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Thom Yorke Discusses Anxious, Dystopian New Solo LP, ‘Kid A’ Anniversary Plans

Radiohead frontman cites bad dreams in Tokyo, studio improvisation as key reference points

Thom YorkeThom Yorke in concert at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, USA - 22 Dec 2018

Thom Yorke in concert at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

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Thom Yorke has revealed the sound and themes of his upcoming solo album in a cover story for Crack magazine. The album is reportedly being released by XL Recordings. It will be the Radiohead frontman’s third proper solo LP, and his first since 2014’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.

In a wide-ranging Q&A, Yorke described the new record as an anxiety-fueled electronic nightmare of a dystopian world — in other words, a Thom Yorke album. Author J.G. Ballard, avant-garde musician Scott Walker, and the improvisatory live shows of Flying Lotus all came up as influences, as did Yorke’s literal bad dreams.

“Have you ever flown to Tokyo?” he said. “That jet lag is the definition of an existential crisis, every time. There was one night where I’d go to sleep, two hours later I’m absolutely wide awake and I just had these images … humans and rats changed places. A dream. And as I came out, I woke up with this really strong set of images of girls in tottering heels, but they’re actually rats and the human beings are in the drains. I had another one, these weird images of the city of London and all the skyscrapers are just shuffling along.”

Yorke told the magazine that the new album, which he made with longtime collaborator Nigel Godrich, follows a period of “dreadful writer’s block.” “Things slowed down for a while and I’m happy I can work again and come back into focus,” he said. “I seemed to spend a lot of time in my basement, in the studio for two years, and suddenly everything that was kicking around in there is starting to come out.”

He also confirmed that Radiohead have been examining their archives as the 20th anniversary of 2000’s groundbreaking Kid A approaches. Earlier this spring, when Radiohead were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, drummer Phil Selway told Rolling Stone that the band would likely do “a similar thing” to the 20th anniversary OK Computer package they released in 2017: “We’ve not listened back to the outtakes and the other things we were working. I know there’s a wealth of stuff there.”

Speaking to Crack, Yorke, who skipped the Rock Hall ceremony, said that those plans are now underway: “Recently, I’ve been going through the Kid A and Amnesiac stuff with the others. We were all a bit mad by the end of that period….  I was so focused and at the same time angry, confused, paranoid. I’m looking at all these people involved, going ‘Who the fuck are these people?!’ We’re going to do something really cool with all that material.”

Yorke concluded a U.S. tour mostly devoted to songs from Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes in December. He has a string of new solo tour dates in Europe coming up this July, and in October, he’ll return to the U.S. for the Austin City Limits festival, where he is officially billed as “Thom Yorke Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.”

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