Nothern Soul talks to Radiohead’s Phil Selway
Why do we remember the first album we ever bought or the song that was playing when we met the love of our life? And do we remember certain holidays because of the books we read while we were there? Do we delve into these fictional worlds so we can temporarily escape our own? Is there anything else that can give us such an opportunity?
Art forms are inspired by one another, be it a photographer invigorated by the composition of a painter or a dancer moved by another’s melody. But there’s nothing quite like the relationship between words and music. And so BBC 6 Music is hosting a special celebration about the unique relationship between music and literature. Broadcasting live from Manchester Central Library this Sunday, Guy Garvey from Elbow will present his usual Sunday slot and be joined by Radiohead’s drummer Phil Selway and New Order’s Stephen Morris to discuss the literary influences that have impacted their work.
Northern Soul’s Kate Morris caught up with Phil Selway to find out more.
Kate Morris: Tell us about Sunday’s event.
Phil Selway: Well there is quite a lot happening. It’s a live show for Guy Garvey’s finest hour, which also ties in with BBC Radio 6 Music Libraries at the Manchester Central Library. It’s about a cross over between literature and music, and how they spark off each other.
Stephen Morris of New Order will be joining me as there is quite a strong drum theme for this year due to a very special event as part of the day’s activity. There will be special drum set that will go into the library permanently to commemorate Scott Johnson. Scott worked on the team for Radiohead and sadly died while we were on tour, so it’s really important to me to pay tribute to him.
KM: There is also a memorial fund in honour of Scott isn’t there?
PS: Yes there is. So many people were touched and moved by Scott and he had so many fans, so we set up a memorial fund for him. That fund was used to buy drum kits so young people could have access to music. The kits would go into schools and youth clubs, anywhere so they could be open to everyone. Scott loved music and loved to share music so both I feel are such fitting tribute to him, so he can live on in this way.
KM: Has Libraries happened in previous years or is this the event’s debut?
PS: It happened last year and it was a really good cross over of ideas – literature and music. The feedback was really good so I’m glad to see the event returning because it’s a very good marriage of the two different forms.
KM: When talking to Guy and Stephen about your personal influences did you find them to be similar to yours or different?
PS: Well we will find out on Sunday! We haven’t exchanged them yet – we haven’t had a chance but we also want to keep it for Sunday. All will be revealed at the event, so if there are any dark secrets then they could potentially come out. So fair warning.
KM: Well not to give too much away but what have been some of your literary influences for your music?
PS: For Radiohead stuff there isn’t much because that sort of thing doesn’t feed into drumming too much. It does put me into a particular headspace. Being immersed in another world I suppose you get to take on different perspectives, it’s somewhere you can lose yourself in.
For my solo work, the literary stuff comes in when I need to get into someone else’s head. If I want something to ring true, I may read articles or psychology books or anything that helps me get into someone’s situation. It’s about setting up the right mindset that allows you to create something that feels authentic
KM: Which of your influences (literary/musically) have shaped you most as a person and as a musician?
PS: Shaped me as a person – I always say it’s the people you are closest to you. The ones that can get right past any front you might have on, they go right to the core of who you are. So that person for me would be my wife, she is somebody that can get me into that mindset of appreciating another perceptive.
Creatively it would be the choreographer Twyla Tharp. She’s written a great book that’s helped me. The Creative Habit is like a manual of how to create, using what she has learnt during her time as a choreographer. That book I have found really useful at points because there’s those bits of process you need help with. There is that initial spark, but then there’s a craft of being creative and working at something until you’re happy with it and until it reflects your own voice, and that book has been a great reference.
KM: What part of the event are you most looking forward to?
PS: I think seeing a fitting tribute to Scott, it’s been over three years since the accident and it will be nice to see something actually mark him, what he was and what he brought to other people. It means a lot to me. Beyond that, I am looking forward to the opportunity to get my revenge on a lead singer, as we are giving Guy a drum lesson live on stage.
KM: Will this be his first time?
PS: I have no idea. I can’t imagine he’s never had a go after spending so many years in studios and recording. But he’s not a drummer so it will be interesting.
KM: Why do you think an event like this is important?
PS: I think with both the music and book trade, they have had a similar experience as both have changed radically due to a technological age. With digital books, downloads, streaming – both trades have had to adapt for people to access them. So there’s a sense of preservation – with books and music you take them to heart don’t you? They become who you are, songs link to you closely because they can help you through a time in a particular moment. And books, whether you study them at school or read them on holiday, once you connect they become bound up with who you are. They are milestones for you. So it’s important to value these two forms.
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