“They crawled up their own bums”: The album that made Butch Vig lose faith in Radiohead

Thom Yorke of Radiohead and 90s producer Butch Vig
(Image credit: Gie Knaeps/Getty Images, Chris McKay/Getty Images)

Butch Vig says that when he hears a sad song, it makes him feel alive. “Bummer songs just make me feel good,” the Garbage drummer and producer told Classic Rock. It makes sense – Vig has been there behind the mixing desk whilst some of the all-time great sad songs have been committed to tape, mournful classics such as Smashing PumpkinsDisarm and Nirvana’s Something In The Way among them. And it also explains his love for British melancholic masters Radiohead, in particular a pair of albums that the Oxford rockers released in the mid-90s.

“I am such a huge Radiohead fan,” Vig told Classic Rock. “I love The Bends and I love, love, love OK Computer. The songwriting on The Bends is genius.” Despite that though, or maybe because of it, Vig admitted that he was disappointed by Thom Yorke & co.’s next move. “I was not a big fan of Kid A. It didn’t connect with me. When I heard Kid A, I was like: “Oh, okay, they’ve crawled up their own bums now, they’re just getting artsy fartsy.”

Kid A famously saw Radiohead veer away from the anthemic art-rock of The Bends and OK Computer and into more experimental territory, the instrumentation taking in electronics, beats and ambient detours. Whilst critics weren’t sure at the time, it’s gone to be regarded as one of the band’s most influential albums. But Vig doesn’t agree, although it’s good to discover he says “bum” instead of “arse”; he must have been raised well.

His dislike of Kid A hasn’t totally eroded his Radiohead appreciation, though. “I still have immense respect for them,” he said. “They’re an incredible band, but I thought they kinda lost the plot with that one. But I still love Radiohead. The last time they played here in Los Angeles I went and saw them and they blew my mind.

Radiohead weren’t the only British group he was enjoying in the 90s – he also loved The Verve’s huge singalong Bittersweet Symphony. “I love that song, with the strings swelling and it kicks into that groove. I love Richard Ashcroft’s lyrics. I played that song at my wedding. I love it so much.”



Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.