Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood pretended to play keyboards when he first joined the band

Virgin Radio

9 Feb 2022, 14:19

Credit: Rex

Credit: Rex

The acclaimed musician has revealed that, when he first started playing with Radiohead, he turned his keyboard off and faked it during the band’s rehearsal sessions.

Speaking to NPR’s Fresh Air, multi-instrumentalist and award-winning composer Jonny Greenwood explained his inauspicious start with Thom Yorke and the rest of the band. He said: “Thom’s band had a keyboard player I think they didn’t get on with, because he played his keyboard so loud. And so when I got the chance to play with them, the first thing I did was make sure my keyboard was turned off.” 

He continued: “I must have done months of rehearsals with them with this keyboard, and they didn’t know that I’d already turned it off.”

The Radiohead guitarist and keyboardist explained to NPR’s Terry Gross how he got away with not actually playing anything, saying: “They made quite a racket, quite a noise. It was all guitars and distortion — and so I would pretend to play for weeks on end and Thom would say, ‘I can’t quite hear what you’re doing, but I think you’re adding a really interesting texture because I can tell when you’re not playing,’

“And I’m thinking, ‘No, you can’t, because I’m really not playing.’”

Greenwood revealed that he would then do his homework and eventually start playing the keys for real in rehearsals. “I’d go home in the evening and work out how to actually play chords and cautiously over the next few months, I would start turning this keyboard up. And that’s how I started in Radiohead,” he said.

The musician has certainly come a long way since those early days of pretending to play the keys. This week, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score for Jane Campion’s film The Power of the Dog. The movie leads the way for nominations at this year’s awards.

Greenwood also received a Golden Globe nomination for The Power of The Dog, and was previously nominated for an Oscar for Phantom Thread in 2018. 

Meanwhile, he will be taking new Radiohead side-project, The Smile, on tour this year. The Smile sees Greenwood team up with Thom Yorke and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner.

They will be playing shows at the Roundhouse in Camden, London on May 29th and 30th, and will then head to Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on June 1st, and Manchester’s Albert Hall on June 2nd.