Ed O'Brien

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Ed O'Brien
Ed O'brien 2017.jpeg
Ed O'Brien performing with Radiohead in Glasgow, 2017
Background information
Birth nameEdward John O'Brien
Also known asEOB
Born (1968-04-15) 15 April 1968 (age 53)
Oxford, England
Genres Alternative rock, experimental rock, electronic
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1985–present
Labels XL, TBD, Capitol
Associated acts Radiohead, 7 Worlds Collide

Edward John O'Brien (born 15 April 1968) is an English guitarist and member of the rock band Radiohead. O'Brien attended Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, England, where he met the other members of Radiohead.

Contents

While Jonny Greenwood plays most of Radiohead's lead guitar parts, O'Brien often creates ambient sounds and textures, using effects, sustain units and the EBow. In 2010, Rolling Stone named O'Brien the 59th greatest guitarist of all time. He also provides backing vocals. Along with the other members of Radiohead, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.

O'Brien's first solo album, Earth , was released in 2020, under the name EOB. O'Brien had been writing songs for years, but lacked confidence and felt they had a "distinct energy" that would be lost with Radiohead. He began a North American tour in February 2020; a larger tour was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early life

As a child, O'Brien enjoyed cricket and theatre. His parents split when he was 10; O'Brien said "I think that's when music became my refuge". [1] He grew up listening to post-punk acts such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, the Police and David Bowie. He said: "It was a very foetal [time] for music because people who went to art college or artists, or musicians, suddenly thought, 'Oh, I can be that'." [2]

The members of Radiohead met while attending Abingdon School, an independent school for boys in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. [3] While O'Brien was playing Lysander in a school production of A Midsummer Night's Dream , he met future Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, who was scoring the production. [1] Yorke asked him to join him for a jam. According to O'Brien, "Before that, [life] was a bit confusing, a bit crap. And then suddenly ... I felt something very strong, almost like some kind of epiphany, almost like: 'This is it.'" [4]

O'Brien, along with drummer Philip Selway, was in the year above Yorke and bassist Colin Greenwood, and three years above Colin's brother, multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood. [5] In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to the band's usual rehearsal day in the school's music room. [5] The band continued to rehearse during holidays while the members attended university; [6] O'Brien studied at the University of Manchester. [7]

Career

Radiohead

In 1991, On a Friday signed a record contract with EMI and changed their name to Radiohead. [8] They found early success with their 1992 single "Creep". [9] Their third album, OK Computer (1997), brought them international fame and is often acclaimed as one of the best albums of all time. [10] [11] OK Computer saw O'Brien use less distortion and more delay and other effects, creating a sound that was, in his words, "more about textures". [12]

O'Brien became depressed during the extensive OK Computer tour, but focused on supporting Yorke. [13] After the tour, he returned to Oxford and fell further into depression. He said: "I was single, on my own … I was the lowest I've ever been. It was the irony as well – you're at the top, that old cliché. Did loads of drugs [and] went full on into all the wrong things." [13]

Radiohead's next albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), marked a dramatic change in sound, incorporating influences from electronic music, classical music, jazz and krautrock. [14] O'Brien initially struggled with the band's change in direction, saying: "It's scary – everyone feels insecure. I'm a guitarist and suddenly it's like, well, there are no guitars on this track, or no drums." [15] At the suggestion of Michael Brook, creator of the Infinite Guitar, O'Brien began using sustain units, which allow guitar notes to be sustained infinitely. He combined these with looping and delay effects to create synthesiser-like sounds. [16] O'Brien kept an online diary of Radiohead's progress during the recording. [17]

By 2011, Radiohead had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. [18] They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2019. [19]

Solo work

O'Brien releases solo music under the name EOB. He had written songs for years, but lacked the confidence to bring them to Radiohead [20] and felt they had a "distinct energy" that would be lost if they became a "hybrid product". [21] After making demos with producer Ian Davenport in 2014, [21] he recorded with producer Flood from late 2017 to early 2019. [20] His first solo track, the ambient composition "Santa Teresa", was released on 4 October 2019. [22]

O'Brien's debut solo album, Earth , was released on 17 April 2020 on Capitol Records [23] to positive reviews. [24] It features drummer Omar Hakim, Invisible members Nathan East and Dave Okumu, folk singer Laura Marling, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood. [25] The music was inspired by O'Brien's time living in Brazil and attending Carnival, which he described as a "musical eureka moment". [25] The first track, "Brasil", was released on 5 December 2019, [26] followed by "Shangri-La" on 6 February. [23] O'Brien began a North American tour in February 2020; [27] a larger Earth tour was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [28] O'Brien contributed a remix of Paul McCartney's song "Slidin'" to the remix album McCartney III Imagined (2021). [29]

Other work

O'Brien performing with 7 Worlds Collide, 2009 7 Worlds Collide3.jpg
O'Brien performing with 7 Worlds Collide, 2009

In 1999, O'Brien contributed to the soundtrack for the BBC drama series Eureka Street . [30] He played guitar on the 2003 Asian Dub Foundation album Enemy of the Enemy . [31] O'Brien and Selway toured and recorded with Neil Finn as part of the 7 Worlds Collide project; O'Brien provided guitar and backing vocals on their 2001 live album and the 2009 studio album The Sun Came Out . [32]

O'Brien is a founding director of the Featured Artists Coalition, a nonprofit organisation set up to protect the rights of featured musical artists, particularly in the digital age. [33] He appeared on the 16 April 2011 episode of the BBC Radio 5 Live sports programme Fighting Talk in support of Record Shop Day. [34]

O'Brien worked with Fender to design a signature model guitar, the EOB Stratocaster, which went on sale in November 2017. It features a tremolo bridge and a sustainer neck pickup. [35]

In 2013, O'Brien cofounded the Laundry, a workspace, restaurant and nightclub converted from a laundry in London Fields. [36] The following year, he and Selway signed an open letter protesting a ban on guitars in British prisons. [37] In 2019, O'Brien joined the RSPB Let Nature Sing project, which aimed to get birdsong into the UK charts to raise awareness of the decline in Britain's birdlife. [38]

In 2020, O'Brien contributed to Ear Opener, an online video course aimed at helping young people write music. [39] In November, he gave evidence to a DCMS Committee inquiry into the impact of streaming on the music industry. He said he wanted to speak for less successful artists, who he felt were "taken advantage of". [40]

Musicianship

O'Brien performing with Radiohead in 2006 Ed-obrien2006-05Radiohead.jpg
O'Brien performing with Radiohead in 2006

O'Brien said his role in Radiohead was to support songwriter Thom Yorke and "service the songs". [13] O'Brien also sings backing vocals, which Pitchfork described in 2006 as "the band's most consistent secret weapon". [41]

O'Brien's earliest guitar influence was Andy Summers of the Police, particularly his use of delay and chorus effects on "Walking on the Moon". [12] His other influences include Peter Buck of R.E.M, Paul Weller of the Jam, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, John McGeoch of Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Edge of U2. [12] O'Brien admired how these guitarists created "space" rather than playing conventional guitar solos. [2] He said: "They were great guitarists, but they weren’t lead guitarists ... My favourite guitarists know when not to play. Then you make more of it when you do play. Make it count." [12]

O'Brien usually plays Fender Stratocasters, including the Eric Clapton Stratocaster. [42] He also plays Gretsch and Rickenbacker guitars, including a twelve-string Rickenbacker. [42] While Jonny Greenwood plays most of Radiohead's lead guitar parts, O'Brien often creates ambient effects, making extensive use of effects units. [43] He said of the technique: "It's a bit like you're creating a canvas. That would be in accompaniment with Thom playing chords on the piano — you're building up a cloud of effects behind." [12] O'Brien said in 2017 that his most used effects are distortion, an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man delay, and a DigiTech Whammy pitch shifter. [12]

To create the high-pitched chiming sound that introduces "Lucky", O'Brien strums above the guitar nut. [43] He creates the reverberating pops on the introduction of "2 + 2 = 5". [43] On "Karma Police", O'Brien distorts his guitar by driving a delay effect to self-oscillation, then turning the delay rate to a low frequency, creating a "melting" effect. [44] "Treefingers" was created by processing O'Brien's guitar loops. [16] On "Dollars and Cents", O'Brien used a pitch shifter pedal to shift his guitar chords from minor to major. [45] For "All I Need", he used a sustain unit and a guitar strung with four bottom E strings, creating a thicker sound. [12] O'Brien uses the EBow, an electronic sustaining device, on his guitar to generate drones and ambient leads on songs such as "My Iron Lung", "Talk Show Host", "Jigsaw Falling Into Place", "Where I End and You Begin", and "Nude". [46]

O'Brien said of his playing: "I literally learned to play my instrument within the band, so I started off very limited — and I'm still very limited. But I've been lucky, because I've been in a band that has not required you to be a virtuoso." [42] In 2010, Rolling Stone journalist David Fricke named O'Brien the 59th greatest guitarist of all time. [43]

Personal life

O'Brien lives in London and Wales with his wife Susan Kobrin, who worked for Amnesty International. [47] [48] The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004, and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006. [49] O'Brien is a cricket fan [50] and supports Brentford F.C. [51] Around 2000, he gave up alcohol and took up meditation; he said: "[Alcohol] was fucking me up. I thought, 'I can carry on, or I can be a better person.'" [50] In 2011, he and his family moved to Brazil and lived for a year on a farm near Ubatuba. [13] In March 2020, O'Brien announced that he had contracted COVID-19 and was recovering in isolation. [52]

Solo discography

Studio album

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and certifications
TitleDetailsPeak chart positions
UK
[53]
GER
[54]
US
Sales

[55]
US
Heat

[56]
Earth
  • Released: 17 April 2020
  • Label: Capitol Records
  • Formats: LP, CD, cassette, download
1394198

Singles

TitleYearPeak chart positionsAlbum
US
AAA

[57]
"Santa Teresa"2019Non-album single
"Brasil"Earth
"Shangri-La"20205
"Olympik"
"Cloak of the Night"

See also

Related Research Articles

Radiohead are an English rock band formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke, brothers Jonny Greenwood and Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O'Brien and Philip Selway. They have worked with producer Nigel Godrich and cover artist Stanley Donwood since 1994. Radiohead's experimental approach is credited with advancing the sound of alternative rock.

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<i>Earth</i> (EOB album) 2020 studio album

Earth is the debut solo album by English musician Ed O'Brien, released under the name EOB. It was released by Capitol Records on 17 April 2020. It was produced by Flood and Catherine Marks and features musicians including drummer Omar Hakim, Invisible members Nathan East and Dave Okumu, folk singer Laura Marling, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood.

Brasil (EOB song) 2019 single by EOB

"Brasil" is a song by English musician Ed O'Brien, released under the stage name EOB. It was released on 5 December 2019 as the lead single from O'Brien's debut album Earth.

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Notes