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Colin Greenwood

Colin Greenwood
Colin Greenwood, Bonnaroo, 17 June 2006
Background information
Birth name Colin Charles Greenwood
Born (1969-06-26) 26 June 1969
Oxford, England
Genres Alternative rock, art rock, electronic, film score
Occupation(s) Musician, bassist, composer
Instruments Bass guitar
Years active 1985–present
Associated acts Radiohead, James Lavino, Mark Linkous[1]
Website .com.radioheadwww
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
Fender Jazz Bass
Music Man Sterling

Colin Charles Greenwood (born 26 June 1969), is an English musician, composer, and the bassist for the rock band Radiohead. Apart from bass, Colin plays keyboards and synthesizers and works on sampling on the electronic side of Radiohead. He is the older brother of fellow band member Jonny Greenwood.


  • Early years 1
  • Radiohead 2
  • Work outside Radiohead 3
    • Music 3.1
    • Other projects 3.2
  • Personal life 4
  • Gear 5
    • Electric basses 5.1
    • Amplifiers / combos used live and in the studio 5.2
    • Effects pedals 5.3
    • Stage technical specs 5.4
      • Monitors 5.4.1
    • Other Instruments 5.5
    • Percussion 5.6
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early years

Greenwood, whose father served in the Army,[2] lived in Germany as a child for enough time to become fluent in the language.[3] The family historically had ties to both the British Communist Party and the Fabian Society.[4] He has credited his older sister, Susan, with greatly influencing his taste in music as an adolescent. Said Greenwood, "She’s responsible for our precocious love of miserable music. The Fall, Magazine, Joy Division. We were ostracised at school because everyone else was into Iron Maiden.”[5]

When Greenwood was 12 years old, he met future band mate Thom Yorke at Abingdon School, an independent school for boys.[6] Future band mates Ed O'Brien, who Greenwood met during a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Trial by Jury", and Phil Selway also attended the school.[7] When Greenwood was 15 years old he bought his first guitar,[8] studying classical guitar with influential teacher Terence Gilmore-James. It was Gilmore-James who introduced him and the other future members of Radiohead to jazz, film scores, post World War II era avant-garde music, and twentieth century classical music. Said Greenwood, "When we started, it was very important that we got support from him, because we weren't getting any from the headmaster. You know, the man once sent us a bill, charging us for the use of school property, because we practiced in one of the music rooms on a Sunday."[2]

According to Greenwood, it was out of necessity that he first picked up a bass, teaching himself by playing along to New Order, Joy Division and Otis Redding. “We were people who picked up their respective instruments because we wanted to play music together, rather than just because we wanted to play that particular instrument. So it was more of a collective angle, and if you could contribute by having someone else play your instrument, then that was really cool. I don’t think of myself as a bass player anyway. I’m just in a band with other people."[6] Among his greatest musical influences are Booker T and the MGs. “I’m really more of a soulboy. Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, those are the people who informed me in playing the bass. That combination of rhythm and melody.”[3]

As an undergraduate studying English at Peterhouse at Cambridge University between 1987 and 1990, Greenwood read modern American literature, including Raymond Carver, John Cheever and other writers “dealing with the tensions of post-war American society."[9] At Peterhouse, Greenwood served as the college's entertainment officer, and helped arrange several gigs on Fridays, when the Oxford and Cambridge colleges have their themed parties, usually in the college bars.


Colin Greenwood with Radiohead in 2008

Greenwood first teamed up with classmate Thom Yorke in 1986 to start a band, then known as On a Friday; Ed O'Brien was then recruited, and finally, older student Phil Selway was approached to join the band. Later, Greenwood's younger brother Jonny, then 14 years old, also joined the band. Of being in a band with his brother, Colin has said, "...beyond the normal brotherly thing, I respect him as a person and a musician,"[8] and has quipped, “It’s wonderful, it’s good, it makes my promise to keep an eye on him for my mother a lot easier, having him right next to me all the time. But he’s very easy to look after anyway, 'cause he’s very well behaved.”[10]

Later, whilst working at the music chain store, Our Price, he had a hand in helping the band get off the ground. When Keith Wozencroft, as a sales rep for EMI, entered the store one day, Greenwood said, "You should sign my band," and handed him their demo tape. That got it all started for the band, with EMI.[2] At this time the band renamed themselves Radiohead.

Greenwood plays a number of instruments for Radiohead including electric- and acoustic bass, double bass, keyboards, samplers, and synthesizers, and a variety of percussive instruments. He favours Fender basses.[11] Said Greenwood, "My involvement is to play bass guitar, but our ideas and suggestions in certain areas, as to where the music should go or develop, are listened to. We are very much a band."[12]

  • Greenwood was instrumental in creating the song "Dollars and Cents", which arose when he played his bassline over an Alice Coltrane record he particularly liked; brother Jonny set about creating an original string arrangement with the same vibe. "'Dollars and Cents' is Curtis Mayfield. When I play fuzz bass on 'Packt Like Sardines' and 'Exit Music' on OK Computer it’s all, I think his name is Henry Thomson, something like that. Curtis’s bass player, yeah, who is God, fine man."[3]
  • The bass line in "The National Anthem", perhaps Radiohead's most recognisable, was actually played in the Kid A recording by Thom Yorke. However, Greenwood plays it live.[13]
  • Airbag is Greenwood's own favourite of his bass lines. The band was inspired by DJ Shadow to use cut-up drum beats.[14] He has said that he played the distinctive fragments heard in the song, and planned to come up with something to fill all the gaps, but never got around to it.[15]
  • Though Greenwood mainly plays bass using the finger picking technique, he can also be heard playing slap bass on the song "My Iron Lung", off their second album, The Bends.

Work outside Radiohead


In 2003, Colin Greenwood was credited on Jonny Greenwood’s debut solo album Bodysong for playing bass on the track “24 Hour Charleston.”

In 2008, in his first music project not involving other members of Radiohead, Colin played bass on James Lavino's score to the Alex Karpovsky film "Woodpecker." The soundtrack also featured performances by Lee Sargent and Tyler Sargent, of the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.[16]

In 2014, Greenwood contributed beat programming to the song "Guess Again!" off of bandmate Thom Yorke's solo album "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes".

Other projects

In 1997 Greenwood participated in a marketing campaign for alma mater Cambridge University, posing for a photo with then-current students from both state and private schools for a poster entitled “Put Yourself in the Picture.” The poster was “designed to break down some of the stereotypes that deter able students from applying to Cambridge and encourage more state school applicants.”[17]

In 2003 Greenwood, an amateur photographer whose images are often posted on Radiohead's website, Dead Air Space, discussed his favourite images in the V&A’s photography gallery, a collection “ranging from early daguerreotype and calotype prints through to modern digital prints,”[18] as part of their accompanying website’s Personal Tours. Greenwood chose images by Frederick Sommer and Harold Edgerton among several others.

In 2004 Greenwood served as a judge for the Next Generation Poets talent contest, sponsored by the Arts Council of England. The same year, he participated on a panel in the annual sixth form conference run by Radley College in collaboration with School of St Helen and St Katharine, speaking on digital-rights management (DRM) from "the views of an artist, someone without whom there would be no music to share in the first place,"[19] according to David Smith, at that time a professor at Radley.[20]

Personal life

In December 1998, Greenwood married Molly McGrann, an American literary critic and novelist.[21][22] They have three sons, Jesse,[23] born in December 2003, Asa, born in December 2005, and Henry, born in December 2009. They live in Oxford.[24]


Electric basses

  • Cream Fender Precision Bass,[25] made in 1973[11] According to Radiohead's guitar tech, Peter "Plank" Clements, it is Greenwood's favourite. "...apart from volume pot and jack, it's all original including the pickup(s), fitted with Stadium Elites 45,65,85,105 (strings) whilst touring, with other combinations used in the studio."[11]
  • Music Man Sterling (Used during The Bends and Pablo Honey period. It has a very famous tone which is very apparent in "Bones". Colin also used one on the Hail to the Thief track 'Myxomatosis'.)
  • Fender Jazz Bass[26] (shown here to the left of the above Precision Bass) with Seymour Duncan STR-J1 pickups in neck and bridge.[11]
  • Tobacco sunburst Fender Coronado bass[11][27]
  • Black Fender Telecaster Bass,[28] made in 1971[11]
  • Cherry sunburst Guild Bass[11][29]
  • Black Fender Jaguar Bass (Used in 'The Headmaster Ritual' on the 'Thumbs Down' webcast and during performances of 'Jigsaw Falling Into Place'.)
  • La Bella Deep talkin' 760RL strings[11]
  • Stadium Elites 45,65,85,105 strings[11]
  • Tortex '88's guitar picks[11]

Amplifiers / combos used live and in the studio

  • 240v Ampeg SVT-CLU classic head with standard valves into an Ampeg 8x10 cab[11]
  • Some rehearsing and recording done with a blue diamond finish Ampeg B-15RW[11]
  • Colin also uses the following Ashdown Gear: ABM EVO 500 II head and an ABM 810 Cabinet

Effects pedals

Stage technical specs

According to Graham Lees, Radiohead's touring audio engineer, "The Bass guitar is DI-ed and Mic-ed with a Sennheiser 609."[31]


Lees: "Colin uses Wedges alone, he has never tried in ears up to now, but has expressed an interest in trying them on the next tour. He also has a sub bass unit behind him to add extra weight on the low frequencies, mainly the kick drum and the drum machines. He has a full mix of everything on stage."[32]

Other Instruments

  • Bass synthesizer on both the studio and live versions of "Climbing Up the Walls"



  1. ^ Greenwood, Colin (8 March 2010). "Mark Linkous RIP".  
  2. ^ a b c Ross, Alex (21 August 2001). "The Searchers: Radiohead's unquiet revolution". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 25 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  3. ^ a b c Eshun, Kodwo (21 June 2001). "The A-Z on Radiohead: An interview with Colin Greenwood". Culture Lab UK. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  4. ^ "Radiohead". UNCUT Magazine. 1 August 2001. 
  5. ^ Hendrickson, Matt (16 October 1997). "Dream Weavers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  6. ^ a b Kelly, John (15 September 2001). "Taking Music To Strange Places". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  7. ^ Myers, Caren (1 November 1993). "Dork Radio". Details. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  8. ^ a b Clark, Stewart (12 July 1995). "Transistor Act". Hot Press. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  9. ^ Kent, Nick (1 June 2001). "Happy Now?". MOJO. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  10. ^ Davis, Jason (1 February 1998). "Interview with Colin Greenwood". Channel V, Australia. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Clements, Peter (7 June 2007). "Plank's Blog – full archive". StringsReunited – getting your sound back. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  12. ^ MacDonald, Patrick (4 February 1998). "Radio wave: Britain's band rides crest of superstardom with low-wattage egos". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  13. ^ Fricke, David (2 August 2001). "Making Music That Matters". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  14. ^ "Airbag – Song Trivia". 20 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-17. 
  15. ^ "Interview with Radiohead". Baktabak Interview Collection. 1 January 1998. 
  16. ^ article
  17. ^ "Annual Report: All Access". University of Cambridge Annual Report. 21 August 1997. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14. 
  18. ^ "Photography collection at the V&A redisplayed and online". Cognitive Applications News. 1 May 2003. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  19. ^ Smith, David (26 September 2004). "That old Digital Rights tune again". Preoccupations. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  20. ^ Smith, David (8 November 2006). "Today, Truth!". Preoccupations. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  21. ^ "Class Notes 2000". Skidmore Scope Magazine. 1 August 2000. Retrieved 2007-06-16. 
  22. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (1 June 2003). "Fitter Happier: Radiohead Return". Spin. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  23. ^ Greenwood, Colin (1 April 2005). "Operatic". Thrasher Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  24. ^ "Giving Back From The Bassline". Mail & Guardian. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  25. ^ Varo, Remedios (30 June 2011). "precisionBass.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  26. ^ Varo, Remedios. "basss.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  27. ^ Varo, Remedios. "corrie.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  28. ^ Varo, Remedios. "71TelecasterBass.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  29. ^ Varo, Remedios. "Guild.jpg | Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Flickr. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  30. ^ a b c d "Colin's Racks and Effects". Just... Radiohead Fan Club. 1 January 2003. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  31. ^ Less, Graham (17 June 2007). "radioheadstageplan".  
  32. ^ Lees, Graham (7 June 2006). "Graham's MySpace Blog – full archive". On the Road with Graham. 
  33. ^ a b "Colin Greenwood – Radiohead". 18 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 
  34. ^ "[HD] Radiohead – Idioteque (Live @ Saitama Super Arena – Oct 5, 08 – Tokyo, Japan)". YouTube. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 2012-01-03. 

External links

  • Talk in Maths: Fansite
  • How to Be Like Colin Greenwood – In Ten Easy Steps
  • Colin Greenwood News
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