An exciting time of the year for the Radioheads... It’s not just for the ears, it’s also for the eyes. Thom Yorke released his first album that he recorded without the rest of the gang and it’s called “The Eraser”. Stanley Donwood answers Bant on the story behind the artwork of the album.
* Although I wouldn’t have guessed for it goes perfectly well with the content, according to what I read on the website, this work was not initially made for the cover art of “The Eraser”. How did they end up together? How do you connect “London Views” to “The Eraser”?
I didn’t connect the two; that was Thom. I just sort of encouraged the connection.
* Has there been a researching process for the “London Views” work, for it is a panoramic view of the city?
A kind of accidental research I suppose; more an agglomeration of disparate pieces of information that coagulated to form the eventual artwork. I realised the other night that I’ve actually been going on about this artwork for literally years; boring my friends at the pub and definitely boring my girlfriend. Originally I was going to make medieval-style pictures of modern cities being destroyed, using vellum, tempera paint, gold leaf and so on. But somehow I forgot about that and concentrated on the single colour woodcut style.
For the actual process of carving the picture, I used a London A-Z map and Google images. I was actually in London, but I didn’t want to pollute the purity of a more imagined scene by going and doing that en plein-air stuff.
* I suppose the floodings that took place in Cornwall in 2004 are one of the stories that ended up in the album cover art. Have you actually experienced any natural disasters yourself? What are some other stimulations and trulife stories that have been effective on “London Views”?
No, I’ve been lucky. The floods in Cornwall are the closest I’ve ever been to a real disaster.
* Are we free to assume that “cnut” is a delibarate misspelling of the word “cunt”?
No way. Cnut is an alternate spelling of Canute (also Kanute) who was a Saxon king of England from 1017 until 1035. There is a legend about him which states that his advisors were so convinced that he was a divine being that he could control the tides. To show his humanity and humility, Cnut went down to the beach, ordered his throne to be taken there, sat in it, and commanded thje tide to cease its advance. It didn’t.
I suppose I’m vaguely making a point about global warming/sea level rise.
* Are there any secret, hidden things in the booklet of “The Eraser” ?
No, there aren’t, unless they exist in the differing opinions of the people who see it. This is, I realise, quite unusual for me, as I often find myself layering hidden meanings into artwork. I intended this project to be more ‘tabloid-like’ – really bold, very graphic, almost like a shout rather than a whisper.
* You mention that only 8 copies of the original piece has been made as the technique is fascinatingly hard. Are they all sold out by now?
No, they aren’t. I think that they’re quite expensive. But if you’re feeling wealthy...
* About global warming threat, Noam Chomsky said that there is still hope to win over it, but unfortunately there is no time... How are we supposed to go on as if there is nothing, knowing that the Apocalypse is soon?
I have absolutely no idea. It does seem quite hopeless, but perhaps that’s just my own 37 year old pessimism. Human existence does seem to be a largely savage endevour, briefly punctuated with short periods of happiness. I think that I’m quite depressed though, so you shouldn’t listen to me.
* To you, what are the most inconvenient things about London today? Which place in London is the most peaceful place to you?
The most inconvenient thing is the internal combustion engine. The most peaceful place is by the pond in Temple, just off Fleet Street.
* Have you sensed anything interesting among the band members, some chemistry that is different from the previous albums? Or any “worth telling” stories?
There isn’t a Radiohead Official Secrets Act, but there might as well be. If something was ‘worth telling’, then I couldn’t possibly tell you it.
* Any tips about the cover of the upcoming album from Radiohead?
Ha ha. I think it would be unwise for me to be too definite because I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. The first occurences will probably be on the front few pages of www.radiohead.com, and keep an eye on how we are living in the last days of our hallucinated economy...
* Do you have favorite websites? What is the opening page of your personal computer?
I am so unbelievably dull that the opening page on my computer is my email page. My favourite websites are, maybe; www.schnews.co.uk, and http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm, and http://www.project-ctrl-alt-del.com/
These aren’t really ‘favourite’ websites, just some that I return to. I do a bit of research using the internet, and I’m quite curious about how something so new has so radically redifined our ideas about communication, academic study, activism, and, er, shopping.
* What are some of the tunes that are playing constantly on your music player nowadays?
I haven’t got a music player. I have accidentally totalled my record player during a fit of techno-rage. The last thing I played on it was ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’ by Ian Dury.
*What has been your favorite song on “The Eraser”?
Skip Divided. I think it sounds dirty.