Radiohead is probably the latest great band in the big bold letters of rock history. We’re not referring to sales figures nor the thousands of fans that their tours draw, but that we back our assertion of the incredible influence they wielded in the music world after giving birth to the ‘98 album called OK Computer. With this record they seem to mark the path for the rest of the planet of alternative rock and we still live off their last breath 20 years later.
Perhaps the most responsible for that sound the whole world wanted to copy was by Mr. Jonny Greenwood, the only member of Radiohead with formal music training, and especially, that had an inquisitiveness about sound that he pushed all the time to find new textures for the band’s material. Actually, a high percentage of the bands we listen to are close to the indie or pop-rock sounds, almost exactly what this guy already invented 20 years ago, and as those of you who regularly follow this section will know, for us this is a major feat.
To get closer to Greenwood’s sound, let’s start by looking at his guitars. Probably the guitar most used throughout his career has been the Fender Telecaster Plus, a model we’ve seen for ages. In truth, it hasn’t always been the same guitar but we can vouch for the humbucker fittings on the bridge and a single pickup on the neck is his favourite.
Another favourite guitar of Jonny’s and likely the most characteristic of him, is the Fender Starcaster, a precious guitar Fender put to market in the mid-70s that has 2 humbuckers in the semi-hollow body. It’s pretty common to see him using this guitar on the less ferocious songs from the set list.
When it comes to amps, as a good son of the British Isles, it was normal to see him in the early days with the legendary Vox AC30 but we don’t want to not emphasize the piece used on songs that need heavy saturation: the Fender 85. It’s funny to see how a bloke like Greenwood, whose obsession for sound manifests itself, reaching for amplifiers that haven’t had any fame at all...until he used one like this and has been revalued forever.
Finally let’s talk about his pedalboard. Take note that although we talk about guitars, amps, and pedals, we have only covered a small percentage of the sound spectrum of Jonny Greenwood. Remember, he also plays synthesizers and keyboards, and he especially uses many self-programed onstage, so not only can we get closer to the analogue part of his sound, but look what we’ve found on his pedalboard: the Whammy by Digitech that’s been with him for decades, the Demeter TRM-1 as wave/flutter or the Boss FV, a volume pedal you can make out in the many live images out there. On top of that, other classics like the Marshall Shredmaster, the Boss SD-1, or the Small Stone by Electro Harmonix to mention a few of the pedals we know he has had underfoot.
All of this gear, his talent, a legendary band, and a ton of already unforgettable songs make Jonny Greenwood one of the youngest ‘guitar heroes’ and don’t come away thinking that we sin by being indies; the thing about this Radiohead guitarist is that he has it all: talent, knowledge, originality, and cantankerous, all the ingredients we love.