Thom Yorke likens YouTube to Nazi Germany: “They steal art”

Radiohead frontman also discusses next Radiohead album, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, and his cryptic tweeting


Photo by Autumn Andel

Thom Yorke recently sat down with Italy’s La Repubblica for a wide-ranging interview. Among the topics discussed: the status of Radiohead’s next album, his feelings on the band’s back catalog, and his involvement in environmental advocacy, including this week’s Pathway to Paris awareness concert.

Most interesting, however, were Yorke’s comments on YouTube. His venom toward Spotify is well documented, but it appears there’s no love lost between the Radiohead frontman and the wildly popular video platform either. Asked how he discovers new music, Yorke responded, “Mostly with Boomkat … I certainly do not use YouTube.” He then noted his love for ad block, because it allows him to skip YouTube ads that he’s not being fairly compensated for.

“A friend of mine told me about this app to skip commercials on YouTube … They put advertising before any content, making a lot of money and yet, artists are not paid or are paid smalls sums, and apparently this is fine for them.”

He went on to liken the practices of YouTube and its parent company Google to that of Nazi Germany. “All I know is that they make money from the work of many artists who do not derive any benefit. Service providers make money: Google, YouTube. A lot of money. ‘Oh, sorry, it was yours? Now it is ours. No, no, we are joking, it is always yours,’ They seize it. It’s like what the Nazis did during the Second World War. In fact they all did that during the war, the British too: steal the art from other countries. What’s the difference?” For what it’s worth, YouTube says it’s paid out $1 billion to music business over the last few years.

(Read: Thom Yorke In His Own Words: Radiohead Frontman’s Best Quotes)

Regarding the status of Radiohead’s follow-up to The King of Limbs, Yorke maintained it’s “not yet ready,” adding, “And, anyways, I could not say if it was. It would get me into trouble. Anyways, no, it’s not ready. ”

He said the cryptic messages posted to Twitter are “just notes” that may or may not appear on the next album. Mostly, though, it’s just jibberish. “They were mostly things that I had written during a past discussion about Spotify in response to a troll. I started to think, to write things like, ‘another day at the office’, because people are always writing things like that on social media. They were tweets that took inspiration from this.”

Asked if releasing his solo LP Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes through BitTorrent was a “successful experiment,” Yorke responded, “No, not exactly. But I wanted it to be an experiment. It was a reaction to everything that was going on. People always and only spoke about Spotify. I wanted to show that, in theory, today one could follow the entire chain of record production, from start to finish, on his own. But in practice it is very different. We cannot be burdened with all of the responsibilities of the record label. But I’m glad I did it, for having tried to.” According to data released by BitTorrent, 4.5 million people had downloaded the bundle release as of February 2015.

Also fascinating were Yorke’s thoughts on his past work. He said he only listens to old Radiohead songs when preparing to perform them live. He said of his reaction to hearing this material, “Who the hell are these people? Was I really like this? I don’t totally remember doing all of this. But this also happens with the more recent stuff. While replaying my first solo album, The Eraser, I say, ‘I do not remember this person’”.

Additionally, in the interview Yorke revealed that he’s obsessed with Japanese metal band Boris, and contrary to popular belief, he does not practice his dance moves beforehand. “No, I’m a terrible dancer. I improvise. As a boy I loved to dance. Today I do yoga. One or two hours a day. I need it to regenerate myself, to help me to face the difficulties of life.” Needless to say, Radiohead’s next album should be interesting.

Thanks to Ellyn Matta for the translation