Inside Radiohead’s Visual Brain

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If you were at Bonnaroo last year, or in 2006, you were at Radiohead. You were one in a sea of thousands, submerged in kaleidoscope images and rolling waves of light and sound for sets that ran nearly two-and-a-half hours. Those legendary shows represented just part of the band’s seamless visual arsenal.

Stanley Donwood and Thom Yorke met in art school at the University of Exeter. A friendship was born that would produce some of the most recognizable images in modern music. An artist and writer, Donwood is the paintbrush behind the ubiquitous Radiohead Bear and every album cover since The Bends.

The band’s music and visuals are so intertwined that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Donwood paints each album cover while Radiohead is recording, so the mood and vision of the piece develops as the record does. When asked how much of the inspiration for each painting comes from him and how much from the music, he’s said, “When I’ve been listening to the music so long, it’s hard to tell where I end and they begin.”

Stanley Donwood’s art, much like Radiohead’s music, continues to evolve, while maintaining his distinctive signature. He was gracious enough to give us a glimpse inside his visual mind. - Teniel Humeston

 

What’s your favorite color?

Usually blue, but am very taken with fluorescent colours, too.

 

Do you remember one of the first images you associated with music?

The sign for the London Underground, because I liked a band called Tubeway Army when I was 12.

 

What do you see when you hear the word “music” now?

The arm of my record player.

 

Do you have a favorite iconic music image?

The cover of 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle.

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What’s the last thing you took a picture of?

A very wet track leading up into a rainstorm last Friday.

 

Can you describe a favorite piece of art in your home?

A strange assemblage I got from someone who lives in a truck at Glastonbury.

 

If you could own any piece of art ever created what would it be?

There are some things that Robert Rauschenberg made that I like. But I’d have nowhere to put it.

 

Donwood’s latest album art is the cover of Amok by Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace. If you could design an album cover for any band who would it be?