Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Thom Yorke, Johnny Greenwood, and Portishead’s Clive Deamer walk into a synth shop … OK, there’s no punchline, but that’s exactly what happened to a Radiohead fan during a visit to Switched On in Austin, Texas, according to his play by play on Reddit. While in town to see Radiohead perform at the Austin City Limits festival, the fan went shopping for modular synths and soon realized that he was in the presence of the very band he came to town to see.
Despite the fact that he was wearing a Radiohead T-shirt at the time, he played it cool and described the whole encounter afterward on Radiohead’s sub-reddit:
As I’m working on a patch on their demo wall, I look over my fiancé’s shoulder and see what appears to be Johnny Greenwood jamming on an old ARP. I stand up, draw my fiancé toward me and say “that’s Johnny Greenwood.” As that sets in, I hear the stool I had been sitting on roll up to the case of modules. I turn around, and there’s Thom Yorke, sitting six inches from me and messing around with a couple of modules.
I turn back around to my now-understanding fiancé and say (safely muffled by the numerous sick jams going on all around us), “and that’s Thom Yorke right behind me.”
As I’m saying that, I notice Clive Deamer, Portishead’s drummer that’s currently touring with them, checking out an old Korg.
I also notice I’m wearing my Radiohead shirt.
We stay for a while and listen to the store clerk and Thom talk, playing it cool and just trying to soak up this incredible interaction. Thom walks away and I sit back down to keep testing modules. I was determined not to make this a fan moment, because I knew the most valuable thing I could give him was a normal moment in a synth shop.
I say under my breath to the clerk “this is crazy,” and he just grins.
As I’m patching, I hear “what’s that there?” from over my shoulder, and there Thom is, checking out what I was doing. We talked and patched for about an hour, joking about how esoteric and complicated some synth modules are. He was super interested in the Mutable Instruments Braids. I showed him a couple of my favorites and he said, “see, anything with a grid like that immediately gives me a headache. I’m just a singer, so I can do vocal effects and oscillators, but some of this is too much.”
We looked at a very small dual sampler and he commented “see this is much too small; this one here is the sampler for people with really good glasses.”
It was all like a dream. We jammed a little more. He was at least remotely interested in the music I was making. He bought an Intellijel Metropolis sequencer, and they loaded up Johnny’s sequential circuits prophet into the back of a cab and left. I waved at them and they waved back.
That’s about it. I feel like I’m both here and not here. It was really beautiful and validating seeing my absolute hero geeking out over the same convoluted hobby that I do. We didn’t discuss who they were, we didn’t discuss the show, and we didn’t discuss how I was about to pass out from joy.
I didn’t get a picture, since I’ve heard he’s not crazy about them, but I thought if any community would appreciate this story it would be you, /r/Radiohead.
Side note: I bought some modules we both were using that he left behind, so I finally own some music gear used by Radiohead.
Kudos to the fan for acting like it was no big deal and to Yorke, who seems to have been well aware he’d been recognized: “He had his incredible smirk the whole time. I think he knew.”