Thom Yorke Discusses His Debilitating Writer's Block When Making Radiohead's 'Kid A'

"Whenever I sat down in front of any instrument, I sort of froze. I had this thing in the way, this little voice."

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Kaelen BellPublished Oct 15, 2021

As Thom Yorke has described in a new interview for British auction company Christie's, Radiohead's landmark fourth album, 2000's Kid A, nearly failed to be. 

The interview is a 50-minute conversation between Yorke and writer/film producer/curator Gareth Evans, plus visual artist Stanley Donwood, who has created the artwork for every Radiohead record in collaboration with Yorke.

At the four-minute mark of the interview, Yorke discussed the period of intense writer's block that plagued him following the release of 1997's OK Computer, saying, "It was the end of OK Computer. We finished touring and I was sort of trapped in my own particular labyrinth, followed by this weird sort of [inner] monologue, a criticism of everything I did. It came from being sort of propelled into this weird state where people were projecting things onto me in a particular way. I didn't have the right sort of support mechanisms to deal with it, so I internalized a lot of it."

He continued: "It kind of shut me down, and so whenever I tried to write something, whenever I sat down in front of any instrument, I sort of froze. I had this thing in the way, this little voice. I remember sitting, endlessly, endlessly playing the riff for 'Everything in its Right Place,' sort of trying to meditate my way out of it and not being able to."

Yorke then went on to talk about how abandoning music and, instead, working on drawings inspired by his walks around Cornwall — "thinking visually, and only visually" — helped him to find his musical voice again. 

The chat coincides with both Radiohead's upcoming KID A MNESIA — an expanded 20th-anniversary edition joint-reissue of the canonical sister albums Kid A and Amnesiac — and Christie's "How to Disappear Completely: Stanley Donwood x Thom Yorke," an exhibition of Donwood and Yorke's collaborative work that closed today.

It's an interesting and oddly relaxing conversation that covers plenty of ground, and it's worth checking out if you're a Radiohead fan and want some insights into the band's Kid A/Amnesiac era and Yorke's artistic partnership with Donwood. 

Check out the conversation below. 

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