"Sean writes about Nigel Godrich, the producer famous for his dense layers of sound. The article discusses his work with Radiohead, Beck & Travis and what makes this producer like no other."



[quote type=”center”] Everything in its right place [/quote]


Sometimes, a producer is so intrinsically linked with a band’s sound that they are more or less considered an extra member of the group. Who would The Beatles have been without the steady guiding hand of George Martin? Would David Bowie have experimented as much if Brian Eno wasn’t pushing him to go further, to explore new sounds? Nigel Godrich is so closely linked with Radiohead, so responsible for changing their sound into the brilliant collage it has become ever since he produced their 1997 breakout OK Computer, that the label of ‘Radiohead’s sixth member” is incredibly deserving. Godrich produces sounds that are at once electronic, with blips and drones of static, that also somehow sound organic and real. This effect has been incredibly apparent on his work with Radiohead, but also extends into his collaborations with acts as notable as Beck, Travis, Pavement, and The Divine Comedy.

Godrich’s record isn’t spotless, as he has been involved on some ill-advised projects such as 2010’s Turn-Ons for Supergrass side project The Hotrats. The album bears very little of Godrich’s signature layered, electronic sheen, instead presenting a series of covers that range from passable (a jangly version of Elvis Costello’s Pump it Up) to horrific (a sleepy, dispirited (You Gotta Fight) For Your Right (To Party!), originally by The Beastie Boys). Godrich also produced two albums for French duo Air, 2004’s Talkie Walkie and 2007’s Pocket Symphony, both of which, while not horrible, don’t even come close to the group’s breakout one two punch of The Virgin Suicides and 10,000 Hz Legend.



OK Computer – Radiohead

No discussion of the best albums of the 1990s would be complete without OK Computer, an album that took Radiohead from being an inspired curiosity to a formidable beast of the music world virtually overnight. OK Computer is a vision of a bleak landscape that is fragile but beautiful, narrated by a man who is hopeful for the future, but who is also absolutely terrified of it. Godrich’s fingerprints are all over the album, especially when one listens to the contrast between Radiohead’s previous effort, 1995’s The Bends. The open, clean sound of The Bends is replaced on OK Computer by guitars that wail through synthesizers, drums that are fuzzy and clipped off, and vocals that swirl and buzz over the apocalyptic landscape of the instruments.

Though almost every track on OK Computer is indicative of Godrich’s contributions, showing how much he enhanced the band’s sound, a few tracks stand out as more pronounced examples. “Exit Music (For A Film)” begins as a plaintive acoustic dirge that is soon invaded by an ethereal electronic chorus, ghosts breaking through the static of a distant radio transmission. The result is something that grows over the course of four minutes from something that could have been a minor note on an otherwise spectacular album to a bellowing titan of beautiful noise that rockets the album to new heights

Another track where Godrich’s influence on the band comes to the forefront is “Climbing Up The Walls”, a sinister track where lead singer Thom Yorke’s voice seems to emerge out of a cacaphony of digital bleeps to provide a song that reaches a darkness that Radiohead had never approached before. The song provides a vision of paranoia, with Godrich’s electronic elements threatening to drown out everything else at a moment’s notice. Because of this, the song becomes claustrophobic, cagey and threatening.

Godrich made OK Computer the album that it is, an album that to this day still sounds fresh and new, a complete vision of a band at their peak.



The Invisible Band – Travis

Godrich’s collaboration with the Scottish group Travis produced a very similar effect for the group as it did for Radiohead, with Godrich taking the good things about the band and elevating it to new heights. The first song on the album, “Sing”, begins with what sounds like metallic wind blowing across a digital plain, and continues with electronic bells and tones swirling underneath the crisp rock/folk sound that the band was known for from their breakout hit “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?”.

Although Godrich’s style is as apparent on this album when compared to his work with Radiohead, it’s still there, and it enhances the scale of the group’s sound, producing one of the most raw, honest albums I’ve ever heard.


Mutations – Beck

Interestingly enough, although Beck made his mark on the world by blending electronic noise with traditional stoner folk sensibilites, his first collaboration with Godrich, 1998’s Mutations is decidedly low-key and mellow, especially when compared to his previous effort, the samples and effects laden masterpiece Odelay. On Mutations, Godrich stripped Beck of his pseduo-hip hop persona and presented a spare, dreamy, intimate portrait of Beck that proved he was more than the hipster one trick pony that “Loser” and “Where It’s At” would have lead one to believe.

Mutations is interesting because it came out less than a year after the Godrich produced OK Computer, yet the feeling between the two albums couldn’t be more distinct. This shows that Godrich, while seeming to impart a very specific feel to the recordings he works on, can be versatile and helps elevate an artist with his contribution.


[learn_more caption=”Nigel Godrich Discography” state=”open”]

Year Title Artist Credits
1990 Scandalo Gianna Nannini Assistant engineer
1990 Tune In The Silent Blue Engineer, Producer
1991 Superstition Siouxsie and the Banshees Assistant engineer
1992 Vivienne McKone Vivienne McKone Assistant engineer
1993 Buffalo Skinners Big Country Assistant engineer
1994 Carnival of Light Ride Engineer
1994 Heitor Heitor Engineer
1994 My Iron Lung EP Radiohead Producer, Engineer
1995 The Bends Radiohead Engineer, Producer on one song (“Black Star”)
1995 Feeling Mission Harvest Ministers Engineer
1995 Totally Tee Engineer
1995 Booth and the Bad Angel Tim Booth & Angelo Badalamenti Engineer
1996 English and French Hopper Engineer
1996 Sun..! Sun..! Engineer
1996 Sound of..McAlmont & Butler McAlmont and Butler Engineer, Assistant engineer, Mixing
1997 OK Computer Radiohead Balance engineer, Recording technician (Producer)
1997 Silver Sun Silver Sun Producer, Mixing
1997 Plagiarism Sparks Engineer
1997 Left of the Middle Natalie Imbruglia Mixing
1998 Mutations Beck Producer, Mixing
1998 Sisters in Pain Jamaica Engineer
1998 Try Whistling This Neil Finn Remixer, Mixing
1998 Up R.E.M. Mixing
1999 Can You Still Feel? Jason Falkner Engineer
1999 The Man Who Travis Producer, Mixing
1999 Terror Twilight Pavement Producer
2000 Kid A Radiohead Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2001 “Walk On” U2 Remixer
2001 Amnesiac Radiohead Producer, Engineer
2001 The Invisible Band Travis Producer, Mixing
2001 Regeneration The Divine Comedy Producer
2002 Rouge on Pockmarked Cheeks Brazzaville Producer, Mixing, String ensemble, Fender Rhodes
2002 Sea Change Beck Producer, Engineer, Mixing, Synthesizer, percussion, keyboards
2003 City Reading (Tre Storie Western) Air & Alessandro Baricco Mixing
2003 Hail to the Thief Radiohead Editing, Mixing, Operation, Recording, Producer
2004 Absent Friends The Divine Comedy Mixing
2004 Heroes to Zeros The Beta Band Mixing
2004 Talkie Walkie Air Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2004 When It Falls Zero 7 Guitar, Sounds
2004 “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Band Aid 20 Producer
2005 Chaos and Creation in the Backyard Paul McCartney Producer, Guitar Loops
2005 Guero Beck Mixing
2005 The Roads Don’t Love You Gemma Hayes Mixing
2006 The Eraser Thom Yorke Producer, Mixing, Musician, Arranger
2006 5:55 Charlotte Gainsbourg Producer, Mixing
2006 The Garden Zero 7 Acoustic guitar, Engineer
2006 The Information Beck Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2006 Dad’s Weird Dream Silver Sun Remixing
2007 Pocket Symphony Air Producer
2007 The Boy With No Name Travis Producer
2007 In Rainbows Radiohead Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2008 Odd Couple Gnarls Barkley Engineer, Mixing
2010 Turn Ons The Hotrats Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2011 The King of Limbs Radiohead Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2011 Supercollider / The Butcher Radiohead Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2011 The Daily Mail / Staircase Radiohead Producer, Engineer, Mixing
2011 A Different Ship Here We Go Magic Producer


Leave a reply »

  • Dane
    June 20, 2012 at 12:30 am

    You’ve made a crucial error in sighting Brian Eno as David Bowie’s producer. Brian Eno produced only one of David Bowie’s albums (OUTSIDE) he has worked as a collaborator on Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, to which the groundbreaking sound of Low is completely indebted to Bowie and Tony Visconti who produced the album. It would’ve been better to have mentioned the Talking Heads when talking of Eno.


  • @audiobinge Level 6
    June 21, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Wish you’d of picked albums a bit farther apart release wise to talk about but another solid site producer article.


    • @sean Level 3
      June 22, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      I understand the benefit of spreading things out a little more, Austin, but in my own defense, I think that what I wanted to show here with this article is how Godrich can be versatile while keeping the same general vibe to the things he produces for people. The fact that the three highlighted albums came out within a few years of each other I think really speaks for his versatility.


  • @miikehz Level 3
    August 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Check out the new upcoming album by Nigel Godrich: Ultraísta


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