Mr. Rocker

Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard lives out his rock 'n' roll fantasy

NT: With Do the Collapse being your first real big major-label effort, do you feel a new kind of pressure in terms of your songwriting?

BP: I never feel pressure about songwriting, man. It just comes naturally to me. It's the one thing out of the maybe three or four things in my life that makes me truly happy. When I write a great song there's a feeling that's indescribable. And I know it's going to come, and I know when I get in the right mood I'm going to be able to write good songs. I never press or stress out about it, and I've got a bunch of songs ready for the next record. Some people say, "Do you think the well will run dry?" or "Do you ever get writer's block?" And I never do. I probably should knock on wood for that.

NT: I heard there was some talk of doing a Guided By Voices "Best Of" -- where you would re-record some of your old songs with bigger studio production or do them with Ric Ocasek producing.

Guided by Budweiser: Pollard (arms outstretched) and his rock 'n' roll drinking buddies.
Guided by Budweiser: Pollard (arms outstretched) and his rock 'n' roll drinking buddies.
Surgical focus: Pollard, wrapped up in his muse.
Surgical focus: Pollard, wrapped up in his muse.

BP: Yeah, that would only happen if this album yielded a hit or two. That would garner the necessity of bringing some of the old songs back. I think some of our old songs are hit-worthy, they would just need to be rerecorded. Things like "Cut-Out Witch," "Tractor Rape Chain" and "Exit Flagger" -- all those kinds of songs. It would be a really good record, and then they could be played on the radio. It's just an idea though, I don't know how realistic it is.

NT: A few years back, you did your top 10 albums of all time for Jane magazine. I imagine, like most people, your top 10 changes fairly often?

BP: It changes, but it's always hard to do a definitive top 10 list. For me it's better to do like a top 100, probably.

NT: You had Cheap Trick's first album on the list. I know you got to play some shows with them earlier this year. What was that experience like?

BP: It was interesting. We had our fans and they had their fans. It was a co-headline status so we got to play for like 75 minutes and some of the Cheap Trick fans didn't understand why these drunken guys got to be up on stage so long (laughs). So some of them were upset about that. But it was fun hanging out with Cheap Trick. They looked like they were having a better time than they've had in a while. So it was a good experience.

NT: Speaking of the drinking onstage, some people have given you a hard time about that over the years. I know you always said it was to soothe stage fright.

BP: I still get nervous before a show, which is why I drink. I've gotten out there before without drinking, and I get really self conscious. I think, "Uh-oh, everybody's looking at me now" (laughs). But if I've had a few beers, it's like backbone juice. You know, you get out there and dance. It makes me feel like I can be silly. Being onstage is a silly thing anyway.

NT: Well, now you can drink onstage here in Arizona.

BP: That's why we weren't going to play there for a while, because we got hassled about it the last time we played (at Gibson's in 1997). Once we heard we could drink out there we were like, "Fuck yeah, let's go."

NT: Speaking of other music and musicians you admire, I've heard that you've recently gotten into Billy Nicholls.

BP: Are you familiar with him?

NT: Only from his stuff on (Pete Townshend's 1972 solo album) Who Came First and what he's done on the Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle solo records.

BP: Yeah, he wrote four of the songs on (Daltrey's) McVicar. He's had some solo stuff of his own, too. The first record he did was like in 1967. It's called Billy Nichols -- Would You Believe? It's been reissued on (British record label) Immediate. Then he did another album after that called Love Songs, which is really, really good. I first heard him from the song he did on Who Came First, which he sings on -- "Forever's No Time at All." I always loved that song, but I was like, "Who is this guy?" Because I'd never heard of anything by him, and then just recently I saw his solo album and I started asking people about him and found out he had done a few records. So I'm big into him right now.

NT: Do you find yourself attracted -- the same way people were attracted to GBV -- to those kinds of guys -- the ones who are relatively unknown or on the commercial fringe?

BP: That's the best stuff, always. Bands that are right there -- The Replacements, Soft Boys, XTC -- but who are not quite there, you know what I mean? I think that's where Guided By Voices is, too. So yeah, that's always the best stuff.

NT: You're also very big into early Genesis. A lot of people thought it was weird that this lo-fi indie guy was into prog-rock. But it was a pretty big influence in developing what you do.

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