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"Ric told us we couldn't drink," he grouses. "I thought, 'That must be his policy, because he wants to get a better performance.' But the thing is, we give better performances if we have beer. It's more laid-back, we're more comfortable, it sounds more like us. Why would you want Guided by Voices to make a record that doesn't sound like Guided by Voices? That's what threw me about being on a bigger label: You knew what we were, you know who we are -- why would you want to change us completely and make us sound not like Guided by Voices? When I worked with Ric and Rob or any producer, they geared the songs toward radio. So they have this tendency to say, 'You need to do the verse three times instead of twice, and do the chorus an extra time,' and I don't like that. I like when things are to the point and get in and get out real quick."
Worse, Pollard reports, he battled Ocasek and TVT over a preciously creamy left-field ballad about which he instantly had doubts, since it sounded too pretty for GBV. "I thought 'Hold on Hope' [included on Do the Collapse] was out of bounds from the way I typically write songs. The chord progressions, in my opinion, were a little too predictable." But Ocasek loved it, and TVT insisted on sapping it up with synthetic strings until it "sounded like a skate-rink song. I get to the point where I don't like people telling me what to do," Pollard says sharply. "I told them, 'I cannot let you release that.' So we fought. I thought it was career-destroying. I developed a bad taste in my mouth about that song, and I don't ever want to hear 'Hold on Hope' again."
In fact, though it was released as a single, Pollard will not allow Matador to include "Hold on Hope" on an upcoming box set consisting of a 30-song, career-spanning greatest-hits album; a live disc; a DVD of the band's videos; plus platters of rare and unreleased tunes, including the long-out-of-print debut EP, Forever Since Breakfast.
Prolific even as he reaches 45 years old this Halloween, Pollard not only releases a Guided by Voices album approximately every year but through his Fading Captain series, he builds upon a stunning, ever-growing outcropping of solo and collaborative works as well. The latest installments include a variety of limited-edition seven-inch singles and a pair of stellar albums produced with ex-GBV veteran Tobin Sprout, under the heading Airport Five.
"It kills me when people say, 'You're putting your solo career in front of Guided by Voices,'" Pollard gripes. "It's all Guided by Voices! My solo career is Guided by Voices. If it's my name, it's my baby." Pollard's songwriting compulsion -- he feels rotten if a day goes by and he hasn't knocked out a few tunes -- may well continue for the rest of his life and into the next. "I hope that after I die," he says, "I can continue to write songs there too."
Even an open-minded label like Matador needs to meddle to a degree (it overruled him on Universal Truths' first single, putting forth the zippy "Everywhere With Helicopter" instead of the galloping "Back to the Lake" or the keening, catchier-than-Velcro "Cheyenne"). "They think they know what constitutes a single in this day and age, and they probably do," Pollard sighs. "I'm kinda stuck in the Sixties and Seventies." But he'll end up following their suggestions. "You make concessions," he says, "because they believe in you."
Possibly Matador believes the band will finally have the hit fans and friends know is overdue. But Guided by Voices has tried before: with the punchy, Cars-esque "Teenage FBI" that leads off Do the Collapse, it had its best shot, but it tanked commercially. Pollard knows not to expect anything but another outpouring of material from his busy pen.
"Even with the resurgence of rock -- the Vines and the Hives and the Strokes and the White Stripes and all that -- we don't even fit in. Although those bands kind of like us, we just swim out there on our own."