Radiohead takes on sweatshops, human trafficking

MAIDENHEAD Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:04pm IST

1 of 2. Radiohead's Thom Yorke listens during an interview with Reuters in Maidenhead, central England, April 23, 2008. Pioneering British rock band Radiohead has lent one of its songs to an MTV campaign to raise awareness about sweatshop labour and human trafficking. Photograph taken April 23, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

MAIDENHEAD (Reuters) - British rock band Radiohead has lent one of its songs to an MTV campaign to raise awareness about sweatshop labor and human trafficking.

The chart-topping group has allowed the international music network to produce a video set to "All I Need" from its latest hit album "In Rainbows" which MTV will air from Thursday and make available to broadcasters.

The MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) Campaign (www.mtvexit.org) has made a video shown in split screen, one side depicting a day in the life of an affluent young child and the other of a child forced to work in a sweatshop.

Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke said he saw some irony in the campaign being led by MTV, one of the world's most recognized brands which has spread ideas and ideals of the West and its consumer culture to the rest of the world.

"I think it's really cool that it comes full circle and that they wake up one morning and go 'Well, hang on a minute, we want to do something about this'," he told Reuters in an interview.

Radiohead, renowned for using their fame to campaign on the environment and against slave labor, said they first became concerned about exploitation when reading Naomi Klein's "No Logo" on international brands and their labor practices.

"That was something about eight years ago that personally opened my eyes to the fact that you have a responsibility when you go into a shop and see a pair of jeans for 10 pounds ($20), you have to question why," said guitarist Ed O'Brien.

"More often than not it's because some poor soul ... has actually had to make them working for next to nothing," he said in the same interview, adding that the band had created its own ethical merchandising company W.A.S.T.E.

Young activists will also be at Radiohead's upcoming concerts as it embarks on a tour of North America, Europe and Asia to distribute information about the issue.

PRACTICING AND PREACHING

In a music industry where more and more bands are taking up serious causes, Yorke conceded it was not always clear that what he said actually got through.

"You don't really know where what you do ends up," he said, adding that it was also difficult to match words with actions.

Like other acts concerned about climate change, Radiohead has struggled to justify touring, which involves moving crews and equipment around the world as well as encouraging hundreds of thousands of people to travel to see gigs.

The band is rehearsing for the first leg of a 2008 tour that will take it across North America, Europe and Japan.

"In terms of the environment for example, the touring thing, there's two ways we could have gone with that," Yorke explained.

"We could have just ... given it up or we could have brought it up as an issue and held up our hands and said we do not have the answers to all this shit, but we're making it an issue.

"Actually, that is starting to have an effect now. It's become something that is talked about within the industry."

He also believed fans were becoming more responsible in how they got to concerts, using public transport and sharing cars.

Reuters/Nielsen

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