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Impact Weekly - Dayton OH - July 12-18 2001
By Sara Farr
Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard sets the record straight
The announcement that Guided By Voices was going to play a Dayton show
tonight - Thursday, July 12 - came on the heels of much speculation that Bob
Pollard, the group's enigmatic frontman, had no desire to play another local
show after last year's highly critical reviews by the Dayton Daily News, an
organization whom Pollard has had a tumultuous relationship with throughout
his entire career.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Pollard for lunch at the
Trolley Stop. He talked about that issue and several others, including the
newest GBV release Isolation Drills, upcoming projects and thoughts on other
Dayton bands. He was self-assured, honest and getting ready to embark on
another two-week tour that began with a June 13 show at the Southgate House
in Newport, Ky., and Isolation Drills had just cracked the Billboard 200
Q: The first thing I wanted to talk about was the history of Guided By
Voices as it relates to the Dayton Daily News.
A: I'll tell you the first time we ever appeared in the Dayton Daily News.
We were in the Dayton Band Playoffs. It was probably like 1983 or something
- '82 or '83. We were in the paper and it said "Guided By Voices vs. No
Speed Limit." That's the first time our name appeared. I hope I have that
somewhere, because that would be a good poster. Anyway, we were getting
ready to play the show, and I go, "No, we're not playing that. We're gonna
lose. That's a popularity contest and no one likes us." So we didn't even
Q: What happened from that point?
A: Nothing significant until we broke, about '93 or '94. [Then-DDN music
writer] Dave Larsen started hanging out with us. We let him go to New York
with us and hang out and kind of write was going on at the time when we were
up there. We were playing the CMJ festival or something. He was really nice
to us for awhile, and I think what the turning point was - he had some kind
of a show on WYSO [91.3 FM] so we went out there with him and he interviewed
us on his show or whatever, and afterward, I think we kind of ignored him or
something. That's when he wrote the first really nasty review of one of our
shows. ... [Larsen] claimed that I was collapsed on stage [at the
now-infamous Gilly's show], crying, begging people, "Please don't leave."
That's what he said in the piece. And that's what really upset me, because
that was such as lie, because what happened was we blew an amp and somebody
had to stop for a couple [of] minutes. And [Gilly's] turned the house lights
on, and I go [to the audience] "Don't leave! We're not finished; we just
blew an amp." And he painted it in the piece that I was begging, collapsed,
crying because we were sucking so bad. Things like that. He did the same
thing that [DDN features editor] Ron Rollins did in his last piece - he said
that "You could tell from the expressions from the rest of the band that
they could barely tolerate (my) behavior," which is completely ... why would
you insinuate that? That's totally insane; they're as drunk as I was. The
first show at Gilly's, Mitch [Mitchell, former guitarist/bassist] was
throwing up on stage. My band could barely tolerate my antics? Please. I
don't know what happened, why they turned on us like that. We were always
nice to them.
Q: What about last year's show at the Asylum, with the three different
reviews/articles that were written, one by Carol Simmons, Ron Rollins and
A: The point/counterpoint that you and Carol Simmons did - I thought that
was fine. I had no problem with that whatsoever. I don't understand what the
next day [Rollins' column about the show] was all about. I didn't understand
the necessity of that, you know? I'd spoken quite a few times to Ron Rollins
and I thought he was my friend. And for him to come to a show - I think that
was part of the agenda to begin with. I think he had in his mind that he was
going to do that. ... I have so many friends and family here, ex-teachers,
and people I used to teach with - and these people read that, and they think
when he [Rollins] says things like that - "one foot in the grave," "Jimi
Hendrix and Mama Cass," or all that kind of stuff - they believe that. And
it concerns them. It embarrasses my parents, you know? Their friends come up
and say, "What's wrong with Bobby? Is it that bad?" For him to isolate those
30 minutes of a three-hour show ... yeah, I was fall-down drunk those last
30 minutes, but we had partied for three hours backstage and then played for
three hours, so for five and a half hours I was fine, plus it's a very, very
small stage. There was no room to move whatsoever. If I fall back in the
drums, it's because I have no room to move.
Q: Why did you deny an interview to them following the release of Isolation
A: When we were recording Isolation Drills in New York, Carol Simmons wanted
to come hang out with us. She called our manager and wanted to write was
going on. But I said no. Last time I did an interview with Carol Simmons, I
thought it was really good. I talked about a lot of things I thought people
would like to hear about Guided By Voices and Dayton, and all she focused on
was how many videos I had rented at Blockbuster. So I don't want to
associate with that kind of journalism. That's too bad. And I do appreciate
some of the things that they've written but it's not going to do any good to
talk to them ... it's just that some of the things they write about, I don't
think anyone wants to hear.
Q: Which Dayton bands do you like?
A: I liked robthebank. Let's Crash was good. Obviously, I like The Igniters.
And there have been some other good bands - Brainiac, The Breeders. There
were good bands in the past - Toxic Reasons, The Dates, Dementia Precox,
Fig. 4. I also like Shesus and Special Patrol.
Q: How much latitude do you have picking opening acts when you go out on
A: I can pick who I want, but for awhile, I just didn't know who to pick,
because I wasn't hearing anything good. But I'm starting to hear some good
bands now. So I pretty much just let my management and booking agency pick
someone that they book. They can make a couple of extra hundred dollars that
way. I actually wanted The Igniters to do the entire tour with us, but I had
heard they couldn't do it because of jobs, but I spoke to Jason [Himes, lead
singer of The Igniters] the other day and he said that they could. So I'll
find out and take them on tour. Now there's a band called Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club with us, but there are plenty of tours, and I know now that
Q: Feelings on the Asylum show this time around?
A: I guess I should be on my best behavior at the Asylum show. I thought
about it - I thought about coming out stumbling-drunk from the get-go, but
then I thought no. I never try to cross that line, but Dayton's a party.
Q: What keeps you here?
A: Dayton is a pretty town. It's good for me to come back here and write.
It's where I kind of get my inspiration. I get my inspiration lyrically a
lot of times from the road and then I come back here and just relax. I've
got so many friends here - I'm 43 years old and I've lived here all my life.
My family is here and I still hang out with my high school friends; we call
it the Monument Club. I thought about moving, but I don't think I would be
happy somewhere else.
Q: How are you liking Isolation Drills as compared to your first TVT
release, Do The Collapse?
A: I like it a lot better than Do The Collapse. It's more what I was after,
and that might have to do with different production, but I think it has more
to do with it being our second time in the studio. The first time is always
"feel your way through" with the help of a producer, and this time, I think
we had a little bit more focus. I think it sounds better. It's thicker and
more guitar-oriented, so it's a better rock record. It's a more serious
record, and the songs are better. They're more anthemic and what I was
Q: The songs are more personal.
A: Yeah. I wrote the lyrics first. It was right after the Do The Collapse
tour and I kind of reflected on all the crazy shit that was going down in my
life and I just wrote a lot of poems. When I got back, I took my favorite
ones and it just came out that way - it came out more personal. I've been
writing songs for the next record, and they're not so sad.
Q: So what's up next?
A: I have a solo record out in July with Greg Demos and Jim MacPherson
called Robert Pollard and His Soft Rock Renegades' Choreographed Man of War.
It's kind of psychedelic, harkens back to the old days of Guided By Voices
when we just left the mistakes in. The other record, which comes out in
August, I did with Tobin Sprout. We're called Airport Five. The Tower and
the Fountain of Sparks. That's really cool. In fact, we just finished
another one. Toby just has instrumentals and he sends them to me and I go
record my poetry over top at Cro-Mag, so it's really spontaneous. I think
I'm going to do another album with Doug [Gillard, GBV guitarist] pretty
soon. I'm supposed to do something with Mac from Superchunk. So I'm staying
REACH IW MUSIC EDITOR SARA FARR AT SFARR@IMPACTWEEKLY.COM.