Maida Vale herself is very important. The upper floor used to be the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and the actual studio itself was where all of the peel sessions were held. It’s just an amazing building. It was originally an ice rink and was remodeled by the BBC when the BBC was very young, in the 30’s. All of these things go into the legend, and of course that is what draws you to this place. When you enter the room you can cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Maida Vale is also very important to me as I have been going there since I was a child. My dad was on the BBC so I went with him on the “Take your child to work” days. I’ve known this place forever.
Ten years on, it’s safe to say that there are plenty of Radiohead fans out there who may even love The King of Limbs: From the Basement more than the original album. How was it to see these songs evolve from their recorded versions?
The live performance reflects the state of the art of a particular artist by providing a timestamp of that moment. If you’ve seen Bob Dylan recently, I mean – I sat there for five minutes and watched him and when a song ended I realized, “Oh! That was ‘Tangled Up in Blue’! ”You can’t tell what he’s doing. And I say that with the greatest respect. People go into rabbit holes; things change, and for the better.
When I was a kid we could buy all kinds of bootleg tapes and concerts. There would be different versions of your favorite Dead Kennedys song and it would be great. We tried to tap into this magic a little – just like we caught Fleet Foxes [in 2008] at the time they exploded and put a magnifying glass on them. We were lucky to catch her at that moment.
The King of Limbs is interesting because it was a very deliberate attempt to do something special: record the album again after it has been rehearsed and played live, to show it in a different light. Revisiting the From the Basement Set, I love it. I love the way they look and I take pride in the way it sounds and the way they play. It’s a very good example of how the method works, for a plate that was very mechanized and completely different. Also, having worked so closely with the band, it was really nice for me to go through the record and then see how it becomes a very real and living thing.
Can you provide details on the new episodes? Are there any bands that you really want to capture?
It usually starts with friends and then you think about things that would work really well in the format. I’m not one hundred percent sure what else to say. When I went through all of the footage last year, I was reminded how much fun it was. It really is the most fun a recording studio can have.
Well, I have one more question to ask you about things you are probably not allowed to talk about, which is your new group with Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, the Smile. Can you say something else about the album?
I can’t talk about it – it’s just not about time.
While watching Smile’s Glastonbury stream, I was reminded of From the Basement and those Radiohead webcasts. It felt like a spiritual successor to that kind of thing.
That’s what [Thom] was after. Basically the webcasts were done by me and 10 video cameras that I bought on eBay. Some were the type of cameras you used for television news in the 1980s. When we shot In Rainbows I was so bored and started building my own little fantasy TV studio and it was great because then we could film it all and I have so much footage from that time. I think he was trying to mimic it somehow – but he paid someone hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the same thing I did for free, so ironically, it’s pretty funny. But everything will be revealed about the project.