Chronicling the creative process for Pop Zeus, the forthcoming Guided By Voices/Bob Pollard tribute comic- including sketches, concepts, finished art and whatever else is in my brain at the moment.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adrian Tomine and Peter Bagge on Guided By Voices

(Peter Bagge images courtesy of

Was farting around on the ole interweb the other day and found some interesting comic book and Guided By Voices connections (besides yours truly, of course). On a Google search, I came upon a cool illustration of the band by Adrian Tomine...

Neat! Tomine is the acclaimed comix creator of Optic Nerve and his graphic novels have made major inroads into retail book stores. He also does a lot of great work for the New Yorker magazine, for which this GBV illustration was commissioned. And some lucky fan (paging aholinrake) picked it up for 650 clams.

On the same search, I found a FAQ with Peter Bagge where he mentions Guided By Voices. Bagge is the legendary comix creator of Hate, Neat Stuff, Sweatshop and a million others. And he is also a huge pop music fan, contributing greatly to one of my favorite music books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. So it was interesting to me that he knows so much about the Bob and the band. Perhaps I should approach him to contribute to Pop Zeus? Odds are he wouldn't want to do something for free but you never know, right?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pop Zeus MVPs Revealed! #3- Jim MacPherson

Jimmy Mac, Hillbilly Boy, Mister Gold Record- call him what you will, but Jim MacPherson is forever Pop Zeus MVP numero three! There have been a Spinal Tap-ish plethora of Guided By Voices drummers over the years, all very talented and worthy of honors. From Kevin to Kevin (Fennell and March forming a GBV drummer history sandwich), the underrated Dave Swanson to the short-lived but amazing Jon McCann- many have come and many have drummed. But no one kicked as much ass on vinyl and in concert as Jim MacPherson, if you ask me.

Sadly, I never had a chance to see Jimmy Mac play for GBV ('99 and '00 being my get the fuck outta Dodge years). But the concerts I've heard as bootlegs are tight- the best lineup of the band ever some say (that being the stripped down Demos, Gillard, MacPherson, Pollard quatro).

And MacPherson's pounding performances on Do The Collapse, Isolation Drills and Kid Marine are classic (not to mention his guest appearances on Waved Out- Make Use and Subspace Biographies anyone?). Plus his side project work with Pollard as a member of The Soft Rock Renegades and The Moping Swans equals or bests his GBV output. Often MacPherson has been paired with Greg Demos on bass, my #2 MVP. Together they created one of the most formidable rhythm sections known to rock and/or roll.

Guitar pop as powerful as Guided By Voices needs a real caveman drummer to hold it all together. And there is none finer than Jim MacPherson, my third Most Valuable Player.

The Beatles- I Am The Walrus Video

This rather silly video from the Magical Mystery Tour made-for-TV movie is I Am The Walrus. The tune is an undisputed psychedelic classic and the album is one of my very favorites ever (in spite of being an afterthought). The Beatles profound influence on rock history, popular culture and Guided By Voices cannot be underestimated. Specifically, I believe Lennon's late-60's free form lyrics are the single greatest lyrical influence on Robert Pollard, period. GBV even went so far as to cover I Am The Walrus in concert a couple times in tribute to this massive band and song. Enjoy!

Monday, May 29, 2006

My Kung Fu (Or Kick, Punch, It's All In The Mind)

Happy Memorial Day! Coincidentally, I just heard the 21 gun salute here in the Presidio, home of one of the National Armed Forces Cemetaries. I live less than a mile away as the crow flies. The gunfire set all the dogs in the neighborhood barking, including Timmy- my 10 year old mutt and best buddy. Hope you are enjoying your day off and pause to reflect on why we have this day off in the first place.

So if you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have been wondering what the "school" is that I keep referring to attending on the weekends. On top of my animation "career", maintaining this blog, and the Pop Zeus project, I am also training for my black belt in kung fu! The style I am learning is Choy Lay (or Lee) Fut, one of the most practiced styles in China, particularly in the cities. And I believe its popularity stems from being a modern style that combines elements of many other styles, both Northern, Southern (a combo of Southern hand striking and Northern high kicks) and weapons forms. Its kind of a "greatest hits" of kung fu (so to speak, heh)!

And where I practice is the Tat Wong Kung Fu Academy here in San Francisco. It's honestly one of my favorite places to be. The students are very cool, helpful and respectful and the instructors are nothing short of awesome. And I have mucho respect for Master Wong who is an unbelievable martial artist. Been practicing there for 3 years or so and I am currently an advanced brown belt, which means I should be testing for my black belt sometime in the fall, I figure. Learning a sword and fighting staff form currently, my 7th and 8th forms (a form is a choreographed series of moves for performance purposes).

Both of my brothers are athletes and I was always the more cerebral and, of course, artistic odd-ball of the family. So it has been great to find my own niche. Never been one for the gym or running around aimlessly (as I see it)- not stimulating enough for my overactive brain. Always been into martial arts in film- from Bruce Lee to Jackie Chan. And now its a part of my life, which is pretty cool. My school is closed yet again today or I would definitely be getting ready for class as I write this.

So if you hear me bitching about being too stressed, busy and burned out, now you know another piece in the puzzle. Thankfully, this piece is one that generally gives me energy and relieves stress. It does contribute to my frenetic life of late but it is too important to me to drop. Anyway, I will keep you updated on occasion as I head toward my black belt. To quote Supersonic Love Funky Love Gun- Pow!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shout Out To The Raindog

In the middle of my three day Memorial Day weekend. The break from work has been very welcome but the time itself has been lame. Didn't really make any plans thinking I could use the free time to work on the comic- big mistake. Railroading myself to get things done never works. And my school (subject of an upcoming post) was closed today and will be tomorrow. So the structure I usually rely on isn't there. To top it off, I've been feeling tired and uninspired lately. Been hard to get up off the bed- burn out city.

But just in time to lift me out of the fog, I got a mind blowing package the other day of Guided By Voices CDs from my man Raindog on Disarm The Settlers, the GBV message board. In exchange for sending him the 30 Songs rarities sampler, this guy sent me the first 3 discs of the Broadcastor House/Trust The Wizard set and 5 concert bootlegs, including 2 that are 2 discs long! Wow!

The first one I've been listening to is the famous 40 Watt Club show from Athens, Georgia in 2000. It was one of the first shows with the Farley, Tobias, MacPherson, Gillard lineup. And the quality of the recording is amazing and the show itself is completely kick ass. Lots of great stuff from the new-at-the-time Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department and even a rare performance of Matter Eater Lad. Dayton Ohio 19 Something And 5 and Dragons Awake recorded from this show have even appeared on official releases.

And the Broadcastor House discs are amazing so far as well- heard a great 2002 live radio broadcast from Sweden and some unreal acoustic radio sets from 1999.

My experiences with the GBV fan community have always been nothing but positive and generous. So this is an official thanks to Raindog, who represents us well! You rock!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Why "Pop Zeus"?

Lately some folks have been asking just what the title of my GBV tribute comic "Pop Zeus" means. So I have my old journal (the beat-up one I filled up with ideas before combining and refining them into the Grail Diary) propped up next to me here by the keyboard to help jog my memory.

The process of coming up with the title began at some point around September of last year. I remember looking for a short phrase that would say something succinct and powerful about the music, the band and how strongly I feel about them. And I chose to utilize the bands own tendency to reuse song titles or lyrics as album titles or vice versa as a jumping off point. I also wanted hardcore fans to get that it was GBV related right away, a connection to the band that could also speak to non-fans or neophytes.

So here is the list of abandoned title ideas taken straight from the bands catalog. The reasons why it was considered and not chosen are next to the titles (the stared ones were the top candidates- and old practice of mine to highlight good ideas in my notes)...

The Color Of My Blade - Always loved this b-side and I think I just liked the sword imagery. But it didn't say much about the band so it was wisely jettisoned.
*Exit Flagger - This was a front runner- classic GBV track from Propeller and it made reference to the end of the band. But the sense of power and music was ultimately lacking.
Soft Rock Renegades - Taken from the name of one of Bob Pollard's solo lineups, this moniker would have been an amusing comic title. But the irony and reference might have been lost on casual fans (cause they don't really play soft rock, you see, heh)
Big Fan Of The Pigpen - I guess I considered this one because of the "fan" idea. But it was quickly discarded- the imagery is too odd and doesn't make literal sense. Great Bee Thousand song though.
A Restless Shadow - Yet again an interesting title, but too moody and strange I think. Didn't convey the powerful and rocking side of the band, perhaps more appropriate for a goth tribute comic! Taken from the wonderful lyrics of Sleep Over Jack.
Sad Freaks - This liner note description of the band from Alien Lanes always stuck with me. Again it was only conveying one aspect of the bands personality and music. And it was not exciting me as a comic book title.
Crying Your Knife Away - Name of one of the oldest live bootleg albums, this one would have been a good title for the comic. For me it was yet again referring to the breakup of the band.
Game Of Pricks - Great song, great song title, but not really applicable to the comic or band.
Skills Like This - Interesting idea for a title, but alone as a phrase it lacks the context of the song as a whole. What skills were being referred to wasn't clear either.
The Everlasting Big Kick - Taken from the lyrics to The Enemy, this would have been a great title. The energy is there, the power is there. Maybe it was not short and punchy enough?
*The Flame That Cries - Another strong contender and one of my absolute favorite track ever by the band. Again it was reflecting the sadness in the end of GBV with a cool visual image. But the feeling of power was again lacking.
Meet My Team? - I must have had doubts about this one to put the question mark there. I guess I was saying that the band was my team with this title. But it still was not strong enough as a title.

*Pop Zeus - When track title off of Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department came to mind, it was an instant front runner. Ironically, the song isn't even on a proper Guided By Voices album. But Bob is GBV and GBV is Bob in my estimation. And in two short words, the song title sums up everything I want to say about the band, my feelings for the music and the themes of the comic.

Pop Zeus as a image, the god of rock so to speak, really conveys the supernatural and otherworldly energy and face melting power of the bands music to me. Zeus being the king of the Greek gods also fits my opinion that there is none higher- that GBV are the best and that all other bands shall bow before them! And when I listen to their music, it makes me feel powerful too. Plus the title is short and snappy, which is great for any logo or title. And the god imagery also fits into the comic book ouvre, with god-like heroes and bombastic images. It also gives a sense of the lightheartedness and fun of the project- not so much a eulogy for the demise of the band, but more of a celebration of their music which continues to live on and move us.

There you have it. Oh, and by the way, the full title of the comic is Pop Zeus: A Tribute To Guided By Voices. The subtitle is just to make clear right on the cover what you are getting. Hopefully I will have some logo ideas to show you all before too long. Seacrest out!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody Video

Just a short post today- got a lot on my plate. Here is the first in a series of rock videos and live clips I'll be posting of various Guided By Voices influences and/or stuff that rocks. And first up to bat is the always kick ass video to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the very first modern promotional music video clips.

1975's Bohemian Rhapsody, very much in the prog rock mode of its day, anticipated GBV/Bob epics like Christian Animation Torch Carriers, Conqueror Of The Moon and Secret Star. With their tempo changes and wild shifts in tone, these multi-part songs feel more like a journey through the chapters of a story than most conventional rock songs. And apparently a big influence for the track was the Beatles classic A Day In The Life, quite possibly the first rock song of this kind.

Thematically and lyrically, the song is also in league with youth anthems like My Generation and Smells Like Teen Spirit and shares literary parallels with A Clockwork Orange, The Stranger, and Catcher In The Rye. Dark and powerful stuff!

And what more can be said about the power of Freddies Mercury's singing and Brian May's guitar? The vocal and guitar harmonies are lush and tingle-inducing. And when the rock kicks in, Bohemian Rhapsody rocks hard!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thoughts On Psycho And The Birds, The Takeovers And The Keene Brothers

(photo of Slusarenko, Richie T and Keene courtesy of Breck Rowell)

Feeling much more like a human being today- the cold bugs are on the run. I've noticed that when you are sick for a few days, you start to forget what it feels like to be well. And then when you start to recover, it's surprising how much better you feel both mentally and physically! This may all seem very logical to the rest of you but for my poor brain, its a great insight. Spent a lot of the day watching my DVD of Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. I had forgotten what a visual delight that movie is. I am a total sucker for the book series and this is the first film that really lives up to the printed page.

On to the business at hand! So I've spent about a week with my CD copies of Psycho And The Birds, The Takeovers and The Keene Brothers (for more info, look here). And I may be the worst possible person to give my thoughts on these new albums after such a short time. So I'm not sure what I was thinking when I promised this post a while back! It takes me forever to "get" new music. When they say an album is a "grower", make that double for me. And GBV and Bob's albums are nearly always growers- the only exceptions I can think of off the top of my head are "Speak Kindly" and "Half Smiles Of The Decomposed".

But I will give it a go. And here I go..

Psycho And The Birds "All That Is Holy" - This is easily the most enigmatic of the three side projects. The spare, crusty and purposely lo tech packaging design bespeak to the musical content on the CD. To create the final product, Bob has once again sent home recordings to Todd Tobias and let him work his mojo on them. And the result has a very different feel than the similarly conceived Circus Devils albums. For one, Bob's vocals are buried in the mix, making the lyrics hard to decipher by design. And the extremely short songs are framed by poppy yet strange instrumentals, the familiar alongside the odd- lots of organ, acoustic guitars and strings. Their shortness makes it that much harder to get a bead on what you are hearing. The melodies are off kilter and meandering as well, reminding me of the more psychedelic Nightwalker projects. A folk Nightwalker maybe? Ah hell, I don't know! My favorite tracks so far (the most poppy, I guess) are Late Night Scamerica, The Killers, and the MP3 previewed Hello Forever, which reminds me of Peter Gabriel. Get back to me in a few months on this one!

The Takeovers "Turn To Red" - I hate choosing favorites, especially on three records so absolutely different from one another. It's like choosing a favorite child. But Turn To Red is it! Instead of loosing Todd Tobias on these tracks, Bob gave them to the short-lived GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko. And holy shit, the result is incredible! I felt from the word go that Slusarenko's work on Half Smiles was some of the most melodic and subtle playing in the GBV canon. And he proves himself invaluable once again here. The best comparison for the album that I've been able to come up with is Bob's 1998 solo album Waved Out- the same mix of bold rock and tuneful silly weirdness. Insane/Cool It sounds like the best 60's Rolling Stones song never recorded. Scuffle With Nature is disturbingly delicious. Sweet Jelly shares a guitar part with one of my recent Bob favorites Breadcrumbs For The Whales and may be one of the weirdest Bob tracks ever, which is saying a lot. Fairly Blacking Out kicks ass, 'nuff said! Serpentine Rain Dodger is weep worthy- amazing amazing. It was built on the skeleton of a late 80's Bob recording unearthed on the bootleg rarities collection 30 Songs (known there as She Don't Know Your Name). Bob wisely handed it over to Chris and the result is magic. And what the fuck is Bullfighter's Cut? Wow. Turn To Red kicks ass.

Keene Brothers "Blues And Boogie Shoes" - Now this is the one I'm really struggling with. Sonically, The Keene Brothers is the most radio friendly I have ever heard Bob. The production is impeccable, the instrumentation sublime, the songs very pop. Pollard's vocals have never sounded stronger or better. And the lyrics are pure poetry, sad and beautiful. Why am I struggling then, you ask? I guess the album is so different that what I am used to, that my brain won't wrap around it. Or something. Get back to me on this one too. I suspect it may sneak up and grab me by the throat one of these days. Standout tracks so far are Death Of The Party, Island Of Lost Lucys (loveliness defined) and This Time Do You Feel It.

I'll be back!

(photo courtesy of billyverde)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Pop Zeus Live Video

Still feeling sick as a dog today even after sleeping most of yesterday away. So I'm kinda stuck here at home with nothin' to do but watch TV, catch up on my DVDs and listen to music, which ain't that bad really. Finished watching the Criterion Collection DVD of Kurosawa's Ran, one of my favorite movies of all time. The insightful audio commentary and gorgeous transfer on this edition make it worth every penny. But as for right now, I'm in a blogging mood. Plus I need to get on buying some online plane tickets for next months trip to Pittsburgh for the Pearl Jam/Robert Pollard show! More later on that...

Enough jibber jabber. Here is a live video of Pop Zeus, the song that my comic is named after. The track was part of the amazingly kick-ass 1999 Bob and Doug album Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department. The video was filmed somewhere on the 2001 Isolation Drills tour and it totally rocks. You get to see a grab bag of Bob's stage moves, the powerhouse guitar work of Tim, Nate and Doug, plus John McCann slamming away on the drums like there is no tomorrow- all at the same time from a birds eye view! Sweet!

6-6-06? The National Day Of Slayer, Of Course!

In just a few short weeks is a holiday that I can really get behind. No, not Memorial Day. The National Day Of Slayer!

I'm honestly not a metalhead (not that there's anything wrong with that). In spite of my reviews for Fargo Rock City and Guitar Hero, my interest in metal has not extended much beyond early Metallica, Black Sabbath and Guns N' Roses (and that mostly in high school). But in recent years I have been feeling more and more like I did in high school, therefore gravitating back toward the ear-splitting music of my youth. And that music was the most obnoxious stuff I could find- rap (as it was known then) and heavy metal.

And a holiday that seeks to mock the truly annoying Christians-only National Day Of Prayer and at the same time play some loud-ass rock sounds like fun to me. And what better date then the "number of the beast" to get some serious headbanging in and scare some old people. Unlike a lot of holidays, The National Day Of Slayer requires no expensive gifts or the consumption of strange food. According to the official website, to celebrate the day you should...

Listen to Slayer at full blast in your car.
Listen to Slayer at full blast in your home.
Listen to Slayer at full blast at your place of employment.
Listen to Slayer at full blast in any public place you prefer.
DO NOT use headphones! The objective of this day is for everyone within earshot to understand that it is the National Day of Slayer. National holidays in America aren't just about celebrating; they're about forcing it upon non-participants.
And if that's not quite doing it for you, take it to the next level by...

Stage a "Slay-out." Don't go to work. Listen to Slayer.
Have a huge block party that clogs up a street in your neighborhood. Blast Slayer albums all evening. Get police cruisers and helicopters on the scene. Finish with a full-scale riot.
Spray paint Slayer logos on churches, synagogues, or cemeteries.
Play Slayer covers with your own band (since 99% of your riffs are stolen from Slayer anyway).
Kill the neighbor's dog and blame it on Slayer.
Now that's what I'm talking about! I recommend Reign In Blood if you buy only one Slayer album to celebrate with. You still have more than 2 weeks left, so get on it!

Enjoy the holiday everyone!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I've Got A Headache In My Stomach

Whelp, it seems like I've gone and caught myself a cold- got the runny nose, groggy, sore throaty feeling. Don't think I will be going to work tomorrow- why waste a perfectly good cold on the weekend? Not sure if this will mean more or less posting on the blog. Definitely will have more time to listen to the new side projects while I'm laid up. Be back as soon as I am able so stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pop Zeus MVPs Revealed! #2- Greg Demos

(photos courtesy of

Demos! What can I say? There have been many talented bassists over the 21 year history of Guided By Voices- most notably Tim Tobias, Mitch Mitchell, Johnny Strange and Chris Slusarenko. But it's hard to ignore the outstanding contributions and tight striped rock pants of Greg Demos, my second GBV MVP.

Demos relationship with Bob and the band goes all the way back to 1987, when Greg and fellow future GBVer Don Thrasher were in the band New Creatures. Bob jumped on stage at a local gig to sing along with "Nature's Way" by Spirit and they've been friends ever since.

On again, off again is the best way to describe Demos' involvement with Guided By Voices. When not with the band, he has had a successful career as a lawyer of all things. But every time he returns to GBV, Demos brings something special to the mix. His very first appearance with the band was on 1990's Same Place The Fly Got Smashed, largely responsible for the unique sound and production on the album. Greg also played bass on 1992's Propeller, then returned after a break for 1999's Do The Collapse. A string of amazingly kick ass live performances followed culminating in his last show documented in The Who Went Home And Cried DVD.

In recent years, Demos has messed up his "lawyer wig" to participate in side projects Robert Pollard and his Soft Rock Renegades and The Moping Swans. He also made a hilarious and memorable appearance after a lengthy hiatus at GBV's final show in Chicago, cracking Bob up as he totally rocked out on I Drove A Tank. His striped rock pants also made a memorable appearance, as worn by the fan in front of me in line who won the "win Greg's pants" contest!

No bones about it, Greg Demos is a worthy Pop Zeus MVP!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We Can Be Heroes (Guitar Hero Review)

OK, I admit it. I am a video game nerd.

Growing up in the 80's (not sure if I ever grew up come to think of it), video games were a big part of my life and continue to be so. I have jumped over flaming barrels, swung over crock infested swamps, eaten hundreds of ghosts and wondered why the frog crossed the road. Countless quarters, countless hours never to be seen again. From the Atari 2600 to the Turbo Graphix 16, from the Vectrex to the Super Nintendo- I've played them all.

And one of the best "console" games I've ever played is Guitar Hero for the Playstation 2. It is rock geek wish fulfilment at its most gratifying and addicting. Every wanna-be has strummed the air guitar to their favorite rock anthem. But why spend years learning to play Smoke On The Water badly on a real guitar, when you can play Bark At The Moon today?

The game comes with a scaled down black guitar controller, so the simulation is quite real. Instead of strings and frets, you strum a bar and push down on 5 colored buttons on the neck. It even has a responsive whammy bar that bends the notes. In the game, you play as an up and coming band rocking venues from the basement to the arena. And as you advance up the levels, more difficult songs are unlocked.

And what makes the game really great is the song sellection. There is truly something for everyone. My favorites are Ziggy Stardust, I Wanna Be Sedated, Killer Queen, Symphony Of Destruction and More Than A Feeling (for real!). It's impossible not to feel your inner rock god come alive as you pseudo-play these classic guitar rock tunes. And anytime I've felt the inspiration tank getting empty while working on Pop Zeus, Guitar Hero is a quick and dirty reminder of what it's all about- RAWK!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Instrument Beetle Live Video

Instrument Beetle is a devastating and amazing track originally found on Robert Pollard and his Soft Rock Renegades 2001 album Choreographed Man Of War. I clearly remember the first time I heard the song, listening on my headphones as I was drifting off to sleep. And it totally blew my mind. You can even hear Bob breathing before he starts singing, so intimate and yet creepy. This 2001 live performance of Instrument Beetle from San Francisco's Fillmore is awesome- and I was there! You can totally see me on this video, often right under Bob's elbow as he sings. Look for the dude with the big Polish melon in spectacles...

Slowly But Slowly

It is with a little shame and a lot of chagrin that I post today. Work on Pop Zeus has slowed to a crawl over the last 2 weeks, hence the lack of update posts. The good news is that things should be getting back on track starting today.

Had a really tough two weeks at work culminating in a blowout of sorts. Stress levels had been reaching new heights, morale reaching new lows. So I had been petitioning for a long overdue and well-deserved financial boost. And this week the verdict came in- I received almost nothing. In no uncertain terms I let them know how unhappy I was. Even though I'm afraid I may have pushed a little too hard, I didn't totally lose my shit. And I am proud of standing up for myself. That's really the most important thing in the end.

Otherwise, not much new progress of note on the comic. Been going over what I have written so far, making some additions, corrections and cuts. Also been making new headway on completing the writing for the 1st and 3rd Illustrated Songs- both have big action sequences that I am having a lot of fun coming up with "gags" for. Spent a little time doing thumbnails for the early scenes of the 1st Illustrated Songs as well, using my old-school generic black ink Bic in the Grail Diary. The Diary is made with lined pages and blank pages, so it's perfect for writing comics. All the lined pages are just about full in the main Diary, so I've started to use my backup journal for the 3rd Illustrated Song. Attempted some design work on Saturday for the Bob Story segment but I crashed and burned- was too unfocused and groggy (classes have been kicking my ass on the weekends too- more on this later). Actually, my progress doesn't seem so bad now that I write it all out. I guess I just thought I would be further along at this point.

On the exciting news front, I got my Psycho And The Birds, Takeovers and Keene Brothers CDs in the mail on Saturday from Luna! They all sound great but the Takeovers is my instant favorite so far. I will post more thoughts on these releases later in the week. Music typically takes a long time to grow on me so I'm not sure what I will have to say by then, but there you have it.

Until then, true believers!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pop Zeus MVPs Revealed! #1- Tobin Sprout

There have been upwards of 50 members of Guided By Voices over the bands 21 year existence. So along with a brief history of the band, I wanted to highlight outstanding GBV players in a special and fun section of the comic. There will be only be 6 or so MVPs featured in Pop Zeus, which is not to diminish the contributions of every single band member over the years. They have all rocked. But it was hard to resist creating a GBV "dream team" with so many talents to choose from.

The first MVP revealed is Tobin Sprout. Not only was Tobin one of the key contributing members of GBV over the years, but he has had an amazing solo musical career and an entirely separate artistic life as a primarily photo-realistic painter. Renaissance man, indeed!

Highlights of his GBV years include major contributions to classic 90's albums like Bee Thousand and Propeller, brilliant collaborative one on one work with Bob Pollard on Vampire On Titus and Tonics And Twisted Chasers, creating the signature lo-fi GBV sound on his basement 4-track and the penning of classic tunes like Awful Bliss, Gleemer and Mincer Ray.

It's hard to imagine someone more deserving of the MVP moniker than Tobin Sprout!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bug House: An MP3 Sampler Of Rare GBV Tracks Available For Download!

Go now to the Guided By Voices Database to download Bug House- an mp3 sampler of the upcoming massive compilation of rare and unreleased Guided By Voices radio sessions, broadcasts, and interviews called Broadcastor House. Robert Gray has spent the last few years compiling this awesome chronicle of GBV media appearances. And you can get a taste of it right now! More details to follow about the complete Broadcastor House's availability on Disarm The Settlers and the GBVDB. And don't forget to donate to the good people at the database for all their hard work. Thanks to Robert Gray, Jeff, Rich T, GBV and the Needmores for this amazing collection!

(photos courtesy of

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Doug Gillard / Richard Buckner Live Video Part 2

Here is the second part of my video from Saturday's show at Bottom Of The Hill here in San Francisco...

Doug Gillard / Richard Buckner Live Video Part 1

Here is the first part of two from Saturday's Richard Buckner / Doug Gillard show at the Bottom Of The Hill here in San Francisco. The song is A Chance Counsel from 2004's Dents And Shells. My camera conked out mid solo (bad timing) so sorry for the break in the song. I have a few more videos that I can post if anyone is interested. Otherwise, this will give you a sense of what the show was like on Saturday night. Enjoy!

Doug Gillard / Richard Buckner San Francisco Show Review- UPDATED

(concert photos courtesy of me)

What an amazing night of music!

Took the drive across the city last night to the Bottom Of The Hill (Potrero Hill, to be exact) for the Richard Buckner / Doug Gillard show and was totally blown away! Had never been to that particular club before and was almost completely unfamiliar with Buckner's music so I had zero expectations going in. But sometimes those are the best shows, the ones where you are pleasantly surprised with what you find. And that couldn't be any truer in this case.

I arrived way too early as usual. I am one of those people who is so paranoid about being late (movies, sporting events, concerts) that invariably end up arriving too early and have to wait around. But it gave me a chance to scope out the joint and relax a little. Bottom Of The Hill is just about the perfect venue, way more intimate than most of the already fairly intimate clubs here in SF. Maximum capacity has to be no more than a hundred people. And the stage is quite small, allowing people to watch from very close up and from the right side of the stage as well.

The first opening act, Meric Long were really impressive. From outward appearances, the band was two generic college kids- one on freestanding drums, the other on guitar and vocals. But their energetic folk mountain music was startlingly lush and powerful. Meric's classical/folk guitar picking was particularly impressive. They made such an impact that the crowd demanded more and got a one song encore, first that I've ever seen from an opening act! Do go check out their MySpace page. I predict great things from these guys.

Unfortunately the second act on the bill, the indie country rock outfit El Capitan was not doing it for me. But it did give me a chance to get my camera and reposition closer to the stage for Buckner/Gillard. I took some video of the show with my Powershot as well, which I will upload in the next few days- watch for 'em!

As I was repositioning, I saw Doug getting some beers at the bar but I decided not to bug him before the show. I get nervous enough myself for the performers at a live show without distracting them further (obviously, you won't catch me performing live music any time soon)!

Before long, Buckner and Gillard took to the stage to great applause, the club having nearly filled up in the interim. I wasn't sure whether Gillard was going to be playing lead guitar as part of a full band supporting Buckner or what. And I was pleased to see that it was just the two of them sitting side by side- Richard Buckner on lead vocals and rhythm/acoustic guitar and Doug on lead guitar, playing his black 77 Les Paul.

And once the music began, I was totally swept up in the magic and had a blast! Buckner's songs are very much in the storyteller, singer-songwriter troubadour mode- very melodic, very southern and just heartfelt, intense and amazing.

And the way the show was structured kept me swept up, each song blending into the next like an album with no breaks between the tracks. It was quite the technical feat but they pulled it off in high style and to great effect. It was as if the entire evening of music was one monumental synchronized song in fifteen parts. And even with tuning and guitar switching between songs by both musicians, the music never stopped. Buckner used a digital delay pedal I believe (I am showing my complete lack of technical music knowledge here), to record bars of repeating melody or atmospheric noise as they got ready for the next song. Very cool! The only rub was that the crowd was reluctant to cheer and applaud over the music, and without breaks they had to pick their spots carefully!

Doug's lead work last night was truly brilliant. His presence only served to enhance Buckner's melodies and singing. Just the right flourishes where needed and some amazing face-melting solos on the more uptempo rockers. And it was eye-opening to see how his playing could be so effortlessly and seamlessly applied to another genre and another artist's music.

Now I'm not going to pretend that I know the names of the songs performed, cause I don't. But I'm sure I soon will- I am a converted Richard Buckner fan, no doubt about it. And it was great to hear that Doug's familiarity with his music was in part due to his playing on Buckner's new album, due out in the late summer on Merge Records. It is on my wish list already!

The main act wrapped up about at about one in the morning with no real encores- just one giant song. Doug did leave the stage twice toward the end of the set. Upon his first return, it was sort of like an encore. And then Doug left for the last time to allow Buckner to wrap things up, solo on the acoustic.

After the show I finally found my friend Ana, who just happens to be Doug Gillard's wife and an amazing photographer. I doubt there are two more generous and sweeter people on planet earth than Doug and Ana. Amazing artists, amazing people.

I got a chance to chat with Doug for a few minutes too, a soft-spoken and warm hearted guy. We talked about Pop Zeus a bit and I asked Doug about another solo record, which he says he has begun the initial stages of- great news! If you haven't already picked up Gillard's stupendous solo album Salamander, I insist you do so! It is absolutely one of my favorites of the last few years. I sure hope he swings his solo tour by SF next time. Doug even mentioned reading the Harp magazine article about Pop Zeus, which was very cool.

It was wonderful catching up with both of them. Plus, I had asked Ana if she could bring out one of Doug's Salamander tour tee-shirts for me. And they totally hooked me up- carting it all the way out here and giving it to me for nothing! Thanks so much you guys, you rock!

So there you have it. If you missed out on seeing Buckner/Gillard in your neck of the woods, you have my pity. More news and stuff later in the week. As the kids say on their text-messaging do-hickeys, c ya!

Monday, May 08, 2006

3 New Pollard Projects Dropping This Week!

Pre-orders for the 3 new Robert Pollard side projects from Luna Music's Fading Captain Series are hitting mailboxes this week and I cannot wait! And those albums are "All That Is Holy" by Psycho and the Birds (Bob and Todd Tobias), "Turn To Red" by The Takeovers (Bob and Chris Slusarenko) and "Blues And Boogie Shoes" by the Keene Brothers (Bob and Tommy Keene). If you haven't ordered yet, now is the time. Keep in mind that many past Fading Captain CDs and LPs have gone out of print so get 'em while they're hot.

MP3 previews of all three (plus a ton of other great rarities) are available at Robert Pollard's official website. Many of the faithful on DTS (the GBV message board) are already listening to the CDs, and are very excited about what they are hearing. And I will be posting my thoughts as soon as the records drop here in the woods (not unlike the proverbial bear).

Friday, May 05, 2006

Working For The Weakened

Had a crazy intense and stressful week at work and I am pooped. Wish I could say more but it wouldn't be prudent at this juncture (I sound like G.H.W. Bush). More later...

But I did manage to finish making my little lists in the evenings so I am ready to move forward with Pop Zeus. Already started the process of hunting and gathering visual reference material on the internet (at work, he he) using said lists. Not all the things that appear in the comic need to be fully designed- some will only be in a single panel or two, so the reference will be enough to wing it. The references I need vary widely- from the Surfing With The Alien cover to the statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama to photos of crickets.

Next on the Pop Zeus project docket is character and prop designs along with thumbnailing. Thankfully, I can do the thumbnailing in the the Grail Diary when I out at the cafe. But the design stuff in the big sketchbook will be all done at home. Don't have the best work space in the world in my teeny room, but I'm used to it.

Should have a super fun weekend tho. Along with Pop Zeus sketching, tomorrow night is the Doug Gillard/Richard Buckner show at Bottom Of The Hill here in SF! Been quite a while since I've been out to a show (the Bob Pollard SF gig) and I've never been to BoTH, so I'm very excited. Also, I read on the GBV message board Disarm The Settlers that Doug played an acoustic then electric solo set before the show in Austin! There are 2 opening acts before the show tomorrow, so odds are that we wont have that kind of luck. But you never know. Looking forward to bumping into A. Aminos from DTS at the show as well. Hopefully I will see you there too- come on out and support our guitar hero!

Also, my dream of seeing Robert Pollard and The Ascended Masters at one of the Pearl Jam arena shows is one step closer to reality. My younger brother Dave and his wife are having a kid in July, the first in the next generation of Szostaks (god help us all!). But before all that responsibility and adultness, I may fly back to Jersey, meet up with him and road trip out to Pittsburgh to see the show! God I hope this happens. Hearing Bob's arena rock in an actual arena will be mind blowing, no doubt. And my bro is an old school Pearl Jam fan so its the best of both worlds for both of us- like when the two guys bumped into each other at the corner and got chocolate in the peanut butter.

I'll be back soon. Have a great weekend, my people!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Titus And Strident Wet Nurse Live Video

To make up for the unceremonial yank of the previous video, here is another great live clip for Titus And Strident Wet Nurse. A rare track only found on the Colonel Jeffrey Pumpernickel concept album, it nonetheless kicks some serious ass and is worth seeking out. One of my fondest Guided By Voices concert memories is the band starting their 2002 Warfield show (I think?) with Titus. The lights dimmed and they started the song behind the heavy vintage red curtain. When the rhythm section kicked in, the curtain parted dramatically and the band leapt into action- what a moment!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My GBV Mixes #3- "Not So Briefcase 2"

October 2005 saw the release of the second 100 song Guided By Voices box set entitled Suitcase. And like its predecessor, Suitcase 2 was chock full of goodness- unreleased full band songs, alternative versions, demos, early live tracks, experiments and full versions of song snippets. But 100 brand new tracks is a lot for even the hardest of the harcore GBVer to digest. So as with Suitcase 1, I made a mix of my favorite cuts to blast in my car and ease my passage into the other 70 tracks. And here it is (with my usual blah blah comments)...

Gods Of Richard (amazing instrumental that makes me want to jump for joy, just Bob and the 'lectric)
Rocket Head (rockin' early version of Teenage FBI, nice kick off for the mix)
You're Not the Queen Anymore (one of the most played songs on my iTunes- slays me every time)
Lonely Town (prolly the best unreleased song on Suitcase 2- the guitar part is so cute and catchy)
Your Charming Proposal
A Proud And Booming Industry (cool tempo changes, industrial midwest theme, very REMish = classic)
Color Coat Drawing (killer track- so profoundly sad and moving)
Supersonic Love Funky Love Gun (the Heed's favorite and mine too, funny and amazing)
Dancing With The Answers (WAY-UP! AH-AH-AHHH!)
Telephone Town (second of the "town" songs and equally great)
Sinister Infrared Halo (disturbingly delicious)
Daughter Of The Gold Rush
Soul Barn (a real boot stomper- rocks my world big time)
It's Only Up To You (what a beautiful song- so good)
Soul Flyers (this song makes me weep with joy- "find a key to your heart")
Somewhere Sometime
Do Be (no relation to Romper Room, but still a good 'un)
His Spacetruck Is Strange
Invisible Train To Earth (kick ass Isolation Drills outtake)
Learning to Burn
Metro XVI (weird, wonderful- sounds like a robot falling apart)
Happy At The Drag Strip (this is like a rapped Bob manifesto- intelligent and disquieting)
Perch Warble
I Am Decided (the holy grail of missing tunes- given to The Amps and now taken back!)
Mannequin's Complaint (alternate version of a monumental b-side)
Waiting For Your Touch
Dusty Bushworms (so great to hear a full band version of this, just wish it didn't have the cd skipping noise- Suitcase 3?)
Beach Towers
Drugs & Eggs ("like curdled milk, just drugs and eggs, found nothing new")
Stingy Queens (couldn't close it up with anything else- genius)

(scans courtesy of

Monday, May 01, 2006

I Gotta Get Myself Organizized

Tough weekend, morale low. Didn't really get much headway on Pop Zeus over the last 3 days, even with the best intentions to do so. On Friday, I kind of hit a wall with the writing when I went out to my usual cafe. The new ideas I'm working on (the 2nd and 3rd Illustrated Songs) are not quite fully baked yet. They haven't had nearly as much time to stew as the rest (the back-burner stewing of ideas is an essential part of the process for me). So I hit an impasse.

And I also realized that I wasn't sure where to go next in general- organization was lacking. I am hitting the design/thumbnailing stage and the stuff I need to do is scattered throughout the Grail Diary. Getting some lists drawn up to figure out what exactly needs to get done was my next mission.

Plus, I usually don't draw when in public. I will probably be able to get some thumbnailing (little drawings of each page, for a general sense of the story flow and panel layout) done in the Diary when I'm out. But full scale character or prop designing in my sketchbook will draw a lot of attention, something I've spent a lot of my life trying to avoid (naturally shy). In my experience, drawing in public always invites strangers to peer over your shoulder and ask what you are doing which defeats the purpose of working in public. Also, I draw best when I am relaxed. Feeling like people are watching me is slightly unnerving to say the least. You should see some of the looks I get just for just writing! (anyone out there feeling me?)

So I returned home defeated in time to watch one of my favorite new time-wasting reality shows Can't Get A Date. There is something cruel about that show being on late Friday nights. But I guess they are hitting their target audience, namely me!

Was wiped out from oversleep, class and stress from the week on Saturday so that was kind of a wash- could barely get up out of bed that evening. It really pisses me off to sacrifice a day on the weekend because of what happens during the week. Sunday was a little better- more energy and it was beautiful out. Got some progress on my list-making organizing stuff, which will help me move forward.

So once more into the day job breach, dear brothers. To quote Bob: "I don't like work and I don't like school and I don't like when you have to do shit you don't wanna do. You can tell your fuckin' boss I said fuck you from me, Bob Pollard".

Someday Bob, someday!