CRAIG: How did you get interested in the whole aspect of things? Were you into computers as a kid?
YORKE: Well, I came to the electronic stuff late because our band really was in the wave of rejecting a lot of it. When we were starting in ’91, ’92, there were some interesting things happening in Britain with electronic music—Warp Records was putting out some crazy shit. But a lot of the exciting things that were happening at the time were guitar music, and as band, that’s where we went. So we came back to the computer stuff later on. There was this interesting thing when we started out as a band where you had to go to a studio, so you were presented with a producer and an audience on the other side of the glass, and they called you and said, “Can you do that bit again? Can you try a different guitar?” And I always found that a bit weird because I felt that I should be with those people, in their room, doing that bit.
CRAIG: Not that you were trying to control the situation at all …
YORKE: No. It was just like, “Who the hell are you?” [both laugh] And then computers got to a point where you could just record directly into them. So when that happened, funny enough, I thought, Right, I’m going to learn how to do this because then I can understand that part. And luckily, we were working with our friend Nigel [Godrich], with whom we still work, and he was really into the idea that the areas were blurred. You know, as musicians we’re quite technical as well—especially Jonny and Colin [Greenwood]. I think Jonny actually learned how to program in C language along with my brother when he was, like, 12. I remember walking from my brother’s room in the morning and he was reading a book on how to program machine code. It was insane. That’s the kind of school we went to. I remember that the kids in school were freaking out when they could make the computer print the word “pee” or something.
I was first introduced to the Portland-based label Dropping Gems two years ago when they released their first compilation, Gem Drops. I was shocked. Here was a labor of love, done by friends for friends, with incredible beats and songs, and all the revenue went to the American Cancer Society. I stayed fresh and young, I got down with some kale jams (seriously), and I loved it so much I even featured a track on my Redford Rise mixtape, for all of you to enjoy.
Gem Drops Two followed the next year with the same inspired blend of tracks. Anything from synth pop, hip hop beats, ambient, drone… it was there. This was music to fall in love to, to get lost in a forest with, to make you dance in the sunshine. Once again, the proceeds went to cancer. Once again, I was smitten with the music.
Gem Drops Three came out yesterday. Many of the same things are there, but after several years, the sound is more refined. This is a labor of love. So through some help by friends of friends, I got a chance to ask label founder and Portland native Aaron Meola how he does it. And in the loving tradition of The Fox Is Black interviews, I asked him five questions about music, love, and passion.
My favorite part of this piece though is at the end when Shigeru explains what’s important to him in regards to architecture.
What’s the most important thing when making architecture?
Even something that I intended as a temporary structure, like a paper church I made in Kobe in 1995, can end up being permanent. That church was relocated to Taiwan in 2006, after they had an earthquake there, and it still exists today. Ultimately, what determines the permanence of a building is not the wealth of the developer or the materials that are used, but the simple question of whether or not the resulting structure is supported — loved — by the people.
Architecture made simply for profit — even if it’s in concrete — is in fact temporary. Commercial architecture is precisely that. If it is made for making money then eventually some other developer will come along and try to make more money out of it by demolishing it and rebuilding it. And it just repeats. In that way concrete is in fact temporary.
However, if you make architecture that is loved by the people, then regardless of what it is made of, it will be kept.
I’ve been seeing a lot of folks suggesting I read this interview with Louis C.K. by Dave Itzkoff from the New York Times so I figured it must be pretty good. I’m not a huge Louis C.K. fan, nothing against him, but I’ve always admired for calling out that everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy. Overall it’s a good read though it may not shed a lot of new lot on C.K. for those who are fans. But I did find a lot of wisdom in this part of the interview, which is true of any profession, including design.
Does it matter that what you’ve achieved, with your online special and your tour can’t be replicated by other performers who don’t have the visibility or fan base that you do?
Why do you think those people don’t have the same resources that I have, the same visibility or relationship? What’s different between me and them?
You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.
So why do I have the platform and the recognition?
At this point you’ve put in the time.
There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.
Odd pairings are always interesting. Earlier today Alec Bladwin released a new episode of his podcast Here’s The Thing featuring Radiohead and Atoms For Peace frontman Thom Yorke. To me, it sounds like an incredibly odd pairing, the movie star and the rock star, trading stories and getting deep. But the end result is actually quite interesting to listen to. Baldwin is a fantastic host who can masterfully guide the conversation to get such wonderful answers out of Yorke, while Yorke actually turns out to be a delightful, chatty guest. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of either of these guys.
Found through The Scout – Thom Yorke photo by Phil Fisk