Nigel Godrich talks about the return of the basement, Radiohead webcasts and more

Maida Vale herself is very important. The upstairs once housed the BBC radio workshop and the studio itself was where all Peel sessions were performed. It’s just an amazing building. It was originally an ice rink and converted by the BBC when the BBC was very young in the 1930s. All of these things fuel the legend and of course it draws you to this place. When you walk around the room, you can cut the atmosphere with a knife.

Maida Vale is also very important for me, because I have been going there since I was a child. My dad worked for the BBC so I would go with him on ‘bring your kid to work’ days. I have known this place forever.

Ten years later, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of Radiohead fans out there who love The king of limbs: from the basement maybe even more than the original disc. What was it like to see how these songs evolved from their recorded versions?

The live performance reflects the state of the art of a particular artist, in that it is a timestamp of that moment. If you’ve seen Bob Dylan recently, I mean, I sat and watched him for five minutes and when a song ended, I realized, “Oh! It was “Tangled Up in Blue”! Like, you can’t tell what he’s doing. And I say this with the utmost respect. People come down from rabbit holes; things are changing, and for the better.

When I was a kid, you could go and buy all kinds of counterfeit tapes and concerts. There would be different versions of, like, your favorite song from The Dead Kennedys, and that would be awesome. We tried to harness that magic a bit, like the way we captured Fleet Foxes [in 2008] as they exploded and put a magnifying glass on it. We were lucky enough to catch them at that time.

The king of limbs is interesting, because it was a very conscious attempt to do something special: re-record the album, once it had been rehearsed and played live, to show it in a different light. Revisit the From the basement together I love it. I love the way it looks and am proud of the way it sounds and the way they play. This is a very good example of a working method, for a very mechanized and completely different record. Because I worked so closely with the band, it also meant that it was very nice for me to be able to see the record until the end and then see it become a very real and living thing.

Can you share details about the new episodes? Are there any bands you really want to capture on this tour?

It usually starts with friends and then you think of things that would work really well in the format. I am not 100% sure what more to say. When I looked at all the pictures last year, I was reminded of how much fun it was. It really is the most fun you can have in a recording studio.

Well, I have to ask you another question about things you are probably not allowed to talk about, namely your new band with Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, the Smile. Can you tell us more about the album?

I can’t talk about it, it’s just not time yet.

When I was watching the Smile’s Glastonbury stream I remembered From the basement and these Radiohead webcasts. It was like a spiritual successor to that sort of thing.

That’s what [Thom] was after. Basically the webcasts were made by me and 10 video cameras that I bought on eBay. Some were the kind of cameras you used on TV news in the 1980s. When we were doing In the rainbows, I was so bored and started to make my own fantastic little TV studio, and it was great because we could shoot everything then, and I have so much footage from that time. I think he kind of wanted to recreate that, but he paid someone hundreds of thousands of dollars to do the same thing as me for nothing, so ironically, it’s kind of funny. But everything will be revealed about the project.

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