Edward John O’Brien, English guitarist, member of the alternative rock band Radiohead and grandson of a Tipperary emigrant, is born in Oxford, Oxfordshire, England on April 15, 1968. In 2010, Rolling Stone names him the 59th greatest guitarist of all time. Along with the other members of Radiohead, he is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.
O’Brien grows up listening to post-punk acts such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, Depeche Mode, The Police and David Bowie. His earliest guitar influence is Andy Summers of The Police, particularly his use of delay and chorus effects on “Walking on the Moon.” His other influences include Peter Buck of R.E.M., Paul Weller of The Jam, Johnny Marr of The Smiths, John McGeoch of Magazine and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Edge of U2. He attends Abingdon School, an independent school for boys, in Oxfordshire, England, where he meets the other members of Radiohead. In 1985, they formed On a Friday, the name referring to the band’s usual rehearsal day in the school’s music room. O’Brien also studies economics at the University of Manchester.
In 1991, On a Friday signs a six-album record contract with EMI and changes their name to Radiohead. They find early success with their 1992 single “Creep“. Their third album, OK Computer (1997), propels them to international fame and is often acclaimed as one of the best albums of all time. O’Brien becomes depressed during the extensive OK Computer tour. After the tour, he returns to Oxford and falls further into depression.
Radiohead’s next albums, Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001), are recorded simultaneously and mark a dramatic change in sound, incorporating influences from electronic music, classical music, jazz and krautrock. O’Brien keeps an online diary of Radiohead’s progress during the recording and initially struggles with the band’s change in direction. At the suggestion of Michael Brook, creator of the Infinite Guitar, he begins using sustain units, which allow guitar notes to be sustained infinitely. He combines these with looping and delay effects to create synthesiser-like sounds. By 2011, Radiohead has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.
O’Brien releases solo music under the name EOB. His first solo track, the ambient composition “Santa Teresa,” is released on October 4, 2019. His first solo album, Earth, is announced in December 2019 and is due for release in April 2020 on Capitol Records. Recording for Earth begins in late 2017 and ends in early 2019. It is produced by Flood, Catherine Marks, and Adam “Cecil” Bartlett and is mixed by Alan Moulder, with contributions from drummer Omar Hakim, The Invisible members Nathan East and Dave Okumu, folk singer Laura Marling, Portishead guitarist Adrian Utley, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood. He begins a North American tour in February 2020.
O’Brien lives in London with his wife, Susan Kobrin, who worked for Amnesty International. The couple have a son, Salvador, born in January 2004, and a daughter, Oona, born in 2006. He is a cricket fan and supports Manchester United Football Club. Around 2000, he gives up alcohol and takes up meditation. In 2011, he and his family move to Brazil and live for a year on a farm near Ubatuba. In 2020, he announces that he believes he has contracted COVID-19 but is recovering in isolation.