When Thom Yorke announced that he and producer/bandmate Nigel Godrich would be celebrating the release of Atoms for Peace's debut LP with three special DJ sets in New York, London and Berlin, he described it as "me & Nigel out & about with two turntables & a microphone." But that's not the half of it. "Originally, we were just going to DJ and not play any of our shit," the singer tells Rolling Stone. "Then we got carried away."
Tonight at Le Poisson Rouge in downtown Manhattan, Yorke and Godrich will spend about two hours bringing songs from Atoms for Peace's Amok and Yorke's 2006 album The Eraser to vivid life, using a cutting-edge tech set-up to remix and reinterpret the tracks in real time. "It's something we've talked about doing for ages, and we finally got our shit together," explains Yorke. "We've basically just cut everything up into its constituent parts. We'll try to re-cut the tunes live, mixing in loads of other bits and pieces and collaging stuff together."
At the same time as manning the machinery, Yorke will be adding his own live vocals and guitar to the mix. "I sing – but I felt kind of weird about that to begin with, because it's quite this weird mixture," he says. "It's like fucking karaoke or something! But it's not, because it's all this other stuff as well, and I have my own machines, like a drum machine and a vocal looper. It's interesting – singing, trying to remember words and programming a drum machine at the same exact time. It's kind of tricky."
The performance will also feature dynamic visuals designed by Dutch artist Tarik Barri. "That's fucking bonkers," says Yorke. "It's not like anything else."
Yorke recently scheduled a string of European dates with the full Atoms for Peace line-up – himself, Godrich, bassist Flea, drummer Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco – kicking off on July 6th in Paris. Further tour plans have yet to be announced.
In London last month, at the first of his three shows with Godrich, Yorke was slightly disappointed by the sound quality. The second night, in Berlin last week, went considerably better. "The church of techno, they call it – and it really does feel like a church," he says of the Berghain nightclub where they played. "It's this old power station, and it had an amazing sound system. Fucking hell! They have this no-cameras policy, no cameras at all, so that's kind of mad. Haven't done a show like that in ages."
Clips from the London and Berlin shows are all over YouTube, but even if you've already memorized them, expect an entirely new show tonight. "Every time we do it, it's going to be different," says Godrich. "There's a sort of flow chart, if you like, but then it can cross-pollinate and go somewhere else. There are so many ways it can happen and surprise us. "
"It's just really exciting," adds Yorke. "I have so many half-formed beats and stuff like that, and you can just throw it all together. It's a really creative thing, and we're still trying to figure it out. It's quite free-form."