It Has To Be GBV…
… and Doug ‘Doug-gle Duty’ Gillard Will Tell You Why
Part Two of our Doug ‘Bulldog Skin’ Gillard interview. For part one, click here.
By Andy Harris
AH: Me and a few friends caught GBV (Guided By Voices) in Nashville back in April, before you re-joined the lineup. I think the hardcore fans are happy to see you back in the band.
AH: People drop in and out of the lineup on a pretty routine basis. How did you find yourself back in the fold this time?
DG: There was a vacancy that had just happened. It was unexpected. They needed someone to fill in for a show in Cincinnati and I had actually just seen them a couple days before that in Connecticut. I’ve been friends with everyone in the band for the whole time and I catch them when I can. So they asked me and I said “Sure.” I wasn’t doing anything that Friday night in Cincinnati and I could fill in. It was actually the night before the show that they found out. I didn’t have much time to get ready but I said, “Sure, I’ll do the show in Cincinnati.”
Then after that they asked me to join and it was kind of a hard decision because I’m a member of the band Nada Surf as well and we’re supporting an album and Nada Surf has played as a three piece in the past. Most of their past. They’re known as a three piece, and I’ve been a member this year. I’ve been a touring member of the band for about five years. But they can get it done as a three piece and the fans still get to see a vintage three piece show with them. If I’m there, they’ll have a more fleshed out show. But I decided I could make both of them work. It’s been really a lot of fun playing with GBV again.
AH: I can imagine. Is one of the bands currently a priority over the other? If you have two shows on the same night, how do you make that decision?
DG: Well, it has to be GBV because they can’t play if I’m not there. They can’t really do a show if I’m not there.
AH: Right. Two guitars.
DG: They need the two guitars. That actually has happened. There are some conflicting dates this fall. I’ll have to miss a few Nada Surf shows stateside and a few in Europe. Everyone’s aware of the dates so we’re gonna all make it work. There’s one date in Charlottesville, VA where Nada Surf plays and I’ll just stay in town for a GBV show the next night.
AH: How convenient. You know it would be a pretty good gig if you joined maybe one hundred bands, and all their tours just kept rotating around to wherever you are.
DG: That’s a good idea. I like that concept.
AH: A definite gimmick. You’d have to know a lot of songs to do that. With the GBV setlist being pretty stacked and with the number of bands you’ve been in over time, how many songs do you think you know at this point?
DG: Hmm. I kind of only know, really know, what’s required at the given time. There are a lot of songs that I used to know that if someone pressed it to me right now, I couldn’t play it cold. Things that were in the setlist back in the early 2000’s for example. Things like ‘Motor Away’ and ‘Tractor Rape Chain’, I didn’t really need to practice again. I know those pretty well. ‘Smothered In Hugs.’ I knew a lot of the older songs pretty well when I did that first show. We only did three new songs. It was a festival set so it was shorter. But then for the tour I had to learn thirty songs that are in the set. We usually play two hours plus if it’s not a festival and we’re supporting a lot of new records and things that I didn’t play on or support back between 2006 and now. It’s been really fun and exciting to learn and play songs from various Robert Pollard solo records and newer Guided By Voices records.
Guided By Voices, from L to R: Robert Pollard-songwriting, vocals; Mark Shue-bass; Kevin March-drums; Doug Gillard-guitar; Bobby Bare, Jr.-guitar
AH: So when you gotta learn all these new songs, does the band carve out some rehearsal time together or do you get a list of songs and learn them all on your own and put it together later?
DG: It’s more of the on your own thing. We do rehearse a little bit. Get together and maybe practice twice or something like that. But for me, it’s just a lot of listening, listening, listening, while I’m doing things around the house. Showering. Whatever. Just put the stuff on and let it get into my head. That’s the best way to learn for me. It kind of travels to the amps later.
AH: A little muscle memory.
DG: Yeah. I’m a by-ear player usually. I do chart it out just so I’ve written something down, in case I need to refer to it later. But usually the listening and then playing along with later is the way to go for me.
AH: Do you take a note for note approach to learning the new songs or do you ballpark it and play the part the way you would have played it?
DG: It depends on the song. A lot of them I’ve ballparked it. And Bob pretty much trusts me and trusts my sensibilities and what I can bring to a song. Now with chord structures and structure of the song, I’ll stick to what’s on the record as much as I can. Try to get the same voicings. But I’ve known all of Bob’s voicings that he’s written songs with on guitar from day one, and he still uses a lot of the same ones. It’s easy for me to decipher what he’s doing just by listening to his demos or the records. That’s an advantage there.
AH: Is the setlist something that Robert Pollard picks or is that a democratic thing and does it change from show to show?
DG: It’s definitely something that Bob does. He does this at home. He has a master list of things to play on tour and it changes from night to night. The order certainly changes. The sequence changes for sure. We’ll shuffle things around. Then what we’ve been doing this last tour is we’ve been putting in new songs almost every show or every other show. Adding some in. Dropping some. Because I think with the new lineup, Bob sees the flexibility of the band and enjoys that. He enjoys adding things because he knows we can learn them pretty quickly. New old things, if you know what I mean.
AH: Right. How about a guy like Mark Shue (bass)? He’s definitely the youngster in the lineup. He’s like half everybody else’s age. How’s he holding up?
DG: Well that means he should be holding up a lot better than the rest of us. He’s in great shape. He has the youth. He’s a great player. Indirectly I brought him to the band because he was in my solo band, playing shows under my name. We opened up for GBV a couple of times. He had already been a friend of Bob’s and a fan from going to some of the fan events. He’s buddied around with him in the past anyway, so Bob knew him as a good guy to begin with. It’s been great playing with him.
AH: Like I said, I went to the GBV show in April in Nashville, and I was surprised to see such a relatively young dude playing in the band. I guess it kind of makes sense, with as many lineup changes as there have been, that Bob Pollard keeps on marching forward through time, getting a little older, and band members can stay young sometimes.
DG: Sometimes. Most of it, we’ve grown along with him. Most of the guys.
AH: There’s plenty of songs in the GBV setlist and discography that you weren’t a part of the writing or recording process. What are some of the ones that make you say, “Man, I wish I had written that!”
DG: “Official Ironmen Rally Song” has always been a big favorite of mine. We’re doing a lot from the era that I was in the band. A lot of songs from Robert’s recent records, I love. The song “Of Course You Are” is great. Bob rarely co-writes anyway, so I guess we come at it from a standpoint of a record I wish I was involved in making, since co-writing is not much of a possibility. Sometimes he’ll have band members contribute whole songs to the records, which is something we’re going to be doing on the next one that’s gonna come out. Each one of us has contributed two songs and it’s gonna be a double album.
AH: Holy cow. That’s cool.
DG: Yep. We’re gonna record it next week.
AH: Is that going to be called GBV or will it have a new band name? (note: Robert Pollard has a lot of non-GBV projects.)
DG: It’s GBV for sure.
Guided By Voices for sure plays Saturn on Monday, November 7th
Doors 7pm / Showtime at 8pm / $26.50 in advance / $28 day of
Surfer Blood opens