Q&A: Thom Yorke on Atoms for Peace’s ‘Mechanistic’ New Album

From Rolling Stone:

On a weirdly balmy afternoon in September, Thom Yorke, the singer-guitarist of Radiohead, sat at a table in his New York hotel room, with an enviable view of lower Manhattan from the adjacent patio, and talked about the long-in-birth, finally completed debut album by his solo-project band, Atoms for Peace. Titled AMOK, the nine-song record is due out early next year on XL. Yorke recently issued “Default,” one of the tracks, as a digital-single teaser.

What did you have, material-wise, when you went into the studio in L.A.?
We had nothing.

What did you come out with?
A fucking mountain. [Laughs] It was a form of madness. We’d go in at midday and pretty much work through to 10. We were playing all the time. It was bonkers. We’d stop to change beat. Joey and Mauro would scribe the beat out, using whatever weird notation they have, and then go off on it for another hour.

How did you decide between live and programmed sounds in building those songs? Can you give an example?
“Default” started with a mistake on a sampler in my studio [makes telegraph-like drum-machine noise]. I hadn’t patched it in right. It was giving me a tone that, when I put it with a melody, I was like ‘That’s nice!” I had that when Nigel and I were doing The Eraser.

But then, at one point. Nigel said, “I need some more stuff. What have you got?” I thought, “I’ll try that.” We literally played it with the band. I asked Flea, “Can you scribe that out?” It was horribly complicated, everything in a weird length. And they could all physically play it. But actually, it didn’t sound as tight as the machine. It’s one of those things that if we ever get it right live, it will be fucking mental.

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