Josh Pollock: More Than Just The Notes

Anthony Shaw By

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AAJ: Has anyone else commented on your guitar style- right-handed guitar played left-handedly, like Youknowwho..

JP: Ha! No. Needless to say, any comparison to Jimi Hendrix, however undeserved, is welcome, but the key difference between he and I in this regard is that he, like most left-handed guitarists, switched the strings around, whereas I just picked up a right handed guitar and turned it upside-down and backwards (with the lower, bigger strings on the bottom). By the time I realized that lefties usually switch the strings, I was to far along to just start all over again, so I didn't bother. There isn't really anything that playing this way keeps me from doing, except classical and folk finger-picking. I like finger-picking, but ...c'est la vie.

AAJ: Did you have a clear idea of your role in UofE before joining or did it evolve?

JP: I couldn't have had less of a clear idea! My role in the band, whatever it was at any point, was thrust upon me by the circumstances of the moment—there was absolutely no grand design. There may even have been attempts at grand designs now and again, but none of them had any bearing on what actually ended up happening, so they were quickly abandoned. I never really even "joined" the band. I was invited to jam with Daevid one day, which just happened to be recorded and turned into a record. The band sprung from that. A band which, perversely, never sounded anything like whatever record we had just made. (Thank God—the records are all pretty disappointing to me, that first one especially.) And yes, my role evolved, constantly.

AAJ: Did your role change in UofE significantly during those years?

JP: Yes. I was initially one of six band members, and not a particularly favored one at that: Daevid didn't even like my playing at first (this isn't false humility—he's told me this repeatedly). I'm not sure what changed his mind—maybe that my style was so drastically different from all the Steve Hillage disciples that tend to gravitate toward him that it was a breath of fresh air. But eventually he found my playing/aesthetic more and more interesting, though, in hindsight, the main reason it probably got a lot more interesting was because I was playing with him. The extent to which he is a fount—nay, a raging volcano—of artistic inspiration is immeasurable.

He was always the leader of the band, of course, but he had me take on more and more of the "music direction " as time went on, and he gradually played less and less guitar. Neither of these developments were my choice at all, especially the decrease in his guitar playing. I have had the good fortune to hear Daevid play guitar more than most people get to, and he is a criminally under-rated guitarist. When he's inspired, I have heard him play some of the most astounding, mind-blowing guitar I've ever heard from anyone, anywhere (though I have also heard him sound like an orangutang wondering what the hell this thing is hanging from his neck; so to be fair, he is a bit of a loose cannon), and our intertwining guitar solos were the funnest and most interesting part of the band for me, so I was constantly trying to get him to play more, but he wanted me to handle more and more of the guitar playing as time went on.

AAJ: Did your approach/technique develop clearly during that time?

JP: I don't know how "clear" it was, but it definitely developed. I am an exponentially better guitarist than I was before playing with Daevid. He made me infinitely more comfortable with improvising in front of an audience (which I'd never really done before, due, no doubt, to the unfortunate theater training I'd received that stressed the importance of knowing exactly what you're going to do onstage before you get up there), with following my muse, no matter how idiosyncratic (in fact, the more idiosyncratic, the better), and with prioritizing passion and fire over technique, which is probably what caused your poor friend's ears to be "burned off" when he saw us 15 years ago. As I mentioned, there was no conscious plan for the band sound—how we ended up becoming such an intense, scalding live band I'm not quite sure, especially considering that 'rock music' is generally not Daevid's thing, but intense and scalding we became, with Daevid gleefully fanning those flames every step of the way. The first guitarist that ever made any sort of impression on me was Pete Townsend, specifically because he treated the guitar less as an instrument, capable of producing notes and chords, and more as a device, a direct conduit between his soul and the physical world, and that's what I've always responded to most in a guitarist.

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