Colin Greenwood

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For the South African rugby footballer, see Colin Greenwood (rugby).
Colin Greenwood
CGreenwood2006-06Radiohead.jpg
Colin Greenwood, Bonnaroo, 17 June 2006
Background information
Birth name Colin Charles Greenwood
Born (1969-06-26) 26 June 1969 (age 47)
Oxford, England
Genres Alternative rock, art rock, electronic, film score
Occupation(s) Musician, bassist, composer
Instruments Bass guitar, Synthesizer, Percussion
Years active 1985–present
Associated acts Radiohead, James Lavino, Mark Linkous[1]
Website www.radiohead.com
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
Fender Jazz Bass
Music Man Sterling

Colin Charles Greenwood (born 26 June 1969) is an English musician best known as the bassist for the alternative rock band Radiohead. He also plays keyboards and synthesisers and works on sampling on the electronic side of Radiohead. He is the older brother of Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood.

Early years[edit]

Greenwood's father served in the British army,[2] lived in Germany as a child for enough time to become fluent in the language.[3] The family historically had ties to both the British Communist Party and the Fabian Society.[4] He credited his older sister, Susan, with greatly influencing his and his brother Jonny Greenwood's taste in music as an adolescent: "She’s responsible for our precocious love of miserable music. The Fall, Magazine, Joy Division. We were ostracised at school because everyone else was into Iron Maiden.”[5]

When Greenwood was 12 years old, he met his future bandmate Thom Yorke at Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Oxford.[6] Their other future bandmates Ed O'Brien, who Greenwood met during a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, and Phil Selway also attended the school.[7] When Greenwood was 15 years old he bought his first guitar,[8] studying classical guitar with his teacher Terence Gilmore-James, who introduced him and the other future members of Radiohead to jazz, film scores, postwar avant-garde music, and 20th-century classical music. Greenwood said: "When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, because we weren't getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property, because we practiced in one of the music rooms on a Sunday."[2]

According to Greenwood, he began playing bass out of necessity, teaching himself by playing along to New Order, Joy Division and Otis Redding. He said: "We were people who picked up their respective instruments because we wanted to play music together, rather than just because we wanted to play that particular instrument. So it was more of a collective angle, and if you could contribute by having someone else play your instrument, then that was really cool. I don’t think of myself as a bass player anyway. I’m just in a band with other people."[6] Among his musical influences are Booker T and the MGs, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield.[3]

As an undergraduate studying English at Peterhouse, Cambridge between 1987 and 1990, Greenwood read modern American literature, including Raymond Carver, John Cheever and other writers “dealing with the tensions of post-war American society."[9] At Peterhouse, Greenwood served as the college's entertainment officer, and helped arrange several gigs on Fridays, when the Oxford and Cambridge colleges have their themed parties, usually in the college bars.

Radiohead[edit]

Main article: Radiohead
Colin Greenwood with Radiohead in 2008

In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin Greenwood and EMI A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at Our Price, the record shop where Greenwood worked,[10] the On a Friday signed a six-album recording contract with EMI.[11] At the label's request, the band changed their name; "Radiohead" was taken from the song "Radio Head" on the Talking Heads album True Stories (1986).[11]

Of being in a band with his younger brother Jonny Greenwood, Colin said: "Beyond the normal brotherly thing, I respect him as a person and a musician."[8] On another occasion, he said: “It’s wonderful, it’s good, it makes my promise to keep an eye on him for my mother a lot easier, having him right next to me all the time. But he’s very easy to look after anyway, 'cause he’s very well behaved."[12]

Musicianship[edit]

Greenwood plays a number of instruments for Radiohead including bass guitar, acoustic bass, double bass, keyboards, samplers, and synthesizers, and a variety of percussive instruments. He favours Fender basses.[13] He said: "My involvement is to play bass guitar, but our ideas and suggestions in certain areas, as to where the music should go or develop, are listened to. We are very much a band."[14]

Greenwood was instrumental in creating the song "Dollars and Cents", which arose when he played his bassline over an Alice Coltrane record he particularly liked; brother Jonny set about creating an original string arrangement with the same vibe. "'Dollars and Cents' is Curtis Mayfield. When I play fuzz bass on 'Packt Like Sardines' and 'Exit Music' on OK Computer it’s all, I think his name is Henry Thomson, something like that. Curtis’s bass player, yeah, who is God, fine man."[3]

"Airbag" is Greenwood's own favourite of his bass lines. The band was inspired by DJ Shadow to use cut-up drum beats.[15] He said that he played the distinctive fragments heard in the song, and planned to come up with something to fill all the gaps, but never got around to it.[16]

Other work[edit]

In 1997, Greenwood participated in a marketing campaign for his alma mater Cambridge University, posing for a photo with then-current students from both state and private schools for a poster titled "Put Yourself in the Picture". The poster was “designed to break down some of the stereotypes that deter able students from applying to Cambridge and encourage more state school applicants.”[17]

Greenwood is an amateur photographer and often posts his photographs on Radiohead's website. In 2003, he discussed his favourite images in the V&A’s photography gallery, a collection “ranging from early daguerreotype and calotype prints through to modern digital prints[18] as part of their accompanying website’s Personal Tours. He chose images by Frederick Sommer and Harold Edgerton among others.

In 2003, Greenwood played bass on "24 Hour Charleston" on Jonny Greenwood’s debut solo album Bodysong. In 2004 Greenwood served as a judge for the Next Generation Poets talent contest, sponsored by the Arts Council of England. The same year, he participated on a panel in the annual sixth form conference run by Radley College in collaboration with School of St Helen and St Katharine, speaking on digital-rights management (DRM) from "the views of an artist, someone without whom there would be no music to share in the first place,"[19] according to David Smith, at that time a professor at Radley.[20] In 2008, he played bass on James Lavino's score to the Alex Karpovsky film Woodpecker. The soundtrack also features performances by Lee Sargent and Tyler Sargent of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.[21] Greenwood is credited for beat programming on "Guess Again!" from Thom Yorke's second solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes (2014).[22]

Personal life[edit]

In December 1998, Greenwood married Molly McGrann, an American literary critic and novelist.[23][24] They have three sons, Jesse,[25] born in December 2003, Asa, born in December 2005, and Henry, born in December 2009. They live in Oxford.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greenwood, Colin (8 March 2010). "Mark Linkous RIP". Radiohead. Retrieved 2010-03-10. 
  2. ^ a b Ross, Alex (21 August 2001). "The Searchers: Radiohead's unquiet revolution". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 25 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  3. ^ a b c Eshun, Kodwo (21 June 2001). "The A-Z on Radiohead: An interview with Colin Greenwood". Culture Lab UK. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  4. ^ "Radiohead". UNCUT Magazine. 1 August 2001. 
  5. ^ Hendrickson, Matt (16 October 1997). "Dream Weavers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  6. ^ a b Kelly, John (15 September 2001). "Taking Music To Strange Places". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  7. ^ Myers, Caren (1 November 1993). "Dork Radio". Details. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  8. ^ a b Clark, Stewart (12 July 1995). "Transistor Act". Hot Press. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  9. ^ Kent, Nick (1 June 2001). "Happy Now?". MOJO. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  10. ^ "Radiohead, Foals and 25 years of discovering Oxford music - BBC News". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-03-14. 
  11. ^ a b Ross, Alex (20 August 2001). "The Searchers". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 16 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Davis, Jason (1 February 1998). "Interview with Colin Greenwood". Channel V, Australia. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  13. ^ Clements, Peter (7 June 2007). "Plank's Blog – full archive". StringsReunited – getting your sound back. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  14. ^ MacDonald, Patrick (4 February 1998). "Radio wave: Britain's band rides crest of superstardom with low-wattage egos". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  15. ^ "Airbag – Song Trivia". Colingreenwood.com. 20 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  16. ^ "Interview with Radiohead". Baktabak Interview Collection. 1 January 1998. 
  17. ^ "Annual Report: All Access". University of Cambridge Annual Report. 21 August 1997. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  18. ^ "Photography collection at the V&A redisplayed and online". Cognitive Applications News. 1 May 2003. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  19. ^ Smith, David (26 September 2004). "That old Digital Rights tune again". Preoccupations. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  20. ^ Smith, David (8 November 2006). "Today, Truth!". Preoccupations. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  21. ^ Pitchfork.com article
  22. ^ Tomorrow's Modern Boxes vinyl packaging
  23. ^ "Class Notes 2000". Skidmore Scope Magazine. 1 August 2000. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  24. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (1 June 2003). "Fitter Happier: Radiohead Return". Spin. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  25. ^ Greenwood, Colin (1 April 2005). "Operatic". Thrasher Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  26. ^ "Giving Back From The Bassline". Mail & Guardian. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 

External links[edit]