Radiohead’s Philip Selway growns into his own as a solo artiste.
Comfort may be pleasant, but it’s no state to make music.
Speaking about his newly released album Weatherhouse, British singer-songwriter Philip Selway reveals that it was resultant from a collaboration with his touring bandmates Adem Ilhan and Katherine Man: two individuals he chose to work with after finding a comfortable chemistry with.
“Comfort provides a good basis, but that can’t be the only element to it because then you’d make comfortable music. There has to be something more… sparks in the musical dialogue,” describes Selway in a recent phone interview from London.
“And I have that with Adem and Quinta (Man’s stage name),” he adds.
After touring with the two to promote his debut album Familial (2010), Selway saw something interesting in the touring band’s chemistry which allowed him to knock into shape half-written songs he had his head for the last few years.
“Between the three of us, we opened up a variety of moods and textures on the record, plus we covered a lot of instruments between us. We also recorded in Radiohead’s Oxfordshire studio, so we got all the gear there that had been collected over the years,” says Selway, 47.
It was no coincidence that Selway’s solo debut was recorded in the legendary alternative rock band’s studio. While Weatherhouse is Selway’s sophomore effort, he is better known as Radiohead’s drummer. And he was back in the same studio to lock down the 10 tunes on this new album.
Selway admits being associated with his primary band is a mixed bag of blessings and criticisms.
Considering Radiohead’s long history, the fact its album OK Computer is a staple of every “best-of-the-1990s” music list, and the band was on US music magazine Rolling Stones’ list of greatest artistes of all time, Selway is famous by association. Unfortunately, this has led cynics to question if Selway was riding on Radiohead’s name or a musician in his own right.
“The positives definitely outweight the negatives,” says Selway, then pauses as he struggles to carefully compose the next half of the answer over the phone.
“It’s been a good place to start, as a solo artiste coming from that context, I’ve been able grow a lot.”
“Sure Radiohead is a big part of what I do, but I do feel there’s a distinct flavour to my work,” he explains, adding that as an artiste, one should strive for a sense of development and progression.
Building on his soft spoken singer-songwriter style in Weatherhouse, Selway explores the nature of relationships and the innate awkwardness in them.
“I wanted to write lyrics that got to the heart of that, which were pithy and emotionally resonant,” says Selway.
Most of Weatherhouse was written while Radiohead took a one-year break in 2013. Selway was not the only one to embark on solo adventures. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood went classical and joined the BBC Concert Orchestra, while the band’s enigmatic frontman Thom Yorke radically released his own sophomore solo, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, via peer-to-peer sharing site BitTorrent lastmonth instead of going through a label.
In a slight understatement, Selway notes that Radiohead and its fans tended to be open-minded people musically.
He reveals that the Weatherhouse album’s title came from the lyrics to the first single he wrote for the album (It Will End In Tears).
“The record for me has a lot of different kinds of ‘emotional weather’, and it felt like a strong image to have at the core of it,” he explains, adding that it was in part also inspired by the image of a weather house created by the album cover’s artist (Ted Dewan).
He assures that the music would definitely not be angsty, saying the record was meant to play on a positive note like with the second single released from it, Coming Up For Air.
Like his first album, Weatherhouse is a concise album, clocking in at 10 tracks with a running time just under 40 minutes. Both albums are released by the Bella Union label in Britain.
“I’ve not got the greatest attentions span, so (the album) feels like the ideal length to me. You have a lot of ground in that time and if the record is good enough, it’ll keep your attention to the end,” opines Selway.
He admits though that no matter how good a record is, his attention tends to wander after about 40 minutes. “The length is all about me and my experience listening to my own record,” jokes Selway.