Radiohead drummer Philip Selway tells Tim Hughes about his first film soundtrack

CONSIDERING his place in one of the world’s biggest, and certainly best, rock bands, Philip Selway is a modest soul.

While less impressive artists brag and show off, the Radiohead drummer is the embodiment of cool. He speaks quietly and intelligently and is polite throughout. He is one of rock’s few true gentlemen. You wouldn’t think he had been headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury just three months ago.

“I’m back home in Oxfordshire, which is good,” he chuckles. “There’s time to take stock of everything that’s going on and also to do some writing.”

It’s been a busy year, with an epic Radiohead tour culminating in that Glasto show, in front of more than 100,000 fans and millions more on TV worldwide. But it is his latest project which has got him excited, ranking as a highpoint in a glittering career for the father of three, who lives in rural west Oxfordshire.

Again demonstrating his ability as a composer, he has stepped from behind the drum kit, this time to write his first film soundtrack.

Called Let Me Go, the movie, which premiered this month in Leicester Square, stars Juliet Stevenson and up-and-coming talent Lucy Boynton, and was produced by Lizzie Pickering, from Lyneham, near Burford, and directed by BAFTA-nominated Oxford University alumnus Polly Steele. Based on the true story of Helga Schneider, whose mother abandoned her as a four-year old to become a guard at Auschwitz during the Second World War, the film is a thought-provoking story of mothers and daughters over four generations.

A thoroughly Oxford project, the soundtrack was recorded at Nick Moorbath’s Evolution Studio, in Osney Mead, west Oxford. Nick is the former owner of the Zodiac in Cowley Road, once partly owned by Radiohead and the location for the video to their anthem Creep. Let Me Go has already won an award for Best Ensemble at Geena Davis’s Bentonville Film Festival, in the US, which supports women in film (as well as having a female director and producer and four strong female cast members more than half the crew were women).

The soundtrack follows Philip’s previous solo albums, 2010’s Familial and 2014’s Weatherhouse. So how did the process of writing a soundtrack differ?

“There are some parallels,” he says. “Working in Evolution with Nick also felt very familiar and was a fruitful process.

“Some of the pieces keyed into what I’d done with the band and my solo stuff, but obviously there’s a thing of fitting into a whole creative project, and at the heart of it is Helga Schneider’s true story and Polly Steele’s interpretation and screenplay. There were all these other elements to respond to cinematically and in the performances themselves.

“From the outset I was writing pieces from just the screenplay and knowing who’s going to play what role, and that was a productive time. But I also knew I had to release a soundtrack album that could be convincing in its own right.”

The result is haunting, brooding and quite beautiful.

“It was an emotional, rather than physical journey,” says Philip, who as part of Radiohead has sold well over 30 million albums and racked up multiple awards.

“The film was chiefly set in Vienna, which also feeds into the tone of the music.”

It also makes it a little gloomy, I suggest.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “It deals with some weighty issues and contrasts between light and dark. It is looking at how generational trauma plays out and what Helga Schneider’s role was in Auschwitz. These are all deeply disturbing and emotionally rich subjects and they lead you in a particular way musically.”

And he enjoyed working close to home.

“There’s a wealth of talent in Oxford and to be able to benefit from that and highlight that is great,” says the keen Oxford United fan.

“It was brilliant working with Nick Moorbath again too. I have known him for a long time, since he ran the Cold Room studios in Cumnor when we first started to put ourselves out as a band. Nick is so central to the growth of Oxford’s music scene. At the heart of his studio is a lovely mixing desk, and the studio reflects his personality. He’s very talented as a musician and engineer.”

The release of the film, which is screened at the Ultimate Picture Palace off Cowley Road on October 11 and 12, and the soundtrack, out on vinyl and CD on the Bella Union label on October 27, tops an extraordinary year for Philip, including that Radiohead Glastonbury set, which he says was one of the highlights of his career.

“We spent the year working towards that,” he says. “It was an amazing experience being on that stage and having the opportunity to go back and do it again 20 years after our first headline set in 1997.

“It’s a good indication of what we’ve done as a band in that time.”

Looking back over the years, what has been his highpoint with Radiohead? “I don’t think I can narrow it down to one thing, but as a band I’d say some of our playing this year. It hit a new level for us and to actually get to this point is brilliant.”

So with Oxford fans deprived of a local show since 2005’s South Park triumph, might we finally see another homecoming concert? “There are no plans at the moment– but as with everything we do, never say never!”

In the meantime there is the question of the next Radiohead album, and Oxford United’s new season to think about “They have shown so much progress,” he laughs. “They are a championship team in the making!”

Let Me Go is at the Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford on October 11 & 12. Order

Philip Selway’s album at