Jonny Greenwood

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the British composer and rock musician. For other people with a similar name, see John Greenwood.
Jonny Greenwood
Radiohead 2008 Barcelona, Catalonia Daydream Festival.jpg
Jonny Greenwood in 2008
Background information
Birth name Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood
Born (1971-11-05) 5 November 1971 (age 44)
Oxford, England
Genres Alternative rock, electronica, art rock, experimental rock, classical
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar, piano, keyboards, ondes Martenot
Years active 1985–present
Labels XL, TBD, Sanctuary, Nonesuch
Associated acts Radiohead, The Weird Sisters
Notable instruments
Fender Telecaster Plus
Fender Starcaster
Gibson Les Paul
Ondes Martenot

Jonathan Richard Guy "Jonny" Greenwood (born 5 November 1971) is an English musician and composer best known as a member of the rock band Radiohead. Beyond his primary roles as Radiohead's lead guitarist and keyboardist, Greenwood is a multi-instrumentalist capable of playing bass guitar, drums, viola, harmonica, and various other instruments. Greenwood works with computer-generated sounds and sampling; he is also a computer programmer and writes music software used by Radiohead. Noted for his aggressive playing style, which features heavy use of effects (Like delay and phasing), melodic arpeggios - often played in unusual time signatures - and unique use of noises and feedbacks, especially after Ok Computer era,[1] Greenwood is consistently named as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.[a]

Greenwood composed the soundtracks for the films Bodysong (2003), There Will Be Blood (2007), Norwegian Wood (2010), We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011), The Master (2012) and Inherent Vice (2014), and serves as composer-in-residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. He is the younger brother of Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood.



Greenwood is the only member of Radiohead to have been classically trained on any instrument, and the only band member without a university degree; he was three weeks into a degree in music and psychology at Oxford Brookes University when Radiohead, then known as On a Friday, signed a recording contract with EMI in 1991, and left soon after. Greenwood stated that hearing Krzysztof Penderecki during that time had a significant influence on his perception of modern classical music.[10]

Greenwood's influence on Radiohead's recording and writing can be heard in many songs, as he usually takes the traditional lead guitarist role. In the 1990s, Greenwood wore an arm brace due to a repetitive strain injury attributed to his aggressive playing, saying "it's like taping up your fingers before a boxing match."[11]

Greenwood is often credited as the second major influence on songwriting in Radiohead, next to Thom Yorke. He wrote the music for the closing track of OK Computer, ("The Tourist"), and the intro, chorus and outro sections of the song "Subterranean Homesick Alien" from the OK Computer album, as well as the final section of "Paranoid Android". According to Yorke, the track "Just" from The Bends was "a competition by me and Jonny to get as many chords as possible into a song". An example of Greenwood's versatility is his use of the ondes Martenot, which is featured on songs such as "The National Anthem" and "How to Disappear Completely" from the album Kid A, and "Pyramid Song" from the album Amnesiac. The song "Where I End and You Begin" from Hail to the Thief, which also features the instrument, was dedicated to the memory of Jeanne Loriod, a pioneer of the Martenot. Greenwood is interviewed by Suzanne Binet-Audet about his affection for the instrument and briefly plays it in the 2012 documentary film Wavemakers.[12]

Greenwood and Yorke also collaborated on the song "Arpeggi" which is a piece in a classical style centred around arpeggios for voice, ondes, and orchestra. It was performed with the London Sinfonietta and Arab Orchestra of Nazareth at the Ether Festival in March 2005;[13] the song would later be adapted for the full band to play in 2006, rearranged for guitar. A studio version (closer to the full band version than the orchestral version) appeared on the album In Rainbows as "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi".

Greenwood is a computer programmer and builds software used in Radiohead's music. He became interested in programming when he was young, "playing around first with BASIC, then these primitive hex assemblers. Just simple bits of machine code – the closer I got to the bare bones of the computer, the more exciting I found it." At the suggestion of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Greenwood began using the music programing language Max, and said: "I got to reconnect properly with computers ... I didn't have to use someone else's idea of what a delay, or a reverb, or a sequencer should do, or should sound like – I could start from the ground, and think in terms of sound and maths. It was like coming off the rails."[14] Greenwood wrote the software Radiohead used to sample their playing for their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011).[15]

Solo and orchestral work[edit]

Greenwood playing a Fender Starcaster.

In 2003, Greenwood released his first solo work, Bodysong, the soundtrack for the movie of the same title directed by Simon Pummell and produced by Janine Marmot, featuring his brother and Radiohead bandmate Colin on bass. In March 2004, Greenwood's first work for orchestra, Smear, received its premiere, performed by the London Sinfonietta. In May he was appointed composer-in-residence to the BBC Concert Orchestra, for whom he wrote "Popcorn Superhet Receiver" (2005), which won the Radio 3 Listeners' Award at the 2006 BBC British Composer Awards.[16] The piece was inspired by radio static and the elaborate, dissonant tone clusters of Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1960). As part of his prize Greenwood received £10,000 from the PRS Foundation towards a commission for a new orchestral work.[17] This would become Doghouse, finished in 2010.

A fan of dub reggae,[18] Greenwood released a compilation in collaboration with Trojan Records, entitled Jonny Greenwood Is the Controller in March 2007. This is the latest in Trojan's Artist Choice Jukebox series, to which DJ Spooky and Don Letts have already contributed.[19] Trojan Records provided Greenwood with its extensive catalogue of songs, of which he chose 17.[20] The title is a play on the first track on the collection, entitled "Dread Are the Controller", by Linval Thompson. The album contains tracks by artists such as Derrick Harriott, Gregory Isaacs, The Heptones and many more.

Greenwood composed the score for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood by director Paul Thomas Anderson. The soundtrack contains excerpts from "Popcorn Superhet Receiver", making it ineligible for an Academy Award nomination, which prohibits "scores diluted by the use of tracked themes or other pre-existing music."[21][22] The soundtrack won an award at the Critics' Choice Awards and the Best Film Score trophy in the Evening Standard British Film Awards for 2007.[23] In its 2009 end-of-decade round-up Rolling Stone magazine named the film the best of the decade and cited Greenwood's score as a major element in its success, "redefining what is possible in film scores".

In 2008, Greenwood wrote the title music for Adam Buxton's pilot sketch show meeBOX,[24] and collaborated with Israeli rock musician Dudu Tasa on Tasa's Hebrew-language single "What a Day".[25]

In February 2010, Greenwood debuted a composition entitled "Doghouse" at the BBC's Maida Vale Studios. In an interview following the performance, Greenwood and conductor Robert Ziegler revealed that the composition would be extrapolated into a score for the upcoming film Norwegian Wood directed by Anh Hung Tran, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Haruki Murakami. Greenwood described the writing of the piece to the BBC, "I wrote this piece mostly in hotels and dressing rooms while touring with Radiohead. This was more practical than glamorous – lots of time sitting around indoors, lots of instruments about – and aside from picking up a few geographical working titles, I can't think that it had any effect where, on tour, it was written." The premiere of the entire score took place on 19 March 2010.[26]

In 2011, Greenwood composed the score for the film adaptation of Lionel Shriver's novel We Need to Talk About Kevin.[27] In 2012, he composed the score for Paul Thomas Anderson's film The Master.[28]

On 13 March 2012, Greenwood and Krzysztof Penderecki released an album together on the Nonesuch label. It includes Greenwood's "Popcorn Superhet Receiver" and a new string orchestra work, "48 Responses to Polymorphia" (a homage to Penderecki's "Polymorphia" of 1961).[29]

Water was commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and is premiered by them on their European, Australian, and US tours in 2014/15. In an interview, Greenwood said: "With Radiohead, it's about arranging and recording songs as well as we can, and every time you hear them back it's gonna be the same, and it's the best you can get it. With orchestral music it's different. You can't pin it down, it's too strange to pin down. You can't commit it to coming out of two speakers and that's all it is. It's a bigger, stranger thing than that."[30]

In 2014, Greenwood composed the score for Anderson's film Inherent Vice.[31] In Pitchfork's review, the author wrote: "It's exciting to hear Greenwood stretch into new styles, and "Adrian Prussia" is incredible, a crunching meeting point between digital static and strident violins."[32]

In 2015, Greenwood recorded an album with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and a group of Indian musicians at the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan.[33] The sessions and Greenwood's 2015 India tour were filmed by Anderson for his documentary Junun.[34] The film premièred at the 2015 New York Film Festival.[35]

Musical influences[edit]

Jonny Greenwood is influenced by music from many genres, including jazz, classical rock, reggae, hip-hop, and electronic music. His jazz favourites include Lee Morgan and Miles Davis. He is a major fan of the Mo' Wax label (onetime home of Blackalicious, DJ Krush, DJ Shadow and Dr. Octagon). Along with other Radiohead band members, he loves singer Scott Walker,[36] Krautrock band Can, American band Sonic Youth,[37][38] and Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. Greenwood has also stated that "no guitarist inspired me more than John McGeoch" of Magazine, after seeing their reunion show.[39] Greenwood has stated that his all-time favourite piece of music is Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony, a gigantic piece for orchestra that features an ondes Martenot, an instrument he discovered as a teenager through the symphony.[40] According to one of his entries on Radiohead's blog 'Dead Air Space', Greenwood has become a dub reggae aficionado.


Greenwood has inspired many with his guitar playing and style. He is also known for his aggressive guitar playing style. Guitarists such as Russell Lissack of the English rock band Bloc Party and many others cite Greenwood as an influence. Greenwood was also ranked number 48 in Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". When Rolling Stone Magazine updated their list in November 2011, Greenwood's rank had remained at 48.

Personal life[edit]

In 1995 he married Israeli-born Sharona Katan, a visual artist whose work (credited as Shin Katan) appears on the covers of the Bodysong soundtrack as well as the There Will Be Blood soundtrack. Their first son, Tamir, was born in 2002 and the 2003 Radiohead album Hail to the Thief was dedicated to him. They also have a daughter named Omri, born in 2005, and a second son, named Zohar, who was born in February 2008.[citation needed]

He is red-green colorblind.[citation needed]

He listed his favourite video games on the band's website in 2010, including Ico, Elite and Red Dead Redemption.[41]


For the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine, Greenwood formed Venus in Furs with Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Suede's Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music's Andy Mackay and recorded covers of the Roxy Music songs "2HB", "Ladytron" and "Bitter-Sweet". Greenwood played harmonica the tracks "Platform Blues" and "Billie" on Pavement's final LP, Terror Twilight (1999), produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Greenwood appears on the track "Hiroshima" from the Frantic album.

For the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Greenwood played lead guitar in The Weird Sisters with Radiohead drummer Phil Selway, former Pulp members Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey, electronica artist Jason Buckle and Add N to (X) member Steve Claydon. They performed three tracks composed by Cocker. Along with Thom Yorke, Jonny contributed to MF DOOM's 2011 track "Retarded Fren". Greenwood played harmonica on Blind Mr. Jones's Crazy Jazz EP.


Concert works[edit]

  • 2004 - smear for 2 ondes Martenots and chamber ensemble of nine players[42]
  • 2004 - Piano for Children for piano and orchestra[43] (withdrawn)
  • 2005 - Popcorn Superhet Receiver for string orchestra[44]
  • 2007 - There Will Be Blood live film version[45]
  • 2010 - Doghouse for string trio and orchestra[46]
  • 2011 - Suite from 'Noruwei no Mori' ('Norwegian Wood') for orchestra[47]
  • 2011 - 48 Responses to Polymorphia for 48 solo strings, all doubling optional pacay bean shakers[48]
  • 2012 - Suite from 'There Will Be Blood' for string orchestra[49]
  • 2014 - Water for two flutes, upright piano, chamber organ, two tanpura & string orchestra[50]



  1. ^ Jonny Greenwood. AllMusic. Retrieved 22 June 2010.
  2. ^ "Rolling Stone's "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" Do you agree?". The Insider. Retrieved 17 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "The 50 Greatest Guitarists... Ever!". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "Top ten greatest guitarists of all time". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Axe Factor". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  6. ^ [1] Archived 27 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists: Jonny Greenwood". Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "SPIN's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time | All Time". SPIN. 3 May 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  9. ^ "6Music – The Axe Factor". BBC. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "Jonny Greenwood on Penderecki, Messiaen and the BBC Concert Orchestra". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Randall, Mac (April 1998). "The Golden Age of Radiohead". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  12. ^ Dunlevy, T'cha (13 March 2013). "Review: Le chant des Ondes". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 28 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "BBC – Radio 3 – Hear And Now – Ether Festival". BBC. 25 June 2005. 
  14. ^ Pask, Andrew (2 January 2014). "Mini Interview: Jonny Greenwood". Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
  15. ^ 'David Fricke (26 April 2012). "Radiohead Reconnect – How the most experimental band in music learned to rock again". Rolling Stone (115). 
  16. ^ "British Composer Awards 2006 – Nominations". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  17. ^ Beard, Matthew (25 November 2006). "Radiohead guitarist takes prize in Radio 3 awards". The Independent (London). Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  18. ^ Greenwood, Jonny. "Dead Air Space – Clocking on again.". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  19. ^ "Trojan Records". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  20. ^ "Jonny Greenwood to Curate Reggae Compilation". 5 January 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  21. ^ Tapley, Kris (15 October 2007). "Red Carpet District". Variety. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  22. ^ Martin, Peter (22 January 2008). "Eight is Not Enough: Jonny Greenwood's 'Blood' Score DQ'ed". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  23. ^ "Best of British". 2 April 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  24. ^ "Dead Air Space". 22 June 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  25. ^ "Jonny Greenwood collaborates with Israeli singer". 17 January 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009. 
  26. ^ Carlick, Stephen (5 March 2010). "Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood Scoring Film Adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood". Retrieved 6 March 2010. 
  27. ^ Kemp, Stuart (14 February 2011). "Radiohead's Johny Greenwood to Score 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' (Berlin)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  28. ^ "Jonny Greenwood Scoring PT Anderson's The Master". Stereogum. 6 December 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  29. ^ Michaels, Sean (23 January 2012). "Jonny Greenwood reveals details of Krzysztof Penderecki collaboration". The Guardian (London). 
  30. ^ "Interview with Jonny Greenwood & Richard Tognetti". YouTube. 12 October 2014. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Source". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  37. ^ "Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service: Colin Greenwood, Jonny Greenwood and Adam Buxton sit in". BBC 6 Music. BBC. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  38. ^ "Sonic Youth Dirty T Shirt". nostalgeec. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  39. ^ "Dead Air Space". 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2015-05-31. 
  40. ^ "Jonny Greenwood". Retrieved 22 March 2009. 
  41. ^ "Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood lists his current top 10 video games, cherishes ICO". The Independent (London). 4 June 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2012. While the list stretches all the way back to 1984 with the enormously influential Elite, there's also room for May 2010's Red Dead Redemption. Though ICO may be the all-time favorite, it's certainly Red Dead that's now taking up day-to-day gaming time. 
  42. ^ "smear". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  43. ^ "'I'm going to drive everyone slightly crazy'". theguardian. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  44. ^ "Popcorn Superhet Receiver". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  45. ^ "There Will Be Blood (live film version)". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  46. ^ "Doghouse". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  47. ^ "Suite from Norwegian Wood". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  48. ^ "48 Responses to Polymorphia". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  49. ^ "Suite from 'There Will Be Blood'". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  50. ^ "Water". Faber Music. Faber Music. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 

External links[edit]