Here is a symbol for your age: OK Computer came out twenty years ago. I was four years old then, and the album didn’t make it into my life until much later (Amnesiac was my intro to Radiohead), but the genius of OK Computer is such that its influence trickled down to even those who were ten years too young (or too old) to be listening to a band like Radiohead in 1997. That year, Yorke, Selway, O’Brien and the Greenwoods finally achieved what a couple of decades worth of optimistic ‘prog’ had not: intelligence in rock music. “When a reporter asked one of the members whether Radiohead had been influenced by Genesis and Pink Floyd, the answer was swift and categorical: “No. We all hate progressive rock music,”” the New Yorker reported a couple of days ago. The weird wryness of OK Computer and its creators is so hard to comprehend that there is a whole cult of people out there who can only do so through vastly inadequate internet memes.
To celebrate OK Computer’s vicennial anniversary, we asked a bunch of our artist friends to reimagine the album art according to how they see it. The inspirations vary, but I’ll be damned if these ramblings don’t belie a singular, underlying aesthetic. And that’s the genius right there. What’s more, this was only the beginning of the band’s artistic explorations. With electronic production at the cusp of taking off, OK Computer turned out to be an exceptional set up for one of the most glorious faux pas in recent popular music history. Take a minute to think about what’s happened in the last twenty years, and then absorb the fact Radiohead predicted everything. They provided a spookily intuitive view of the future and became the last bastion for the wayward electric guitar, signing off on the collective experience of a generation before moving on to shape the next one.
Some of the artists would rather let their work do all the talking, but here’s what the other artists had to say about their own relationships with OK Computer.
The musical themes in OK COMPUTER: OKNOTOK predicts humanity’s extreme obsession and dependency on technology and the loneliness that accompanies it. Although Thom Yorke has mentioned in interviews that it was his personal feelings of being disconnected from other human beings because of constantly touring as a band. He used technologyas a motif to express that in the lyrics of the songs. 2017, 20 years after the release of the original album, is the most appropriate time to launch the
B side, as an almost unintended prophecy come true.
I’ve tried to create an atmosphere of disconnect and alienation with visuals that are almost a direct interpretation of the lyrics from various songs in the album.
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The band has had a huge influence on my life. If I remember correctly the first song I heard by Radiohead was Karma Police and then listening to more of their songs was like entering a world of emotions I’ve never felt or experienced before. I had a few rough ideas for this piece, but the one which stuck with me was this portraits and mannequins concept. I personally feel mannequins have a very Radiohead-esque feel to them. That expressionless and detached look they have… I also wanted to do a very clean portrait which has a good amount of detail of the mannequin. And I wanted it to look a bit futuristic, so I used a white mannequin which got me this good reflective surface with even spread of the gelled lights from either sides. The album cover for The Bends was the main inspiration, actually, however I was mostly listening to songs like No Surprises, Paranoid Android, Fake Plastic Trees, My Iron Lung and Just, which are some of my favorite Radiohead songs.
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Linda Zhengova (w/ Deeganto Joardar)
My image represents a constant cycle of revisiting our past, living in the present and thinking about the future. The distorted head in combination with the small gap in the middle mirrors who we are today. OK Computer transmits a very melancholic yet futuristic vibe and because of this atmosphere, the image and the album are related. Thanks to Deeganto Joardar with whom I have collaborated on this piece and who edited the photograph from black and white to colour. The image has gone through a process of energetic and dynamic reinvention, just like the re-release of the OK Computer album. In the end, we are all constructs of our past which shapes our present and guides our future.
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‘Drawing while listening to music is something I have been doing for a while. The process is both exciting and therapeutic and the results, surprising. The album ‘OK Computer’ in its entirety somehow invokes the deepest fears in me. A dystopic world with a strange sense of detachment and disconnect but solidarity from the realization that everyone is in the same path – of doom is created in my head while listening to it. I have tried to bring that into my artwork.’
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There was an experiment I had seen once about a monkey that keeps coming back to gain the affection of a cold mechanical set of arms that are programmed to push it away, while ignoring another machine that embraces it whenever it comes closer. OK Computer somehow reminds me of that. It sometimes seems like a disconnected array of songs that have been put together, each song according to my interpretation of it, tries to comprehend what it means to be human, where machines seem more human and humans seem more cold, calculating, listless or primitive. The album feels like racing through traffic watching everything go by while trying to cling on to technology in a desperate attempt to connect emotionally with something, since we have forgotten what it’s like to actually connect with another human being.
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[I’ve] Been a Radiohead fan since forever. What prompted this piece is Radiohead’s sense of rhythm… wave upon wave building up to a crescendo. But the lyrics remain stark and often brutal (think ‘Climbing up the Walls’) so I tried to represent the music with the multicolored layers juxtaposed by the charcoal and red core.
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I have to admit, that I listened to the ok computer album only after I took up this project. And only when I listened to the album as a whole, a couple of times, did I realise its true distilled brilliance. To prep for making the cover, I also looked up all the album art that was created previously for this album in addition to the artwork in the ok computer booklet. I was also aware that this album was one of their more experimental albums. Hence a normal cover, in my opinion, wouldn’t make the cut, it had to be an experimental cover. When asked about what Ok Computer represents, Thom Yorke had said,” it refers to embracing the future, it refers to being terrified of the future, of our future, of everyone else’s”. After going through the ok computer booklet and their previous album art, i noticed a lot of random text, which I converted to binary code and made into a fingerprint, which is an amalgamation of all of this text. It has the text present in all the album art including Lost Child, authorities here are alert etc. The idea is essentially based on 2 things. The first being, the title ok computer was inspired from the macintosh computer and nowadays our fingerprints are what we use to unlock our apple phones. The second is that, there are constant undertones in the album of artificial intelligence taking over and human beings surrendering to robot overlords. I thought the perfect way to represent this was with a fingerprint made of binary code.
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I’ve always been a fan of this album. It came out the year I was born and I feel like it ages with me. For this piece, I listened to it for two days just to fill my head with it, and most of my time was spent driving around doing things. I do not know about the intent of the original artist use the image of a road in the artwork, but I take it to the mean how the album goes in different directions with each song. And I went off in the same tangent and tried to recreate the roads in a 3D modelling software, but kept realism to the bare minimum because I wanted that 90’s end-early 2000’s computer graphics look, but at the same time trying to blend it with the current internet v a p o r w a v e aesthetic that I keep looking at on Tumblr all the time.
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Introduction by Prayag Arora Desai.
Special thanks to Deeganto Joardar for connecting us to these talented artists.
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