Visit to W.A.S.T.E. HQ, 27 November 2006

I stay in London for a few days, see Nouvelle Vague play at Bloomsbury Theatre with a group of boardies and hang out with some London friends. Last time I was in touch with Mel she mentioned that if I was ever in the area I should drop in at the office, so for once having some time on my hands, I catch a slow train to Reading from Paddington so I can visit W.A.S.T.E. HQ.

Mel comes to pick me up in her VW Beatle. I spend and hour and half at Sandbag the merchandising arm of the Radiohead empire, that began as the fanclub newsletter service way back at the beginning. An unassuming industrial unit on the edge of town an estate, it combines warehouse and office from where Mel, an old friend of the band, and her cohorts organise operations.

We chat, drink tea and I pass round my gift of fairtrade chocolates.

Tim’s not here, he’s still working at the studio, but Mel regrets not calling him to tell him I was coming. The only studio gossip I manage to get is that the band didn’t have a good time with the producer Spike Stent. They all agreed it was a rough patch. Mel says it’s been a difficult year.

I offer my theory on the Radiohead creative process, they have to go through the mill it to come up with something new and I mention what Jonny said on Friday about not keeping sane.

As other members of the team pop in, I give a potted history. I’ve been at this Radiohead game longer than any of them. My archive is bigger! I joke with Mel that I need a museum, a “clean room”to keep all my cuttings in. Imagine the box sets, the basement tapes we could compile between us. Mel remembers Tim’s birthday gig, in Reading and tells me about the unused video for Creep made by her ex-boyfriend.

Someone is wearing an Eraser T shirt, I remark that it doesn’t exist to buy. Mel sends him to find one for me. She digs around the filing cabinets, trying to find stuff I don’t have. The only item we come up with is a copy of W.A.S.T.E. newsletter issue one. It’s just tour dates and a doodle of the Trade Muck shirt. There never was a number 3.

Radiohead have the least commercial merch of the any of the artists that they deal with here, which is saying something coming from the purveyors of the Keane Shower Curtain and Guillemots socks.

I ask if they ever see their directors (The Band). Thom only comes here when he’s getting his car serviced round the corner (and, Mel points out, it’s not a Landrover).

We look at some old posters and note that the Greenwoods are the only ones who have not changed since the beginning.

Once all the tea is drunk, Mel drops me back at the station.