Jonny Greenwood recently sat down with British podcaster Adam Buxton to discuss the composer’s music for Phantom Thread, his Oscar nomination, his friendship with Paul Thomas Anderson, and his love for the music of the late Mark E. Smith of The Fall. It was a pretty goofy conversation, but there were some salient bits.
Early on, the Radiohead guitarist and composer talks about how the prospect of doing a documentary about the band and his music “makes [his] skin crawl.” When discussing the Phantom Thread score, Greenwood said he originally wanted to do it with just 6 or 7 players that amateur ensembles could play with screenings of the film all over the world. But he explained that “Paul [Thomas Anderson] just kept asking for bigger and bigger string section sounds. The romance, the big lush thing, and that’s not gonna fit in the Phoenix.” He called his friendship with Anderson and Greenwood “a slightly nauseating bromance” and talked about making fun of Anderson while they were clothes-shopping.
When asked about Anderson’s direction to him about the music, Greenwood joked: “He basically likes to take the piss out of me, and was joking about how unromantic Radiohead is. And [he] said, ‘Come on, you must have some romance in you, and give me more strings.’ And he wanted the music to be really English and really romantic and written by me, which feels like a big three-way contradiction now I’ve said that.” Anderson was after “real, felt emotion…without all being wretched and ironic and self-effacing,” Greenwood explained. Later, he said that while writing the score, he was inspired by a book about arranging written by Nelson Riddle, who was most famous for his orchestral and big-band writing for Frank Sinatra.
Greenwood joked about how his Oscar nomination for Best Original Score might “open doors” for him to write the soundtrack for “Transformers 6.” About the awards ceremony, Greenwood said he “realized I was quite pleased with myself at the idea of not going, and I think it’s always good to resist that kind of urge, that sort of smirk…So maybe do the opposite to that impulse, stop overthinking it.” However, he continued, “no one wants to see sweaty version of me, shambling around, looking embarrassed. Amusing Paul, I think, is the main goal.”
Buxton and Greenwood also shared memories about Mark E. Smith. “His voice was completely the voice of my teenage years, more than any other singer, easily,” Greenwood said. “When I think of myself, my bedroom, it’s Mark E. Smith talking or ranting through something, completely.” Greenwood also recalled seeing the band on the I Am Kurious Oranj tour:
I saw half the concert…and I couldn’t take it. I remember walking outside of Oxford Polytechnic and standing outside, because I could still hear all the music and the songs. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what it was. I wasn’t bored and I wasn’t frightened. It just knocked me over–it was one of those things. It ended up getting me addicted to what he was doing. Weird how that first time you encounter that thing you later really love can be off-putting, and really hard to take.
Listen to the full podcast here.