Pollard and his band of merry music makers known to the
civilized world (and parts less civilized too) as Guided
By Voices entered the recording studio to make an album
with former Cars frontman-turned-producer Ric Ocasek (the
first time the band was to use an outside producer for an
entire album), Pollard finally hoped to make the "big
rock" record he had heard in his head for years.
A year later, not only is the new Ocasek-produced disc,
Do the Collapse, sonically the cleanest,
clearest-sounding album of GBV's career (the darn thing's
even got strings! And ballads!), but the group's on a new
label, TVT Records, and Pollard's even got a new imprint
he calls the Fading Captain Series. And yep, in case you
were wondering, the label's really just a clearinghouse
for Pollard to feed his jones for the trusty four-track.
When we caught up with the man by phone at his Dayton,
Ohio, home, Pollard was getting ready to embark on the
first leg of a ten-month worldwide tour -- the band's
first ever -- with one of Pollard's old faves, Cheap
Trick. No wonder he sounded excited.
Last summer you said you wanted to finally make a
"big rock" record. So do you think you made that
Sound-wise, definitely. I think the songs were strong
to begin with, but whenever I come up with a new band I
try to write and tailor the songs to 'em. With Doug
Gillard, I have a lead guitarist who can really play, so
I'm writing big rock songs. I have a split personality. I
like a big, polished rock sound, but I like the lo-fi
hissy stuff too. In fact, I'm getting ready to make
another four-track album that should be finished in a
couple of weeks. This is the best situation I could be in,
because with TVT I get to satisfy both urges. I'm sure
there'll be the four-track people who say they don't like
this record, but I was after a big, polished record and I
think we got it with this stuff ... The classic rock
station here in Dayton has been playing "Teenage
FBI," which is the first single, and for the first
time, I can turn on the radio and hear one of my songs.
That's the first time we've gotten any credit around here.
Oh yeah, man. Everybody else seems to like my stuff,
but they don't ever give me any credit around here. So I'm
done being a nice guy.
What was it like working with Ric Ocasek?
It was great. I tell people that I have relatively few
experiences to compare it with, except for working with
[Steve] Albini, and I worked with him only three days.
Plus I took inferior stuff to him, so anything that didn't
work out was completely my fault. But the main reason I
chose [Ric] was that he had empathy for me as a
songwriter, because he's a songwriter too. And I'm
obviously a big fan of Ric Ocasek.
What did he bring to the recording sessions that
hadn't been there before?
He was able to slow me down and teach me to be patient,
and I learned about working through ideas a little better.
Because I tend to get impatient with songs, crank 'em out,
get 'em on tape. But it only took us five or six weeks to
do the album, and that's still comparatively a very short
amount of time by the usual standards. [Ric] got us the
guitar sound that we wanted. I'd always wanted that big
guitar sound and he got that. I mean, Mag Earwhig!
sounded good to me, but [radio programmers] didn't think
it was quite "there" to get played on major
radio stations. I don't know what that means, but maybe
this one will be different. I'm sure it can't hurt to have
Ric Ocasek on your record [laughs].
So did you guys jam out at all, knock around some
old Cars tunes, like "Best Friend's Girl",
Oh yeah, we did "Good Times Roll." I've been
pretty surprised at my band's ability to break into a
cover, even though we never do covers. People call out for
old GBV songs and we never even do those because we don't
The first song on Do the Collapse,
"Teenage FBI," kicks off with synths. It's not
exactly Gary Numan, but it's not what we've come to expect
from GBV. Were you at all nervous that in making such a
dramatically different kind of album the band's identity
might be lost?
When I first heard it in the studio, I was freaking
out, saying this is unbelievable. You know, when they
crank it up on those big speakers and everything, I was
ready to cry. As far as being nervous -- no man, because
it was always something I've wanted to do, but we've never
had any success. This time it really worked. I've always
told people that it would be a slow evolution with GBV
being brought into the realm of hi-fi. And now, we've
You're on a new label, TVT Records. How'd that come
We were trying to get Matador to put us through Capitol
and the people we talked to at Capitol were all for it, or
whatever -- I'm not sure what happened, I don't really
keep up with that stuff -- but all of a sudden, they
weren't there anymore, and the deal kind of fell through.
I had thought it was "our time" to get that
shot. And when that time came, it didn't happen. TVT were
there and were all gung-ho about us. And I'm kind of into
that three-album cycle anyway. We did three albums with
Scat, and three with Matador, so maybe we'll do three with
TVT. Who knows? It was a good place to start over again.
What have you been listening to, as far as new music
I haven't been listening to too much new music. I think
that's the reason why I write so many songs. There's not
too much out there right now -- I mean, there's always
good stuff like the Grifters, Pavement, Superchunk -- but
too much of what's out there is a hybrid of something
else. It's not about straight-ahead rock & roll.
Why, after all this time, do you think Guided By
Voices continue to resonate with people, even through
several lineup changes?
It's the songs, man. When I was a kid, I always waited
for certain bands to put out a certain record, like the
Beatles. And I'd go home and put 'em on the stereo and I'd
be in bliss, man. I still want to hear a particular
song, and if it's not there I'll go ahead and write it.
And I write songs because I think that maybe there's other
people out there who want to hear it also. Maybe it has
something to do with age. Maybe it's because I'm forty-one
years old and I've been listening to rock since I was a
kid and I have this huge catalog of melodies in my head.
That's why I'm not too into a lot of what's out there now
-- it tends to rely on grooves and beats. I just don't
hear melodies or music that moves the spirit anymore.
What are you planning for New Year's Eve, 1999?
We might be playing somewhere, I don't know. But I'll
tell you, if what they say is true about all this Y2K
stuff, it scares me. I'd rather be at home here with
family and friends when the whole shit-house goes up in
(September 24, 1999)