Interview - Robert Pollard - From a Compound Eye

Matador wanted to keep me on as a solo artist but we had a difference of opinion on a project that I later thought was silly. So I decided to go elsewhere.

Feature by Paul Traynor | 15 Feb 2006
Well, it's February, and you know what that means: it's already a month since all those cut backs, fitness boosts and "de-toxing" bints fell through the proverbial roof. All that precious energy exerted trying to change yourself for the better, all wasted within a day.

Well you can wallow in your self-pity for not being able to eat fewer chocolatey snacks, but at least you can still remind yourselves that if change were - as it is so often mislabelled - "good" then Robert Pollard's creative output would have halted long ago. That, as any self-respecting indie kid should be able to tell you, could be very bad.

So seeing that he's still hard at it, this month sees the release of Uncle Bob's very first 'solo album'. That is, if you could really call anything of Robert Pollard's a 'solo album', with a veritable host of material and different side projects to his name since his career began in 1983 with the birth of Guided By Voices.

But this really is a conscious effort on his part to create something different, and 'From a Compound Eye' - the 70-minute, 26 track album - is a testament to GbV fans everywhere: ridiculously long with grungy guitars, ballsy production values and apparently meaningless lyrics spewed forth from the voice-box of Mr Pollard.

However, a distinction now needs to be made between GbV and Robert Pollard, a certain detachment of one from the other. This is an entirely understandable move for the founder, lead-singer, guitarist, writer and indeed, only constant member in the band, as he explained to The Skinny:

"Even though the two entities (GbV and Pollard) are basically the same, I think I've shed the expectations that come with being a band leader. I just feel a certain sense of creative freedom. A rebirth, if you will."
And he pulls it off, shedding the name Guided by Voices and moving from band environment to the oft-dangerous solo territory with the ease that you would expect of any true veteran musician.

But Pollard's "re-birth" has been mirrored in more ways than the shedding of the GbV moniker. For years Guided by voices were one of the Matador label's most prized talents, signed in 1995 shortly before the release of the EP 'Alien Lanes'. However, despite the label's attempts to keep Pollard onboard, the drive for more creative freedom moved him away towards smaller label Merge, and producer Todd Tobias.

"Matador wanted to keep me on as a solo artist but we had a difference of opinion on a project that I later thought was silly. They were pretty adamant, so I decided to go elsewhere and Merge seemed like the perfect place. He (Todd Tobias) really is a remarkable musician and producer. It's almost gotten to where he's the only person I want to work with."
Recording the album in only five days with the help of Tobias, 'FACE' took significantly longer to write, comprising brand-new tracks nestled among some written when he was still in his early teens.

The eerie chants and vocal melodies of Blessed in an Open Head, for example, were merged from two songs written when Pollard was only twelve; 'FACE' is proof that those wacky fans screaming "genius" from the rafters are pretty much on the ball.

So, focusing his energies on his post-GbV career – his plans include collaborating on a musical version of Cleopatra, rumoured to star Catherine Zeta Jones – it's clear that Pollard doesn't intend on slowing down any aspect of his multi-faceted career.

"I'll release three or four side projects this year, tour from late January to late April and I have a second Merge release in the can, possibly out in October. I can't scale back."
Daft Dilemmas with Bob Pollard:

1. Pink Floyd's The Wall or walls in general
A. Anybody else's wall but not Pink Floyd's.

2. Bright Eyes (band or song) or bright eyes as a result of dying from consumption?
A. Does one obtain brig