Ed O'Brien

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For other people named Edward O'Brien, see Edward O'Brien (disambiguation).
Ed O'Brien
Radiohead 2008 Barcelona, Catalonia Daydream Festival 04 cropped.png
Ed O'Brien in Barcelona, 2008
Background information
Birth name Edward John O'Brien
Born (1968-04-15) 15 April 1968 (age 47)
Oxford, England
Genres Alternative rock, experimental rock, electronic music
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, backing vocals
Years active 1985–present
Labels XL, TBD
Associated acts Radiohead, 7 Worlds Collide, Kay
Notable instruments
Fender Stratocaster
Plank ED-1/ED-2
Fender Telecaster
Rickenbacker 360
Gibson ES-335

Edward John "Ed" O'Brien (born 15 April 1968) is an English musician, songwriter, and guitarist for the rock band Radiohead. He is also responsible for harmony vocals during live concerts and on many tracks from the band's albums (occasionally with drummer Phil Selway). In addition, he has played guitar and provided backing vocals for the 7 Worlds Collide project.[1]


Main article: Radiohead

O'Brien uses a large collection of effects pedals to help create Radiohead's distinct sound. Even on tracks that do not feature any guitar work, his pedals are put to use for other purposes such as altering Thom Yorke's keyboard playing (he and co-guitarist Jonny Greenwood sample Yorke's piano and vocals, respectively, with the Korg Kaoss Pad on live performances of "Everything in Its Right Place"). As well as being a self-taught guitarist, he is an accomplished drummer; though his only drum contributions for Radiohead to date have been tom drums on live performances of Hail to the Thief track "There There", a task he shares with Greenwood (though the part they play is put together on a synthesiser on the studio version).[2] and additional drumming on the b-side “Pearly*”.

Notable songwriting contributions to Radiohead include the opening riff on the songs "Go to Sleep" and "No Surprises", the bass riff on "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", and the riff that makes up the closing song on The Bends, "Street Spirit (Fade Out)". He has also written the instrumental "Meeting in the Aisle", "Lull", and the instrumentation of "Big Boots".[citation needed]

Besides his standard guitar work in most of Radiohead's songs, O'Brien is also known for his contributions as vocals in songs like "Karma Police", "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and "Reckoner". His unorthodox guitar playing, focusing on effects to enhance the framework of the music, is notable in songs like "Lucky" (creating the effect that opens the song), "Karma Police" (effects during the end of the song), and "Treefingers" (his guitar chords were processed electronically to sound like ambient music).

Work outside Radiohead[edit]

O'Brien performing with 7 Worlds Collide, 2009

O'Brien made contributions to a soundtrack project for the BBC drama series Eureka Street before recording Kid A. During sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac, he kept fans up to date with an open diary posted on the band's website, providing the most in-depth look at how those experimental albums were recorded. His most recent collaboration outside Radiohead involved guitar work on an Asian Dub Foundation album; he played on "1000 Mirrors" (with Sinéad O'Connor), "Blowback" and "Enemy of the Enemy".

O'Brien has toured and recorded with Neil Finn as part of the 7 Worlds Collide project. He provided guitar and backing vocals on their eponymous 2001 live album, and reprised his role on their 2009 studio album, The Sun Came Out, where he also co-wrote two tracks.

O'Brien and bandmate Phil Selway had programming lessons with producer/engineer Phelan Kane at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London in 2001, and the same two band members also joined the 7 Worlds Collide project.

O’Brien is a founding director of the Featured Artists Coalition.[3]

O'Brien appeared on 16 April 2011 episode of BBC Radio 5 Live's sports punditry programme Fighting Talk in celebration of National Record Shop Day; also on the panel were Bob Mills, Dion Dublin, and Steve Lamacq.

Personal life[edit]

At 6'5" (196 cm), O'Brien is the tallest member of Radiohead. O'Brien lives with his wife Susan Kobrin, who previously worked for Amnesty International, in London.[4][5] The couple has a son, Salvador born in January 2004, and a daughter Oona (born in 2006). O'Brien studied economics at the University of Manchester.


  1. ^ "New 7 Worlds Collide". Buzzmedia Music. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Youngs, Ian (12 March 2009). "Music stars call for more power". BBC News. 
  4. ^ Binelli, Mark. The Future According to Radiohead. Rolling Stone. 2008-02-07
  5. ^ Craig McLean (10 December 2007). "Radiohead: Caught in the flash, part 1 | Music | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-08. 

External links[edit]