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The Future According to Radiohead

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By the last weeks of December, the hand was beginning to rehearse for its 2008 tour. The rehearsals included a number of covers: Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Smiths, "The Night," by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The band also performed live in its crowded studio for a November Webcast. In a hilarious opening segment, we see one of the final scenes from the movie Seven, in which Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt open a box in a desert to discover Gwyneth Paltrow's decapitated head, only in the Radiohead version, the box contains a video image of Yorke's head crudely superimposed where Paltrow's should be. Yorke proceeds to sing "15 Step," as the camera occasionally cuts to Freeman and Pitt looking horrified and wailing. The British comic Adam Buxton, a friend of the band, worked on the video, and after, in the webcast, he tells Yorke, "Brad Pitt is a genuine Radiohead fan, so he would be gutted it" your head was cut off and stuffed in a box, wouldn't he?"

After figuring out how to put out a record on its own terms, the band is now grappling with how to do the same for touring. Yorke has been quite vocal as an environmental activist – in his personal life, he has stopped flying altogether; he and his family take train trips to places like Barcelona – and Radiohead briefly considered simply staying home, because of the size of the carbon footprint left by most rock tours. After floating – and rejecting – the possibility of performing locally and beaming the show digitally to theaters around the world, they decided to transport their gear and stage set via ship and rail whenever possible. (They even considered shipping themselves to the United States, but cruise ships are just as environmentally unsound as jets, and the only other option was passage on a slow freighter.)

Whenever the band has been on hiatus, Yorke finds that he can't stop making music for more than a few weeks. He'll eventually begin scribbling down lyrics again, or playing around on his computer, sampling and editing. But the process of making a new album never gets any easier. Yorke hopes the band's newfound freedom will allow it to innovate in this area, as well. "With the download thing, I'd love to just put out singles, maybe before we go out on tour," he says. "Or maybe in the future, we'll work in twos and threes. Radiohead is not a contract signed in blood. Every time we do a record, that is not a validation of us carrying on. We're certainly not jumping into doing another nine months in the studio."

Yorke is quick to make amends if he catches himself complaining too much. "It's not that fucking difficult, you know," he says. "I went and worked on my friend's building site for two weeks over the summer, smashing bricks and stuff. I needed to be told what to do. Fucking hell. That was difficult. But it was nice smashing stuff up."

Later, though, Yorke shrugs and admits, "For some reason, we think too much. We're Method actors. For us, it's always hard."

This story is from the February 7th, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone.


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