Radiohead’s Thom Yorke ‘Basically Invented Twitter’
Radiohead singer Thom Yorke recalled how he and longtime collaborator Stanley Donwood accidentally invented Twitter several years before the social media platform was launched.
The musician and artist-writer spent time avoiding music following the success of 1997's OK Computer as Yorke dealt with a “complete creative block.” Instead they focused on painting, developing a collaborative relationship where they worked on each others’ artwork until they felt one of them had “won” the process.
“Everybody involved felt like we’d been in some weird circus for quite a while, after OK Computer,” Yorke said in an extract from the pair’s art book Kid A Mnesia (via the Guardian). “Personally, I mentally completely crashed, as did Stan. … Rather than immersing ourselves in this congratulatory atmosphere around us, we felt the total opposite. There was this fierce desire to be totally on the outside of everything that was going on, and a fierce anger, and suspicion. And that permeated everything. It was completely out of proportion, deeply unhealthy – but that’s where we were at.”
He continued: “I’d a had a complete creative block, and Rachel, my partner at the time, had said: ‘Stop trying to make music. Stop completely for a while.’ So I was wandering around just drawing anything I could see. Landscape. So landscape became an extremely important part of what was going on, because it loosened me up. … The act of sitting down in front of a landscape and just trying to represent that in whatever way we felt – choosing to listen to that and not any of the shit in your head – was a massively freeing experience.”
He described the emotional journey as “tortuous,” featuring a “complete lack of confidence, complete cynicism in our own success, not feeling in any way connected culturally with what was going on in our own country, but at the same time being aware that we were in a really privileged position.”
At some point along the way, Donwood became obsessed with the concept of the Greek mythological beast the Minotaur. “On and on and on he went,” Yorke said. “And it really formed part of what was happening. The Minotaur cursed to repeat its mistakes in a maze. We had this whole plan worked out for this ziggurat, where people could log on, and build a room in the ziggurat themselves, and leave messages for other people.”
Donwood explained: “And they had to use a certain number of characters. We basically invented Twitter before Twitter, and failed to make any money from it.” Yorke added: “It was called the Byzantine Ziggurat. But we didn’t want anyone’s data, therefore it was never going to work.”
Kid A Mnesia is described as a “celebration of the Radiohead albums Kid A and Amnesiac” which “showcases more than 300 colour artworks” and “features a dialogue between Thom Yorke and Stanley Donwood about the creative process.” It’s published in the U.S. on Feb. 22. Both albums were re-released with additional music as a single product on Nov. 5.