Thomas Edward Yorke (born October 7, 1968 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England) is best known as the lead singer of the British alternative rock band Radiohead. He has also recorded as a solo musician: his debut album, The Eraser, was released July 10th 2006 in the UK and July 11th in the US.
He mainly plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and piano, but has also played drums and bass guitar (notably during the Kid A and Amnesiac Radiohead sessions). He has one brother, Andy, of the band the Unbelievable Truth. Yorke currently lives in central Oxford with his partner, Rachel Owen, a printmaker who holds a doctorate in art history, and their two children, Noah, born in 2001 (to whom the Radiohead album Amnesiac was dedicated) and Agnes, born 2004 (to whom Yorke dedicated The Eraser).
As a young child Yorke underwent surgical operations to correct a paralysed left eye he has had since birth. In his first five years he undertook many operations, which he has claimed were "botched", leaving the eye mostly blind and giving him his trademark ptosis (drooping eyelid). This, coupled with the fact that the Yorke family would never stay rooted in one spot for long, meant that finding friends was to prove difficult throughout his childhood, creating an atmosphere of isolation. Yorke's father worked as a chemical engineering instruments salesman, which necessitated the family's frequent relocation.
The Yorke family finally settled in Oxfordshire and Yorke received his first guitar at the age of seven, having been inspired by a TV screened performance of Queen guitarist Brian May. His first song, "Mushroom Cloud" described a nuclear explosion, and by age ten he had joined his first band at the private Abingdon School for boys. It was at this school that he was to meet his future Radiohead bandmates Ed O'Brien, Phil Selway, Colin Greenwood and Colin's younger brother, Jonny.
The group was named On A Friday, as Friday was the only day on which the members were allowed to rehearse. The band would prove to have considerable longevity, surviving the members' attendance at different universities and eventually evolving into Radiohead. Yorke, in this early line up, played guitar and provided vocals, and was already developing his songwriting and lyrical skills.
While attending the University of Exeter, where he studied Fine Art and English, he worked as DJ at Guild nights and played with the band Headless Chickens. He also held a part time position as an orderly at a psychiatric hospital. Around this time he met Stanley Donwood, an artist who from 1994 on would become an important collaborator on single and album artwork for Radiohead, Yorke often working under an alias ('The White Chocolate Farm', 'Tchock') during such projects. The pair collected the award for 2001 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package.
On A Friday reformed in 1991 as the members were finishing their degree courses. Now relocated to Oxford, they signed to EMI and changed their name to Radiohead, the name taken from the Talking Heads album True Stories.
Radiohead, with Yorke as a blonde-haired figurehead, first gained notice with the hit single "Creep" (allegedly written in the men's toilets of Exeter University's student club The Lemon Grove) although some speculated the band would only achieve status of one-hit wonders. The song appeared on the band's first album Pablo Honey, which received mixed reviews.
The band came to resent Creep and the expectation around it soon became a weight on their shoulders. Their feelings towards the song were clearly indicated on their second album, The Bends, particularly on "My Iron Lung". It has been argued that this is the album on which the qualities for which Radiohead is best known today first appear. Yorke himself, being chief songwriter, lyricist and vocalist, is attributed many of the same personal qualities as exist in Radiohead's music from this period to the present day - themes of isolation, hope, resignation, and urban-existentialism to name several.
How Yorke, as the driving influence of Radiohead, has dealt with his growing status and reverence has been arguably one of the more interesting aspects of the band's evolution. 1997's OK Computer, whilst heralded as a landmark album by virtually every publication that reviewed it, forced Yorke into a period of depression brought about by fear that the personalities behind Radiohead - chiefly, his own - were more prominent than the actual music. 2000's Kid A was again a musical departure for the band, Yorke in particular having struggled with the idea of a follow-up to the mammoth success of OK Computer.
Yorke has explained in various interviews that he dislikes the "mythology" he feels is endemic within the rock genre, and hates the media's obsession with celebrity . In interviews, he does not seem to be particularly taken with the idea of being famous, or even show that he feels it is necessary that he is asked questions about his music.
In terms of talent and ability, Yorke is known for his distinctive falsetto ("Fake Plastic Trees", "How To Disappear Completely") and ability to reach, and sustain, high notes ("Creep", "Exit Music (For a Film), Let Down"). His singing voice has been directly compared, and indeed partially attributed to, that of Jeff Buckley. During the recording sessions for The Bends in 1994, the band watched Buckley in concert; Yorke later said the concert had a direct effect on his vocal delivery on "Fake Plastic Trees.". Aside from vocal duties, Yorke's musical contributions to Radiohead include piano (including Rhodes piano, especially on Kid A) and especially guitar, both acoustic and electric. He also plays bass guitar (The bass line for "The National Anthem" was recorded by him) as well as drums on occasion; in concerts performed in 2006 he performed drums on stage in tandem with drummer Phil Selway. Since Kid A, however, Radiohead, and in particular Yorke, have moved away from using solely these "rock" instruments for creating music, and have often seen fit to incorporate elements of electronic music in Radiohead's work.
While appearing on Jo Whiley's Radio 1 show in 2003 to publicise the release of Hail to the Thief, Yorke remarked that he would rather make an album just with a computer rather than with only an acoustic guitar. He also said that his ultimate achievement as a musician would be if he could work the "Mexican Hat Dance" theme into a song and have it taken seriously. Additionally, Yorke has stated that he thinks that computer programs such as Pro Tools give the musician more power over the direction of one's music than traditional instruments. The Eraser, his first solo album, indeed stayed true to this notion.
Radiohead are currently recording their new album. Though it was originally expected to be released sometime in 2006, a recent press release has stated that a new album should not be expected until 2007. Yorke has said that recordings for the new album have been difficult, yet well enough to play some new material on tour in 2006. Radiohead will be playing several more dates later in the year, particularly the V Festival in England in August.
Yorke has claimed never to listen to Radiohead records after they are released, and it appears this will be the case for the forthcoming album. "I will dread listening to it all after we have left in the real world. I always dread that. I'd much rather start something new and forget," Yorke recently wrote in Radiohead's blog.
It is important to note that the band has fulfilled its contract with EMI, and as such has no label or deal. Recently the band have spoken about the pressures of working with no set deadline; Yorke has stated he prefers this freedom, yet bandmember Jonny Greenwood does not.
Yorke said that the band will sign a new contract with a new label, on their own terms and not before the new album is finished and ready to release.
Yorke released The Eraser, an album of solo material, on July 10, 2006 in the UK and July 11, 2006 in the U.S. Produced and arranged by Nigel Godrich, featuring cover art by Stanley Donwood, it was released on the independent label XL Recordings. Yorke has said that this album is "more beats & electronics" and has denied that it means he is leaving Radiohead stating "I want no crap about me being a traitor or whatever splitting up blah blah... this was all done with their blessing, and I don't wanna hear that word solo. It doesn't sound right". It reached number 9 on the Irish charts in its first week, number 2 in the US and Australia, as well as number 3 in the UK. The album has been nominated for the prestigous Mercury Music Prize.
Yorke's enigmatic persona has made him a cult figure, but he has also been outspoken on various contemporary political and social issues. Radiohead had read No Logo by Naomi Klein during the Kid A sessions ("No Logo" was also briefly considered as the album title) and all the members were reportedly heavily influenced by it. Yorke is also a professed fan of Noam Chomsky's work.
He is friends with the environmentalist writer, academic and journalist George Monbiot; Yorke lent a quote to feature on the front cover of Monbiot's book Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain. He has garnered attention as a political activist campaigning for causes including fair trade, anti-war movements such as CND, Amnesty International, and most recently the Friends of the Earth campaign "The Big Ask". He played at the Free Tibet concert in 1999.
He has also appeared in Animal Aid's "Eat This!" film and condemned factory farming. He is a long-time vegetarian.
Asked about his activism, Yorke said that "the difference between me and Bono is that he's quite happy to go and flatter people to get what he wants and he's very good at it, but I just can't do it. I'd probably end up punching them in the face rather than shaking their hand, so it's best that I stay out of their way. I can't engage with that level of bullshit. Which is a shame, really, and in a way it would help if I could, but I just can't. I admire the fact that Bono can, and can walk away from it smelling of roses."
Jonathan "Jonny" Richard Guy Greenwood (born November 5, 1971 in Oxford) is musician and a member of Radiohead. Greenwood is a multi-instrumentalist; he plays guitar, organ, piano, xylophone, glockenspiel, ondes martenot and harmonica. He is the brother of fellow band member Colin Greenwood.
Jonny Greenwood is often credited as the second major artist in Radiohead along with singer Thom Yorke. His original contributions to Radiohead include the slow rock song "The Tourist" and the Beatlesque avalanche "A Wolf at the Door" – two closers respectively of OK Computer and Hail to the Thief. Yorke has noted that the track "Just" from The Bends was, "a competition by me and Jonny to get as many chords as possible into a song."
Greenwood, unlike other members of Radiohead, has a background in classical music, having taken viola lessons as a child, and is key in fleshing out arrangements brought in by Yorke, the band's principal songwriter. Because of this Yorke often writes the "bones" of a song and Greenwood would be one of the most important influences in fleshing it out so that it works as a piece of music. Greenwood also writes string arrangements for session musicians when they are needed, such as for "Pyramid Song" or the currently unreleased "Nude." He is considered one of the finest musicians of his time in "breaking the boundaries" of music.
Greenwood's extremely aggressive guitar playing has led him in the past to repetitive strain injury in his right arm. Advised by a doctor to wear an arm brace for a period of time, his brace has become a trademark of sorts. "I enjoy putting it on before I play ... It's like taping up your fingers before a boxing match." He is also an outspoken champion of the Ondes Martenot, a very early synthesizer, which he lists as one of his favorite instruments. The Ondes was popularized by French composer Olivier Messiaen, Greenwood's musical idol. Greenwood has composed a piece entitled Smear for a pair of Ondes Martenot. The Ondes can be heard on many Radiohead tracks, notably "The National Anthem" and "How to Disappear Completely" from Kid A. Due to the inherent fragility of antique electronic instruments of this type and time period, an analogue keyboard controller called the "French Conection" developed at Greenwood's behest by the company Analogue Systems is instead utilized during live Radiohead appearances to control his analogue modular synthesizers. In addition, other devices such as the Korg Kaoss Pad have been introduced on newer tracks and integrated into the live shows as well. Greenwood is also known for playing a customized Fender Telecaster.
In recent years, Greenwood has continued his progression as an artist in Radiohead and in 2003 he released his first solo album, Bodysong (2003), the soundtrack for the movie with the same title by filmmaker Simon Pummell. His brother Colin also featured on the album. Greenwood was hired by the BBC as its composer in residence in (May 2004). He can be seen in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire along with bandmember Phil Selway and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker as members of the band the Wyrd Sisters. Yorke and Greenwood also collaborated on a new project, performed by the London Sinfonietta at the Ether Festival in March last year. Greenwood premiered in 23 April 2005 his new work commissioned by BBC Radio 3, with music performed live by the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.
Greenwood is the youngest member of Radiohead, a fact which was significant in the band's early days as 'On a Friday'. At first Greenwood was relegated by the other members to harmonica, before he could prove his worth on guitar. Subsequently, when On a Friday signed their record contract with EMI in the early '90s and changed their name to Radiohead, Greenwood was just starting university, while all the other members had just finished. Making a difficult decision, Greenwood abandoned his planned degrees in music and psychology after just a few months to concentrate full time on the band, who were soon catapulted to fame. He later said he has repeatedly put into practice what he learned in those few months. Ironically, while Greenwood is the only band member with formal musical training, he is also the only one not to have completed higher education.
Although Greenwood says he dislikes later Pink Floyd, one of his favourite albums is Meddle. His favourite piece of music is Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony. According to entries on Radiohead's blog Dead Air Space, Greenwood is a dub reggae aficionado, recently listening to little else.
Greenwood was named as one of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Greenwood is married to Sharona Greenwood and has a son named Tamir (to whom Hail to the Thief was dedicated) and a daughter named Omri, born in 2005.
Greenwood and the band are currently working on another album; however no release date has been set.
In 2005, Greenwood was the subject of comparison to the up-and-coming band Bloc Party's lead guitarist, Russell Lissack. This was due largely in part to the similar preference of the two to record and perform on Telecasters, as well as for their nearly identical triangular fringe hairstyles. Similarities have also been observed in the way both guitarists move about the stage while performing.
Edward "Ed" John O'Brien (born April 15, 1968, in Oxford) is a member of Radiohead. He plays guitar, percussion, and often sings harmony vocals. Ed is known for his large collection of effects pedals, which are important in creating Radiohead's distinct sound. Though he served primarily as a rhythm guitarist on the earlier albums, Radiohead's migration beyond alternative rock often saw fellow guitarist Jonny Greenwood called on to play keyboards, the modular synthesizer, or the Ondes Martenot, moving Ed to the forefront as Radiohead's chief guitarist. He is a self-taught guitarist, but took drum lessons and is an accomplished drummer. He was originally invited into the band by Thom Yorke because of his resemblance to Morrissey. While Ed doesn't really write any of the songs, he contributes by adding his own guitar parts and vocals to the music Thom and Jonny have arranged. He is often considered the most photogenic rock star of the band, and the most gregarious with the public.
Ed is the tallest member of the band, at 6' 5". Ed has a wife named Susan and a child, Salvador, who was born in January 2004.
Ed is known to smoke marijuana recreationally, and is a supporter of the campaign for cannabis reclassification. Despite the "no-drugs-during-sessions"-policy of the band, Ed has said that he recorded songs during Pablo Honey and The Bends while stoned. In Meeting People Is Easy documentary, Ed was seen rolling a spliff. At the Brit awards in 2001, Ed talked openly about how he had used hallucinogenic mushrooms. Ed and Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood claimed they had been under the influence of mushrooms while attending the 2001 Grammy awards.
Colin Charles Greenwood (born on 26 June 1969, in Oxford) is a member of Radiohead. He usually plays the bass guitar and in latest albums he has taken to keyboards, samplers, and synthesizers. He is the older brother of fellow bandmember Jonny Greenwood. About his brother Jonny he says: "Unlike the Gallaghers we beat each other up in private and get on very well in public ... It's really nice to be in a position where you're with a member of your family and you get on really well."
While an undergraduate studying English Literature at Peterhouse, Cambridge, Colin served as the college's entertainment officer, and helped arrange several gigs for the band. Later, whilst working at the music chain store Our Price, he apparently had a big hand in helping the band get off the ground. When Keith Wozencroft, nearing his run as a sales rep for EMI, entered the store one day, Colin said, "You should sign my band" and handed him their demo tape. That got it all started for the band with EMI. In 2004, Colin served as a judge for the New Generation Poets talent contest, sponsored by the Arts Council of England. His wife Molly McGrann is an American literary critic and novelist; they have a son, Jesse.
Philip "Phil" James Selway (born May 23, 1967 in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England) is the notoriously mild-mannered drummer of British alternative rock band Radiohead. He also sometimes sings backing vocals during their live performances. His ultra-precise timing and varied drumming helps to give the band its distinct sound. He is the eldest member of Radiohead. He joined Radiohead because their primitive drum machine broke down and they couldn't afford a new one. Before Radiohead became successful, Phil studied English and history at Liverpool Polytechnic. He had worked for various touring musicians and worked as an English teacher as well. Phil has a wife, Kate, and three sons: Leo, Jamie, and Patrick (to whom Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief were dedicated, respectively).
Work outside Radiohead
Unlike bandmates Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, Phil has not had much involvement with projects outside of Radiohead. Nevertheless, in recent years he has taken a more active role in collaborating with other artists. He has been associated with emotional support group Samaritans as a listening volunteer for some years. Phil also performed with the band Dive Dive in March 2005 and appeared in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as a member of the band "The Wyrd Sisters" along with Radiohead bandmate Jonny Greenwood and Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.