Skip to content

EXCLUSIVE: Robert Pollard Talks Pete Rose Film


4,192, an upcoming documentary about baseball’s all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, is being scored by indie-rock’s all-time non-hits leader. We ask the uber-prolific ex-Guided By Voices mastermind Robert Pollard how the hell this happened and what’s up with his other cinematic undertaking.

PLUS: Scroll down and download a song composed by Pollard for the film! For more on the film, visit the official site.

SPIN: So. How the hell did this happen?
POLLARD: Matt Davis, who runs Rockathon Records, which is essentially our distribution, our label, had a friend who knew the director, Terry Lukemire and producer, Aymie Majerksi, who were both semi-fans. They were looking for someone to do all the music and Matt said, “Bob’s got thousands of songs, he’s all you need.” I met with them a few weeks ago and saw a rough cut and they said they wanted a lot of anthemic stuff. It’s Pete Rose, he’s got heart. Muscle and heart. They’re using instrumental versions of songs that already exist, but I’m also gonna write one new song for them for the main theme — five minutes long and building up to a big crescendo. I’m picking all these kick-ass songs for it. They want me to slow it down in certain spots, but it’s Charlie Hustle, man.

Growing up in Dayton, Ohio in the ’60s and ’70s, you must have been a Cincinnati Reds fan, right?
Totally. He was everybody’s hero. We’re only 40 miles out of Cincinnati, plus Pete Rose played minor league ball here in Dayton and his Uncle Buddy was a major league scout who was based here. Plus, Mike Schmidt is in the documentary, and he’s from Dayton and, you know, he played with Pete later on with the Phillies. So there’s a lot of Dayton going on in this thing. Pete Rose was everybody’s hero — everyone in Little League slid headfirst into first base because of him. The movie is supposed to be premiering July 9 in Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, you and your brother Jim were elected into the Northridge High School Hall of Fame. Is it weird to think that you’re in a hall of fame for athletic achievement and, thanks to his gambling, Pete Rose isn’t?
It’s not quite the level of Coopserstown, but yeah. You could make a lot of money on a bar bet: “One of these two men is in a baseball hall of fame. Can you guess who?” I guess I got in mainly for baseball — I pitched a no-hitter — but I played football and basketball, too. This documentary doesn’t focus on the negative shit, but I think he got a raw deal. What the fuck? He did what he did but his accomplishments stand for themselves. If I were Pete Rose, I’d be like, “Fuck your Hall of Fame.” But obviously it’s important to him, so he should be in it if that’s what he wants.

There probably aren’t too many indie-rock icons who were also high-school jocks.
Completely incongruous, especially when I went to school. Sports was the fucking antithesis of music. Music was associated with hipsters and freaks and hoods and shit. You either played sports or were in the crowd of rock n’roll and drugs and shit.

Do you think that’s changed a lot? Death Cab for Cutie played the Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day to 60,000 people, decked out in customized Mariners’ jerseys.
Sure. The way music is now, it’s an amalgamation of everything, and I don’t think sports has that stipulation where people consider it not hip. When we first started playing live as Guided By Voices, I was nervous, it had been six years since I’d played in front of people. But then I was like, “Fuck it, we’re athletes.” And that helped me to get over my fear and feel like I could get onstage and jump around and kick. I know how to do that sort of thing. I’m an athlete.

But instead of drinking after the game, you’d drink during. Speaking of movie projects, what’s going on with Steven Soderbergh’s Cleopatra, which was reportedly going to be a musical featuring all Guided By Voices songs?
Man, I don’t know. I’ve almost forgotten about it. Steven’s always involved in so many overlapping projects, while I get shit for doing that. I’m diluting my product and making too much music, but directors, they can get away with that. I think people come to expect that of me now, and it’s like, if you don’t like this album, there’s another coming in two months, so that’s great. But I’m not always as happy with one as I am with others, they’re not all equal. It’s kind of a nice luxury. But Cleopatra, my thing is, it better happen soon because some of the people playing important roles [Catherine Zeta-Jones], they’re not getting any younger. All I basically knew was that [ex-GBV bassist and SPIN editor] Jim Greer wrote a script and he and Steven chose, like 20 songs out of my catalog, and changed some of the lyrics and it was gonna be based around those, like a rock opera. The songs were gonna take up half the movie.

And it was supposed to be 3D, right? Totally ahead of the curve!
Exactly! We missed the boat on that one. We could have been at the forefront, now it’s commonplace. But it sounds pretty fucking cool. Mostly I just want to see the motherfucker.

So, now that all the ’90s indie bands are making big paydays doing reunion tours, can Guided By Voices cash in, even though you were the only constant member?
Yeah, that’s the thing, people like to associate with the name. They want that fucking name. I probably went through 50 or 60 band members. I could play a show and call it Robert Pollard or whatever and maybe 200 people would come, then have the same band and call it Guided By Voices and there’s a thousand. I don’t quite understand it. Without mentioning names, I just got an offer for something like that, but I was being dictated to as to who should be in my band and my response was, “You don’t tell me who’s in my fucking band.” But I can still be Guided By Voices, I’ve got all kinds of concepts. One is, I could prefabricate a band and hold tryouts. Like the Monkees.

Robert Pollard, “The Original Heart”(DOWNLOAD MP3)