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October 2000
By Doug Welk 
Quickfix Q & A with Guided By Voice's Robert Pollard

Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices seem to release two or three albums every year, but for some reason, that's just not enough. So they're picking up the slack with Suitcase: Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft. a new four-CD set with 100 songs covering the last 26 or 27 years of Pollard's career, almost all of the tracks previously unreleased. An embarrassment of riches - or just embarrassing? The Suitcase proves to bit a bit of both.

CMJ: Suitcase was originally rumored to be a 10-CD set, right?

RP: I figured it was difficult enough to get through, so I cut it down a little bit. Matt Davis and Kevin Poindexter and I actually started about a year and a half ago, going through the actual suitcase, this big suitcase I have full of cassettes, just to catalog stuff so we could have it in case anything ever happened to the suitcase. We never got through all of it, but we found maybe 250 songs - the best stuff.

CMJ: What kind of suitcase is it?

RP: It's some kind of large metal briefcase. I got it from a factory where I used to work that made detonators for hand-grenades and guns. I think that's what it carried. It's a big suitcase - it probably held 150 to 200 90-minute cassettes in there. We used to get together every weekend and have what I called controlled jams, and try to come up with songs, with titles and everything. Some of the cassettes were those controlled jams, and some songs came from those. Others were actual out takes from four-track sessions or studio sessions we'd done - there's a large variety of stuff. I took all the stuff I wanted out. Then I went on tour, and when I came back, my basement had flooded and the rest of the tapes had fallen into the flood....There was a possibility of Suitcase II, but I think we lost a lot of it in the flood. It's almost a sign: "That's it, man, no more please".

CMJ: How far back do the recordings go?

RP: The oldest thing on the box is a song called "Little Jimmy The Giant", by Little Bobby Pop. I think I did that some time in high school. I have stuff older than that, I just don't have it recorded. Most of the rest are from around the Bee Thousand period, and right before that. And there's some stuff that's very recent done as demos for the upcoming GBV record. When we practice, I sing all these songs I used to sing when I was a kid, "Corn Country" and "Planet Mars" and "Eggs Make Me Sick" and "Imagination".....We're talking about doing an EP or LP to sell on the road of all these ridiculous songs.

CMJ: How many songs does GBV have in all? There's some Web site that's catalogued 557 songs.

RP: Is that before Suitcase? Well, tack on another hundred. After the fifth album I counted how many songs we had - after Propeller, we had close to 100 songs, and I thought "I want to record more songs than the Beatles did." I think we've done that now. Did you hear the abridged version {the vinyl only Drinks and Deliveries}? I think that's a pretty listen able record. A few years back, that could have been a legitimate GBV record. That's why we did that, so there'd be at least one record you could put on. Suitcase is pretty difficult to get through - you need to be in the mood, or you need to get stoned. It's mostly for the fans, something for them to discuss and analyze until we put out the next GBV record, which probably won't be out until 2001.

CMJ: What's the longest it's ever taken you to write a song?

RP: Well, occasionally I'll write suites - put two or three songs together and it takes a while. But my philosophy is that if it takes me too long to write a song, it's probably not worth writing.