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Translated from the Portguguese rock magazine - Mondo Bizarre
Interview by Nuno Robles

Mondo Bizarre: Before I first listened to Zoom, your latest EP, I didn't know what to expect…After all, it was the first official release since the demise of GBV ("Relaxation of the Asshole" is another thing altogether) and you have always been very unpredictable, a characteristic that I admire in you a lot, actually. At first it reminded me of late 60's Spirit. After the first song I realised that it was a classic Robert Pollard collection of songs. In my opinion a short but one of your best yet set of songs. When was it recorded? Were the songs recently written?

Robert Pollard: "Dr. Fuji and Henry Charleston" and "Zoom (It Happens All Over the World)" were recorded last year when we were rehearsing for "Half Smiles of the Decomposed" in Dayton, Ohio. Originally, all members of GBV contributed songs for it. It was going to be a full length album, something more democratic from a creative stand point. It was still going to be the psuedo 60's softcore porn soundtrack thing. I aborted the project and then resurrected it about 6 months ago for the 7" EP. I thought the full length would have been tedious. "Have a Day Mr. Clay" and "Catherine From Mid-October" are more recent songs.

MB: You've started your post GBV "life" with a very unusual (yet highly enjoyable) album, "Relaxation of the Asshole"….Why did you decide to release it? How did it happen? It's funny because one of the things that I've always loved about those 90's semi-bootlegs live albums was the between songs ramblings from you…you seem to have read the mind of your most dedicated fans…

RP: My tour manager and web master, Rich Turiel, had compiled a few hours of stage banter and though a lot of it is kind of "inside" humor, I thought some of it was pretty funny so we decided to release it LP only, limited edition of 500 for hardcore fans. We ended up having to press another 500 because it sold out immediately. I guess we've got more "hardcore" fans than I anticipated. Anyway, I found out later that Elvis had done the same thing.

MB: How does it feel to start a whole new life and music career after such an intense experience as GBV? The end of rock bands always seems to be a very dramatic and unhappy time for its members, no matter what they say. However, with GBV, it seemed like a very natural process, a thing that you all agreed that it was inevitable and that you had to go through. Was it really an inevitable thing to do?

RP: I felt that I had done all I could do artistically with the entity know as Guided By Voices. I always have a lot of projects going on under various psuedonyms. The GBV thing went on for 21 years and I think that's pretty good and quite enough. The thing is, GBV and all these off shoot projects are created by me, so the solo venture will be a continuation of what I've been doing, especially with GBV. I believe it will be even better because I feel a burden of expectations has been lifted from my shoulders and it has freed me up for a very creative period right now. I have a double album in the can, I've written the 2nd solo album, Todd Tobias and I have a new Circus Devils slbum coming out in May and there's another mini album that I did with Greg Demos, Jim MacPherson and Tony Conley called "The Moping Swans" coming out in May.

MB: I've only seen you live once, in London, August 2001. I had some live recordings but I had never had experienced in loco a GBV show. What an amazing thing it was! The music, of course, but also the audience, the way that everybody reacted to even the most obscure songs, singing all the lyrics….it seemed like a group of friends celebrating someone's birthday (the show was just the beginning of a crazy night really)…I sensed that the live experience was definitely part of the magic of GBV's world. Do you miss it anyway? Will you tour alone as much as you always did with the band?

RP: In the last 2 years Guided By Voices made a decision to tour less. I felt we were becoming too visible and we were losing some of our appeal, our mystique. I will tour even less, but I will tour. I'll hit the big cities in the States once a year and we'll see what else happens.

MB: Now that the band is over, its profile seems to be higher than ever…a very dynamic internet community, a book almost ready to be released, a rarities album (highly limited, I believe) and the second part of the epic box set "Suitcase" also on the way….how do you look at it? With pride, I can imagine…

RP: I'm quite proud. You know when something is visible and tangible, the public in general has a tendency to take it for granted, like it will always be here, and then when it's gone there's an outpouring of appreciation and that's what's going on with GBV. People were very nice to us on our farewell tour, almost as if we were dying or something. I am not going anywhere right now, I will say that,

MB: To stop bothering you with GBV questions…what is your favourite album / recording from the band? What was the one that you had the most fun in recording? I'll tell you mine, Propeller. I bought it at the time it was re-released on cd with Vampire on Titus (after that first GBV New York show) and it's still my favourite album combining everything that made me love and cherish this band. The sound, the riffs, the voice, the melodies…

RP: It's difficult to answer that question because I have different favorites from differrent phases. Probably "Alien Lanes" from the lo-fi phase, "Under the Bushes" or "Universal Truths" from the mid-fi phase and it's a toss-up between the two big productions for TVT.

MB: I've always felt curious about your song writing process as you seem to be one of the most prolific writers that I know, always with an enormous care with the quality (or honesty) of every single song you've released. To put it in a simple way, how do you do it? Are you influenced by the environment around you, when you write? Does it matter in any way? Are you influenced by ambients, people, situations…..?

RP: When I feel inspired I write or throw collages together. I might just pick up an acoustic and bang out song ideas to the point of exhaustion or sometimes I write poems or lyrics first and then try to create music for them. I don't follow any formulas. I just do it when I feel like it and not press. It's a continuous thing. Inspiration comes from what people around me do or say, sometimes it comes from places and feelings that are hard to articulate.

MB: With so many songs written and recorded, and excuse me for this usual question, how do you decide what to release? Do you know immediately if it's a Robert Pollard song? A Circus Devils? Any other project?

RP: At one point it was whatever batch of songs I was working on went on the next project. Now I save the more interesting, crafted stuff for my major project. I always want the album that most people will hear to be a more challenging listen or experience to both them and myself.

MB: I've read in the past some interviews where you mention that you have been influenced by a lot of 60's and 70's bands. What are your main influences? If I'd ask you to do a list of the most important albums for you, what names would you immediately pick up?

RP: My influences are all over the place. The most influential albums are "White Album", Peter Gabriel's first, Ziggy Stardust, Scott Walker's 1st four, "Wire 154", "Big Star #1 Record", "Are We Not Men? We Are Devo", "Notorious Byrd Brothers", "Murmur".....

MB: Focusing on your next step as a solo recording artist, what can we expect from "From a Compound Eye" your first album post-GBV to be released in the fall, I believe?

RP: Massive....Epic....all over the place. It's immediate, raw, stripped down like rock is supposed to be. I think Todd captured the essence of the songs. There are 26 songs. 11 new ones and 15 written from the time I was 12 years old up until last year. That's why it's all over the place and sees in all directions at once, like a compound eye

MB: Apart from the album mentioned above, and also apart from the reissues of some GBV material (the vinyl editions of Forever Since Breakfast and Propeller, for instance) you're also planning to release a new Circus Devils album, right? Are you happy with it? Do you have any new recordings planned for the near future (not that I think that this is not good enough…)?

RP: Yeah, the new Circus Devils is my favorite. I'm not sure if Todd feels the same way. it's the prettiest. He likes the weirder shit.

MB: One very interesting item that I bought from Rockathon was the Eat fanzine that you put out a couple of years ago….do you plan on continuing it?

RP: Yes. I am working on Eat 2 as we correspond. It should be out this summer.

MB: With so many fascinating projects in your way, it seems that the end of GBV hasn't slown you down…do you ever think that one day you probably won't be able to be so prolific? Sorry to ask you this, but have you ever considered it? Do you fear (it's a very strong word I know…sorry but I can't think of another one…) that one day it can happen that you won't feel so creative or in the mood to be always writing new songs? Thinking of new sounds and ideas?

RP: No, I do not fear lack of creativity or writer's block. I've never had it, but then again I've always been able to eat, sleep, and breathe haven't I. Perhaps creativity continues on into the next realm.

MB: How is it going with ebay's "Fuck the Bank" activity? That would be a great theme for an album as well….You could certainly write a set of songs about that, mainly about the reaction of the people to it, I believe…

RP: That's a good idea. Maybe I'll call my next album "Fuck the Bank" or "Fuck the Industry" or "Fuck Me".

MB: One last question….what keeps you going these days? After writing so many memorable songs and travelling the world with GBV, what motivates you to keep doing it?

RP: It started here at home in the basement or at my dining room table and that's where it belongs with the sun coming up and a cup of coffee. Good morning, we love you.