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 best known as a member of the alternative rock band Radiohead, with whom he has recorded nine studio albums. He makes extensive use of effects units to create atmospheric sounds and textures. In 2015, Rolling Stone named O'Brien the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.

Early life[edit]

O'Brien grew up listening to post-punk acts such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, the Police and David Bowie. He said: "It was a very foetal place for music because people who went to art college or artists, or musicians, suddenly thought, 'Oh, I can be that,' so it was a great era of music." His early guitar influences include Peter Buck of R.E.M, Paul Weller of the Jam, Johnny Marr of the Smiths and Andy Summers of the Police, admiring how their guitar work had "space" rather than playing conventional guitar solos.[1]


Main article: Radiohead

During sessions for Kid A and Amnesiac, O'Brien kept an online diary of Radiohead's progress.[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. 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.[3]

O'Brien is a founding director of the Featured Artists Coalition.[4]

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[edit]

Whereas Jonny Greenwood plays most of Radiohead's lead guitar parts, O'Brien often creates unusual and atmospheric effects, often making extensive use of effects units. His contributions include the high-pitched chiming sound that introduces "Lucky" (achieved by strumming above the guitar nut) and the reverberating pops on the introduction of "2 + 2 = 5".[5] On "Karma Police", O'Brien distorts his guitar playing by driving a delay effect to self-oscillation, then turns the delay rate to a low frequency, creating a "melting" effect.[6] On "Dollars & Cents" he uses a pitch shifter pedal to shift his guitar chords from minor to major.[7]

In a 2015 article for Rolling Stone, David Fricke named O'Brien the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.[5]

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.[8][9] The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004 and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006.


  1. ^ Casandra Scaroni and Samuel Dietz. “ You’ve got to find a voice”. Alltuntun. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2016
  2. ^ "The Best You Can Is Good Enough: Radiohead vs. The Corporate Machine < Features | PopMatters". www.popmatters.com. Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  3. ^ "New 7 Worlds Collide". Buzzmedia Music. Retrieved 5 September 2010.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  4. ^ Youngs, Ian (12 March 2009). "Music stars call for more power". BBC News. 
  5. ^ a b "Ed O'Brien – 100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks". Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  6. ^ Randall 2000, p. 224
  7. ^ "Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise: The Searchers: Radiohead's unquiet revolution". 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2016-08-02. 
  8. ^ Binelli, Mark. The Future According to Radiohead. Rolling Stone. 7 February 2008
  9. ^ Craig McLean (10 December 2007). "Radiohead: Caught in the flash, part 1 | Music | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 


External links[edit]