Heavy Rhythm: An Interview With Doug Gillard

dougThere has been many pivotal moments in the life of Guided By Voices. The bands 1993 performance at CBGB’s during CMJ New Music Seminar as well as when Robert Pollard scrapped what is now referred to as the “classic line up” (the first time) in favor of fellow Ohioan’s Cobre Verde on Mag Earwig and more recently Doug Gillard’s return to the line-up in the summer of 2016. Since that point Bob and co. have been on tear releasing a string of exceptional LP’s with GBV as well as with ESP Ohio, a project that features Gillard as well as current bassist Mark Shue and GBV producer and audio engineer Travis Harrison. On Monday GBV will play a sold-out show at The Sinclair in Cambridge for what will be their first Boston area appearance in over two years, a momentous occasion indeed. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of talking with Doug Gillard about the recording process for the forthcoming double LP, Zepplin Over China, the bands current 2.5 hour Live set, and his continued solo and production projects. A huge thank you to Doug for taking the time and fielding our questions.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What can you tell us about the next Guided By Voices LP, the 32 track Zeppelin Over China?

Doug Gillard: Its a double album (vinyl), and completely diverse. It ranges from heavy songs to songs with strings, to just one electric guitar with Bob singing. We are very proud of this album, and its not really like any Guided By Voices album released to date.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: With the band being spread out geographically, what was the recording process like this time around?

Doug Gillard: We recorded about a third of the album’s music together as a group to 2-inch tape, then others we individually played or sent in parts for at different times. When the music was completed, our producer/engineer Travis Harrison traveled to Dayton from NYC to capture Bob’s vocals for the album. I did some string, horn and piano arrangements for the album as well.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Is there track or perhaps tracks on the new album that stands out for you or one that you are eager to play Live?

Doug Gillard: We are already playing You Own The Night and Rally Boys live in our set, soon to put in My Future In Barcelona, which I think will be in by the time we hit Boston. I can’t wait to play Holy Rhythm live.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Before the release of the next GBV full length, there are plans to release two EP’s this November, Winecork Stonehenge and 100 Dougs. What was the creative process behind those EP’s?

Doug Gillard: There are 2 more EPs being released after those as well to complete the cycle, namely Umlaut Over The Ozone and 1901 Acid Rock. They all have songs hovering around 2 minutes or less, 6 songs per vinyl EP, and play at 33 rpm. Bob wrote the songs for each one fairly quickly, and we actually recorded a lot of the guitar/bass tracks while in the van on our tours. Travis is along with us, brings some gear, and we monitor through the rented van’s stereo speakers. Kevin did his drums at our friend Ray Ketchem‘s Magic Door studio in Montclair, NJ to kick it all off. Later next year after these vinyl EPs are released, all songs from the EPs will then appear collectively as an album imagined and re-sequenced by Bob entitled Warp And Woof.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: In terms of gear, your trusty black Les Paul has been your go to guitar for years. What is it about that guitar that keeps you reaching for it?

Doug Gillard: Its just dependable. Really durable (don’t jinx this, Doug), and the bridge pickup is a mid 70s DiMarzio Super 2 that just has a unique bite to it. Its a ’76 Custom I bought from someone in Akron when I was 19 and I keep it maintained a bit, but I don’t have to do much. Its heavy as shit, too, which I hate these days, but hey, you gotta sacrifice your sacroiliac for your life’s work every now & then.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What is your current gear set up on this tour?

Doug Gillard: Currently its the Les Paul, a G&L Tele as backup, an old Mesa Dual Rectifier Solo head, Marshall 4×12 cabinet and a bunch of pedals. Pedalboard is ever-evolving. Not so much evolving, as that implies some kind of goal or an end, but it will always change as our set changes, and as I discover new pedals & sounds.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How do you come to work with Eternal Summers over the years?

Doug Gillard: I met them when they opened for Nada Surf in 2012, and we exchanged music. They were gearing up to record a new LP, and asked if I would produce them. That became The Drop Beneath LP. They made 2 subsequent albums and keep getting better. Nicole Yun from Eternal Summers just completed a solo album and I play on a few of the songs. Its a really great record.

The AGP: What do you look for in a projects or bands you work with, weather producing or supplying instrumentation?

DG:I don’t know exactly. I have to like the songs and the vision or direction of the band. That’s a really subjective thing I know, so its just a vibe, generally.

The AGP: Since re-joining Guided By Voices in the summer of 2016 the pace of recording and Live performances has been unparalleled. Is that something you were prepared for going back in as full time member of GBV?

DG: I was to a degree! At that point, I think he felt rejuvenated a bit and started writing more frequently and knew that the band was now complete with no need to source outside people to do more experimental or prog colored side projects. Its all in-house.

The AGP: You recently played a set with Travis Harrison and Mark Shue in support of The Moles in New York City. Do you have any plans to record with that line-up or perhaps revisit ESP Ohio with Bob?

DG: I’m working on solo things, and have finished a couple here and there. I’d love to play more shows with Mark & Travis for sure. Bob hasn’t mentioned another ESP Ohio but we’re ready to do one if he calls one day and says he wrote that album. It was so much fun to do.

The AGP: Has your busy schedule afforded you the time to work on solo recordings for a future release?

DG: Yes, here and there. We have breaks, and when we’re not recording Guided By Voices records or overseeing a session for (Bob’s discovery) Cash Rivers & The Sinners (2 albums out now and available through Rockathon Records and Midheaven) there is some time to write and record.

The AGP: It’s been a little over two years since GBV played Boston, what can the sold-out crowd at the Sinclair expect from the bands anticipated return?

DG: We’ll be playing material from the upcoming 6-song EPs, at least 3 songs from Zeppelin Over China, several from Space Gun, and some ol’ fave chestnuts for a 2.5+ hour show. Wear your Depends™.



*Photo Credit: Ana Morales– Long Island City, Queens, NY

Guided By Voices – Space Gun [Review]

space gunHow does a writer stay objective when tackling the latest recording from an artist that he’s been passionately following for over 20 years? It’s arduous task no doubt, especially with the singular work ethic and output of Robert Pollard, but one I’ll happily embrace. Whether you are an obsessive that collects original pressings of Acid Ranch, Nightwalker, and Cash Rivers or merely a fan of the mid-90’s trifecta of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under The Bushes, Under The Stars this latest collection requires your immediate and uninterrupted attention. The material found on Space Gun equates to one of Pollard’s best outings in recent memory and one that can sit proudly next to the band most revered recordings. A logical and exhilarating next step to last year’s How Do You Spell Heaven? and August By Cake.

With the news of Space Gun, also came the caveat that this would be the only Guided By Voices album released in 2018, a newsworthy event unto itself. Over past month or so, I have had the opportunity to really dig in to this LP and that decision seems warranted and necessary. It’s fair to assume that Bob has another album in the can but it’s telling that instead of rolling into his next side project or another GBV release he is exhibiting restraint to give the songs that occupy Space Gun their due. I recall reading that Matador had tried and failed to temper Bob’s release schedule during GBV’s 90’s stint with the label, I guess that goes to show us all, that only Bob can hold back the flood.

Normally on first exposure to a Pollard related release there are those tracks that jump out immediately and then there are the growers that slowly unveil themselves over repeated listening. With Space Gun nearly every song has immediate charms and considerable hooks. The album opens with the sound of an automatic hand towel dispenser before chiming guitars and strong rhythms take hold while Pollard delivers a commanding vocal on the title track and drives the four minute song headlong to a glorious conclusion with the refrain “ all day long…”. From there the album is off and running at a brisk pace before slowing slightly at the blissfully melodic and hook laden Ark Technician. The current lineup of Guided By Voices is a formidable one to say the least and they provide varied and charging instrumentation to accompany one of Pollard’s finest songs cycles. On Liar’s Box Pollard delivers in my estimation a standout on album full of standouts. A song that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Universal Truths and Cycles or Earthquake Glue. The track begins with angular guitar lines, throbbing bass, and pounding drums before Pollard steals the show with a soaring chorus that proves to be the LP’s most euphoric moment, only to be heightened by a sensational closing guitar coda from Doug Gillard and Bobby Bare Jr. On Sport Component National GBV delivers a 3 part rock opera that distills Bob’s prog, psych and pop leanings beautifully into a 3 minute fist pumping anthem. Then comes That’s Good, a track that first came to light on GBV’s Suitcase 3 in its skeletal form, but on Space Gun the track is given the full band treatment complete with strings and the results are staggering. To my ears, the melancholy drenched track is a distant cousin to the GBV classic If We Wait with immaculate production, courtesy of Travis Harrison. Throughout this LP, Pollard leads this incarnation of GBV through a varied and exhilarating 15 songs in 39 minutes, but not a second is wasted. Space Gun is a herculean rock record that is equal parts power and beauty from the unparalleled creative force of Robert Pollard.

Order Space Gun from Rockathon

The Flying Party Is Here: Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are + Guided By Voices – Please Be Honest

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Prior to tonight’s Boston return of the newly reconstructed Guided ByVoices, we feel obliged to point out two recently released LP’s from Robert Pollard. Bearing in mind the arduous task of keeping up with Bob’s unhuman like output is no easy feat, however when he turns in two LP’s of the caliber of Guided By Voices’ Please Be Honest and Robert Pollard’s Of Course You Are,we feel compelled to share some thoughts on two records’ who’s songs haven’t left our headphones for very long since their respective release dates.

Back in March Pollard released Of Course You Are. For his 24th solo, full-length he enlisted assistance from his Wicked Ricky collaborator and current GBV guitarist Nick Mitchell to take on all instrumentation, recording and production duties. The LP finds Pollard delivering his most concise and accessible song cycle in recent memory.

The 12 track album reaches just over the 30 minute mark with each song exhibiting Robert Pollard’s unmatched ability of delivering skewed and exhilarating rock songs drenched in pop, prog, and psychedelia. It’s been 30 years since he released his first official Guided By Voices recording, yet somehow he continues to create material that presents a tenable argument that his best work may not be behind him. Pollard has taken to performing a handful of songs from Of Course You Are during the current GBV tour, and for good reason. With tracks like Promo Brunette, I Can Illustrate, and Collision Daycare, Robert Pollard delivers an album filled with beautiful melodies and arresting pop hooks.
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Reportedly, it wasn’t until Please Be Honest was near completion that Robert Pollard realized that he had recorded a new Guided By Voices record. Pollard wrote, recorded, and played every instrument on the album. Understandably, the LP has gotten comparisons to classic GBV LP’s like Bee Thousand and Vampire On Titus,due to the lo-fi aesthetics at work here. We prefer to stay away from comparison’s to the bands most revered recordings and let Please Be Honest stand up on its own merit, to which it has plenty. The album is one of the more varied and at times challenging sets in the GBV cannon, with immediate and infectious tracks like The Quickers Arrive and Kid On A Ladderwhich finds Pollard blending the guitar pop of late era GBV with those beloved recordings that took them from the basement to indie darlings in the early 90’s. Additionally, on Please Be Honest, Pollard discharges off kilter sludge rock on Glittering Parliaments, Hotel X (Big Soap) and horror post-punk on the jarring yet captivating Nightmare Jamboree.

On the albums blissful and melancholic title track is where we find Pollard’s strongest and most memorable melodies of the new set. With the dissolution of the “classic line-up” there was plenty to be skeptical of when Pollard announced he was releasing a new GBV LP that could’ve easily been a solo or side project, however Please Be Honest sounds undoubtedly like a Guided By Voices album; superb songwriting with massive pop hooks and Pollard’s one man show musicianship is the albums surprising secret weapon. I’m reminded of one of the interview segments in Banks Tarver film Watch Me Jumpstart (and I’m paraphrasing) where Pollard is asked where all his songs come from and his dead pan response rings truer today than ever,  “Hey, I’m Guided By Voices” . Indeed Bob, indeed…

Guided By Voices play The Paradise tonight with support from Nap Eyes.

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