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Unpeeled - Independent Noise and Opinion
By Nick Miller

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Guided By Voices

Interview with Bassist Tim Tobias.

Nick: Morning Tim! Where are you right now at are you up to today?

Tim: Morning, I’m at my home in Cleveland Ohio, just sitting around drinking lots of coffee. We’re about to go on tour so I’m waiting for all that to happen

Nick: Are you pleased with how the new record ‘Earthquake Glue’ turned out?

Tim: Yeah absolutely, I think it takes repeated listening before you get into it. But, we wanted to make sure there was an interesting mixture of songs on there to keep the listener entertained. We experimented recording in different rooms to give instruments a different atmosphere. I think it turned out pretty good.

Nick: ‘The Best of Jill Hives’ really is outstanding, your bass sounds beautiful on that track, right up there in the mix. What’s your favorite off the new album?

Tim: Thanks a lot I was actually going to say that one too. That one rolled out real easy. Bob (Pollard) came in the studio one day with it all written out and we just went ahead and did it. Bob’s songs are all pretty much realized by the time we go in to the studio.

Nick: Your brother Todd Tobias has done a top job on the production again. Any sibling rivalry or punch up’s in the studio during the recording?

Tim: (Laughs) We’ve been making music together for almost 20 years so we don’t fight so much as use a lot foul language with each other. When he complains at the way I’m playing I can call him a little bastard and get away with it. He’s younger than me and a little quieter

Nick As a result of his work with GBV has he been offered production work with other notable bands?

Tim: No, which is a shame. I really want him to. He deserves it. Todd is really talented and has a great ear for sound.

Nick: Was there much material left over from the ‘Earthquake Glue’ Sessions and will we hear it?

Tim: Actually there was only one. It’s a song called ‘Broken Brothers’, which is on the b-side of “My Kind of Soldier’ for some reason we only concentrated on the set of songs we had

Nick: Promoting ‘Earthquake Glue’ is likely to be a grueling tour. How do you and the rest of the band prepare yourself physically and mentally?

Tim: You don’t, you just got to go out there and do it. If you think about it too much just makes it worse. I just got my schedule from our manager today and it’s not quite as rough as our last European tour. Last time we played lots of shows crammed into a limited amount of time. To be honest I live off the adrenaline when I’m on tour. Returning home to Cleveland is always a come down. You sit around your house and at 9pm you think what the hell am I doing here I should be someplace else playing with my band. It does take a couple of weeks to come down off the adrenaline

Nick: I remember you did lots of dates in Ireland but only one in Britain.

Tim: Oh Jeez… I think we only played London and Glasgow last time This time we’re going to be over for five weeks so we’ll be here for a lot longer and play to more cities and also try out new markets in other countries I like coming to England a lot. You have great pubs over there. I love the idea of drinking somewhere, which has been a bar for over 500 years and is full of ghosts. Cleveland is also a great drinking town and Ohio generally because there’s nothing to do in the winter but most of the bars we have only been bars since the 50’s or 60’s, which is not quite, is good.

Nick: GBV is like the Grateful Dead in that they have a cult following. What’s it like being part of this cult?

Tim: Laughs. It’s very humbling to travel lots of places and everybody has positive things to say about you all the time.

Nick: Do any of your fans scare you?

Tim: No, not really. Bass players are generally lower down in the rock and roll food chain. It’s the singers that get the scary fans. Bob does get his fair share.

Nick: Bob is impressive stage presence but I must say I think you and Nate Farley have amazing chemistry on stage its a lot like watching David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

Tim: (laughs) Thanks a lot, Well if you’re going to get up there you may as well give it all you’ve got plus Nate and I are great friends. We get along really well.

Nick: How’s you’re new drummer Kevin March working out, Dave Shouse (Grifters, Blood Thirsty Lovers) told me he personally recommend Kevin for the job.

Tim: Kevin is a great person to have on the road he has a great sense of humour and keeps us all laughing.

Nick: What’s your old drummer Jim McPherson (Breeders, Amps) up to these days?

Tim: You know Jim is one of the nicest guys in the world. He works at ‘Kitchen Solvers’ in Dayton, OH. He has a wife and kids and seems really happy. He often comes out to shows to see us play.

Nick: ‘A Salty Salute’ in my opinion is the GBV anthem. It has the juiciest intro a bass player could dream of. Does it still make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you play this song night after night?

Tim: Yeah you’re right. It’s an honour to play. It’s in kind of a weird timing though so it’s more difficult to learn than you’d think. It does give me that feeling with the hairs standing up on the back of my neck every night, right. The other one that does that is Games of Pricks, I still can’t believe I have the opportunity of playing that song live. I remember when I first learnt it wow. I also like Echos Myron a whole lot

Nick: No offence but you always looks uncomfortable doing the back up vocals on Echo’s Myron?

Tim: (Laughs) Do you think so? Jeeezus thanks a lot Nick. It’s probably because we usually play that song late in the show by which time I’m probably drunk. You know its one of my favourites but I’ve never learned to play it properly. Recently we did a show in Buffalo, NY and my A string broke mid way through. I rely on that string heavily for that song so it was pretty rough but somehow I managed to get through

Nick: Do you get sick of journalists asking about GBV’s notorious heavy drinking?

Tim: Yeah we do. If one of us stumbles over, then its always written about the next day. We usually play 3 nights in a row so the first night we’re usually get pretty drunk and by the third night we’ve built up a tolerance,

Nick: I saw Bob pass out on stage in Nottingham in 1995. So one fan got up from the front row filled in for a song while he sobered up.

Tim: Oh my god really?

Nick: Please express my thanks to Nate Farley for getting me shit faced on his supply of Jack Daniels at a gig you did at Gabes Oasis in Iowa City a couple of years back.

Tim: You were at that show? I remember that stage being so small and the crowd being kind of rough. Nate will do that to you. He’ll appreciate your thanks although he’s since given up the whiskey. There I said it.

Nick: He should fill the bottle with Iced Tea; nobody else will know the difference.

Tim: Iced tea, right (laughs)

Nick: You’ve been in the band since 1999, what have been the highs and lows since then?

Tim: Yeah lots of. The low points would be when I’m not playing. The high points… there are too many of them. I’m having a total blast.

Nick: That New Years Eve show you did with The Strokes at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem must have been quite special.

Tim: I have no recollection of it what so ever. Wait I remember New Years but the previous night was a total blackout, which is disturbing really.

Nick: Have you done any sessions for John Peel?

Tim: We've done a couple of BBC sessions. I love doing that because you're in the same studio that early Pink Floyd was in and The Beatles. The sense of history is fascinating. Its like wow, so you don't want to think about it too much.

Nick: GBV discovered The Strokes. Are there any other bands you’d recommend Unpeeled readers should check out?

Tim: We recently did a tour with My Morning Jacket who I guess are doing okay over there. A band I'm listening to now is a band actually from the UK; they’re called Of Arrowe Hill. They're my friends but that's beside the point. They made a really good record. I was listening to it this morning actually.

Nick: Thanks a lot Tim, I look forward to seeing you soon.

Tim: Excellent! Thank you very much. We'll be over there in late September so see you then

‘Earthquake Glue’ is released on August 19th Guided By Voices play London ULU on September 30th.