Sound Check

An Interview with One of Radiohead's Drummers, Clive Deamer

Sound Check

Dana Distortion

CLIVE DEAMER “No” to the cake trolley.

Radiohead aren't even making music at this point; they aren't playing songs. In the spring of 2012, Radiohead are hoisting grand canopies of sound into the air—pantheons of frequency and waves. Thom Yorke, at the core, has become a messianic troubadour, an orator-mandala. He's not here or now—he's elsewhere, enveloped in the natal mass of another dimension. A plain of pendulums, pathos, and saints, with the marrow of his skull's sounding chamber forming a poised voice for the ages.

Radiohead, however, are not just one man. For 27 years and eight full-lengths (with over 30 million copies sold worldwide), Yorke, Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Ed O'Brien, and Phil Selway have chiseled themselves into a consummate unit. Onstage the arrangements become soaring vehicles, cathedrals of velocity. Radiohead shows are a participation in that free fall. Speakers emit doctrine, and between Yorke's lines rise great spaces in time.

There is a newcomer in the ranks. He is Clive Deamer, who also wields sticks for Portishead. His drumming is scrupulous and aware, taking on the beats that would otherwise be played by drum machine. Together, he and Selway double the percussed engine of Radiohead's hoisting. Their two bald heads gleam in tandem like radar dishes, arms pulling the syncopated levers of a clockwork canopy. Deamer spoke via cell, bypassing several radar satellites.

How did Radiohead decide they wanted a second drummer? And how was it decided that you would be that drummer?

I think they recorded The King of Limbs and decided later how they would perform it. Which meant either using a machine or a second drummer to generate the polyrhythmic aspect. In one sense, I'm the machine.

When Radiohead asks you to play with them, that's got to be hard to turn down. "Um, oh, Radiohead? Let me see if I can work you into my schedule..." Are there scheduling conflicts with Portishead?

I was actually planning world domination with my jazz rock band Get the Blessing with bassist Jim Barr from Portishead. We'd just finished a new album called OC DC. Portishead then asked me to go on tour, and suddenly Philip [Selway] phoned, asking if I'd get involved with Radiohead. So I did have a few schedule challenges. I was lucky because Portishead cooperated generously with Radiohead to combine the two projects.

Did Radiohead give you parameters or guidelines for drumming for them?

Not really. Philip and I quickly agreed it shouldn't become a macho double-drummer battle. There's enough of that rubbish on YouTube.

How is it playing with them so far? Besides macho? How would you describe it? Is it like flying? It has to be like flying, right? Or free-falling, in an aerodynamic cathedral?

It's amazing playing with them, and fun. They let me do my thing. I do my utmost to make my contribution relevant. We get along very well on- and offstage. They even put up with my endless anecdotes about Robert Plant. [Laughs] As for flying, I'll leave that to your psychotherapist.

What would you say is the trickiest part of playing with a band like Radiohead?

Learning to say no to the cake trolley.

What has surprised you the most?

That after 38 years playing drums, people like you want to interview me. [Laughs]

Radiohead is one of the few bands on earth right now where the shows are truly experiences, dumb as that sounds. People are so into the music, and the music is so heightened, and lucid, and multi-leveled. It's a holy thing. What's that like? Does it ever get old? Are there ever moments where you're like, "Oh my God, Thom Yorke is Mozart"?

It's true that there is something very moving when a large body of people come together with such heartfelt love of music, and when the music is this good it's impossible to not be moved by all those happy-spirited faces. However, Thom's always shaking his ass around the stage, so I soon remember where I am. I doubt Mozart did that, and Thom doesn't read music, so does that answer your question?

Who was it that called Radiohead freak monkeys?

That would be members of The Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside the gig in Kansas City. Yes, they described Radiohead as "freak monkeys with mediocre tunes." Assuming the statement was aimed at me, too, I have no problem being called a freak monkey. I suspect I have the greater chance of evolving. I've also heard their music, and it's as sour as their negative outlook.

I like "freak monkey" as a description. What are you and the Radioheads listening to on tour?

On tour I've been listening to Santigold's Creator, Rye Rye and M.I.A.'s "Bang," Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor." I had fun in KC playing the chaps some of my fave R&B and jazz clips on YouTube: Les McCann and Eddie Harris's "Compared to What" live in 1969; Aretha Franklin's "Don't Play that Song (You Lied)" from the Cliff Richard show in 1970; Big Joe Turner with the Hampton Hawes All-Stars. Thom and I discovered our mutual love for Howlin' Wolf—a no brainier, obviously!

What do you think about while you're playing? Give me a snapshot of your drumming brain while at work. There's the magnitude and experience of all that is Radiohead—that sonic temple that the sound builds, that's put out there. Where the songs elongate and fold into worlds. What runs through your mind as one of the engines that's hammering down the nuts and bolts of the grand canopy? Do you ever think about the book you are reading? Or the glass of orange juice you had for breakfast? Have you ever read H. G. Wells's The Time Machine? I imagine that while you're playing, in the throes of the Radiohead elongation, your mind might wander to the subterranean world of Wells's Morlocks. Or to that glass of orange juice you had for breakfast. But while you're playing, the glass turns into the Mediterranean Sea, made of orange juice, and you're piloting an ancient Greek trireme warship there. Please tell me this happens.

The contents of my mind come out best through a drum kit, not the spoken or written word. recommended


Comments (23) RSS

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Thom Yorke doesn't read music. Well. I guess that scratches needing to read music off the list of things that need to be in place in order to make incredible music.
Posted by Feliche Andres on April 5, 2012 at 10:53 AM · Report this
what the hell kind of interview is this? some of the worst questions asked - you could have done an ounce of research pre-interview and had yourself a much more quality experience. I'm sorry, but is clive an official member of radiohead yet? that would have been great to find out. instead, you brown nosed radiohead a bit too much, to a guy who may or may not be an official member of radiohead, and clearly weirded him the hell out.
Posted by comeback kid on April 5, 2012 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Trent Moorman 3
Comeback Kid, where do I say he's an official member? Let me answer that for you - nowhere. I don't say he's an official member, because he's not an official member. He's drumming with Radiohead, that's what I said. A newcomer in the ranks? Does that make him official member? No.

When I refer to the members of Radiohead, I don't list Deamer. But you didn't seem to notice that. You seem to just be interested in being pissed off.

Thanks for reading it though. Sorry you didn't like the questions.
Posted by Trent Moorman on April 5, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
Enjoyed the juicy lead-in prose - nicely done!
Posted by flotzam on April 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
@Trent, comeback kid never said you said he was an official member. He was instead saying that you should have asked if Clive was an official member or just for the tour. And yes this interview is atrocious. You might as well have asked if he gets a hard on at the sight of Thom Yorke.
Posted by TheGloaming on April 5, 2012 at 1:35 PM · Report this
Trent Moorman 6
5, noted. Great suggestion. Next time.

I didn't feel the need to ask him if he's an official member of the band, because he's not an official member of the band. At least not at this point. I did ask him what was next, if he would continue to play with Radiohead, and possibly be a part of any forthcoming recording. But he declined to comment on that.

Clive and I have communicated several times since this interview. He's been extremely nice. I'm very much looking forward to the show.
Posted by Trent Moorman on April 5, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Grant Brissey, Emeritus 7
A lot of people give Trent a lot of shit about his interview approach. Thing is, he was granted this interview due to how much people liked his interview with Portishead, and he busted his ass to get it. If you don't like it, go read a million other interviews with someone from Radiohead, interviews conducted by publications who have way more money and way better connections than us, then get bored, and then ask yourself if it was really that great. Better yet, go start your own site and conduct better interviews. Good luck with that. I promoted Trent into print because he gets all this. He's still a pain in the ass half the time, but I can't wait to read his column every week. Still, I love you all.
Posted by Grant Brissey, Emeritus on April 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
freesandbags 8
Trent is better than most of you. Eat it haters. Nice job. Good questions.
Posted by freesandbags on April 5, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
Congrats on the success you've had in being in a position the interview Portishead, Clive, etc. But you do come off as a bit brash, amateur, fanboyish... which is breaking many rules of interviewing 101. But, then again, I guess there's a reason you're where you are and I'm where I am. Glad to hear a bit from Clive's perspective, even if he was a bit weirded out by the experience. Thanks for the interview
Posted by Nickismyname on April 5, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
I found this interview to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. It's absolutely refreshing to read something different, where the subject is pressed by an abnormal question. I like it because it isn't borish music writing 101. I also could care less if he's an official member or not. The man is playing with Radiohead, and Moorman is talking to him about it. In the process, he has some fun with it. What, did you want him to write a manifesto? The people who have a problem with this interview need to freshen up on their sense of humor. There is this thing called humor. Don't be such a drag. .
Posted by Overseas Reader Jake on April 6, 2012 at 1:53 AM · Report this
sevendaughters 11
I enjoyed this interview. He also looks like a lecturer I had whose surname is Deamer, I wonder if they are related.
Posted by sevendaughters on April 6, 2012 at 4:28 AM · Report this
reminds me of that Chris Farley SNL skit.....
"Remember when you were playing drums on that Radiohead tune?".........."that was awesome."
Posted by Jack DeJohnette on April 6, 2012 at 11:05 AM · Report this
@7 "Better yet, go start your own site and conduct better interviews."

Like you had ANYTHING AT ALL to do with starting the Stranger...hahaha!!
Posted by FfidRat on April 6, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
Really enjoyed reading this interview! On a side note, try not to get to Dennis Miller on that last paragraph of a metaphor/question. Otherwise, good shit!
Posted by flossyfacio on April 7, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Really. Who cares if he's an official member or not. If you read this and are getting worked up over whether or not he is an "official member" or not, you need to take yourself out into the woods and never come back.
Posted by because you are failing at life on April 7, 2012 at 5:13 PM · Report this
I really enjoyed this interview- it's great to read one that is outside the box. There are plenty interviews out there done by reporters that ask the same lame questions and obviously don't know or care too much about the subject. Thanks for doing something interesting.
Posted by EmilyJane on April 8, 2012 at 7:05 AM · Report this
It was very nice of the bemused Mr Deamer to answer your questions and not make fun of you. (that's the impression I take from this transcription, anyway...)
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
Posted by Nitidiuscula on April 9, 2012 at 10:51 AM · Report this
Seriously, who cares if he's an "official" member("you said member, mmheh heh heh"). They ain't the fuggin Allman Bros. with bookend dual drummers as a trademark, so who knows what the lineup will be a year from now... Trent M is a drummer too right? So he's the logical choice to interview the drummer who just got his dream gig. Flourishes, flaws and all, it was an entertaining interview that makes me want to go work the Radiohead show just to check out the new bloke/new arrangements.

But I have to admit, it almost seemed at the end that Clive D was good-naturedly telling Moorman to "knock it off with the peyote masturbation verbiage already, 'right mate?"

Mr. Yorke and mates do great stuff, but Mozart my ass. What rock stars can you name besides Zappa & the Mothers who can read/ transcribe everything they play onstage?? But yeah, Amadeus was well-known for shakin that ass at high society balls, and the events were never small: the duchesses and countesses say he had the biggest balls of all...
Posted by Sheikh Yerbouti on April 9, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this
I like the humor Moorman uses. I was interested to find out what Deamer thinks about when he plays. Too bad he chose to be a stiff. This is a much more entertaining that some stuffy interview where the questions have all been asked a million times.
Posted by Does anybody remember laughter? on April 9, 2012 at 5:16 PM · Report this
Heh. Radiohead interview. Too bad they're only playing one show and that fucking scalper shitbags managed to buy out all the tickets within 30 seconds of them going on sale. ONe thing I miss about the east coast: Prosecuting scalpers.
Posted by Xrock on April 9, 2012 at 11:47 PM · Report this
I'm a big Radiohead fan but your gushing over the band in that interview was kind of odd. I don't necessarily disagree with your overall sentiment but many parts were just overly descriptive and dramatic. I think good writing gets the poInt across in just a few carefully worded statements, right?
Posted by DKmusic on November 20, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
Masi 22

I disagree with you about what good writing is. I enjoyed reading this, and thought it was good writing.

Have you ever seen Radiohead live?

"hoisting grand canopies of sound into the air—pantheons of frequency and waves. Yorke a messianic troubadour, an orator-mandala. Elsewhere enveloped in the natal mass of another dimension. Pendulums, pathos, and saints, with the marrow of his skull's sounding chamber forming a poised voice for the ages."

is about right on.
Posted by Masi on December 29, 2012 at 1:55 PM · Report this
I liked this interview - it was different. It was quirky. I came to the party very late but it told me all I needed to know and it was interesting. I read it to the end which is more than I usually do with these things. Nice work. I now also know that Selway's twin is from another of my favourite bands and I'll probably like his other jazz stuff too (if you don't class Radiohead and Portishead as modern jazz) . Anyway, why aren't Get The Blessing called Blessinghead? Has Clive got a head obsession?
Posted by Buzfuz on December 4, 2013 at 1:27 PM · Report this

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