Colin Greenwood, Bonnaroo, 17 June 2006
|Birth name||Colin Charles Greenwood|
|Born||26 June 1969|
|Genres||Alternative rock, art rock, electronic, film score|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, bassist, composer|
|Associated acts||Radiohead, James Lavino, Mark Linkous|
Colin Charles Greenwood (born 26 June 1969) is an English musician and the bassist for the alternative rock band Radiohead. Along with his younger brother, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Greenwood attended Abingdon School in Oxford, England, where he met the future band members. Radiohead have since achieved critical acclaim and have sold over 30 million albums. Along with bass guitar, Greenwood plays upright bass and electronic instruments.
Greenwood, whose father served in the British army, lived in Germany as a child for enough time to become fluent in German. He is the older brother of Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The family historically had ties to the British Communist Party and the Fabian Society. Greenwood credited his older sister, Susan, with influencing his and his brother Jonny'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."
When Greenwood was 12, he met future Radiohead singer Thom Yorke at Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Oxford. Their other future bandmates Ed O'Brien, whom Greenwood met during a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, and Philip Selway also attended the school.
Greenwood bought his first guitar when he was 15. He studied classical guitar under the Abingdon music 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."
According to Greenwood, he began playing bass out of necessity, teaching himself by playing along to New Order, Joy Division and Otis Redding. Among his musical influences are Booker T and the MGs, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield. 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."
As an undergraduate studying English at Peterhouse, Cambridge between 1987 and 1990, Greenwood read modern American literature, including Raymond Carver, John Cheever and other postwar American writers. 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.
In late 1991, after a chance meeting between Colin Greenwood and A&R representative Keith Wozencroft at Our Price, the record shop where Greenwood worked, On a Friday signed a six-album recording contract with EMI and changed their name to Radiohead. By 2011, Radiohead had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2019.
Greenwood plays a number of instruments for Radiohead, including bass guitar, acoustic bass, double bass, keyboards, samplers, and synthesisers, and a variety of percussive instruments. He favours Fender basses. 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."
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." 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."
In 1997, Greenwood participated in a marketing campaign for his alma mater Cambridge University, posing for a photo with 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".
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. In 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," according to David Smith, at that time a professor at Radley.
In 2008, Greenwood 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. Greenwood is credited for beat programming on "Guess Again!" from Yorke's second solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes (2014). In 2018, he reviewed Michael Palin's book Erebus: The Story of a Ship for the Spectator. He plays bass on the debut album by the Belgian-Egyptian singer Tamino, released in October 2018.
Greenwood enjoys writers such as Thomas Pynchon, V.S. Naipaul and Delmore Schwartz. In December 1998, he married Molly McGrann, an American literary critic and novelist. They have three sons, Jesse, born in December 2003, Asa, born in December 2005, and Henry, born in December 2009. They live in Oxford.
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