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Unpeeled - Independent Noise and Opinion
By Nick Miller

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Still shedding tears at the prospect of Guided by Voices calling it a day at the end of this year Nick and Kurt from Unpeeled catch up with the ever industrious Bob Pollard to talk about the final record with his band, two new solo records and the third one in the can.

Nick: Morning Bob, a salty salute to you

Bob: A salty salute to you too.

Nick: Congratulations on having the courage to call it a day with Guided By Voices. Tell me about the events leading up to making that decision?

Bob: Iíve threatened to end it for the last ten years. When we did ĎPropellerí back in 1991 or whatever I said that was going to be the last album, basically because we couldnít afford to finance our own projects anymore. For the first six albums we actually had to take out loans. After ďBee Thousandí it got to be like each album was competing with the one before. Then we went through the phase of switching labels for a while and then we ended up being back on Matador Records. The last three records in my opinion were like going back to what we do best - producing the records ourselves. Then It got to the point with this last album ĎHalf Smiles of The Decomposedí that Iíd come to a pinnacle in the way I wanted to make a record with Guided By Voices and I really didnít know what direction to take it in after that. So for me it really did feel like the last album. The other thing that prompted me was when a friend of mine bought me a CD burner for my Birthday and I went through my old cassette tapes from the late 70ís onwards putting them on CD. On them I found so many songs that Iíd skipped over through various points in my career. From these tapes I found maybe 40 songs that I wanted to do and then I wrote 10 new songs. All  these songs came from different phases that didnít involve the current Guided By Voices line up so they were personal to me and I didnít want to delegate parts to the band, I didnít want to send in demos or rehearse. I just needed to go into a studio with Todd Tobias and do it myself. That turned into the double album ĎAmerican Superdream Wowí which I just finished actually.

Nick: Is your post GBV material going to be out on Matador?

Bob: Usually when I do a solo record I put it on my Fading Captain Series label. Although I appreciate the freedom they donít get the same attention as a Guided By Voices record. I figured that this new album deserves that sort of attention with the press and the push from Matador. With all those things considered I figured it was a good time to quit and do this on my own. Itís a time for me to not to be the leader of a gang but to be myself. You know Iím getting old. Iím also getting kind of complacent in the studio and wanted to get back to playing guitar as Iíve become a little bit lazy

Kurt: How did Matador feel about your decision to break up the band ?

Bob: At first they were shocked but they seemed to think I could sustain the fan base and sell records as Robert Pollard. There is not gonna be a whole lot of difference between Robert Pollard except for technically maybe the guitar playing. . After doing the last few Guided By Voices records with Todd Tobias he and I have developed a rapport. Heís a really quiet guy so there are no distractions and he really seems to be able to wrap himself around my ideas and really absorb himself into the projects.

Nick: How did the band take it?

Bob: Theyíre cool with it, I think. They understand what I need to do. I think the only reason I stuck it out so long because I really have a good time with these guys at the shows. We always have a party in the dressing room and on stage. Weíve gotten somewhat close. When you tour with a band youíre almost with them 24 hours a day except for the time when you pass out. Iím gonna to miss being with them. Weíre all sad about it but its not gonna truly hit until we play our last show.

Nick: Tell them if they want to carry on as a GBV tribute band Iíll happily take on lead vocals although my scissor kicks need some work.

Bob: (Laughs), You wanna take it on huh? Iíll lay that on them. You know the band all have their own side projects and other cool stuff going on. My guitarist Doug Gillardís new record is particularly good though Iím not sure when thatíll be out.

Nick: It seems you and Nate Farley seem to be the closest bond in the band, would you agree with that?

Bob: I guess thatís a good observation. Weíre Daytonions you know. We share similar traits, we like to drink beer and are not afraid to go down with you. Weíre a little bit rougher than the rest of the guys. Nate and I have been in Dayton moving in similar circles for a long time. I first came across Nate when he was only 15 years old playing in a band call The Haunting Souls, who were at one stage pretty close to getting signed. Eventually Nate became a roadie for Guided By Voices and when a spot became available in the band I asked him to join.

Nick: Tell us about your new solo album ĎFiction Maní

Bob: That was an interesting project and totally unexpected. Iíd just finished recording ĎHalf Smiles of The Decomposedí with Guided By Voices and Todd called me and said that he had all these demos left over from the ĎEarthquake Glueí sessions. I liked the songs but wasnít crazy about the lyrics so I took some of the poems from my book ĎEatí and inserted some of those lyrics into those songs. Todd said 'Bob weíve got to do these.' He said heíd do all the music and all I have to do is go up there and sing. It gave me opportunity to experiment with the vocals a little bit, do some over lapping and create some harmonies. It was a  pretty painless project and I think it turned out pretty good.

Nick: Your other new release the Circus Devil album ĎPinball Marsí is a pretty scary record. Tell us about this project?

Bob: Iíve been really happy with the Circus Devils project. As a matter of fact weíve done three albums and thatís the most Iíve ever done in anything other than under the name Guided By Voices or Robert Pollard. Todd and I want to continue with that as it's darker and weirder and a nice form of expression for both of us. Its quite prog rocky and I put all these characters in the lyrics like a rock opera but its not really itís just designed to confuse people.

Nick: Have you been offered any song writing work for other people recently?

Bob: You know Iím serious about what I do and want to maintain the integrity for me and our fans whoíve been with us a long time. I donít want to make any move that appears to be a sell out whatsoever. I was offered to write the songs for this thing recently which was kind of like Spinal Tap. I thought nah! I donít think so. I know it frustrates my manager as I pass up a lot of money turning down that stuff but its important for me to not make any more missteps. I donít want to make myself look silly for the money.

Nick: Which of your miss steps sticks in your mind the most?

Bob: Yeah, Hold On Hope. It was remixed by some big shot producer guy  and ended up on soft rock radio. I was in some store around here and an Adult Contemporary Rock station was playing and it was like Kenny G and then Hold on Hope in a row. I just wanted to go hide. Initially I intended the song to be heavier and it ended up a little too light for me. I apologized when I turned it in to Ric Ocasek (The Cars) our producer at the time. He said thatís it! Thatís the monster ballad. So regrettably there was no going back.

Kurt: You should have sold it to Oasis or Elton John, they could have taken it to number 1.

Bob: I tell you what. They can have it!

Nick: With all these songs how do you remember the words when you perform live?

Bob: Its crazy I know. If you asked me to recite the words to one of my songs I might have difficulty but when your plugged in to a song its like driving along in a car. Playing live the words are second nature and they pretty much just come out. However when Iím not drunk I canít remember them. When Iím drunk on stage, I'm relaxed, uninhibited and itís easy. Even if I do forget the words live I just make them up.

Kurt: On the song ĎThe Best of Jill Hivesí who is Jill Hives?

Bob: Jill Hives is not a real person. I was having my muffler fixed on my car and I was sitting in the waiting room with some people watching television so I played this game I play sometimes when I canít quite hear what people are saying, Iíll start writing what I think theyíre saying. There was a soap opera on the TV called The Best of Our Lives and I must of thought they were saying the Best of Jill Hives.

Nick: ĎHalf Smiles of The Decomposedí is terrific final record ĎSleep Over Jackí in particular is a real stand out.

Bob: Thanks man. You know a lot of people like ĎSleep over Jackí and its not what I expected at all. Itís a different kind of song for us. Everybody seems to think its cool and ask us to play that one.

Nick: The other song I like is ĎGonna Never Have To Dieí. That threatens a comeback Bob. Can you see GBV doing a Pixies style reunion tour in 10 years?

Bob: Can you see that happening huh? Right now Iím gonna say no but I might change my mind. 10 years from now if I need some money I might have to go for it.

Nick: Incidentally are you and Kim Deal still in touch?

Bob: I havenít been in touch with her for a long time. When she was in The Amps we were pretty good friends. Then The Amps opened up for us at a show at Southgate House in Cincinnati and she accused us of sabotaging her sound check. Anyone who knows Guided By Voices knows that we donít give a fuck about our sound checks, sometimes we donít even do one. She got upset and some of our fans were on our ass that night, it was kind of an odd night. Later she read an interview with me somewhere where when I was asked about what happened with me and Kim Deal I said that sheĎd got lost in the lo-fi world of Guided By Voices. She got pissed off about it and never really talked to me since.

Nick: Itís odd youíve not worked together since. That beautiful cover of Love Hurts you and Kim sing is one of the best things youíve recorded.

Bob: Yeah, that was interesting. I didnít even really know the song, we just went in there and banged it out really quick. I actually got paid for that. It was the first money I ever made.

Nick: Do you have any other collaborations planned in the pipeline?

Bob: Iím supposed to do some stuff with Tommy Keane at some point. He was quite a big pop guy in the 80ís; I think Todd and I will do another Circus Devils album.

Kurt: What are the chances of you touring after GBV is over?

Bob: The fun thing about doing collaborations is that thereís no press or touring obligations. Iíve entertained the notion of doing some more things with Tobe. Heís gonna be opening the last leg of our upcoming touring in the Midwest. If I had the time I might consider doing a short stint with Tobe the same goes for Greg Demos (ex GBV bassist) and Jim McPherson (ex GBV drummer) it would be fun to play with those guys again. Iíve made the decision that Iím gonna lay back on making public appearances and maybe just tour one week per month. I want to try and recapture the mystique of the early days

Nick: What are your plans over the coming weeks?

Bob: I really did bust my ass making this new solo album with Todd so right now Iím kind of chilling out for a while

Kurt: It what ways do you tend to relax outside of music?

Bob: I like to run. I havenít had much chance to do that lately. If Iím depressed I like to go out and run and it seems to make me not feel so depressed. Iíd like to get back in to working out a little bit as that helps me relax. I buy a lot of records and I buy a lot of movies too. A friend of mine bought me a DVD player two birthdays ago. Since then Iíve amassed six or seven hundred films. So Iíve got all these movies mostly from the 60ís and 70ís that I need to watch.

Kurt: Do you have a top 5 favourite films?

Bob: I could probably tell you my top five favourite directors probably. I like just about everything by David Lynch. I like John Cassavettes, I like Hal Ashby, I like Paul Thomas Anderson and I like Martin Scorsese.

Nick: The celebrity factor being in GBV, must have enabled you to meet people you admire

Bob: Iím a huge Cars fan so it was obviously a big thrill to me to work with Ric Ocasek. We got to tour with Phantom Planet and through that I got to hangout and become friends with the actor Jason Schwartzman who is one of the Coppolas you know. Heís Talia Shires son. He told me that heíd like to invite me to have dinner with the Coppolas. I said thereís no fucking way I could do it. He also wanted to introduce me to Bill Murray. He said Bill Murray doesnít like anybody but heíll like me. I said no fucking way man. Mike Judge who did Beavis and Butthead and King of The Hill, is a big Guided By Voices fan as is film director Steven Soderbergh. Mike Campbell from Tom Pettyís band has come to some our shows. Meeting people like that just blows my mind. Iíve also become friends somewhat with Peter Buck of R.E.M

Nick: What about Pete Townsend?

Bob: No Iíve never met him. If I did I think I would run.

Nick: Are there any special plans for the final few GBV shows?

Bob: Weíre thinking as the tour starts to wind down weíre going to be adding songs to the set that we used to do or never really did. Also weíre going to invite some of the people that used to be in the band if they want to come out and play with us. The last show Guided By Voices is scheduled to be at the Metro in Chicago on New Years Eve.

Nick: is there going to be a European tour?

Bob: No we donít have one planned but we may come over and do some special shows. Weíll see. Right now weíre just trying to minimize what we do.

Nick: Finally, whatís currently the favourite brand of beer in the GBV camp?

Bob: Iím still set on Miller Lite man because itís like drinking water. Sometimes in a day Iíll drink 20 beers and itís hard to drink 20 beers that are strong. If you want to still hang out and live longer you got to start drinking lighter beer. Also as you get older youíve got to try and watch your weight.

Nick: Thank Bob for your time. Good luck with the new records and weíll see you soon.

Bob: Thanks a lot guys I really enjoyed it

Robert Pollard ĎFiction Maní and Circus Devils ĎPinball Mars are out now in limited quantities through the Fading Captain Series www.gbv.com
The final Guided By Voices record ĎHalf Smiles of The Decomposedí is released through Matador Records on August 24th. www.matadorrecords.com