they’ll work as a live entity. sometimes it seems like it’s so fucking complicated.
1 December 1999
phil is presently putting down drums on ‘how to disappear’ – we’re doing a demo of the song to present the song to an ‘orchestral fella’. we’ve kind of shirked away from strings in the past as they seem to have been recorded in the same manner for the last 30 years (ever since the beatles). jonny is particularly keen to use an orchestra but not in the standard cliched way……..more like the end of ‘climbing up the walls’. thom’s vocal on it was jaw-dropping. it’s very strange to be playing that song again as we played it frequently on the ok computer tour…………………….. suddenly you’re back there.
i’ve also included a couple of bits from the last six weeks.
if you haven’t heard ‘hunky dory’ in a while i suggest you give it a spin – sounds pure genius to me in the bath.
-i’ve tried to write something about what we’ve been doing in the last five weeks – there have been the day-by-day accounts which have been of the ‘we did this and then we did that’ variety……….all incredibly boring to read. then there have been a couple of ‘essays’ written whilst stoned late at night, only to be re-read the next morning. pretensious old tosh. all have been discarded. it’s easy to get extremely self-conscious doing this. we’re in london at present and nigel is mixing; he has been for three days. which means that we have actually finished six or so tracks. this has been our life for the last five weeks – we had a list of about ten songs which was then further narrowed down to six. they are definitely different………………..there’s an eight piece brass ensemble in a charles mingus style on one – eight ‘jazzers’ came down for the day and blew their stuff all over ‘everyone – the national anthem’. they were fantastic…………thom and jonny conducted. what a day. there’s ‘optimistic’, there’s another which started off as a thom doodle on the 505……..there’s also the paris version of ‘lost at sea’………the batsford ‘morning bell’.it is different. but that’s what we do. what has also become evident is that the summer panic that led to two months rehearsal may have been a little premature…..or at the very least a little on the hysterical side.there was some good stuff recorded in paris, copenhagen and batsford. i’ve been listening to alot of the copenhagen tracks and out-takes and the overall sound is great. pretty dark but then that session was hardly a chuckle-trousered affair.
2 December 1999
more work on ‘how to disappear’… after phil did his drums last night, jonny came up with an outrageous martenot part – multitracked it sounds like the string section from mars. jonny has this uncanny ability to bring in weird chords, that at first distract you but after a couple of listens completely make sense…it’s just a matter of getting on his planet. brilliant. coz and i tied up our respective bits and it’s sounding fairly complete. not bad for a demo. thom was immersed in protools/cubase land in the other studio. the song now has a really strong arrangement and the rhythm track is pumping………..onwards to friday.
this diary is long overdue – sorry – i’m not sure why it’s been so hard to post something. alot of it probably has something to do with the way that we have been working over the last six or so weeks.tracks have had to be completed and approached in new ways so that up until last week we hadn’t actually played together in a room since thom’s b/day in early october. so at times the process has felt quite disparate but then that’s part of being in the studio.
so hopefully this is now going to be a daily update.
3 December 1999
spend a good hour remodelling the live room for that authentic olympic studios circa ’66 vibe(….!??). not really….. simply tidied it up. played ‘i will’ live but decided at the end that the copenhagen version had something to it. it’s incredibly evocative of that whole time out there minus all the baggage.so that’s good. redid the loop on it, thom even played some great drums and proceeded to do the vocals. he hasn’t sung like this for a while………….not bad for a friday night when things tend to slow down in anticipation of the w/end. time to go home.
6 December 1999
it was my dear uncles’s funeral today, so i didn’t make it to the studio until late………too tired and depressed so went home. there was some good stuff done – cozzie put down his funky bass part on a track. and apparently there was a bit of a playing session in the evening.
7 December 1999
spent an hour playing around with cuttooth. came in and heard phil on drums and thom on rhodes going through it. it’s one of those moments when you hear something being played and all you want to do is pick up a guitar and join in. so i did……it’s only three chords so not too taxing even on my very limited music theory. looked at ‘you and whose army’ again from two weeks ago. tried this ‘different’ vocal idea that thom and jonny had been going on about…..three part but with a very low bass harmony, kind of inkspots-esque. this is always dangerous territory ie there would be nothing more fucking sad than this slick sophisticated 40’s vocal group sound… mind you there’s not much chance it could be slick….but you know what i mean. anyway sounds alright and the rest sounds better. thom is now doing a vocal comp of ‘i will’……..it’s 2am and this is his idea of fun and relaxation……….strange
8 December 1999
started by playing ‘cuttooth’ again – the song needs stamina – sounding better than yesterday….just have to keep playing it. one of those days when it doesn’t feel as though we’ve done much. maybe it’s because everyone’s tired. there was some protool arranging on ‘follow me around’ and an attempt to do vocal, piano and drums on ‘egyptian song’. was sounding ok. tried playing ‘keep the wolf from the door but it’s too late and needs thom’s rant on it. a bitty day. time to go home. saw only four hours of daylight – how do they cope in scandinavia during these months?
9 December 1999
first ‘live’ performance in front of an audience for exactly (and strangely) a year……..it was early morning so it was the 10th. it started with jonny (aka DJ REQUIRED) and thom’s dj set and then a last minute executive decision was made to play ‘knives out’ around the xmas tree. ‘amateur hour’ will hopefully become a regular night for us – but will be different each time – there will however be ongoing items like phil’s puppet show. for those who don’t know what i’m going on about – we did a live web broadcast to about 250 people – courtesy of tim bran and those lovely people at the ninja tunes label.
10 December 1999
still high from the night before. you have no idea how excited we are about this. it’s a bit like having our own tv station for three or so hours. there was little/virtually no planning for it, so everything was done on the hoof. so refreshing to do as it seems to take an eternity to get anything done quickly in this business…..and yes it was completely shambolic at times but surely there’s nothing wrong with that. i’d love to see more people doing this – can you imagine tony blair and his boys and girls doing a similar thing……….prescott on the wheels of steel: “this one goes out to ken, this is ‘going underground’……..”. ‘egyptian song’ sounds even better today.
13 December 1999
last day and like school we didn’t do any work…..had a chat about what we wanted to do next year, vis-a-vis gigs and recording. finished off the day with xmas dinner, completely ruined by the fact that there were only four crackers to go around the eight of us.
hope you have a relaxing xmas and new year………and if it is bollocks, be assured that you are not the only one having a shitty time. it’s the time when most families break up………..xmas after all is for the high street…………….if it was to celebrate the birth of christ they got it wrong. xmas was an old pagan festival and christ was supposed to have been born around september time. here endeth the lesson. bah humbug.
i have just had a thought……..still excited by last thursdays live webcast .and thinking about ways it could be developed……i think it could be very cool to play new stuff by unsigned bands, musicians, collectives (ie bands not on major labels – small indie is fine).if any of you are making music, have mates that are or you just think that this music that you are in to deserves to be heard then send it into me at our po box address, which is po box 322, oxford, ox4 1ey. i like all kinds of shit so please don’t just send in guitar band stuff. anything. spread the word. alright that’s enough for now. happy xmas… and a very merry millenium…..
10January – 19 January 2000
happy new year and many many thanks to all you lovely cardsenders.
i think we all arrived at the studio with that same dread of starting where we left off.to plough back into the old tracks seemed like a daunting task. nigel suggested a different plan of action to ease us back into it over the next couple of weeks. the idea was to spend this time working in a completely different way; no acoustic instruments ie any guitars,drums or vocals……everything has to be electronically generated. it means that we can’t fall back on what we’ve done before and forces us to work this equipment. it’s actually an incredible amount of fun – which is not something we’ve had in abundance over the last year or in studios in general. we’ve been working on four ‘bits’ and because they are fairly abstract it will be interesting to review it in a few weeks. the important thing is that you are constantly learning even if something doesn’t necessarily work out. and actually it’s something we’ve been meaning to do for a while. again it’s the need to change the methodology in how you actually make the music – only by doing this will we actually produce stuff that sounds any different. and conversely by finding another approach to recording, it enthuses us in the way that we’ve worked together as a ‘live’ band. the rehearsals last week were fantastic precisely because we had not picked up those instruments and recorded them.
this week we have cast the experimental net further afield to include material like ‘true love waits’ and ‘feeling pulled apart by horses’. the former has been kicking around for about four years now and each time we approached it we seemed to be going down the same old paths………it actually sounds like the start of something exciting now.
did an interesting band version of ‘bombers’ which thom has attached to what i used to call ‘the neil young’ song…we may play it some time later this evening.
thankyou to everyone who sent in their demos……maybe i was a little naive to assume that a handful of people would send in theirs’ or others’ offerings……what i realise has happened is that various publications and radio stations have visited this diary and announced that radiohead are embarking on a fucking talent search or something. bastards. it’s probably pay-back time for being miserable and contrary on our last round of interviews…..anyway i’ve started going through it and will listen to it all, eventually. it’s actually very interesting as it strikes me from what i’ve listened to so far that there are alot of really good musicians out there, but what distinguishes the good from the not so good is having taste. ie for instance you could be simply red (apologies for the easy target) and send in a demo and i’m always going to think it’s totally shit in spite of its technical ‘proficiency’. having said that there’s little that sounds like that. but what i’m saying in an around-about way is that it doesn’t matter if i don’t think something’s that good; if you really love what you’re doing then that is all that matters……..there is absolutely no point in making music that you think will help you to get signed……….second-guessing what people want to hear is a completely fruitless exercise as it is almost completely impossible to predict what people want to hear; by the time people actually get to hear that music it’s more than likely that it’s old-hat and most importantly you will never stumble upon something that is truly fresh and exciting.
24 January – 25 January 2000
want to try and finish the bulk of what we’ve started, which may sound obvious but there you go…….so had what seemed like a pretty unfruitful day on ‘how to disappear’…….try and get it away from that band thing with an acoustic guitar, which may have been alright when we were making the bends, but let’s face it has been done to death by both us and every tom, dick and harry guitar band. went down a few cul-de-sacs………all part of the process.
today however has been a quite different affair. still on the same song. jonny found the one chord thing; it’s to be played by the strings(to be recorded soon)…..in fact jonny has spent much of the last two weeks scoring and arranging strings in his room; which is a huge undertaking as 24 string players are going to be playing precisely what he has scored and these people are professionals….thom has this evening just done a wonderful vocal and the song is beginning to go another way. bad day, good day, good cop, bad cop.
27 January – 28 January 2000
‘dollars and cents’ is a track that originated out of a ‘jam’ from copenhagen – it’s good but because there was no arrangement, no musical decisions could be made on it………well now it has an arrangement…..thom did some backing vocals and a bit of guitar, jonny put his string arrangement on, i did a little moog and the song is really going somewhere. will write something more substantial over the w/end.
31 January 2000
slow day as it often is on mondays. tape machine broke-down in the main room. thom and jonny did some drum programming…..more work in the other studio on ‘dollars and cents’ — percussion and a guitar. not that interesting but the following might be….michael eavis knows how to throw the grandest and greatest party in the world…..glastonbury is the don of all festivals……….but alas we are not playing this year. there have been a few rumours flying around that we are, so we thought we’d better say something sooner rather than later. it would however be great to play it another year……………..
1 February 2000
“shit happens” as keef once famously said. and so it does. well it did today………..it’s difficult to say whether we’ve been here before, possibly not. and of course i m being deliberately vague about the whole thing ……but sometimes you have to be. anyway before one kneejerks and starts saying all manner of things you have to let the proverbial dust settle. sorry but you can only be so open.
2 February 2000
sore heads all round, but things are being sorted out, i think. while we ‘negotiate’ nigel has taken the opportunity to set the studio upstairs for mixing. ‘you and whose army’ is put up and he starts to mix. sounds good. have to redo my guitar which is fun as it feels a little like playing live. thom continues work on going through and sampling sections from this dat of sounds that we made last night……nothing too strenuous as i think we are tiring a little. it always happens like this. some weeks seem way more productive than others and probably are but the secret is not to get freaked out…..just keep going and it will return. meanwhile jonny ‘haydn’ greenwood continues to arrange his strings………
3 February 2000
bits and pieces are added to ‘kinetic’ – phil sets up his electric kit triggering samples, it works well and could be the basis of an interesting backing track. most of the day is spent preparing for tomorrow’s string day.
4 February 2000
what an amazing day. fantastic string arrangements by jonny and what players. many many thanks are due to john lubbock(who conducted and organised) and the string players from the orchestra of st. john’s, smith square. the whole session was the complete antithesis to the ok computer experience; firstly rather than de-camping to some london studio we used an old abbey near us with the most fantastic acoustics to record in. i think nigel was totally blown away by the whole sound of it. but most importantly john and the players were so enthusiastic about it all…..jonny has certain things that he wants/wanted to try out that aren’t your usual string arrangaments. and rather than dismiss his ideas ( which is what happened on the ok computer session) they were open-minded enough to try them. john lubbock even handed over the conducting reins right at the end for jonny to try out an idea of his. there is no way that he would have been allowed to have done that at the abbey road session. brilliant players and people.
we needed this session after what has seemed an incredibly draining week.
7 February 2000
monday morning and everyone arrives looking completely fucked. got one more week before we take a week off to recharge. nigel wants to mix ‘dollars and cents’ now that there are strings on it. he goes upstairs to work on it. downstairs work continues on thom and jonny’s drum thing from last week. late night worries and weird symbiosis going on. go on message board and someone asks us about ‘innocents civilian’. so once we get off the web we decide to put up the master tape of it. can’t find it anywhere which is incredibly strange. it’s got to turn up.
8 February 2000
nigel got what seems like a good mix of ‘dollars and cents’. more work on t+j’s drum thing. did some playing this afternoon. upstairs at the moment nigel and thom are doing ‘something’ to kinetic. still can’t find the master tapes to ‘innocents civilian’ and beginning to worry. worst case scenarios even being aired ie the u2 case when some of their rehearsal tapes went missing and ended up being sold as bootlegs.cozzie continues editing drums.
9 February 2000
put ‘true love waits’ up again….this is a song which has been kicking around for four years or so, in fact we recorded a version of it when we were making the last album and this is something like approach number 561. but it is a great song…..it’s simply trying to find a way of doing it which excites us. and we may have found a way, at the very least we’ve found a new approach …….. basically the track has the same vocal melody but the chords have changed underneath it. so we’ll come back to it and see how it sounds. it may of course be utter crap and we have so lost the plot on this song……………please don’t let that be the case……..
10 February 2000
WEBCAST DAY………………….these days are a bit like being a child again…just throw it all in and see what comes out. ‘amateur hour’ got extended to four hours ….and dare i say it but i think we’re getting ever so sophisticated……..the campfire, the ‘nice’ logfire, the upside down table football, the zx spectrum programmers. yes tonight all our two hours of preparation came to fruition in this glorious mess of a web broadcast. we had a few more cameras at our disposal and our technical team has expanded from one to two, so things were naturally going to be a step up from the last time. we only wish that a few more of you had been able to witness us getting wasted and making complete and utter fools of ourselves……..maybe next time…..the great thing about these evenings for us is that they are the antithesis of how i think we’re perceived ie angry, angsty young men….that’s fine, but you can’t possibly be like that all the time (as we’ve found out) because you’ll be dead by the time you reach your mid-30s which used to be a long way away and is now still quite a way but certainly not unreachable. about the demo thing as well …..i still haven’t been able to listen to everything sent…………but there is another idea, which is way more exciting, but i’m not going to say what it is as i don’t want the idea nicked.
we’ve got a week off next week and who knows maybe in the next few weeks we may even finish off the recording of the songs we’ve been working on?………….
21 February 2000
all back together again, a week off and our studio tans have faded nicely. everybody seems rested and refreshed for the next five weeks……….nigel wants to get his teeth stuck into mixing, so we decided to set up and record ‘cuttooth’. this at eight and a half minutes (by the end) is the long one – did five or six takes of which a couple are pretty good. will review further tomorrow. nigel and jonny are at present getting stuck into going through the various string parts on ‘egyptian song’. good to be back.
23 February 2000
listen to ‘cuttooth’ and it sounds fucking great. graham, our new engineer, earns his spurs by doing some great tape editing……which involves cutting the master tape at a particular place in the song and attaching another piece of tape from another version of the song. a bit more complicated from the days when your tape recorder chewed up your favourite ‘madness’ tape and you had to get out the old tape splicing kit and when finally fixed there was a section missing in the second chorus of ’embarassment’ ……no very different from those days.
anyway coz fixed up his fantastic driving bass thing….thom did a cool synth pass…and it’s quite fast for us.
24 February 2000
more work on ‘cuttooth’………..jonny did his guitar thing…feedback,backwards guitar…….it was good to hear. it sometimes seems as though not much guitar has been played so far, which is probably bollocks. there has been a fair amount, but in the quest for different sounds we haven’t first turned to the trusted and tried six-string. thom did some work on a track upstairs, which sounded great. lots of editing on the computer to make the track in question more coherent. am i sounding boring?….apologies, just tired that’s all….on to thursday…
25 February 2000
more good things added to ‘cuttooth’……..sounds. its one of those classic situations where the temptation is to continually embellish whats on there and it’s one of those songs that you could get away with it. but in doing that, you often lose the essence of what was great about it in the first place. i guess the trick is to be absolutely ruthless on what is added…………….so at five in the morning having not savagely edited some of these overdubs the track sounded too overcooked………….. please read “NO LOGO” by Naomi Klein
28 February 2000
had a funny old meeting last friday…………..definitely nursing a hangover from it today……………..
nigel was sidetracked last week by ‘cuttooth’ so he really really wants to do some mixing this week. ‘egyptian song’ then……….thom plays bass and it sounds pretty much finished. i haven’t really been involved in this song so when i hear it i think i’m able to be fairly objective about it………it has the feel of one of the tracks on the last mark hollis album and it is definitely one of the highlights so far. meanwhile downstairs……………….jonny and i are let loose on fucking up phil’s drum sound. hours of fun as coz might say. starts off by phil doing some drums on ‘kinetic’……………….keep getting that ground hogday sensation writing this diary. can’t help feeling that this must be an exceptionally boring read except to maybe the diehard muso…………
29 February 2000
I froze up upstairs after Nigel has done a good mix of ‘Egyptian song’. pick up on ‘i will’ downstairs…….jonny plays some cool organ on it. trying to do some rhythm stuff on it.
1 March 2000
thom and nige arrange some drums on ‘morning bell’ ………..downstairs we continue trying to get rhythm stuff on ‘i will’. arranging it on the computer….taking a while to do, but these things do…..
6 March 2000
we spent alot of time last week ‘throwing shit’ (jonny specifically said he was sick of hearing these very words today) at ‘i will’. minor panics all round about completing things…..our perennial fear/problem….’morning bell-copenhagen’, nigel did some very nice pro-tooling on some complete gibberish that i played. phil did some drums downstairs on the track that has no name.
7 March 2000
heard a great story on the six o’clock news on R4. great in the sense that it reveals the true madness of one of our former prime ministers……the pm in question is of course maggie thatcher. ok………….so the spanish foreign minister was reported as saying today that ‘lady’ thatcher should undergo the same senility tests that senator ‘butcher’ pinochet underwent a couple of weeks ago. this was triggered by a particular event from last week; the aforementioned butcher of chile was being wisked away by a chilean airforce 707……..the plane was apparently taxiing down the runway preparing to take-off when with great ceremony it was stopped in its tracks by a bearer of gifts from thatch herself. she wanted to give a ‘leaving’ present to the ex-dictator…….the gift in question was a plate commemorating sir francis drake and the english fleets’ defeat of the spanish armada………unbelievable………….or maybe not so, as it’s entirely consistent with the train of thought that she’s a pathetic anglophile, who never gave a fuck about the rights of individual human beings. and don’t believe that bullshit that during the falklands war she went to the aid of the islanders……….nothing like a war to get a country behind you should you be faltering in opinion polls and likely to lose the next election.
apologies for the invective…it slips out occasionally, but when you read books like naomi klein’s ‘no logo’ you can’t help but feel that much of the mess we’re in now is part of the leagacy of the thatcher-reagan years.
good work on ‘up on the ladder’ today…good drums and a much better arrangement. will return tomorrow to things i am ‘qualified’ to write about.
8 March 2000
left early……mixture of the lurgee doing the rounds at the moment….but also one of those days when the winter seems to have been too long and you just feel like a bag of shit. probably something to do with smoking more fags…gave up for almost a year and am gradually being wheened back on them. bollocks. this summer i’ll cut down. the thing is it’s true what they say about giving up ….you do feel so much better it’s just that i have no will power……better to mope around at home than around here where good things are going on.
March 9, 2000
arrived at the studio and some brilliant stuff had been done last night. cozzie finished off his amazing bass thing on the song with no name……bass musos won’t believe it. jonny did some cool guitar on ‘up on the ladder’. after yesterday it was nice to do some playing …the sun shone and it feels like spring is on its way. more things on ‘up…’
12-16 March 2000
what a fucking week……..sometimes i feel like the nature of this band is that we have to do things the hard way……to use a terrible football cliche……snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat…………….fucking hell ron, thank god all weeks aren’t like this, otherwise it would be early baths…….not that i’m going to elaborate any further………..the only thing that need concern anyone is that the songs sound fucking ace on the whole……nicely diverse.
i’ll write much more next week and apologies for the excessive use of the word fuck.
20 March 2000
there’s a line drawn…..above which are the names of tracks finished bar mixing…..and below, those nearly completed. for the first time the tracks below and above the line are equal in number. that was the state of play at 5am friday morning. ‘knives up’ was complete. i was telling a mate over the w/end about ‘knives out’ and how it was started in copenhagen on 10/3/99…….some 373 days later we finally finished it………….a ridiculously long gestation period for any song……….naturally my mate thought that having taken so long on a piece of music it would be some sort of magnum opus, a kind of paranoid android to the power of ten………………… the song is probably the most straight ahead thing that we’ve done in years……and that might explain why we took so long on it. i’m a real believer that bands as they become more successful often lose the ability to do straight ahead stuff well…… the need to embellish tracks with melodies and sounds becomes imperative. and often in doing so the song loses its essence especially if it was written on acoustic guitar. but i think we’ve done alright on ‘knives out’………
thom’s got a busy old week this week……..most of the finishing touches are vocal things. i’m trying to get my head around some new software called logic which seems to be what all the right programmers are using………..the manual is about the thickness of a hardback edition of ‘war and peace’………he’s singing along to ‘fastrack’. he’s hyperactive as well….it’s 1.30am..fantastic..
16 April 2000
never again…………that’s it, no more…………..not another drop of alcohol, in this case vintage cava, is going to pass my lips until next time…………… i’m in the epicentre of one mutha of a hangover……………. in fact the last time i felt like this i never drank gin again and that was 14 years ago………….it’s evil stuff. my father rang to tell me i reminded him of himself when he used to drink a bit………maybe hangovers are hereditary……….alcoholism probably is………..it was my birthday, we took the evening off and drank….and drank. i did a run down to majestic got the booze and issued strict instructions that no one was to leave until everything was finished……………..and so it was……anyway enough of the fug.
we’ve been back a week after a two week layoff. finishing the large number of songs off is the priority…….and would you adam ‘n eve it but we’re so nearly there. nigel is booked into the studio on wednesday to mix and we start playing together/ rehearsing on wednesday week for the live shows, not knowing how the fuck we’re going to put most of these songs over live.
so what i’m actually saying is that the recording part of this record will be finished in a couple of days……but you know if we’re consistent in our behavioural patterns, then you might finally hear something in the autumn of ’01…………after arguments over track-listing, running orders, etc………who’ll be the first to suggest the quadruple album mixed in surroud sound? ………………..might throw it in there myself to stir things up a bit…..the running order for an album is so important…… i don’t think you have any idea how vital it is until you actually fuck it up which we did big time on the first record…..for ‘ok computer’ it was a nightmare, agendas had been set and at one time it was like bloody horse-trading…………. “if you want ‘let down’ on the record then it only makes sense if ‘electioneering’ is on there too”……maybe it won’t be such a torrid experience this time……..somehow i don’t think so and that’s probably right anyway.
there’s been a couple of articles recently in the press speculating what’s up with us….the one in melody maker sent a journo down to oxford to snoop around……he or she was apparently outside each of our houses on a kind of indie ‘stakeout’…. and the piece ultimately was very flattering, but you know this is a non-story…………yes we go food shopping and fucking hell would you believe it we actually walk down the street in broad daylight……..and what’s more we’ve been known to sometimes break into a smile……the other was in the grauniad on friday, entitled ‘why are we waiting?’ again very nice and for the record, you won’t have to wait too long now. but please don’t waste column inches on mere speculation about when and what the album will be like………all we’ve ever claimed is that the records will be different…… anyway if the truth be told we don’t actually know. i’ve gone on way too long in this stream of alcohol induced consciousness and i must end before i write something even more stupid like offering that melody maker journo a handbags at dawn duel – see you at shotover a week on monday with your best louis vuitton..6am be there.
viva la lucha and good luck and respect to all the anti-imf and world bank protesters in washington this w/end, in fact go to thom’s page and there are a couple of links to some relevant sites about what’s going down.
8 June 2000
well, well, well….it’s been a while …….so here’s a short one to ease us all back into it….i’ve written quite a bit but never sent anything………………………it feels a bit like that letter you never dared send ….the one you’ve just written but you don’t entirely trust it’s very words……so no point inflicting those words on anyone else…….i’m sure we’ve all been there……of course i realise that that conflicts with the very nature of this ‘diary’, but it’s all about confidence…some days are better than others. actually the truth is that at such a crucial time of the album……..tracklisting, rehearsals, titles, arguments and full on fist fights……i probably haven’t been at my most objective……..there is however one cert in my mind….i fucking love this record now……..and that’s not me attempting to whip others into a kind of mass marketing aren’t we great type frenzy………..it’s the god’s honest truth, governor……….but before i can write anymore i’m going to conflab with the others so that we can get our story straight………here’s an idea…………… it looks as though alastair campbell has made a few errors in judgement over the handling of his pm’s media engagements recently and might want to seek further employment elsewhere in an effort to save some of his rapidly dwindling credibilty……and maybe, just maybe he could add some ‘spin’ to us radiohead fellas………..that would be ace to see ‘al’ doing interviews for us…………tight-lipped, stern and fending off the press …………..”listen sonny if you ask this lot another question about why they always seem such a miserable bunch of bastards i will personally make sure you never hear another record of theirs again………..and for the record meeting people IS easy………………” ……………….. ah yes that would be just fine……….no more questions as to how you got the name of the band, or what you thought of creep now some 7 years after its release….actually to be honest the interviews done so far seem to be of a different calibre compared to last time round……..so consequently they’re not or at least have not been so far too much of an effort ………..but that might also have something to do with us and our new-found spirit of glasnost.prost.
will write something more at the w/end. we’re off on tour on monday……………….
11 June 2000
apologies for the last entry and the half-arsed attempt at some humour…….very embarassed re-reading it. that’s what comes from having listened to the album twice in succession at half three in the morning……. and deciding to post something up……………so we leave tomorrow for france and the first show in arles on tuesday……..very nice….will write some more from a tour bus in europe.
14 June 2000
we had to cancel the vaison show…………so firstly apologies to everyone who had tickets and were looking forward to the gig……we’d even got the set list done with different new songs from last night and soundchecked them……….and what an amazing place…..a roman theatre like last night in arles. the freak rain was of course to blame…….the stage had a good three inches of the stuff from a twenty minute downpour and with another storm forecast for 9.30pm and alot of the equipment still damaged from last night’s storm in arles the decision was made to pull the show………somehow we got away with it last night but today just seemed as if it wasn’t meant to be…….sorry again to those in vaison ….. so we’re now en route to barcelona for the first show with a roof which may prove to be a fortunate thing judging by the lightning storms we’re presently driving through….in spite of all this strange weather i have to say that it is so good to be on tour in southern europe…..quote of the tour so far from coz who said yesterday whilst dining amongst the roman ruins……..”this is the best holiday i’ve ever been on!”…….which may not sound very unusual… but within the context of radiohead touring again is something close to extraordinary…..see you in barcelona.
18 June 2000
it’s sunday so it must be milan and the royal palace – the king of italy once lived here in this monza palace……….. in fact we’ve just been shown the theatre where he reputedly threw huge orgies. it’s quite a place. barcelona and last night’s show in frejus were immense……barca started a little weirdly with us and the audience getting used to the teatro tivoli, the most un-rock’n roll of venues(extremely ornate however)…….eveyone stayed pinned to their seats until we returned for an encore. our day off in barca consisted of eating and drinking vast amounts, broken up by a two hour siesta…ideal…..the only downer to the frejus gig was when i announced on stage that england had beaten germany in the football through a shearer goal…..bad move this was zidane country and very partisan to boot…..nevertheless a great audience. i picked italy in our euro 2000 sweepstake so as far as i’m concerned we’re playing on home turf tonight….it’s very warm.
26 June 2000
athens, greece arrived this morning to play the first of two gigs in the lycabetus theatre, which is apparently near the parthenon. no site of any greek antiquities as of yet, even from the top floor of the hotel………this city seems huge and apparently we’re situated in what a local described as a kind of no-man’s land……lots of traffic outside the window……and parked cars everywhere which is explained by the fact that they operate a system here whereby car licences are issued for different days of the week in order to alleviate the serious traffic congestion ie you have a car and you’re only allowed to drive that car on mondays, wednesdays, fridays and sundays………..what happens of course is that if you’ve got the dosh you then buy another car that you can drive on tuesdays, thursdays and saturdays……………….mmmm………….we had an amazing time in florence……….played open-air, right in the heart of the old town at the piazza san croce……….it doesn’t get better than this….went on and played in thessaloniki last night at the earth theatre….. a beautiful modern amphitheatre which had actually been dug out of the hill that overlooks that city…..a brilliant audience who exhibited great patience at hearing a set with nine new songs and a band which ignored repeated requets for creep(….understandable on their part, the requests that is, as this was our first visit) and pop is dead (….. cheeky bastards….)
getting a little worried about how easy it is to drink vast amounts of alcohol on tour…kick-started by the lovely laika people who apart from playing some great shows with us also happen to make the greatest margaritas outside of mexico itself……they are dangerous touring partners..
the new songs are working pretty well now in the set….’in limbo’s still a little tricky but it’s more than made up by the way ‘the national anthem’ and ‘everything in its right place’ is going ……….our crew by the way are doing an immense job working outside in incredible heats while we swan around like popstars……….