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James Oldham

Thanks to Rhys for making this

ALL HAIL! Guided By Voices

...The lo-fi pioneers who like their beer* A lot

Text: James Oldham Photography: David Tonge

1 Guided By Voices invented lo-fi From 1987 to 1995, GBV worked almost exclusively on four-track, so all their records sounded like they were made by The Beatles in a force-ten gale. Says singer/GBV uberfuhrer Robert 'Bob' Pollard: "Lo-fi was good because it opened the door for us. It also opened the door for a load of really bad music." Doug Gillard, current guitarist: "There had been lo-fi records before, but the difference was this was a band with real songs." Bob: "It was like punk. You didn't have to record it that well, it was just doing it."

2 Bob Pollard has written over 5,000 songs Not only have GBV now released 11 albums - alongside an avalanche of seven-inches, solo records, bootlegs and EPs - in his basement Bob has a suitcase of 90-minute tapes filled with unreleased material. "We thought about putting out a ten-CD set of all that stuff called 'Suitcase'," says the singer. "I think our hardcore fans would buy it. The only thing is they'd get some really bad songs with really bad names like 'Eggs Make Me Sick' and 'Corn Country'. Those two were the first songs I ever wrote. Terrible."

3 He could have been a baseball star. Things were going well with Bob's 'fastball' until he got to college. There he injured his arm and fell out with his coach. "Our coach had played in the major leagues and had the reputation of having the hugest dick in baseball. I saw it, man. I got in the shower and - wham! -there it was. Amazing. Actually, he wasn't that bad a guy, he just wanted me to get my hair cut all the time. Fair enough, I looked like Tim Buckley."

4 He used to be in a heavy metal band called Anacrusis "We did Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy covers mostly," he recalls. "I had long hair. Well, long and big. Our first gig was in 1976, and I'd never been onstage before. It was my first taste of rock stardom."

5 He used to be a teacher Bob became a teacher at 21. He taught fourth grade, and his nickname was Mr Rock. He only stopped five years ago. "I wasn't a very good authority figure, because my discipline was really bad. Once I came into the class after three days' playing and I was still drunk. The kids were coming up to me and saying, 'You smell of beer.' And I was going, 'Get out of my face, mother.'"

6 His family didn't always approve of GBV "All the time I was teaching, I was making records on the side and people in my family would ask, 'Why are you doing this silly shit?' The other thing was we were paying for all these records and I had to keep taking out loans, so it was pretty expensive." What did your wife think? "She was OK about it, although once she did almost divorce me because I came home at three in the morning all drunk and shit and started making all this crazy noise while the kids were asleep. That was irresponsible, I guess

7 In case you hadn't noticed, Bob likes a beer He has been known to drink a whole crate while onstage. When GBV supported Cheap Trick at CMJ recently, Bob got so drunk he stormed onstage while Cheap Trick were playing and started dancing behind them. He hadn't been invited. "Yeah, I like to drink. I like to drink beer a lot, but I don't guzzle all the time like I do onstage, so it's not a problem."

8 He's rumoured to be a dictator No-one knows exactly how many people have been in GBV, but estimates start in the low 20s and include Bob's brother, Jim "There have been many reasons why people have left the band: a couple of members had serious drug problems, some wanted to spend more time with their families, and in one case it was because this guy couldn't stop singing like Sting. It's not always me telling people to leave. It's about half and half." One ex-member of GBV is now a football coach in Florida, another is a college professor. What can we say? It's a weird world.

9 Their new album, "Do The Collapse", isn't lo-fi at all Guided By Voices recorded it in New York with Ric Ocasek from The Cars. It took them six weeks, which is an epic amount of time for them. Even worse, Ric wouldn't let them drink. Says Bob grumpily: "He thought if we drank we'd make a sloppy record. I don't think that's true, but whatever... we followed his rules." "He didn't actually lay down the law. It was more implied," says Doug. Bob: "(Brightening up) It sounds pretty slick, though, doesn't it?"

10 Bob is a rock'n'roll Peter Pan "I don't want to grow up. I don't know what it is. I don't like what growing up looks like. We make music for young people, that's why we have to stay young. I'm not sure how much longer we can go on performing, though. I'm not going to get onstage if I can't do what I do now. If I can't kick or jump, then forget it. I'm not just going to stand there."