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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Have you noticed music TV now plays more so-called reality shows than music? Well, Nigel Godrich has noticed. He's the award-winning producer behind big names like Radiohead and Travis, and he wants to save the music video from a commercial death. To do that he's created a show called "From the Basement." But you won't find it on the telly.

Nigel Godrich joins us from his studio in London, where he's currently at work on the new Radiohead album.

Mr. Godrich, thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. NIGEL GODRICH (Music Producer): Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

SIMON: And what's different about these music videos from the ones that people remember in the good old days?

Mr. GODRICH: These are more akin to promotional videos from before that, maybe from the '70s, just in terms of their simplicity, really. There was a show called "The Old Grey Whistle Test" that was on the BBC in the early '70s, which was really a real music show for music lovers. It wasn't like a populist type affair. But it was very much - it was very simple, just purely because their resources were very limited. But somehow it has created the archive for that period. And whenever any artist from that period is shown it on television, certainly in the U.K., anyway, they always use the footage from that show, because it just was so definitive, you know.

And that's the kind of thing I feel is missing these days from the whole kind of boom of MTV and the youth television that's spawned from it. It's no longer so much about music and performance. It's just more about trying to jerk your audience into watching and kind of occupy their brains with as much information as possible; it's not the actual music itself.

(Soundbite of song, "Videotape")

Mr. THOM YORKE (Singer): (Singing) When I'm at the Pearly Gates, this'll be on my videotape, my videotape...

SIMON: This is Thom Yorke from that first episode, and this is his song "Videotape."

Mr. GODRICH: Yes, that's right.

SIMON: It's available essentially on the Web for download.

Mr. GODRICH: At the moment, yeah.

SIMON: And it's just musicians playing.

Mr. GODRICH: Exactly. (Unintelligible) the idea is to put as little obstacle in the way of performances as possible. I mean really the point is it's favorable to the artist, basically. They can play what they want. The emphasis is getting the sound right, and just to make sure they're happy with what they did. Usually, when artists go into do a TV shows - whether they're chat shows or specific music shows - they don't enjoy it because it's always a very - it's a stressful experience. You never really feel like you get given enough time to do what you want to do.

(Soundbite of song, "Videotape")

SIMON: This song itself that we heard, "Videotape," may I ask, since I gather you're producing the new album, is that going to be on the new Radiohead album?

Mr. GODRICH: Well, I mean it's a song that exists and is being worked on. Whether it ends up on the record or not, I'm not sure.

SIMON: Will reaction to this song that you get from people who download it and watch it on your Web site help inform your decision as to whether or not its included on the album?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GODRICH: Actually, no. Because the truth is they've been on tour and played that song already. I think that the song itself, the track will go or not go on the record on its own merits, you know, and as all of the work is still in progress.

SIMON: So it may or may not be directly promotional?

Mr. GODRICH: It's not really promotional because it's not promoting anything that exists except the show itself, you know. I mean the idea is not for it to be a part of a promotional circuit. I mean I'm a music lover and this is not a business enterprise. You know, it really is just a labor of love between myself and the other people involved. This isn't going to make anybody rich, I don't think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GODRICH: It's quite - it's expensive to do, but it's just - you get to a point in your career when you're looking for reasons to go forward. And if you see something that you feel needs to be championed, then you - you know, that's the provider for making me go and try and figure out a way of doing it.

SIMON: You mentioned that it's expensive to do. Do stars donate their time for one reason or another? Or do you have to pay them market rate, which could be huge?

Mr. GODRICH: No, you don't pay the artists. It's expensive. The production costs are expensive. The thing that's in it for the artist is purely just the chance to document something. I mean, like I say, The White Stripes, they didn't need to promote their album. You could say it promotes the album, I suppose. But actually it's what I would like to see if I turned on the TV, if I turned on MTV, or even, you know, just regular TV.

(Soundbite of song, "As Ugly As I Seem")

SIMON: This is Meg White and Jack White. Jack White, acoustic guitar, and Meg White is playing the percussion, bongos.

Mr. GODRICH: Bongos, yes.

SIMON: This is their song, "Ugly as I Seem."

(Soundbite of song, "As Ugly As I Seem")

THE WHITE STRIPES: (Singing) And it makes me want to scream when it's Halloween and the kids are all laughing at me. The rogue is a bank he's never broke, but worth as much as a joke that no one is laughing at...

SIMON: I don't mean to take advantage of your personal knowledge, but refresh my recollection. Are they brother and sister, or are they married, or are they divorced?

Mr. GODRICH: I think there's an air of...

SIMON: They've been all three, haven't they?

Mr. GODRICH: You're not supposed to know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Right, okay. I was hoping...

Mr. GODRICH: There's ambiguity in the formula.

SIMON: I was hoping you'd spill the beans, but...

Mr. GODRICH: Nah. I know, but I would hate to ruin somebody's lunch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Does your program give The White Stripes, for example, a chance to do something they don't often get a chance to do?

Mr. GODRICH: I hope so. I mean that's really the point, is that they - it's gives them a chance to play some songs that they want to play. I mean it's funny, the two things that you've played so far are pretty mellow. They're both kind of acoustic stuff. But they did an incredibly rocking version of a Captain Beefheart song.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GODRICH: That's (unintelligible) these things gain value, in the fact that they are, they have some archive quality about - it shows these people, you know, interacting and just doing their thing, and it's really magical. You know, that part, that element of it is really magical. So that was also one of the original things that kicked off the idea.

SIMON: But at the end of even two years, you will have a pretty impressive archives of some of the foremost musical stars.

Mr. GODRICH: If we manage to keep it up for two years then, yes. And that would be great.

SIMON: Who would like to see next? Can you tell us?

Mr. GODRICH: Well, a lot of people. But I'm reluctant to say because we've - obviously we've asked and I don't want to put any pressure on some people who may be deciding at this moment whether to do it or not.

SIMON: Mr. Godrich, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Mr. GODRICH: Thank you very much, indeed.

SIMON: Producer Nigel Godrich in London. He's creator of the Web program, "From the Basement."

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: More talk, less music. You can find a link to "From the Basement" at npr.org.

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