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Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood Finally Admits That Genesis Influenced “Paranoid Android”

Rolling Stone’s new oral history feature (a companion to their longer cover story this month) focusing on Radiohead’s seminal OK Computer is an engrossing and revealing read. One thing the traditionally mysterious members of the band are surprisingly forthcoming about in the piece are their influences. Some of the intel in the piece has been out there–the drum loop on “Airbag” being inspired by DJ Shadow, Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison coming to bear on the beginning of “Exit Music (For a Film)”, and Pablo Honey’s title being derived from (yes) a Jerky Boys routine.

But a good tidbit is Jonny Greenwood owning up to the origins of his love for the Mellotron — the gently wheezing, woodwind-sounding proto-synthesizer used mostly famously by the band on “Paranoid Android.” His answer? Genesis, baby.

This isn’t the first time Greenwood has talked about the UK prog-rock giants in relationship to OK Computer. In a 1997 interview with Q (transcribed here), Greenwood confessed that he’d spent time during the making of the album attempting to get into prog rock more seriously: “It’s been very disappointing because most of it is awful…I’ve got it into my head that prog rock must be good because it attracted a lot of fans. So far, I’ve just trawled through fairly tedious Genesis albums.”

But in the Rolling Stone piece, Greenwood spoke about Genesis–specifically, their work in the early 1970s–in a more generous way. Here’s the quote, in which Greenwood is discussing recording “Paranoid Android”:

“I remember hearing a Genesis record and thinking the Mellotron sounded amazing, so I stole it. It was either Nursery Cryme or Selling England by the Pound.”

Admittedly, one wonders if it the music itself affected Greenwood deeply or if it was more the oddball, tape-based keyboard itself. He continues:

“It didn’t sound like any other keyboard. Instead there was a choir, and a weird, fucked-up sort of choir. I love the fact that the notes run out after a few seconds. Some relative of the inventor was trying to remake them and had a few. They came with the tapes in and it turned out they all belonged to Tangerine Dream, which is getting into prog territory.”

OK, that’s a cool tidbit about Tangerine Dream and all, but Jonny, if you’re reading this, please clarify your ultimate, qualitative feelings about Peter-Gabriel-era Genesis once and for all (Correct answer: It’s good). You can reach us at [email protected]