A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead's ninth and quietest record, owes much of its sound to the band's visionary guitarist, violist, electronics wiz and arranger Jonny Greenwood. On this week's All Songs +1 podcast I talk with him about how A Moon Shaped Pool came to be.
Jonny Greenwood explains that Radiohead approaches each record with a different recording style or new technique. For this latest record, the group traded in "traditional Pro Tools" for an analog 8-track tape machine. "It's kind of a miracle," he says. "This is going to sound very conceited, but it's a surprise to me how well so many of these songs came out and the one or two frustrations I have are nothing compared to the eight or nine key things I'm just amazed we got good recordings of. We all feel really lucky and happy to have this as a record."
Plus, we joke about Greenwood's lifelong affair with the recorder and how, as a teenager, he was more likely to be practicing his viola than getting into trouble.
You can hear the full interview through the link above and read edited highlights below.
Greenwood on why Radiohead changes its process with each album:
"I guess it feels like every record we make, we finish and have a collective thought that we didn't quite mean to do it like that and the next one will be different and then we'll get it right. It's kind of like rewriting the same letter and getting each draft slightly wrong. So it's a good motivation force — it keeps us going."
On why he loves recording string sections:
"Our string days are just the most exciting days to record. I live for them. It's amazing, the whole excitement in the morning of putting out music on these empty stands and, you know, an orchestra are coming later that day and you'll only have them for four hours and you've got to make the most of it. It's really just the most exciting thing and then to sit in a room and hear them play it's really like nothing else."
On his first love, the recorder:
"Instead of stealing cars and having a good time as a teenager I was literally playing the recorder like until the age of eighteen — seriously, with no shame."
On the importance of knowing what role he plays in the band:
"It's not really about can I do my guitar part now, it's more ... what will serve this song best? How do we not mess up this really good song? Part of the problem is Thom will sit at the piano and play a song like 'Pyramid Song' and we're going to record it and how do we not make it worse, how do we make it better than him just playing it by himself, which is already usually quite great. We're kind of, we're arrangers really."