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(Credit: Michell Zappa)

Music

Jonny Greenwood says he pretended to play keyboards when he joined Radiohead

Jonny Greenwood has revealed that, in the early days of Radiohead, he would turn his keyboard off and pretend to play during rehearsals. 

During an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air Greenwood discussed his rise in recent years from legendary rock multi-instrumentalist to award-winning composer. Yesterday (February 8th) he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for Jane Campion’s film The Power of the Dog

“Thom [Yorke]’s band had a keyboard player — [whom] I think they didn’t get on with because he played his keyboard so loud,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross. “And so when I got the chance to play with them, the first thing I did was make sure my keyboard was turned off … I must have done months of rehearsals with them with this keyboard, and they didn’t know that I’d already turned it off.”

He explained that the Radiohead frontman didn’t realise he wasn’t actually playing at first: “They made quite a racket, quite a noise. It was all guitars and distortion — and so I would pretend to play for weeks on end and Thom would say, ‘I can’t quite hear what you’re doing, but I think you’re adding a really interesting texture because I can tell when you’re not playing,’” he said. “And I’m thinking, ‘No, you can’t, because I’m really not playing.’ And I’d go home in the evening and work out how to actually play chords and cautiously over the next few months, I would start turning this keyboard up. And that’s how I started in with Radiohead.”

Greenwood later discussed his reaction when first requested for a film score and explained how he approaches them: “My reaction when Paul asked me was excitement,” Greenwood said about the first time Paul Thomas Anderson reached out to him, asking if he’d score 2007’s, There Will Be Blood. “I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit like being in a band with somebody — except I’m in a band with Paul and the people who are making this film.’”

Meanwhile, Greenwood is set to go on a European tour with the Radiohead side-project The Smile which will begin in Zagreb on May 16th. The group, consisting of Greenwood, Thom Yorke and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, released their debut single ‘You Will Never Work In Television Again’ in January; it was quickly followed up by their second single, ‘The Smoke’, later on in the month.

Listen to Jonny Greenwood’s ’25 Years’ from his soundtrack for The Power of the Dog below.