- Fake Plastic Trees
- Karma Police
- Lotus Flower
- No Surprises
- Pyramid Song
- There There
- Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
The band consists of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Colin Greenwood (bass), Phil Selway (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals).
Radiohead released their debut single “Creep” in 1992. It became a worldwide hit after the release of the band’s debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Their popularity rose in the United Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead’s third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to international fame; featuring an expansive sound and themes of modern alienation, OK Computer is often acclaimed as one of the landmark records of the 1990s and one of the best albums of all time.
Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) marked a dramatic evolution in Radiohead’s musical style, as they incorporated experimental electronic music, krautrock and jazz influences. Hail to the Thief (2003), a mix of piano and guitar rock, electronics, and lyrics inspired by war, was the band’s final album for their record label, EMI. Radiohead self-released their seventh album In Rainbows (2007) as a digital download for which customers could set their own price, to critical and chart success. Their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011), was an exploration of rhythm and quieter textures, and was also self-released.
Radiohead have sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Their work places highly in both listener polls and critics’ lists of the best music of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2005, they were ranked 73rd in Rolling Stone‘s list of “The Greatest Artists of All Time”; Jonny Greenwood (48th) and O’Brien were both included in Rolling Stone ’s list of greatest guitarists, and Yorke (66th) in their list of greatest singers. In 2009, Rolling Stone readers voted the group the second best artist of the 2000s.
The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Guitarist and singer Thom Yorke and bassist Colin Greenwood were in the same year, guitarist Ed O’Brien and drummer Phil Selway were one year older and multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood two years younger than his brother Colin. In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to the band’s usual rehearsal day in the school’s music room. Jonny Greenwood was the last to join, having previously been in a band called “Illiterate Hands” with Nigel Powell and Yorke’s brother Andy Yorke. The group played their first gig in late 1986 at Oxford’s Jericho Tavern; Jonny Greenwood joined as a harmonica and then keyboard player, but soon became the lead guitarist. At one point, the band featured a saxophone section.
Although all but Jonny had left Abingdon by 1987 to attend university, On a Friday continued to rehearse on weekends and holidays. At university, Yorke played with the band Headless Chickens, performing songs including future Radiohead material. In 1991 the band regrouped, recorded demos such as Manic Hedgehog, and performed in Oxford at venues such as the Jericho Tavern. Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley had an active independent music scene in the late 1980s, but it centred on shoegazing bands such as Ride and Slowdive.
As On a Friday’s live performances increased, record labels and producers became interested. Chris Hufford, Slowdive’s producer and the co-owner of Oxford’s Courtyard Studios, attended an early On a Friday concert at the Jericho Tavern. Impressed, he and his partner Bryce Edge produced a demo tape and became On a Friday’s managers; they remain Radiohead’s managers today. In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin Greenwood and EMI A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at the record shop where Colin Greenwood worked, On a Friday signed a six-album recording contract with EMI. At the request of EMI, the band changed their name; “Radiohead” was taken from the song “Radio Head” on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).
Radiohead recorded their debut release, the Drill EP, with Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge at Courtyard Studios. Released in May 1992, its chart performance was poor. The band enlisted Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, who had worked with US indie bands Pixies and Dinosaur Jr., to produce their debut album, recorded quickly in an Oxford studio in 1992. With the release of the “Creep” single later that year, Radiohead began to receive attention in the British music press, not all of it favourable; NME described them as “a lily-livered excuse for a rock band”, and “Creep” was blacklisted by BBC Radio 1 because it was deemed “too depressing”.
Radiohead released their debut album, Pablo Honey, in February 1993. It stalled at number 22 in the UK charts, as “Creep” and its follow-up singles “Anyone Can Play Guitar” and “Stop Whispering” failed to become hits. “Pop Is Dead“, a non-album single, also sold poorly. Some critics compared the band’s early style to the wave of grunge music popular in the early 1990s, dubbing them “Nirvana-lite”, and Pablo Honey failed to make a critical or a commercial splash upon its initial release. Despite shared influences with popular guitar acts, and some notice for Yorke’s falsetto voice, Radiohead toured only British universities and clubs.
In early 1993, Radiohead began to attract listeners elsewhere. “Creep” had been played very frequently on Israeli radio by influential DJ Yoav Kutner, and in March, after the song became a hit in that country, Radiohead were invited to Tel Aviv for their first live gig overseas. Around the same time, the San Francisco alternative radio station KITS added “Creep” to its playlist. Soon other radio stations along the west coast of the United States followed suit. By the time Radiohead began their first North American tour in June 1993, the music video for “Creep” was in heavy rotation on MTV. The song rose to number two on the US modern rock chart, entered the lower reaches of the top 40 pop chart, and hit number seven in the UK Singles Chart when EMI rereleased it in the UK in September.
Unexpected attention for the single in America prompted EMI to improvise new promotional plans, and the band shuttled back and forth between continents, playing over 150 concerts in 1993. Radiohead nearly broke up due to the pressure of sudden success as the Pablo Honey supporting tour extended into its second year. The band members described the tour as difficult to adjust to, saying that towards its end they were “still playing the same songs that [they had] recorded two years previously … like being held in a time warp,” when they were eager to work on new songs.
Radiohead began work on their second album in 1994, hiring veteran Abbey Road Studios producer John Leckie. Tensions were high, with mounting expectations to deliver a follow-up to match the success of “Creep”. Recording felt unnatural in the studio, with the band having over-rehearsed the material. Seeking a change of scenery, they toured the Far East, Australasia and Mexico and found greater confidence performing their new music live. However, troubled by the fame he had achieved, Yorke became disillusioned at being “at the sharp end of the sexy, sassy, MTV eye-candy lifestyle” he felt he was helping to sell to the world.
My Iron Lung, an EP and single released late in 1994, was Radiohead’s reaction, marking a transition towards the greater depth they aimed for on their second album. Promoted through alternative radio stations, the hard-edged single’s sales were better than expected, and suggested for the first time that the band had found a loyal fan base beyond one hit. Having introduced more new songs on tour, Radiohead finished recording their second album by year’s end, and they released The Bends in March 1995. The album was driven by dense riffs and ethereal atmospheres from the band’s three guitarists, with greater use of keyboards than their debut. It also received stronger reviews for both songwriting and performances.
While Radiohead were seen as outsiders to the Britpop scene that dominated the media’s attention at the time, they were finally successful in their home country with The Bends, as singles “Fake Plastic Trees“, “High and Dry“, “Just“, and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” made their way to UK chart success; the latter song placed Radiohead in the top five for the first time. In 1995, Radiohead again toured North America and Europe, this time in support of R.E.M., one of their formative influences and at the time one of the biggest rock bands in the world. The buzz generated by such famous fans as Michael Stipe, along with distinctive music videos for “Just” and “Street Spirit”, helped to sustain Radiohead’s popularity outside the UK.
However, Radiohead’s growing fan base was insufficient for them to repeat the commercial popularity of “Creep” worldwide. “High and Dry” became a modest hit, but The Bends peaked at 88 on the US album charts, which remains Radiohead’s lowest showing there. Radiohead were satisfied with the album’s reception. Jonny Greenwood said, “I think the turning point for us came about nine or twelve months after The Bends was released and it started appearing in people’s [best of] polls for the end of the year. That’s when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band”.
In late 1995, Radiohead had already recorded one song that would make their next record. “Lucky“, released as a single to promote the War Child charity’s The Help Album, had come out of a brief session with Nigel Godrich, a young audio engineer who had assisted on The Bends and also produced a 1996 B-side, “Talk Show Host“. The band decided to produce their next album with Godrich’s assistance, and they began work in early 1996. By July they had recorded four songs at their rehearsal studio, Canned Applause, a converted apple shed in the countryside near Didcot, Oxfordshire.
In August 1996, Radiohead toured as the opening act for Alanis Morissette, seeking to perfect their new songs live before completing the record. They then resumed recording, again outside a traditional music studio, settling instead at a 15th-century mansion, St. Catherine’s Court, near Bath. The recording sessions were relaxed, with the band playing at all hours of the day, recording songs in different rooms, and listening to the Beatles, DJ Shadow, Ennio Morricone and Miles Davis for inspiration. Radiohead contributed “Talk Show Host”, as well as a newly recorded song called “Exit Music (For a Film)“, to Baz Luhrmann‘s adaptation of Romeo + Juliet late in the year. Most of the rest of the album was complete by the end of 1996, and by March 1997, the record was mixed and mastered.
Radiohead released their third album, OK Computer, in June 1997. Largely composed of melodic rock songs, the new record also found the band experimenting with song structures and incorporating some ambient, avant garde and electronic influences, prompting Rolling Stone to call the album a ‘stunning art-rock tour de force.’ Radiohead denied being part of the progressive rock genre, but critics in the mid-’90s began to compare their work to Pink Floyd, a band whose early 1970s work influenced Greenwood’s guitar parts at the time. Some compared OK Computer thematically to Floyd’s best-seller The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), although Thom Yorke said the album’s lyrics had been inspired by observing the “speed” of the world in the 1990s. Yorke’s lyrics, embodying different characters, had expressed what one magazine called “end-of-the-millennium blues” in contrast to the more personal songs of The Bends. OK Computer met with great critical acclaim, and Yorke admitted that he was “amazed it got the reaction it did. None of us fucking knew any more whether it was good or bad. What really blew my head off was the fact that people got all the things, all the textures and the sounds and the atmospheres we were trying to create.”
OK Computer was the band’s first number one UK chart debut, propelling Radiohead to commercial success around the world. Despite peaking at number 21 in the US charts, the album eventually met with mainstream recognition there, receiving the first Grammy Awards recognition of the band’s career, a win for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year. “Paranoid Android“, “Karma Police” and “No Surprises” were released as singles from the album, of which “Karma Police” was most successful internationally.
The release of OK Computer was followed by the “Against Demons” world tour. Grant Gee, the director of the “No Surprises” video, accompanied and filmed the band, releasing the footage in the 1999 documentary Meeting People Is Easy. The film portrays the band’s disaffection with the music industry and press, showing their burnout as they progressed from their first tour dates in mid-1997 to mid-1998, nearly a year later. The film is also notable for documenting earlier versions of songs that were never released or were not released until years later, such as “How to Disappear Completely”, “Life in a Glasshouse”, “I Will” and “Nude”. The film screened within festivals such as the 1999 Maryland Film Festival, and had a limited theatrical release in select cities. During this time the band also released a music video compilation, 7 Television Commercials, as well as two EPs, Airbag/How Am I Driving? and No Surprises/Running from Demons, that compiled their B-sides from OK Computer singles.
Radiohead were largely inactive following their 1997–1998 tour; after its end, their only public performance in 1998 was at an Amnesty International concert in Paris. Yorke later admitted that during that period the band came close to splitting up, and that he had developed severe depression. In early 1999, Radiohead began work on a follow-up to OK Computer. Although there was no longer any pressure or even a deadline from their record label, tension during this period was high. Band members all had different visions for Radiohead’s future, and Yorke was experiencing writer’s block, influencing him toward a more abstract, fragmented form of songwriting. Radiohead secluded themselves with producer Nigel Godrich in studios in Paris, Copenhagen, and Gloucester, and in their newly completed studio in Oxford. Eventually, all the members agreed on a new musical direction, redefining their instrumental roles in the band. After nearly 18 months, Radiohead’s recording sessions were completed in April 2000.
In October 2000 Radiohead released their fourth album, Kid A, the first of two albums from these recording sessions. Rather than being a stylistic sequel to OK Computer, Kid A featured a minimalist and textured style with more diverse instrumentation including the ondes Martenot, programmed electronic beats, strings, and jazz horns. It debuted at number one in many countries, including the US, where its debut atop the Billboard chart marked a first for the band, and the first US number one album by any UK musician since the Spice Girls in 1996. This success was attributed variously to marketing, to the album’s leak on the file-sharing network Napster a few months before its release, and to advance anticipation based, in part, on the success of OK Computer. Although Radiohead did not release any singles from Kid A, promos of “Optimistic” and “Idioteque” received radio play, and a series of “blips“, or short videos set to portions of tracks, were played on music channels and released freely on the Internet. The band had read Naomi Klein‘s anti-globalisation book No Logo during the recording, and they decided to continue a summer 2000 tour of Europe later in the year in a custom-built tent free of advertising; they also promoted Kid A with three sold-out North American theatre concerts.
Kid A received a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album and a nomination for Album of the Year in early 2001. It won both praise and criticism in independent music circles for appropriating underground styles of music; some mainstream British critics saw Kid A as a “commercial suicide note”, labelling it “intentionally difficult” and longing for a return to the band’s earlier style. Radiohead’s fans were similarly divided; along with those who were appalled or mystified, there were many who saw the album as the band’s best work. Yorke, however, denied that Radiohead had set out to eschew commercial expectations, saying, “I was really, really amazed at how badly [Kid A] was being viewed … because the music’s not that hard to grasp. We’re not trying to be difficult … We’re actually trying to communicate but somewhere along the line, we just seemed to piss off a lot of people … What we’re doing isn’t that radical.”
Amnesiac, released in June 2001, comprised additional tracks from the Kid A recording sessions. The record topped the UK Albums Chart and reached number two in the US, being nominated for a Grammy Award and the Mercury Music Prize. Radiohead embarked on a world tour, visiting North America, Europe and Japan. “Pyramid Song” and “Knives Out“, Radiohead’s first singles since 1998, were modestly successful. A live album, I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings, released in November 2001, features performances of seven songs from Kid A and Amnesiac along with the acoustic, previously unreleased “True Love Waits”.
The album debuted at number one in the UK and number three on the Billboard chart, and was eventually certified platinum in the UK and gold in the US. The album’s singles, “There There“, “Go to Sleep” and “2 + 2 = 5“, achieved a level of play on modern rock radio. At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Radiohead were again nominated for Best Alternative Album, and producer Godrich and engineer Darrell Thorp received the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album. In May 2003, Radiohead embarked in on a world tour and headlined Glastonbury Festival. The tour finished in May 2004 with a performance at the Coachella Festival. A compilation of Hail to the Thief B-sides, remixes and live performances, COM LAG (2plus2isfive), was released in April 2004.In July and August 2002, Radiohead toured Portugal and Spain, playing a number of new songs. They recorded the new material in two weeks in a Los Angeles studio with Godrich, adding several tracks later in Oxford, where the band continued their work into the next year. Radiohead members described the recording process as relaxed, in contrast to the tense sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac. The band’s sixth album, Hail to the Thief, was released in June 2003, combining guitar rock with electronic music. Its lyrics were influenced by what Yorke called “the general sense of ignorance and intolerance and panic and stupidity” following the 2000 election of US President George W. Bush.
Radiohead’s six-album record contract with EMI ended with the release of Hail to the Thief. In 2005, Yorke told Time: “I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘Fuck you’ to this decaying business model.” In 2006, the New York Times described Radiohead as “by far the world’s most popular unsigned band”.
Following the Hail to the Thief tour, Radiohead went on hiatus to spend time with their families. Jonny Greenwood composed soundtracks for the films Bodysong (2004) and There Will Be Blood (2007). In July 2006, Yorke released his debut solo album, The Eraser. He told Pitchfork: “I’ve been in the band since we left school and never dared do anything on my own … It was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to find out what it feels like,’ you know?”
Radiohead began work on their seventh album in February 2005 with no record label. In an effort to “get out of the comfort zone”, they decided against involving producer Godrich, with whom they had recorded five albums, and hired producer Spike Stent. However, the collaboration with Stent was unsuccessful and ended in April 2006. In September 2005, Radiohead recorded “I Want None of This” for the War Child charity album Help: A Day in the Life. The album was sold online, with “I Want None of This” being the most downloaded track, though it was not released as a single. In late 2006, after touring Europe and North America with new material, the band resumed work with Godrich in London, Oxford and rural Somerset, England. Work was finished in June 2007 and the recordings were mastered the following month.
Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows, was released through the band’s website in October 2007 as a download for any amount users wanted, including £0—a landmark use of the pay-what-you-want model for music sales. The pay-what-you-want release, the first for a major act, made headlines worldwide and sparked debate about the implications for the music industry. According to Mojo, the release was “hailed as a revolution in the way major bands sell their music”, and the media’s reaction was “almost overwhelmingly positive”;Time called it “easily the most important release in the recent history of the music business”. 1.2 million downloads were reportedly sold by the day of release, but the band’s management did not release official sales figures, claiming that the Internet-only distribution was intended to boost later retail sales. Colin Greenwood explained the internet release as a way of avoiding the “regulated playlists” and “straitened formats” of radio and TV, ensuring fans around the world could all experience the music at the same time, and preventing leaks in advance of a physical release. O’Brien said the self-release strategy sold fewer records, but made more money. A special “discbox” edition of In Rainbows, including a second disc from the recording sessions, vinyl and CD editions of the album, and a hardcover book of artwork, was also sold and shipped in late 2007.
In Rainbows was released physically in the UK in late December 2007 on XL Recordings and in North America in January 2008 on TBD Records, charting at number one both in the UK and in the US. The record’s retail success in the US – after having been legally available for months as a free download – was Radiohead’s highest chart success in that country since Kid A, while it was their fifth UK number one album. In Rainbows sold more than three million copies within one year. The album received critical acclaim for its more accessible sound and personal lyrics. It was nominated for the short list of the Mercury Music Prize and went on to win the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. Their production team won the Grammy for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, while Radiohead received their third nomination for Album of the Year. Along with three other nominations for the band, Godrich’s production work and the “House of Cards” music video also received nominations.
Radiohead released a number of singles from In Rainbows: “Jigsaw Falling into Place” in January 2008, followed by “Nude“, which debuted at number 37 in the Billboard Hot 100, Radiohead’s first song to make that chart since 1995’s “High and Dry” and their first top 40 hit in the US since “Creep”. In July they released a digitally-shot video for “House of Cards”. “House of Cards”, along with “Bodysnatchers“, also received a single release on radio. In September the band announced a fourth single, “Reckoner“, and a remix competition similar to one organised for “Nude”. In April 2008, Radiohead launched W.A.S.T.E. Central, a social networking service for Radiohead fans.
EMI released a greatest hits album, Radiohead: The Best Of, in June 2008. The compilation was made without Radiohead’s input and only contains songs released under their recording contract with EMI Yorke expressed his disapproval on behalf of Radiohead: “We haven’t really had any hits so what exactly is the purpose? … It’s a wasted opportunity in that if we’d been behind it, and we wanted to do it, then it might have been good.” From mid-2008 to early 2009, Radiohead toured North America, Europe, Japan, and South America to promote In Rainbows. The band headlined the Reading and Leeds Festivals in August 2009.
In May 2009, Radiohead began new recording sessions with Godrich. In August, they released “Harry Patch (In Memory Of)“, a tribute song to Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier to have fought in World War I, with proceeds donated to the British Legion. Later that month, another new song, “These Are My Twisted Words“, was leaked via BitTorrent, possibly by Radiohead themselves. It was released as a free download on the Radiohead website the following week. To perform The Eraser live, Yorke formed a new band, Atoms for Peace, with musicians including Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, and in 2010 played eight North American shows.
In January 2010, Radiohead played their only concert of the year in the Los Angeles Henry Fonda Theater as a benefit for Oxfam. Tickets were auctioned, raising over half a million US dollars for the NGO’s 2010 Haiti earthquake relief. On 30 August, Selway released his debut solo album, Familial. In December, a fan-made video of Radiohead’s Oxfam benefit performance was released via YouTube and torrent with Radiohead’s support and a “pay-what-you-want” link to donate to Oxfam. In September 2010, Radiohead released the soundboard recording of their 2009 Prague performance for use in another fan-made concert video. The Radiohead for Haiti and Live in Praha videos were reviewed by mainstream media and described as examples of the band’s openness to fans and their positivity toward non-commercial internet distribution.
Radiohead finished recording their eighth album, The King of Limbs, in January 2011. Following the painstaking recording and relatively conventional rock instrumentation of In Rainbows, Radiohead employed a more “spontaneous” process to develop The King of Limbs, sampling their own recordings with turntables. The album was announced on Valentine’s Day and self-released on 18 February 2011 through the Radiohead website. It was followed by a physical retail release on CD and vinyl formats in March, and a special “newspaper album” edition in May. The album sold an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 copies through Radiohead’s website; the retail edition debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 in the United States, with first-week sales of 69,000 copies. In the United Kingdom, it debuted at number seven on the UK Albums Chart, selling 33,469 copies in its first week.
The King of Limbs received positive reviews, achieving Metacritic score of 80, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. It was nominated for five categories in the 54th Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Music Album, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, Best Short Form Music Video (for “Lotus Flower“), Best Rock Performance (“Lotus Flower”) and Best Rock Song (“Lotus Flower”). Two tracks not included on The King of Limbs but worked on during the same sessions, “Supercollider” and “The Butcher“, were released as a single for Record Store Day on 16 April 2011. A series of King of Limbs remixes by various artists were compiled on TKOL RMX 1234567, released in September 2011.
To perform the rhythmically complex King of Limbs material live, Radiohead enlisted Portishead touring drummer Clive Deamer and recorded a second From the Basement session, released as The King of Limbs: Live from the Basement in December 2011. The session produced a double A-side single, “The Daily Mail / Staircase“, released as a download on 19 December 2011. Deamer joined Radiohead for subsequent performances. Selway said of the two-drummer setup: “That was fascinating. One played in the traditional way, the other almost mimicked a drum machine. It was push-and-pull, like kids at play, really interesting.” On 24 June, Radiohead played a surprise performance on the Park stage at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival, performing songs from The King of Limbs before an audience for the first time. In September, they played two dates at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom, and made American TV appearances including a one-hour special episode of The Colbert Report and the season première of Saturday Night Live. In February 2012, they began their first extended North American tour in four years, including dates in the United States, Canada and Mexico. While on tour, Radiohead spent a day in the recording studio of musician Jack White and worked on two new songs, which Yorke later described as “unfinished homework”.
On 16 June 2012, an hour before gates were due to open at Toronto’s Downsview Park for the final concert of Radiohead’s North American tour, the roof of the venue’s temporary stage collapsed, killing drum technician Scott Johnson and injuring three other members of Radiohead’s touring technical crew. The collapse also destroyed the band’s light show and much of their musical equipment. No band members were on stage. The concert was cancelled and Radiohead’s tour dates in Europe were postponed. After rescheduling the tour, Radiohead paid tribute to Johnson and their stage crew at their next concert, in Nîmes, France, in July. Yorke later wrote that finishing the tour after the collapse was his “biggest achievement so far”. In June 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Labour charged Live Nation Canada Inc, Live Nation Ontario Concerts GP Inc, Optex Staging & Services Inc and an engineer with 13 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The hearing began in November 2015.
After the King of Limbs tour, during which Radiohead performed several new songs, Radiohead entered hiatus again. In February 2013, Yorke and Godrich’s band Atoms for Peace released a studio album, Amok. On 11 February 2014, Radiohead released the Polyfauna app for Android and iOS phones; it is an “experimental collaboration” between the band and the British digital arts studio Universal Everything, and uses musical elements and imagery from The King of Limbs.
On 26 September 2014, Yorke released his second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and on 7 October, Selway released his second solo album, Weatherhouse. Jonny Greenwood composed the soundtrack for the film Inherent Vice, released in October 2014; the soundtrack contains a new version of an unreleased Radiohead song, “Spooks”, performed by Greenwood and two members of Supergrass. In 2015, Yorke contributed a soundtrack, Subterranea, to an installation of Radiohead artwork, The Panic Office, in Sydney, Australia.
In February 2015, Selway told Drowned in Sound that Radiohead had worked on a new album from September to Christmas 2014, and would resume work that March. In the same month, Greenwood told Pitchfork that Radiohead had changed their method again, “working in limits” and using “very old and very new technology” together. On 29 October 2015, it was reported that Radiohead had sued their previous record label, Parlophone, for deductions made from downloads of their back catalogue. In December 2015, Yorke performed new Radiohead material in a solo set at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
On Christmas Day 2015, Radiohead released a new song, “Spectre“, on the audio streaming site SoundCloud. The band wrote the song for the James Bond film of the same name, but it went unused; according to Yorke, “It didn’t work out, but became something of our own, which we love very much.”
Among Radiohead members’ earliest influences were Queen, Pink Floyd and Elvis Costello; post-punk acts such as Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Magazine; and significantly 1980s alternative rock bands such as R.E.M., Pixies, the Smiths and Sonic Youth. By the mid-1990s, Radiohead began to adopt some recording methods from hip hop, inspired by the sampling work of DJ Shadow. They also became interested in using computers to generate sounds. Other influences on the group were Miles Davis and Ennio Morricone, along with 1960s rock groups, such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys, and Phil Spector‘s “wall of sound” productions for girl groups. Jonny Greenwood also cited composer Krzysztof Penderecki as an inspiration on the sound of OK Computer.
The electronic music of Kid A and Amnesiac was inspired by Thom Yorke’s admiration for glitch, ambient techno and IDM as exemplified by Warp Records artists such as Autechre and Aphex Twin, and the album also sampled from early computer music. The jazz of Charles Mingus, Alice Coltrane, and Miles Davis, and 1970s krautrock bands such as Can and Neu!, were other major influences during this period. Jonny Greenwood’s interest in 20th century classical music also had a role, as the influence of both Penderecki and composer Olivier Messiaen was apparent; for several songs on Kid A and later albums, Greenwood has played the ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument popularised by Messiaen.
While working on Hail to the Thief, Radiohead put renewed emphasis on guitar rock. Since beginning to record In Rainbows, Radiohead members have mentioned a variety of rock, electronic, hip hop and experimental musicians as influences, including Björk, M.I.A, Liars, Modeselektor and Spank Rock. Since leaving their major label, the band members have been interviewed less frequently, more often posting “office charts” of their favourite songs of the moment on their blog Dead Air Space. In 2011, Yorke denied Radiohead had ever set out deliberately to change musical styles or to make “experimental music“, saying the band was “constantly absorbing music” and that a variety of musicians are always influencing their work.
Since their formation, Radiohead have been lyrically and musically spearheaded by Yorke. Although Yorke is responsible for writing nearly all the lyrics, songwriting is a collaborative effort, and it has been noted in interviews that all the band members have roles in the process. As a result, all the band’s songs are officially credited to “Radiohead”. The Kid A/Amnesiac sessions brought about a change in Radiohead’s musical style, and an even more radical change in the band’s working method. Since their shift from standard rock music instrumentation toward an emphasis on electronic sound, the members have gained flexibility and now regularly switch instruments depending on the particular song requirements. On Kid A and Amnesiac, Yorke played keyboard and bass, while Jonny Greenwood often played ondes Martenot rather than guitar, bassist Colin Greenwood worked on sampling, and O’Brien and Selway branched out to drum machines and digital manipulations, also finding ways to incorporate their primary instruments, guitar and percussion, respectively, into the new sound. The relaxed 2003 recording sessions for Hail to the Thief led to a different dynamic in Radiohead, with Yorke admitting in interviews that “[his] power within the band was absolutely unbalanced and [he] would subvert everybody else’s power at all costs. But … it’s actually a lot more healthy now, democracy wise, than it used to be.”
Radiohead have maintained a close relationship with a number of frequent collaborators since early in their career. Record producer Nigel Godrich made his name with Radiohead, working with the band as an audio engineer since The Bends, and as their producer on all six studio albums since OK Computer. He has been dubbed the “sixth member” of the band in an allusion to George Martin being called the “Fifth Beatle“.Graphic artist Stanley Donwood met Thom Yorke when both were art students, and with Yorke has produced all of Radiohead’s album covers and visual artwork since 1994. Donwood and Yorke won a Grammy in 2002 for a special edition of Amnesiac packaged as a library book. Dilly Gent has been responsible for commissioning all Radiohead music videos since OK Computer, working with the band to find a director suitable for each project. Since the Radiohead’s inception, Andi Watson has been their lighting and stage director, designing the visuals of Radiohead’s live concerts, such as the carbon-neutral “LED forest” of the In Rainbows tour. The band’s chief live technician, Peter Clements, or “Plank”, has worked with the band since before The Bends, overseeing the setup of their instruments for studio recordings and live performances.