After playing guitar in Radiohead for 35 years, since 1985, Ed O’Brien has now released his debut solo record called Earth under the moniker EOB. Morning Show host Jill Riley got a chance to catch up with O’Brien and discuss the inspiration for his new record, how his process was both influenced by and greatly differed from Radiohead, and his collaborations with various musicians to bring his music to life.
Jill Riley: Ed, you’ve been a member of Radiohead for 35 years now?
Ed O’Brien: Since 1985, now.
So you are putting out a solo record. Take me back to when the inspiration came to make your own record.
It came back in about 2012. We’d finished touring [for] King of Limbs and me and my family went to live in Brazil for a few months. It was a great perspective gainer on my life, on everything in general, actually. Suddenly, at the end of our time there and when we got back to London, this music started to pour out. Then I started demoing it, and I was about to start recording it, but I went into another Radiohead cycle for A Moon Shaped Pool, which basically started in late summer 2014 and went on until 2018. Once the bulk of the Radiohead touring was done, I started to record it for proper.
When you were inspired by your time in Brazil, and these sounds are coming into your head, were these sounds that you thought would maybe make sense for Radiohead? Did you present these ideas to the band or did you know all along this was going to be a solo record?
I don’t know. Initially, I didn’t think I was going to sing it. I didn’t know whether I could sing it. I thought, perhaps, it could be band stuff. The more I demoed it, the more I realized it had a different energy. It’s got a different energy from the Radiohead stuff. I thought there might be an overlap, and there definitely is an overlap, but what I was trying to do was quite different from Radiohead. It’s about what I feel. A lot of Radiohead is what Thom [Yorke] feels. He writes the lyrics. He writes a lot of the songs. We’re different people, and we have different experiences.
When I was writing and being inspired in Brazil, unless you’d had that experience, and been there with me, it might not make so much sense when I was trying to conceive of it and do it. I felt like it had to be something that I drove completely, and it would be my thing.
When it comes to your own experience and making your own record, what was it like for you to write lyrics?
I didn’t think I was capable of writing lyrics. I didn’t know how to do it. Every time I started it was like, “Oh, it’s not as good as Thom’s, is it?” You have this incredible comparison. What you have to remember is [that] everybody starts in one place. Thom’s been doing this for years and years and years, and I’ve had the good fortune to be working with him through the years. I’ve seen the difference of his lyrics on Pablo Honey, the first album, compared to even The Bends, the next album, was huge. It was a massive step forward, and then to OK Computer, and now where he is with Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, and everything.
For me, it was about finding a way that could make lyrics work. I looked a lot more towards soul and gospel. They were the metaphors. “Out of the darkness into the light.” These kinds of things that I was feeling, and wanted to express in music.
Did you record the album all on your own? Did you bring in other players? What was the actual process? Where did you record the record?
I wanted to get a great production team. I’ve always worked with great musicians in Radiohead, so I knew I wanted to work with great musicians again. I couldn’t do it all. I got Flood, who’s a very well-known producer, and Catherine Marks. Musician-wise, Nathan East and Omar Hakim came over and played. I sang with Laura Marling, and also Adrian Utley from Portishead came and played some great guitar. Glenn Kotche from Wilco came and helped us out. Also, an amazing musician and great friend of mine, David Okumu, came and played. It was me, but it was really augmented by some fantastic musicians.
How does it feel for you, after all this time, to be able to get this out to people?
It feels slightly unreal, in a way. It’s bizarre because obviously I got used to Radiohead tunes coming on the radio, but when I hear my songs on the radio, which I’ve done a couple of times, I feel exactly like I did back in the day when I heard Radiohead for the first time, on the radio. It’s slightly bizarre, and like “Is that me?”, and slightly like, “I could do better next time.” It feels really good. It feels like the right thing, but I’m always looking forward. I’ve started a conversation last week about how I might do the second record. I think that’s what happens. When you make a record, you finish it, and it gets released, and almost by the moment it gets released, you’re dreaming of the next creative moment.