Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's in a Name?

Former Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard might be the hardest working man in music

Few artists get around to releasing a double album, let alone decide to release two separate records on the same day. But most artists aren't as prolific as Robert Pollard, the onetime ringleader of legendary band Guided By Voices and now a solo artist for Merge records -- not to mention the innumerable side projects he continues to self-release. This month sees the release of Coast to Coast Carpet of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions, one ostensibly a power-pop record and the other a more raw rock album, respectively. He was kind enough to take time out of his tireless schedule -- at 9 a.m., to be precise -- to tell us anything and everything about these albums, and how he's made it this far. – Jason Crock

Let me get the obvious question out of the way: Why not a double album? Why two albums by themselves?
It started out to be a double album. I had written a lot of songs, and I told Todd [Tobias] -- we worked on a record in this manner about four or five years ago; it was called Fiction Man. It was Todd's idea. He said, “What are you going to do with all these leftover songs?” I said I wasn't really going to do anything with them. [The record] was around the time of the last Guided By Voices album, I think [Half Smiles of the Decomposed]. He said, “I'll just go ahead and record them. All you have to do is come up and sing on them. I hate to see these songs go to waste.” So we did that, and it turned out pretty well. After Guided By Voices had done all their albums, I had all these leftover songs, and I thought it would be a good time to do that approach, to have Todd play all the songs instrumentally and take his time on it -- he took a whole winter actually -- and when he's ready I can come up and sing them.

So we did it that way, and since we had so many songs, we had a few different options. We could do some singles, we could do some EPs, we could make one record, or we could make a double album. At first, we wanted to do a double album, and we were really excited about it. Then we listened to it, and both of us agreed that it was a little bit too much as a double album, because they were all “up;” they were all two- or three-minute pop songs, rock songs, whatever. And in order to have a successful double album, at least to the listener, you have to have peaks and valleys. To have 33 [“up”] songs like that -- I thought it became a bit tedious after listening to it for a while. So we decided to make it two records. That was Todd's decision, to make one of them kind of a raw, post-punk record, and to have one be a pretty pop record. I'm glad we did that. it turned out really well that way.

Indeed, it's kind of--
Did you get the advance of the two [records] yet?

I did, I was listening to it last night.
That's one of the coolest looking advances I've seen.

Yeah. It's kind of scary, that split negative image of you on the front.
It's cool. Typically, I remember advances used to be this white jacket with a piece of paper stuck on the front of it. Now the advances are getting more elaborate. They might be cooler than the actual CD itself.

What do the CDs look like?
The CDs look great; I just saw the art for them. But they look like the inside cover of the advance... the one of the clouds behind me is Coast to Coast Carpet of Love, and the one negative image of the face with the train coming out of its mouth is Standard Gargoyle Decisions. The guy with the train coming out of his mouth, that's one of my collages.

You did an art show recently, right?
I'm going to do one in October in New York. This guy I know has been bugging me -- he's a big Guided By Voices fan, and a fan of my music, and he's also an artist who really likes my collages. He seems to think that people would be interested in buying them for a lot of money, so that kind of appeals to me also. I don't know if it will be successful or not, but I'm kind of excited about it. I haven't done anything like that. To me, it's as exciting as the first time Guided By Voices went out to play. It's kind of a different direction, as far as my art's concerned, and it's kind of inspired me to start doing collages and start getting serious about it. Most of my collages are small, you know, five inches or four inches, because it's hard to make big collages. It's hard to find materials. When I make collages, I try to look at other images, or photographs or paintings or whatever. I try to find interesting things that you typically wouldn't look at. Then I glue them and try to put a bunch of those things together to make a more interesting image. It's hard to do big collages, but I've been finding bigger magazines and bigger resources, posters, whatever. So the biggest collages are getting to be 12-by-15, and I've been inspired because I'm going to do this exhibit. I don't know how much wall space I have, but it's going to be kind of strange looking to have all these small collages, so I've got some bigger ones. I've compiled 200 collages; I think I kept maybe 40 or 50 pieces, but I'm not sure yet cause of what size they are.

We're doing it at Michael Imperioli's space -- you know Christopher from The Sopranos? He's a good friend of [this guy's], and he's actually come to my last few shows in New York, and we had his band open up for us.

The live [performance] thing is not so appealing to me anymore. It just happens that every time I come up with a record, I want to see how, especially the rock songs, translate to the stage. So I gotta at least do a couple shows. And you gotta do Chicago! After Chicago and Cincinnati, if those two shows go well, we'll probably do another show in New York or something.

Why Chicago?
First of all, it's a big city. I like playing big cities -- they have the best of everything. Actually, Chicago was the first town Guided By Voices played where people started doing the GBV chant. We played, like, a 50-minute set, and we come offstage, and the crowd's doing the GBV chant. That's something we created ourselves on the album, you know, Propeller. And they start, and I'm like, “Are they doing the GBV chant?” So that was the first time we did encores. Chicago was one of the first cities to kind of appreciate us.

Also, it's got a nice central location for people to fly in. The thing is, if you're only gonna do two shows, you have to have them close together. Not only location-wise, but time-wise, so that the hardcore fans can fly in. Plus, it's close to where I live. I kind of think of Chicago and New York as second homes, we've played there so many times.

That's probably why you picked it for the final Guided By Voices show, right?
Yeah. Plus, we love the Metro. I put the Metro in my top -- it might be my favorite club. I like the 9:30 Club in D.C. That and the Metro, the Fillmore in San Francisco and Irving Plaza in New York. Those are the best clubs. And the place we're playing in Newport [Kentucky], Southgate House.

You originally didn't want to tour when you started your solo career, right? Has that changed?
When I'm sitting at home for a while, I get the urge to go out and tour, but when I get out on the road, I get tired. I'm going to be 50 years old this year. I enjoy playing, but I don't have the same enthusiasm I did, even five years ago. It's fun to play, but I'm done after a couple shows. We did a tour for Normal Happiness; I canceled the last three or four shows. I was just burned out. We'd only done, like, five shows. I like to play live, but touring, when you're in the van with people all day long, you get to the venue, you wait around, do a soundcheck, you go back to change. I'm not into that anymore. But a couple shows? I can do that.

Given all the material you release in a year, does your label, Merge, ever give you resistance?
I respect Merge for being gracious enough to allow me to do shit on the side. You want me on the label to put out one record a year, you've got to let me do all these other side projects on my own, at a lower profile. The way I work, it's like a perpetual motion machine.

Certain other people might think I'm putting out to much product. First of all, I don't consider my art to be product. I consider it to be a continuous thing that I'm creating, and a lot of other people are doing the same thing and people don't tell them that. I'm talking about directors and artists. Artists who paint, when they're ready for another painting, they start it. Or whatever the medium might be. I know directors, too -- like, I've worked with Steven Soderberg. He's working on two or three movies at the same time. I don't see what the problem is because I'm a recording artist. [But I hear,] “Well, you need to take a break. You're putting out too much product.” When I'm done with one thing, I put out the next thing. And I don't press, and I don't push it, it's just a natural process.

I think it's part of the reason that I don't get writer's block, because I don't take a break. Sometimes I get little periods of -- I wouldn't call it writer's block, but where I just don't feel necessarily creative. But I don't press it. I put five, six, seven albums out a year. When I first signed with Merge, I [told them] I wanted to do two albums a year. They were cool with it. Just two albums a year was perfect, as long as I could put my stuff out on the side. They were cool with that. From a Compound Eye came out in January, and in October, which was the same year, I put out Normal Happiness. And I guess the sales weren't as good as for Compound Eye, and Merge speculated or knew or whatever that the reason for that was I put out two albums out in a year. So whether or not that's true, they suggested to go back to one album a year. I don't have any problem [with that], if I can put [anything] out on my own label, and they're cool with that, and obviously I give them first choice -- if they want to put something out, they can. You gotta understand, a label has a roster of bands and they've got a schedule to keep. I can't expect them to put out everything I give them.

Fading Captain is over with, right? But you'll just be starting another label, Prom Is Coming.
Fading Captain series will be put to rest with the double CD [retrospective] Crickets. When I do my bullshit comedy records, my stage banter, that's Yuk Yuk Motherfucker records. Otherwise we have record-label records, Prom Is Coming Records -- our new record label is Happy Jack Rock Records. That's my favorite one, because it's got a uniform. Have you seen that? Well, every label on the record has a drawing one of the kids in my class did. I would give the kid credit, if I knew who it was. It's a pig sitting on this [person], and his eyeballs are popping out. It's a funny label. Anyway, we did a series of 12 singles, that's what started it. The A-sides were songs from the two Merge records and the B-sides were all new songs. That's a singles of the month club. Then I've got a mini-album called Superman Was a Rocker that's going to be on it, and I just got back from Todd another Psycho and the Birds album that we just finished, and a Circus Devils coming out any time now called Sgt. Disco on Ipecac. You know, a lot of things. And I've got another EAT, which is a literary publication, with basically (if you want to call them) poems and collages and things. There's the company called Fantagraphics, I don't know if you're familiar with them, but they do really cool coffee table books of artists. I think they had Charles Shultz, and R. Crumb, people like that -- they're putting out a coffee table book of my collages. It's a lot of stuff on the horizon.

I know you like to come up with a lot of different titles; were there any good alternates for these two records?
Standard Gargoyle Decisions was always there. I just put out a mini-album called Silverfish Trivia, that was going to be the name of the new album. I shitcanned the album. When Merge told me I could only have one album a year, I already had one album in the can, Silverfish Trivia. Then I had 36 songs I was going to record for a double album, so I was so far ahead of myself that this was going to be too much. So I decided, can I knock it down to a seven-song mini-album, and then just go ahead with the double album? They said that would be cool. Then, when we broke it down into two records, it was like, can I persuade them to do that? Can I put two albums out simultaneously? It had been done; Tom Waits did it, Bright Eyes, whatever. I had other titles, none of which I can think of off the top of my head. “After Love, There's Man” was one, that's actually the title of the collage on the cover of Coast to Coast Carpet of Love. I don't know. I’ve got titles all over the place. I’ve got so many I can't think of them all.

It's funny that you had to persuade them. It sounds like you're constantly bargaining and trying to find ways to put out new material.
I'm always looking for a challenge. People say, “Why don't you write sing-along pop songs like Echoes Myron?” Because I already did it. Every once in a while, accidentally, one of those might pop up that I like. But I'm not gonna force myself, like, “Man, I need a bunch of those because that's a successful formula. That's what people seem to like.” It's the same thing with different mediums: songs, collages, poems. I'm looking for something that entertains me, because there's something somewhat different about it. And that's not the easiest thing to do. That's why I do lots and lots of ideas, then I can edit. So I'm putting things together, and it's kind of like you construct and assemble, then you take it apart and reassemble it into something more interesting. And that's all you can do.

A lot of criticism of [my work] is like, “Well, he's not making those catchy, goofy-ass ‘Kicker of Elves’ type songs, things you can really sing along with.” Hey, we did that! How long can you do that? I try to challenge myself; I'm sure any artist would say that.

That's part of the reason you dissolved Guided By Voices, right? Because you worried about just going through the motions?
Yeah, [we were] just kind of in a rut, going nowhere. Granted, without seeming egotistical, I am Guided By Voices. I was the leader of a guild, a club called Guided By Voices. In my opinion, bands, they form together, they grow up together, they live together, they write together, you know what I mean? It never was that. Not to take away anything from the people in Guided By Voices, because a lot of them were talented people, but it was a revolving thing. It never was a real band in my mind.

Toward the end of Guided By Voices, now, it was kind of more like a band. I'm talking about Doug Gillard and Nate Farley -- those guys had been band members for seven or eight years, so it was becoming more like a band. Because we'd been together for a while, it was kind of like a solidified lineup. We got to the point where it seemed like every time we got together for a record, it was: “OK, I'm sending you the demos, you guys see what you can come up with, let's get together and practice, and let's go make a record.” It was starting to become routine. The main reason I broke up Guide By Voices was because I had recorded From a Compound Eye. So I had this sprawling double album I was going to put out as a side project on Fading Captain series, and this was an album that was way too epic to be pushed aside as a side project. So, since I was kind of bored with Guided By Voices, and I've got this big record that's a solo record, I might as well start a solo career.

Were you happy with the way Compound Eye was received?
I loved Compound Eye. It was my favorite record that I've ever done. And I seriously thought, critically, it was going to be a big record. People liked it; some people really liked it, and no one really hated it. It just didn't get that big, “Wow, this is a big plateau." It just didn't get that; I really thought it was going to. That was kind of an epiphany, [where I said], “Fuck, I'm not even gonna worry about what the record is gonna be like. This is gonna be the big one.” That shit's kind of over with, because that happened along time ago, with Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes. Back then, we could do no wrong. First of all, a lot of people were saying that was the "classic lineup," but really, it was the initial freshness of a new band. We were discovered, and we were on MTV, and we were on shows, and people saw us play live for the first time. We were very -- well, we weren't very young, we were in our mid-30s -- but we had a lot of energy. So our live performances were excellent; just three hours of sweating and kicking and jumping. And then the records were a very schizophrenic thing; they were weird! And quirky! And four-track! And hissy! And switched songs! And weird lyrics! It was a dual thing going on, and it was very exciting to people, because they'd never seen it. It was also that we were mysterious. We'd been in the basement 10 years, and to come out, like, here's what we are, here's what these guys look like -- "Hey, they're kind of old." And there was a story behind it: This guy's a schoolteacher, and it was a hobby; they didn't send [their record] out. There was all this mystery, and this initial enthusiasm that made people think we were the next Beatles or Nirvana or something. I can never expect to recapture that.

So Compound Eye was the first double record I'd ever done, and it was my first solo record, I just thought… I don't know. I appreciate the critics, and I know some of them, and it's not like I pay that much attention, but I thought that all the people who had embraced us around Bee Thousand would have thought there's a reinvigoration here. But like I said, it was a good thing that taught me not to worry about it and have a good time. It's the same deal from when we [GBV] went for it with TVT. We thought, “I'm sick of seeing bands that aren't as good as us having hits, and playing the big stage at Lollapalooza. I gotta do that." I did it, I felt like a fucking fool, and it taught me a lesson not to ever do it again.

For one thing, the problem with us is that we came in too late. We were very grateful that we were accepted, we got a label and we could do music for a living. But as far as commercial success that goes along with artistic success, I think that, had that happened to us when we were 21, we could have been as big as the Strokes or something. We were old by the time we were discovered. What was great, though, is that we were accepted by our peers. It almost gave us credit for all those years. By people like Sonic Youth and R.E.M, even though before, where were they? It was like when I taught in public schools: For the first four years, I was a long-term substitute. When I finally got hired, it was my fifth year, and I thought for sure they were going to start me at step one, for pay, but they started me at step five. We got to start on step five. We were immediately accepted by people our own age.

As far as commercial success goes, you've flirted with it, and you've worked past it, but now you're a solo artist on Merge, a label with artists that are making the Billboard Top 10. Do you still see that level of success as a possiblity?
There are a few factors involved in commercial success. One of them I already talked about, which is age. Another part of it is the willingness of the artist to jump through hoops, which I won't do anymore -- which I never really did at all, except for those couple of years on TVT, and I wasn't even willing to do what they wanted me to do at the time. It gets ridiculous. They want you on the road for a year, they want you to get up in the morning and do radio shows, and sing at 9 o'clock in the morning after you've played until 3 o'clock in the morning.

The other factor is that the label has to really get behind you, to that point of paying -- it's called payola. I'm not saying Merge does that; I'm saying you put a little of an extra push into magazines, a little extra push into radio stations, a little into whatever media, iTunes, I don't know what it is. They get more push, they [the labels] spend more money on them. Obviously, if a band is younger, or prettier, or have something that appeals more to what's going on at the time, they're going to get a little more push. When we were on TVT, they were starting to give us some push, but I don't feel they were giving enough. They were relying on us to work our asses off. I thought that the pressure was more on us, but the label expected big things from us. They wanted to take "Hold On Hope " -- a song I thought sucked to begin with -- and remix it and make it radio-friendly, and that’s going to be our big hit. That’s what’s going to be associated with our career. That’s career suicide.

So we shook hands and left. To get a hit, it’s timing, it’s a little bit of luck involved, it’s probably got to be a decent song, but the main thing is that you’ve got to have an incredible amount of push from your label, and the band itself has to do an incredible amount of work. And I’m not willing to do that anymore. To answer your question: No. I will never have a hit.

Are there any other times you’ve turned your back on a commercial opportunity?
I was approached by Budweiser to make up the Budweiser song for a commercial. They were going to give me $50,000 just to try it, attempt it. This was a long time ago, and I said, “Sure! I like Budweiser.” But the song had to say “This Bud's for You” in it, and I sat there on my guitar, trying to think what I could do to sing, “This Bud’s for you,” and there was no way. This was 10 years ago. I contacted my manager and said, “I can't do it. Fans would think I'm cheesy.” If they had used it, the amount of money would be ridiculous.

There was another time -- what was that Tom Hanks movie? That Thing You Do. They wanted me to write the songs for that, but that's all. I couldn't write it! I sent them some of the songs that I already had. Someone told me Tom Hanks liked it, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. They were going to try to direct me as to what they wanted, a song named “That Thing You Do.” And I started thinking about it and said, “Fuck that.”

There's another thing coming out, but I'm gonna do it. It's with Steven Soderberg, but I've worked with him anyway [with Bubble]. He’s supposed to be doing this big, huge musical -- Cleopatra. He's writing the script. I think what they're going to do is take old songs of mine and just change the lyrics.

Are you satisfied at the level you’re at?
We were talking about what it takes for commercial success -- I mentioned payola. First of all, labels are gonna deny that shit. And like I said, Merge probably doesn't do that, or not too much of it at least. I'll tell what they do: Put a lot of money in the band. It's understandable, because they're younger, and like I said, they've got the “sound of today.” You're not gonna put a lot of money on someone who's not gonna bring you back a return. So I'm just happy. It's good to be on Merge; it's higher profile label, you have more visibility, and I think it's cool they let me on their label. They made this agreement, and I think in a strange, old-guy way, I'm kind of a feather in their cap, just from an inde-rock standpoint. Like having Robyn Hitchcock on your label or something. They've got some other people like that -- first of all Mac's [Macaughan] got himself, with Superchunk. Mission... no, Mission of Burma's on Matador. They put out Dinosaur [Jr.], don't they?

They have a few of the remnants of that, the ’90s indie-rock scene, so to have me on their label -- they don’t have to put a lot of effort or money into it. They do enough, I do enough. I don't have to put a lot of effort into it now. So it's like, here comes another Bob record.

You were going to return to Matador to start your solo career, right? What happened there?
We didn't see eye to eye on an idea they had, that I at first agreed to. Their plan was to release one legitimate album out to the public, and then we were going to create this other thing, which I came up with the name for, “Holiday Camp.” And what this involved was, I had to come up with, over a period of four months or whatever, two songs a week for them to download. I had to come up with a cover once a month, of artwork, and at the end of the four-month period or whatever it was, they then could choose which songs [that made an] actual record. I thought that was cool at first, but then I’m thinking, “Jesus Christ, that sounds like a lot of work for me.” You know what -- because Matador told me this one time -- they were the biggest sticklers about this, about me doing too much music. They were constantly [saying], “You're diluting your genius, you're putting out too much product, you need to take a break.” But that's not how I work. They were always on that. They never enforced it strictly, but I started to think, and I could be wrong, that this thing that they devised, this “Holiday Camp” thing, was a way to harness my prolificness, with all my side projects. If I did two songs a week, or two songs every two weeks, I'd have no time for side projects. That's just my theory, but it sounds good.

I really like Matador. I had a lot of friends on Matador -- Gerard [Cosloy] and some of those people. I hope I'm wrong about this theory. I know they're upset that's how it ended, because when I go to New York to play -- there was a Bee Thousand party, for the anniversary -- no Matador people. Not at my shows. None of my old friends. That's why I can freely express what my theory on that was.

They were really adamant I had to do that, except for Gerard. Gerard said, “Nah, you don't have to do that,” but a couple other people there said, “Yes you do.” I'll see you. It's been real. It was pretty funny, too, because I told them at the time, “You notice how all the people who leave Matador go to Merge? I think that's funny.” Now I did the same thing. Now they probably think it's real funny.

You mentioned your peers earlier. Who do you consider now to be your competition, artistically?
I don't consider anybody competition. I can tell you who my peers are that are still doing things, like Robyn Hitchcock -- but even to a more commercial level, Eddie Vedder. I've done stuff with Eddie Vedder, I might do some shows with Pearl Jam -- even if they’re more commercial and they’ve got their thing, and they’ve spawned some bad music -- he’s got the same attitude as me. Just a really good guy. He's younger than me, but probably greater in wisdom, as far as going on the road and seeing how it's all done. He's always actively involved with what's going on in the industry.

I’m just talking about peers as far as influence is concerned, what we like and where we’re at. He’s at a much more commercial level, but I think we work as hard, and he’s really into rock and being serious about it. He’s not out there to meet girls and all that shit, for the backstage party. When we opened for Pearl Jam, there was no one in their dressing room. Hell, our dressing room was always infiltrated by everyone, it was insane, but I opened it up to that when we first started touring. But I thought it was very professional that Pearl Jam allowed no one back there. You think of rock bands, you think of Poison, assholes in the back. That was one of the things that turned me off about rock, when we started doing festivals -- what the typical rock star looked like, how they behaved, how fucking “cool” they thought they were. Obviously, all bands aren’t like that, but 95 percent of the bands I saw are.

Are you seeing that same behavior going on at smaller levels, with indie bands indulging in rockstar behavior?
We've had a running joke going on for years: “What shitty band are you in?” You see a guy walking down the street, and he's got his hair plastered to the side of his head, he's got the clothes on, and he's got the guitar -- that's the rockstar attitude, where you gotta be a symbol of your own individuality, yet you look like every-fucking-body else. And that just kills me. I used to not mind it, when I wasn't in a band and I went to concerts when I was young, but that’s when they really were original. T. Rex and Bowie and shit, they came up with that. The look now, it’s not that. I don’t know, it’s an amalgam of arena-rock star, indie-rock star, grunge, goth. The whole thing just turns me off. It’s not even a drug thing. That wouldn’t even bother me if people were sitting around getting fucked up -- but they’re not even drinking! The whole image of the rock star thing turned me off; that’s why I couldn’t deal with it.

My point being, Eddie Vedder is not that. Whether you like his music or not, he has integrity and he’s not that, and the band’s not that. The question was who do I consider my peers: On an emotional level and an integrity level, I’d say Eddie Vedder. People like Peter Buck. Robyn Hitchcock. Paul Westerberg. Not to say I've had the success those people have had; they seem to have kind of have the same outlook.

Do you get frustrated when people can’t keep up with your output?
No. I understand it's kind of freakish. It's kind of ridiculous. My thing is, I'd like to be able to help you out, slow down for you, but I can't. I’m doing it, and I’m going to keep doing it. Life is boring enough. Are you gonna compound that by saying, “You can't do anything. You can't do what makes you happy. The only thing that makes you excited and happy, please don't do that”?

Sometimes I even say, “I'm going to take it easy this summer. I'm going to do some traveling...” Then I'm thinking and it's just an ellipsis. What am I going to do? I don't play sports anymore, I don't fish, so what am I gonna do? I'm gonna make up some shit, you know? And what used to be cool, I used to get together with other people like my brother, and other people that have gone on their own way and don’t do that sort of thing anymore, and we used to get together on the weekends and kinda jam out shit. Not “jamming” so to speak, but we'd call it “controlled jams,” do something for a minute, then stop. Then do something else for a minute, then stop. And we'd do that all day long, and you'd come up with fuckin' hundred ideas. And you don't listen to it until you're done, and you sit back and listen to it, and pretty much laugh your ass off. But out of that came a few good ideas. I kind of miss doing that. But some of those people are off working, marrying, having kids, so we don't have a chance to do that. Even though I had kids when I did that, that's a thing I used to do, but can't anymore. Even in the early ’90s, I used to do that to a lesser extent with people like Kim Deal and used to hang out at her house and try to jam around and come up with ideas.

Now, I’m just kind of on my own. I’ve even tinkered with the notion of moving somewhere else, maybe to a place with people who are interested in things I'm interested in. But the thing is, I don't even explore that here. I could maybe do that Dayton, I just don't know anyone. I've kinda gotten outta touch. The one constant this whole time is that I still have the thing that I do. So you can't ask me to not do that. To slow down. ’Cause then I go crazy. But I'm crazy anyway.

What would happen if you decided to take a year off?
If I were going to take a year off from my art, I would have to do a lot of traveling, just see the country a little bit more. And get drunk a lot. I’m not too bad, though, like some people think. I have maybe four or five beers and I’m drunk. Maybe a shot of tequila every once in a while. I used to have people come up to me after a show, like, “Man, where's the party at?” That was the party; I'm done. I always got this reputation like, that guy's a complete drunk. Well, you saw me doing that on stage. You might see someone not even drinking on stage, then after the show, they're gonna go party, pop pills, snort coke, whatever, all night. What I do is visible. I like to drink beer. It's a social thing. I don't drink by myself. I enjoy drinking and talking. I don't even like to hear music if I'm out drinking with people. I wanna talk.

The thing that really hurts your voice is talking over music. And I used to worry about that all the time; what if I get onstage and I can’t sing? We did a couple tours with Cheap Trick, and I asked Robin Zander how he sings 300 nights a year, every year, the way he sings, in that register, just screaming it. He got kind of upset with me, like it was a stupid question, and said, “I don't even think about it.” After he said that, I never thought about it again and I never had a problem with my voice.

Have you ever downloaded a record?
Have I ever downloaded songs? No. I kind of don’t allow myself to get too much into computers, downloads and that sort of thing. I don't have a cell phone, either. There's a level of intrusion that I experience anyway that I can't get away from, people calling me and shit. I don't have a website, or a MySpace. I don't want to open up to that. And I don't download, because I buy records, vinyl. In essence, you can say I'm stuck in the past. Why do you ask?

I’ve heard you don’t mess with computers much, but I wondered how you take in music these days.
Doesn’t the industry frown upon that? I don't have a problem with people downloading; I just want you to listen to my music. I don't get a lot of money from the industry, anyway. That's why I gotta do a lot of other stuff. I only get a certain amount of people, and they’re hardcore, but it’s a small percentage of people who are buying my stuff anyway, or introduced to my stuff.

With your new material, do you think you get many new fans onboard?
There’s always a few, but not that many. In the years of our initial freshness, we’d sell 50,000 to 60,000 records each time we put one out. Now it's probably 10,000 or 15,000. Which is good, because probably half of those people have probably been around, and I think the other half are curious. I’m sure when you drop a name like Guided By Voices, in a review or something, it’s sort of associated with something hip. Like Modest Mouse or Pavement. We’re going to sell more records just out of curiosity.

What was the last great band you discovered?
I discovered a band recently, and I had them come on tour with us. They're called the High Strung -- they’re a really, really good pop band. A lot of good songs, and they’re a three piece who can really play well. I wouldn't call it retro, but it kind of brings back a nostalgic feeling in music that you miss. Jason Nardusy sent me a CD of some Chicago bands -- all three bands were good, but one in particular was called Baby Teeth. That was crazy! [One was] like a Burt Bacharach song or something. Other than that, I don't really buy music because I don't know what to buy. I used to pride myself -- I used to be an expert on what records to buy. Now I don't know. I'm back to square one. I can only rely on people sending me stuff.

At one point, I used to buy LPs like a maniac. That was my thing. Now I have almost everything I want. Then I got into movies, and now I've got a hell of a move collection, but I've kinda slowed down on that. Then I was buying books for a while, classic literature, philosophies, Kerouac, Bukowski and all that shit. My new thing is trying to find secondhand shops, and try to find printed materials, posters, programs and things that I can cut up on and do collages with. I can get lost in that for an entire day until I’m spent. Kind of the way I used to write songs -- I can sit at this table and realize six hours got away from me.

Have you lived in Dayton your whole life?
Yeah. I’ve moved around within Dayton, probably six times in the last five years. I don’t want to move anymore; I’ve got too much shit. I got divorced five years, maybe six years ago, so I had to move around and try to find where I would be most comfortable. And I just got married about four months ago. We’ve got two cats, so I’m kind of settled down now.

My son’s in town this week with his wife. He lives in Portland. He has my grandson with him, so I get to see him for the first time since he was born. He’s just about ready to walk, pulling himself around and leaning on chairs here and there. So that’s cool. He’s about 10 months old.

Tonight, by the way, happens to be Monument Club night. I don't know if you've heard about that; it used to be guys I went to school with, we’d go out Wednesday and Sunday. Now it's just on Wednesdays, not many members are left. In fact, most of the guys in Monument Club now are friends of my son in high school. They’re coming over tonight, my son’s coming over, we're gonna do it up right here at our house, and swim… whatever. Watch the Cincinnati Reds.

Are you a baseball fan?
I played baseball. Baseball got to be boring for me. I played it from about 8 years old through college and a little bit after college. I got really sick of it, and I couldn’t watch a lot of it. I’m a sports fan though. My dad wanted my brother and I to be professional athletes. That was his unrealistic goal. Not totally unrealistic, ’cause we were pretty good, my brother especially being a good basketball player. Buying records and playing music -- he kind of frowned on that. Even though he's the one who turned me on to it. He let me join the Columbia music record club, where you get 12 albums for a penny. He kind of started me on that path anyway. It taught me how to select music -- I was young, I just picked them based on the album cover. And band names: Moby Grape, King Crimson. That's the way to do it.

Will you ever form a new group?
I even thought about maybe doing a record with them. It crossed my mind, that maybe we should do a record with the Ascended Masters. I’m having a lot of fun just being independent. It's nice to work with just one guy, Todd Tobias. And he always knows exactly what I'm thinking. I call him the Northern Plant of Ohio. We're a factory, mind you. He's the northern plant, I'm the southern plant.

I'll tell you what it would take: In order for me to get another band, I'd have to come up with a really good name. A name that's so good, you can't not have a band.

Between all the side projects and the joke band names on the Suitcase sets, you seem really fixated on band names. Why is that? What's in a name?
I'm trying to fulfill this recurring dream I used to have. I used to have this dream that I would go to this record store, and it was always in Cincinnati, and it was always on this darkened street by the river, and there was never anyone in it -- there was never even anyone working in it -- and there was nothing but racks of 45s and albums on the wall that I created in my brain, in my dream, with names that were cool and covers and shit. This was all created in my dream. And I’d' wake up, and the shit didn't exist. So I made that exist. That's why I do all these new projects, to make it exist. And it does. ’Cause it's so depressing to find cool shit and find out it was a dream.