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July 05, 1998|Dave Jennings, from London

NO DEPRESSION: Playing the introspective, often brooding music of Radiohead day in and day out could understandably send someone scurrying to a telephone help line. But drummer Phil Selway is actually answering despairing calls, not making them. He's a volunteer for the British organization the Samaritans--and has been for 11 years, having signed up long before he became part of the dark song-world of Radiohead leader Thom Yorke.

Samaritan volunteers traditionally work anonymously, but Selway went public with his involvement as part of "Comes Up," a new campaign by the organization to encourage teens and young adults to call when life seems unbearable, the effort spurred by a recent increase in the suicide rates among that age group.

Does Selway see his two gigs working at cross-purposes, given the somber, less-than-optimistic tone of Radiohead's songs?

Not at all.

"We see Radiohead's songs not so much as depressing, but as uplifting," he says. "They're cathartic. We tackle--or rather Thom tackles--very strong, emotional subjects, but at the same time it's a process of going through those feelings. It's a way forward, it can lead you somewhere much more positive and uplifting. Hopefully that's what people find when they come to the Samaritans."

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