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Volume 1 Issue 26
June 20- July 3
By Brian Sek
Gabe Armstrong and Tracy Schultz
We'll admit it. We're celebrity stalkers. We don't focus on your average run of the mill paparazzi targets like Catherine Zeta-Jones or Calista Flockhart – we'd rather hug David Crosby, take Robert Guilliame to dinner or hump Pauly Shore's leg. With the tempting news that Guided By Voices was coming to town, Salamone and Sek ordered BEAST staffers Gabe Armstrong, Chuck Notaro and Tracy Schultz to drive down to Dayton, Ohio and kidnap their singer, Bob Pollard. Their mission to complete in order to earn their official BEAST pledge pins was to get him drunk and ask him questions about the past, the future and the present. Here's what we learned.
...You saw the balloons, you were there...
Guided By Voices have technically been around more than 20 years. The first publicly known document is a little ditty called “Little Jimmy the Giant,” available on the deluxe box set Suitcase released back in 2000. It's a long, drunken twisted past with more lineup changes than The Yardbirds (you thought we were gonna say Spinal Tap, didn't ya?). It all started with Pollard writing songs – not just songs – but some of the most memorable pop gems this side of McCartney and Bowie. He once had a goal to write more songs than the Beatles: “We did that after 6 albums. I'm gonna keep doing this until someone puts a bone up my ass and let the dogs drag me away. I can’t imagine stopping. It’s an addiction. I am happy. I am in better physical shape now, so I want to keep playing live. When I'm old maybe I won't be doing live shows, but I'll still be making music.”
The writing just never seemed to let up. Where society was Elvis Costello's muse, and a screaming post modern artist was Lennon's, somehow small town living in Ohio was Pollard's. It seemed like an addiction to us, or maybe a chemical imbalance, but he proved us wrong. “I think it's more of a lack of ability to concentrate. It helps me maintain happiness; I have gone through some shit. I only know how to be in a band.” Dayton, Ohio looks like your average Midwestern town, with it's veterans paying heed to the twin pillars of the aircraft industry and the Mead Paper's downtown Dayton skyscraper. Even as an elementary school teacher, Pollard could see inspiration building from this city's streams, “We used to have paper airplane contests, best design, air time, loops and stuff... it was fun... no serious injuries though.” The next logical step was to mix the music with the education. “I played records for them; it really just gave them an excuse to dance around and party. Some of my ex-students come to my shows and a few of them are in bands. I guess I may have had an impact on some of them.” The only permanent scars with Pollard seemed to be the drive to break out of teaching and take his act to a live stage.
Teaching a class of elementary students takes balls the size of Rocki Roads' tits, but still the transformation from children's educator to indie rock star wasn't easy. Pollard needed a little juice to get on the stage. Enter beer. “It’s my backbone juice. I tried to quit drinking on stage before.... it didn't work out. I am just "Uncle Bob", ya know?” It's been a trademark that's lasted through every stage of their live career through today. A Guided By Voices show just wouldn't be the same without the alcohol flowing. We tried to prod our hostage into developing his own brew to share with the fans; it didn't work out too well though. “I haven't considered GBV beer... but a fan once brewed one... what was the name of it? GBV beer or Beer Thousand or something.”
The revolving door of credits on Guided By Voices albums would make the casual bystander think he's a colossal asshole. This is very far from the truth. He still has regrets and would love to work with most of his old cohorts again. “(I'd love to work with) Mitch Mitchell. He's had 20 years doing this - 20 years in bands, I'd like to go back and do stuff that no one would hear.” How is ex-GBV guitarist and the man behind the one chord wonder that is “Lethargy” these days? He's working at a pricey Dayton, Ohio restaurant as a gourmet chef. Pollard strongly suggests his old cohort's bleu cheese stuffed steak.
...This room is not for view, this room is not for you...
They almost made the mainstream. Signed to TVT records, Guided By Voices recorded two excellent and underappreciated albums before going back to the indie labels where they started. Earthquake Glue due out in August will most likely astound. Robert Pollard has never let a true believer in rock down, and it's doubtful he ever will. “It's going to be better then the last. More solid, focused - less fragments. There are going to be more three minute songs, more power pop. I'm trying to develop myself as a song writer. Good songs are difficult for me to write, I get distracted, and then I just look for things that sound good. Expect more creamy love songs because now I have a girlfriend.” Has our great Uncle Bob finally found his muse, or will life on the road lead to the usual rock star temptations? “The groupies are as young as.....well, I have a 23 year old girlfriend, I am a one woman man. There is no one my age at our shows. We draw a young audience. We are really rock for kids. Not many girls come to the shows anyway.”
Why the women don't show up, we don't know. GBV's shows are nothing short of amazing every time. From the old days when the crowd would cheer in anticipation for the old stage props such as the blue beer cooler and the neon “The Club Is Open” sign, until now, where the live rock depends on charisma, talent, and a fucking good time. We wondered if they had plans for any more props in the future. “Depends on our degree of success. I would like to have a bar on stage, you know with a lounge, piano, and then pick someone out of the crowd to be the bartender for the night. I would also like a giant glass of beer that I could climb a ladder and swim in it.” Is Bob's body catching up to the copious songwriting and beer drinking? “Naw man, my metabolism has gone way up since Guided By Voices started.”
It’s not easy being a modern rock icon, but dammit, Pollard makes it look fun. “No kids ever run up and scream at me on the street. Once in awhile in a bar I'll get recognized and they'll be yelling at me. Sometimes people will follow me home from a bar and wild parties will break out.” In Dayton, it must seem like old hat to his neighbors by now: “I've never really had any bad complaints. They know what it's like to have a rock star neighbor. I am an indie rock icon, it's my occupation.” A hurt back and knee from his rock and roll aerobatics may have slowed him down from time to time, but Pollard will be the first to tell you that the industry doesn’t always protect its artists from these pratfalls. “No, there’s no union, there’s been injuries more horrifying then mine. There was this vocalist for this band, he fell off the stage and the microphone stand went up his ass... I just fall of the stage when I'm drunk.”
…There is nowhere to go but up, you know that for I tell you…
Pollard still shows no signs of winding down. He jogs in the mornings, has switched to light beer and looks pretty healthy for his mid-forties. His day planner for the future is full. Rebellious journalism may have inspired him - “I always wanted to do a magazine - "Criticize the critics" where I could criticize critics for their reviews,” and maybe even more bizarre side projects such as hip-hop. “Nah, we occasionally use samples. I am just a rock purist. I buy albums for the covers.”
His influence and inspiration will always continue to get new bands started and possibly signed. Pollard and guitarist Doug Gillard are the reason you’ve heard of the Strokes. Sure, the Strokes look to him for musical influence, but what about their afro styles? “The drummer came up to me and said that I need to grow my hair back out - it was his inspiration for growing his, but when you get old long hair looks bad old women like, all scraggly.” When Bob has his eyes on a band, you can expect to hear much more from them in upcoming months - “Well, The Strokes are good friends of ours, and I really like The Shins. Kings of Leon, The Go – it’s not really easy to find new bands.”
Their upcoming show next Saturday at the Continental will be another epic – just like last Spring’s. “Oh yeah, I remember that. Time just gets away from me when I'm on stage. I used to do three to four hours on stage, but it's exhausting. I'm probably just going to do two, two and a half hours. I'm going to play a lot of stuff from the new album. If we get drunk enough we'll make up songs to play for you. Do you guys like that stuff?” He might even bring his friends from his hometown hangout The Monument Club, and we’re hiring police escorts. “You may have to if they come. I'll try to get a bunch of them to come, maybe a bus load, and we can call it the joy bus.”
Words to live by – we had to untie him and let him go. There will always be more to come, even after Pollard is dead and gone. Is there a deeper meaning to what he writes? “Yes, but I am not sure what they are. GBV is a religion to me. I can’t keep coherent patterns of thoughts. I write lyrics that sound good - sometimes there is no real meaning.”