Formed in 1983 by Robert Pollard, Guided By Voices have released a staggering amount of music in the past 35 years including 25 studio albums and Pollard has written over 2,000 songs in his career. The latest release 'Space Gun' is sonic journey reminiscent of David Bowie's space oddities and odysseys.
Kuz of The Latest Noise chatted with lead guitarist Doug Gillard to discuss the band's recent albums, their current tour, the challenges and rewards of working with a prolific songwriter and how to balance it all.
Kuz: Hey Doug, thanks for taking time to chat with The Latest Noise. To give you some background, The Latest Noise serves as a platform to help musicians and fans of music in the Tri-state area connect and grow their following. A lot of the musicians I'm connected with are in multiple bands and are co-existing in multiple projects. As the guitarist for both Guided By Voices and Nada Surf, do you have any advice on how to balance working on more than one music project at a time?
Doug: The last couple of years has been the first time for me to have to juggle two bands that have large followings. We have the understanding with Nada Surf, that if I can't be with them they will operate as a three piece. With Guided By Voices, I can't just say to them, "I'm going to sit this one out" because I'm the guitar player. You are always shifting gears but it's not bookended with constant shows. In Guided By Voices there is always ongoing recordings, so your head is in one record recording-wise, but then you have to learn the set for the record coming out right now. Even before I re-joined Guided By Voices, in New York or anywhere really, there was tribute shows that I'd take part in, so I'm used to have multiple things going on. I think a lot of musicians are like that now.
Kuz: Right, seems like more now a days bands that take a break to have solo projects or to keep things fresh.
Doug: A lot of musicians have friends who ask them to be part of thing and just don't say no, they know it's for fun.
Kuz: With Guided By Voices there are so many albums, how do you balance the tour and the live music, are you drawing from the history or the more current music?
Doug: We draw from the history, songs throughout Bob's career, including some of his solo albums. We are playing stuff from the new album mixed with the old stuff.
Kuz: When you are approaching an album working with someone so prolific how does the process change?
Doug: The process for the last two albums (Space Gun, How Do You Spell Heaven) has been the same. Most of us live in the New York area, we'll get Bob's demos and record the music here. Then Travis Harrison (engineer) and one or two of us will go to Dayton and record Bob's vocals there and come back and mix them. That seems to be a process that Bob enjoys and that he trusts the work that we do. For 'August By Cake', it was more of mishmash, he came to New York, he had some songs that he hadn't finished in Dayton. Each member recorded a couple of solo songs. It might be different next time, but right now that's the formula that he has in place.
Kuz: You guys had a short run in December, was that a warm up for the bigger tour or just one off shows?
Doug: Yea, those were just one off shows, we made the New Years shows very long and played some old chestnuts that we don't usually play on tour.
Kuz: What have you heard about White Eagle Hall?
Doug: I've heard some nice things about White Eagle Hall, I heard it was once a gym and now the floorboards are part of the balcony. I'm happy for New Jersey and that side of things. Even Manhattan is getting low on affordable clubs to go to. It's a rent issue. I'm really glad for the folks of Jersey, that something is located in Jersey City. Asbury Park has things happening there but I'm happy that there's something in the Hoboken and Jersey City area. I'm longtime friends with Todd Abramson, all the folks at FMU over the years and let's not forget about Monty Hall. Monty Hall is great, they have some neat things there. It's a small world, I first played Maxwell's in 1986, Ira Kaplan was our sound man, I think he had Yo Le Tango going but I first met him way back then. I'm really looking forward to seeing White Eagle Hall and playing there!
Kuz: Great! Thanks for taking time out to talk to The Latest Noise.
Doug: Best of luck, hope to see you at the show.