Superman is a Rocker: Robert Pollard and the Third Mind

PenetratingAbout six months ago, I spontaneously started contemplating the nature of using the cut up technique popularized by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin to tap into what they referred to as the “third mind”. This automatic introspection occurred while I was perusing through the incredibly brilliant re-assembled art books of Robert Pollard. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a Guided By Voices nut for quite some time, but I’ve never honestly written about this particular obsession or where it stemmed from before, and so I had an idea of combining these two things into one utterly bizarre piece of music writing.

Vivian, the editor of Redefine didn’t really get it, and neither did I consciously, but it was something I felt compelled to hash out nonetheless. Truth be told, I just don’t think any other writer did the band’s 2012 reunion albums justice, or had accused them of practicing a sort of unconscious witchcraft for that matter. So it was on me to congeal these seemingly loose connections into something legibly tangible. Who the fuck is the audience for this piece exactly I wondered? I had no idea, but again, it felt like something I needed to write for reasons I didn’t fully comprehend.

So I did, and it turned out fairly well by my own estimation. I submitted it and then sort of forgot about it, but in the month since I did so, some supremely odd shit went down in my inner world. First I had a hypnagogic transmission where I was told to go back and listen to a bunch of 4 track sampler driven psychedelic tracks I made in the year I was going to school at Miami of Ohio. I’d dismissed these as being juvenile crap a long time ago and hadn’t given them a second thought in years, but had to concede upon further exploration that they were a lot more interesting than I remembered. More to the point, it was sort of like the universe pointing out to me that I’d started experimenting with re-assembling sounds as a spiritual practice when I was 18, oh, and a mere half hour away from where Mr. Pollard was crafting his most celebrated works in a similar lo-fi manner, at roughly the same time. I was even sampling William S. Burroughs on some of these cuts despite not being the biggest fan of his writing and even stranger, some of the samples I’d chosen were seemingly predictive of future events in my life which is exactly the sort of thing Burroughs talked about. Whoa.

Then a few weeks later I have a visionary dream. I’m in my college apartment playing around with the exact stereo I used to mix down all these early sound collage experimentations. Robert Pollard is standing outside my dorm room and I’m continually tapping into his eerie reveries through my black magick infested sound system. This goes on for a while and all of a sudden the perspectives start shifting wildly. Robert is in his room howling into a recording microphone drunkenly. He’s in the hills dancing around like a mad God conjuring forth pop music incantations. Thousands of people are suddenly singing along to his songs which are now spewing forth into my stereo. He’s now in the sky, in the soil, in the drive through beer mart and echoing through the minds of its inhabitants. He’s now back in his basement unleashing more cut up channeled insanity. He’s a force of nature which has altered the entire psychogeorgraphy of the region (which is exactly what I wrote about). This goes on for quite a bit longer and through various configurations which are impossible to put into words. I eventually wake up and think, “oh, so that’s why I needed to write that” immediately making a connection to Grant Morrison’s infamous John Lennon channeling experiment from the Invisibles. Regardless of any metaphysical ponderings, basic questions about the nature of consciousness transmission remain: how does a drunken 4 track idea end up penetrating the minds of so many so long after the fact? How do they influence my life and psychic make up as a person continually, to this day? Spooky action at a distance indeed. Read on true believers:

 

According to modern day magickians like Alan Moore, “Art is magick, because art transforms consciousness”. By that definition, some of the world’s greatest mystics don’t ever actually identify themselves as such. In my world, Robert Pollard is probably the most potent of these closet sorcerers, unassumingly churning out tune after tune ad infinitum from his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. It’s an unending supernova. No single rock musician has pushed the boundaries of the human imagination in quite the same way as the guy, who will most likely go down as the single greatest songwriter in human history (or by definition of taste, the most prolific at the very least; he’s already kind of got that cornered).

The story of how I got into Pollard’s (now reunited) Guided By Voices is a strange one, and as with everything regarding my youth, drenched in debauched sonic witchery. When GBV’s absolute classic Bee Thousand finally brought national attention to the then almost entirely unknown band in the mid ’90s (mainly due to the efforts of Matador Records), I bought a copy. Truthfully, I didn’t like it that much after a few listens. I even most bizarrely remember driving around with my dad at one point and him mentioning that he heard a segment about them and their supposed “indie rock” on NPR and was curious. I put it on. Neither one of us got it.

 And that’s sort of the thing you have to point out to GBV detractors. Even though I have nearly 40 Pollard-related releases at this point, I still don’t like any of them until run through number four at least. None of it makes sense at all when it first hits me. I have absolutely no idea how he does this, but it’s the sort of thing that’s going to confuse the shit out of critics, myself included, especially in the information age.

So how did my opinion about the genius of Bee Thousand suddenly change? Well, because of pussy of course. Isn’t that how everything happens?

(continue reading at Redefinemag.com)

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  • The Well Dressed Man

    Hi Thad! I’ve got a box of old 4-track experiments with WSB samples too :) I went so far as actually cutting splicing with scotch tape, which was predictably destructive. Wasn’t able to get into GBV back in the day, but didn’t give them much of a chance. It took pussy power to open my ears to lots of stuff from that period. Cheers.

    • Thad McKraken

      Nice. It’s funny that this got posted on the very day I was finishing up my first foray into video collage stuff. Did weird shit happen when we started working on it? Of course. Stuff lined up with the music in convenient ways we weren’t intending, the whole thing has a narrative structure we weren’t planning at all. Something supremely weird to the cut up technique. I’m sure you’ll hear me talking about this at length until the day I die. Video should be out fall.

      Yeah, that’d be the thing with GBV. It’s a really acquired taste, but once you acquire it, it’s genius. Guy’s an amazing visual artist too. I had no idea how productive he was on that front until just recently.

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More in Alan Moore, Art, Brion Gysin, Consciousness, Cut up, Drugs, Grant Morrison, Guided By Voices, Magick, psychogeography, Robert Pollard, Rock and Roll, Sex, The Third Mind, Tobin Sprout
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