We might know him best as the leader of Radiohead and the mastermind behind varying (but always excellent projects) such as Atoms for Peace, The Eraser and – most recently – new band The Smile, but Thom Yorke is also a maestro when it comes to reworking other artists’ output.
Yorke’s work as a remixer is limited – with only a handful of efforts out there, although we’d guess he has far more up his sleeve – but, on each, he opens up a portal to another side of the track he’s transforming, whether that’s adding deeper meaning to the original’s message or shifting the mood entirely. Here are some of his best remixes so far.
Creep (Very 2021 Rmx)By Radiohead
It’s no secret that Yorke has had a complicated relationship with Creep – Radiohead’s most successful single to date. They refused to play it for years and the frontman told Vox in 1995 that people had “defined our emotional range with that one song”. Perhaps this new, nine-minute reworking of the classic track was his way of making peace with the hit while transforming it into something fresh.
Dubbed the Very 2021 Rmx, Yorke slows the whole track down to a lethargic and listless lurch. The remix would have been the perfect soundtrack to those moments of lockdown where you felt as if you’d melted into your sofa, and summoning the energy to get up was as close to a workout as you’d get for a month. The original version of Creep might have been a hit on alternative radio, but this unsettling and discordant new take rips it out of that world and into much spookier territory, with off-key synths smothering its guitars and Yorke’s drawl.
Gazzillion Ear (Thom Yorke Man on Fire Remix)By MF DOOM
Yorke’s relationship with Gazzillion Ear goes back 12 years, when he first remixed the track as a bonus offering on the late MF DOOM’s Born Like This album. In 2016, the Radiohead star started teasing another version, dropping it in the mix when he co-hosted a show on BBC Radio 1 with Benji B.
Finally, the Thom Yorke Man on Fire Remix officially saw the light of day last month. It opens with glitchy, needling and whirring sounds under DOOM’s bars before slowly reintroducing the smooth funk groove that drives forward the original. It’s not the easiest listen, but it does bring the song into a new space – one that feels like it belongs in a retro-futuristic horror movie, its beeps and bloops crafting a shadowy sci-fi realm.
Isolation Theme (Thom Yorke Remix)By Clark
If this remix by Yorke also sounds like it belongs in a horror movie then, well, that’s because it does. The musician contributed this rework to the soundtrack of the 2019 psychological horror Daniel Isn’t Real, in which Patrick Schwarzenegger plays a supernatural entity who can take over people’s consciousness and make them commit terrible acts.
“I took Clark’s score of Isolation Theme and simply made it feel like the moment we were entering; being told to stay indoors, entering a new type of silence,” Yorke said of his spin on Isolation Theme at the time. “I guess I simplified it in a way, into waveforms that were being disrupted. I was surprised how frightening it became.” Frightening is exactly the word for it – Clark’s already unnerving score of strings being twisted into something that puts you right on edge via Yorke’s synths and blasts of noise.
Proud Evolution (Thom Yorke 500qd Remix)By Liars
Liars’ Angus Andrew wrote the original version of Proud Evolution – which features on the band’s fifth album Sisterworld – about the conflicting feelings of US society advancing and developing while noticing marginalised communities being left behind. On the 500qd Rmx, Yorke leans into the unease that comes with that realisation, stripping away the Australian-American rock band’s layers and lifting Andrew’s solemn vocals above a series of minimal but melancholy loops. When the frontman’s voice starts to glitch out, as if your WiFi’s breaking up, towards the end, it brings the feeling of disconnect even more sharply into focus.
Jump Up (Thom Yorke Remix)By Major Lazer
Major Lazer probably aren’t the first act you would expect Yorke to collaborate with. Diplo’s EDM troupe are renowned party-starters with a flair for flamboyancy, fun and free-spiritedness. None of the Radiohead man’s projects really fit that bill, with Yorke opting to take more alternative, intricate avenues instead. Yet back in 2009, the two artists teamed up, with Yorke remaking the track Jump Up, lifted from Major Lazer’s debut full-length album Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do.
Sure, it’s a little jarring to hear guests Leftside and Supahype barking lines like “Ladies let’s get naughty” and the chorus command of “Jump up, jump up, jump up yeah/ Bare vibes, thumbs up everybody” over Yorke’s claustrophobic bed of synths and electronics. In a move much more expected of him, he adds a beautifully pensive side to the track, one that clashes with Major Lazer’s party spirit in a way that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. Can we get a Yorke-ified remix of Lean On next, please?
Pyramids (Atoms for Peace Remix)By Four Tet
Occasionally, Yorke also drops remixes under his Atoms for Peace guise – the supergroup featuring Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Beck’s drummer Joey Waronker and David Byrne’s percussionist Mauro Refosco. This Four Tet reworking from 2013 is one example of that: Yorke and his crew taking on the Pink album track.
Yorke takes his friend and prior collaborator Kieran Hebden’s original work and subtly remoulds it, twisting the digitised vocals to make an addictive new framework. As the remix progresses so new layers build, from a reverberating synth melody line to spectral bursts of backing vocals from Yorke himself. As Hebden himself tweeted upon the track’s release: “It’s so fucking good.”
Tamer Animals (Atoms for Peace Remix)By Other Lives
Over the decades of his illustrious career, Yorke has carved out a space for himself as someone who does whatever he wants, expectations of what modern musicians should be doing be damned. (Let’s not forget which band revolutionised the way we consume digital music with their pay-what-you-like release of In Rainbows, or “the world’s first newspaper album” that was The King of Limbs.)
When Atoms for Peace first launched in 2012, they did so not through the traditional route of a standard single, but with a remix release. The B-side was a remixed version of a song no one had ever heard before – the band’s own Other Side. But on the A-side was this take on Tamer Animals by Oklahoma indie-rock band Other Lives. The original is a piece of gloomy, piano-led indie in the vein of The National, but Atoms for Peace strip away all but singer Jesse Tabish’s vocals and the atmosphere the band created. Instead, they add in eerie voices that weave between a creeping synth melody and shuffling beats that combine to make it feel like you’re tiptoeing through a haunted house. Spooky but stunning stuff.