Guided By Voices Founder Sounds Off - Rolling Stone
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Guided By Voices Founder Sounds Off

Pollard On Avenues, Albums and Alcohol

Guided By Voices leader Robert Pollard doubts
he’ll ever get a street named after him in his hometown of Dayton,

“Sometimes me and my brother (on-again, off-again GBV member
Jim Pollard) drive around town — my brother was
one of the best high school basketball players ever here — and
he’ll say why don’t *we* have a street named after us? Mike
and Erma Bombeck have one,”
Pollard says, referring to the former Philadelphia Phillies slugger
and syndicated humorist, respectively. “But I don’t think I’ll ever
get one because I have kind of a bad boy image. Some of the local
writers have said some really bad things about me getting drunk at
our gigs and stuff.

“I’ve been told that if we’re going to get to the next level —
radio and that sort of thing — I’ve got to cut back on my drinking
on stage and watch my behavior,” Pollard confesses with a laugh. “I
do it because if I don’t get lubed a little, I’m really nervous out

It’s amazing Pollard finds the time to “get lubed a little” —
frankly, it’s astounding the man even sleeps, given his habit of
writing songs as frequently as people change their socks. At the
moment, Pollard’s just issued his second solo album, Waved
(Matador), which comes on the heels of
last year’s Guided By Voices release Mag Earwhig!, which,
in turn came on the heels of Pollard’s ’96 solo debut, Not In
My Airforce
. And the man hasn’t even cracked the suitcase full
of demo tapes he’s recorded over the years — by his count, about
5,000 songs’ worth.

GBV have issued eleven albums in a dozen years, but that total
doesn’t even begin to touch the dozens of singles and EPs they’ve
racked up since first switching on the four-track back in the
mid-’80s. The effect of listening to those early GBV albums wasn’t
unlike straining to hear a perfect pop tune through the crackling,
static-y airwaves of a distant college radio station and realizing,
when it was over, that the filter of fuzz was somehow essential to
the song’s mystique, a kind of keyhole to its hidden majesty.

Although they’ve since ventured into the realm of eight and
16-track recording, GBV’s recent albums still have, at their heart,
a homemade beer-and-brainstorm spirit. Whether by choice or
necessity, Pollard loves wrapping his big rock ‘n’ roll gestures
inside small pop packages.

“It’s funny because I had never heard of that term ‘lo-fi’
before we got lumped into the lo-fi genre,” Pollard says. “I’ve
always wanted to make big rock, but it was always a challenge for
us to create in the studio what we heard in our heads. I think it’s
time for us to make the Big Rock record we’ve always wanted to

Waved Out is certainly a step in that direction. While
nobody’s going to mistake it for the Smashing
, it’s an obliquely epic album steeped in
arena-worthy hooks (“Subspace Biographies”) and gorgeous ballads
(“People Are Leaving”); in the proper live context, this stuff
could inspire an inferno of flickering lighters, and just might if
Pollard gets his way — and, when it comes to GBV, he usually

Last year, Bob’s (in)famously autocratic leadership led to the
departure of the Cleveland-based rockers Cobra
, whom Pollard had recruited to round out the new GBV
lineup (everybody but guitarist Doug Gillard quit
shortly after making Mag Earwhig!). At present, the band
consists of Gillard (guitar), longtime bassist Greg
and former Breeders drummer

Jim MacPherson.

“I’m happy with the new band. They do what I tell ’em,” Pollard
says, then catches himself. “I know it sounds tyrannical, but
sometimes I think a band can be over-democratic and when that
happens, you can’t get anything done.”

Clearly. Next month, the new GBV head into the studio to begin
recording with one of Pollard’s pop idols. “Ric
wants to work with us and we’re really excited
about it,” Pollard says of the former Cars
frontman. “I was really anxious and scared to meet with him, but he
turned out to be really nice.” Furthermore, Pollard says Ocasek’s
wife, the supermodel Paulina Porizkova, told him
that her nieces were big Guided By Voices fans. “After that, I was
able to relax.”

In the meantime, Pollard will continue in pursuit of his next
melody — and the one after that. Despite turning 40 this year,
he’s got no intention of slowing down. Plans are underway for his
band to launch its first-ever world tour early next year, and after
that, Bob wants to make another solo record. With all this activity
coming from a guy who’s three times as old as
Hanson, you’ve got to wonder: is the importance of
youth in rock & roll over-rated?

“Youth is definitely overrated, but everything is geared to
youth. Youth is pretty to look at, and youth is easy to market,”
Pollard says. “But as a songwriter, nothing beats experience.”

Who knows? With that kind of attitude, Robert Pollard just might
get that street in Dayton named after him someday. Sure,
Mike Schmidt was a great ballplayer who hit 548
home runs. But has he written 5,000 songs?


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