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 48)
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
Epiphone Casino
Fender Jaguar

Edward John "Ed" O'Brien (born 15 April 1968) is an English guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is best known as a member of the alternative rock band Radiohead, with whom he has recorded nine studio albums. Alongside his work in Radiohead, O'Brien has also 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. 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").

Notable contributions to Radiohead include the high-pitched lead guitar in "No Surprises", the "spidery" guitar line in "A Wolf at the Door", the main rhythm guitar on "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", the second guitar on "Talk Show Host", and the arpeggio riff that makes up the closing song on The Bends, "Street Spirit (Fade Out)".

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), "Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was" (improvised guitar effects), "Staircase" (the wailing guitar sounds that form the background for the song), and "Treefingers" (his guitar chords were processed electronically to sound like ambient music).

Besides his guitar work in most of Radiohead's songs, O'Brien is also known for contributing vocals to songs such as "Karma Police", "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and "Reckoner". He also sings the backing vocals in the live versions of many of their songs, including "Idioteque" and "No Surprises".

In an article for Rolling Stone, David Fricke picked O'Brien as the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.[2]

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.

Musical style and influences[edit]

He grew up in an era from 1979 listening to Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam And The Ants, Depeche Mode, The Police and David Bowie. It was a "foetal place" for music for people who went to Art College or artists, or musicians, suddenly thought « Oh I can be that ». He used to listen to the charts and tape them on a cassette recorder, with song such as "Walking On The Moon" by The Police, "Spellbound" by Siouxsie And The Banshees. The charts were diverse and contained different experimental Pop music. He picked a guitar liking guitarists including Paul Weller of The Jam, Andy Summers of The Police and Johnny Marr of The Smiths. The first guitar he wanted after the record deal was a Rickenbacker.[4]

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien studied economics at the University of Manchester. O'Brien lives with his wife Susan Kobrin, who previously worked for Amnesty International, in London.[5][6] The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004 and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006.


  1. ^ "New 7 Worlds Collide". Buzzmedia Music. Retrieved 5 September 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  2. ^ "Ed O'Brien – 100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  3. ^ Youngs, Ian (12 March 2009). "Music stars call for more power". BBC News. 
  4. ^ Casandra Scaroni and Samuel Dietz. “ You’ve got to find a voice”. Alltuntun. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2016
  5. ^ Binelli, Mark. The Future According to Radiohead. Rolling Stone. 7 February 2008
  6. ^ Craig McLean (10 December 2007). "Radiohead: Caught in the flash, part 1 | Music | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 

External links[edit]