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Ed O'Brien - Interview

  by Nick Dent-Robinson

published: 16 / 7 / 2020

Ed O'Brien - Interview


Radiohead guitarist and vocalist Ed O’Brien chats to Nick Dent-Robinson about his warmly praised solo debut LP 'Earth' under the guise EOB,

Ed O’Brien is guitarist in one of the biggest UK bands, Radiohead. He has toured the globe with the quintet and earned huge critical acclaim through the release of nine studio albums, most of which went multi-platinum. Yet, in many ways, Ed is the antithesis of the classic mega rock star. He is cheery and rugged but unassuming, thoughtful and very down to earth in every respect. He has a passion for the planet, is a fierce advocate of environmental issues and a great defender of the UK’s rather beleaguered native wildlife. It should be no surprise then that Ed’s recently released first solo album, under the moniker EOB should be called 'Earth'. “How we look after this precious planet is close to my heart,” Ed says. “It is time to say 'Enough is enough'” and sort it out.” Ed now lives in rural Wales with his wife Susan and children Salvador and Oona. He talks happily of the cleaner air, quieter roads and skies and the chance to hear more birdsong that have been side-effects of the Coronavirus “lockdown”. Radiohead are an Oxford-based band and Ed reflects affectionately on the wild deer, foxes, badgers and the reintroduced red kites back in the Chilterns area of his native Oxfordshire. “I do hope we can all move forward and take something positive from this dreadful Covid-19 emergency,” Ed says. “I actually contracted the virus but am fortunately recovered now. I just hope we can ensure we retain the environmental gains from the enforced pause in our normal human activity.” Ed has long been seen as a “guitarist’s guitarist”, admired for his skilful use of texture and delay and sustain techniques which at times give his guitar work a synth-like quality. His solo debut follows individual projects by bandmates Thom Yorke, Philip Selway and Jonny Greenwood. “It was time for me to do it,” he says. “It was that moment in life when it had to happen. Though I am very happy being in Radiohead. I felt I owed it to myself to do this solo work.” Some might feel Ed’s timing has been unfortunate with social distancing ruling out promotional gigs. But he disagrees, saying, “Many people have told me the record actually resonates with these times and feels just right. And early sales have been good”. This record is different. It is an uplifting symphony veering from acoustic folk and dreamy pop to powerful rock. There is floaty, ambient electronica and soaring muscular dance plus some Latin rhythms overlaid with Ed’s distinctive vocals. The album also features a wish list of collaborators including notable contributions from Portishead’s Adrian Utley and Laura Marling. There are literary influences, too; Walt Whitman's writing plus William Blake’s poetry and Carl Sagan's ‘Pale Blue Dot’, a reference to a photograph of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe. A highlight track is ‘Brasil’ which sweeps from fragile to epic – a reminder that the whole album was influenced by a year spent living in South America’s largest country on an idyllic stretch of coastline between Rio and Santos. The iconic Rio carnival was a key inspiration. “Yes, I loved Brazil,” Ed enthuses. “I loved the polyrhythms of the carnival and the way Brazilian music makes everyone want to dance. It has such an energetic nature. Many Brazilians live in modest conditions but when carnival arrives each year there is such universal joy”. Ed acknowledges that ‘Earth’ is a departure from his Radiohead duties. “The album is not like the usual music I’ve written and performed. I wanted the album to be hopeful; it’s about looking towards the light, towards the good things. It does resonate at the moment with all the emotions people are feeling during the Coronavirus emergency. It is a very positive piece of work”. Looking ahead, Ed says he hopes Radiohead will be back on the road once it is safe to do so and the time feels right. “It is nearly twenty years since we played in Oxford, our home city. So it would be great to do that again - maybe in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. Wouldn't that be amazing? It’s something to dream about!”

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Ed O'Brien - Interview

Ed O'Brien - Interview

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