Goo Goo Dolls
”The Return of The Candyman: The Robby Takac Story“
From their earliest days on the rough-and-tumble Northeast music scene through years of playing every one night stand in America (twice), through their obligatory stint in the indie records realm, the Goo Goo Dolls (John Rzeznik, Robby Takac, Mike Malinin) have combined an unerring instinct for original and authentic music with a hardcore work ethic that is nothing short of inspirational.
Having released Jed (’89), Hold Me Up (’90), Superstar Car Wash (’93) and ‘95s breakthru Boy Named Goo it wasn’t until 98’s release of Dizzy Up The Girl that the mix of talent and sweat finally paid off. With worldwide sales approaching six million and counting and a string of smash singles including the epochal "Iris," as well as "Slide," "Black Balloon" and the title track, Dizzy’s hits have racked up an historic one million radio spins to date.
Which brings us to Attainment. After a well-deserved six-month hiatus, the group reconvened to compile a long overdue career retrospective. With the revealing title of What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce, the 22-track collection was a way for the guys to acknowledge their musical history together.
Next it was up to the Goo Goo Dolls to try and create music that would both build on and surpass the extraordinary accomplishments that preceded it. And it’s in this final category that ‘02s Gutterflower represents a full-on, flat-out triumph. From their trademark blood-and-thunder alchemy to glorious acoustic outings to a soundscape wholly their own, the Goo Goo Dolls, on Gutterflower expanded their expressive range in dazzling new directions.
Now it’s 2003 and the first thing that the Goo Goo Dolls have planned is an eleven-week tour opening up for …. Bon Jovi ! Chatting with bassist Robby Takac while he was relaxing in his ”little studio” at his Los Angeles home ”taking a little bit of time off and getting to know (his) wife and kids again for a couple of weeks”, I first ask him if the band really are, “quote-unquote,” ‘opening’ for Bon Jovi?! ”Yes, we are ‘quote-unquote’ opening for them, yes, absolutely. It is unbelievable how big that band is. Having had the opportunity to travel an awful lot it’s frighteningly unbelievable just how big they are around the world. My wife’s from Tokyo and I guess they’ve just done three nights at the Tokyo Dome ! Huge band and it’s gonna be a really great tour, you know. It’s funny, at the conceptions of our groups I don’t think we could have been any different, you know. I just think that over the years we all just start to mature as bands, drop all those things that uniquely shackle you to your genre, if you will, when you conceived the notion of what your group was gonna be. I think after a certain amount of years you become your own rock band and that’s kind of what’s happened to both our bands.”
With 15 + years under your belts, how has the partnership between yourself and Johnny survived when others with less road time have quickly failed ? ”Well, I can remember early on that that was one of the biggest concerns of ours. We’d have an acoustic guitar laying around and John would be playing something and he’d be like, ‘Man, I wish we could sound like the Ramones forever !’ And I’d be like well, ‘We don’t have to so let’s try and do something a little different.’ I guess, I think we just try and grow at our own pace and hopefully you can bring people along with you.”
Obviously, the single ”Name” brought you into the media and fan spotlight, but how did it effect you as a band this new media frenzy of exposure ? ”Yeah, as far as social interaction and ‘How long do you wear a pair of socks before you go on to a new pair ?’”, he laughs. ”Or, if you’re gonna wear any at all,” he laughs louder once more. Back in 1989 we were putting acoustic songs on our records anyway because back then it didn’t seem odd at all. Our favorite records were Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, The Replacement, REM and those records didn’t sound the same from the start to the end. So, to us it seemed sort of weird the notion that your record would sound the same, but things being what they are everybody seemed to have a record deal in 1988. I think that after a while you sort of set yourself aside from all that stuff and sort of try to have a uniqueness to yourself, you know. And keep it interesting to yourself.”
How do you keep it interesting these days ? ”By not fencing yourself in. By not saying ‘God, I’d love to do this, but I just can’t.’ Well, yeah you can and I guess, commercially the factor is the people either buy it or they don’t, but artistically you did what you really wanted to do. You made that statement, you make yourself comfortable with that and then you throw it out there and let the dogs rip it apart if they need to.”
With regard your last album, Gutterflower were there any ‘musical chances’ taken ? ”Well, between Dizzy Up The Girl and Gutterflower we had a chance to go back to the studio to remix some stuff for a record that was originally slated for this European release (Attainment) It was basically just a bunch of our favorite songs from all our records that we were going to release in Europe as just sort of a one-off sort of thing, but the they released it here in the States quietly as well. But, we had a chance to go back and listen to those tracks, to listen to what we did in the past and prior to the wants of a mixer and the wants of a producer actually being in the room we actually realized something. Remember the first time you ever got in a car and it had power locks?! Well, I think people have a tendency to do that sometimes and I think sort of what we realized was that the production that we got into and had to use was really cool, but like for every record we could hear the new things too. So, we sort of experimented with all that and I think what we sort of realized was that there was an edge that went away that we really, really, really, really desired to hear again when we put this record out.”
Any plans yet for a new album? ”We have kinda started writing some stuff right now. We don’t write too much when we’re not together, but yeah, it’s certainly time to pull some ideas together now.”
So, can we expect a new album this year ? ”Er, no,” he replies adamantly, whilst laughing. ”No way! But I’d like to say yes, but our timetable is that we usually take about six months and just chill out and try and get our lives to screw up so that we have something to write about.”
As cheesy a question as this is, where did you guys get your name from?! ”Oh no, no problem at all. No problem at all and based on your preface, I won’t give one of our standard cheesy answers, how’s that!?,” he laughs.
That would be greatly appreciated! ”BUT, my favorite cheesy answer is that it was a land mine in the Korean war that they would bury and the trigger mechanism looked like a face so they called it a Goo-Goo Doll. And what it did was it blew your nuts off when you stepped on it ….. and I’d stop and you wouldn’t believe the uncomfortable silence after that ! But, no, when we started the band we were fresh college kids and there was a nickel beer joint down the bottom of our street where everybody had their bands and stuff. And we would just go down there and play and I would write up chord changes on pieces of paper. I was the only singer at that point, so I would go up and just start screaming words and whatever came into my head,” he laughs. ”We would play for beer and that was just sort of our gig. We weren’t a cover band or anything, but we would play our way through a bunch of songs. But it came down to one day that we needed to have a name because we were actually booking a show for ourselves and we grabbed a magazine and started flipping through it. At the time we were pretty heavy, and it’s funny ‘cause I listen to them now and they sound heavy like the first Alice Cooper record sounds heavy, you know. It’s like, oh my God, I thought this was heavy ? But, at the time it seemed really heavy and so we thought it would be ironic to have a name like a bunch of little girls. So, now I’m 38 and we sold millions and millions of records and it’s even more ironic now that we’re the Goo Goo Dolls because it’s pretty silly if you think about it!”
Was there ever a point, in the early days that you ever considered changing your name? ”Well, we thought that, yeah, but I didn’t want to lose those 19,000 fans we had, you know. I can really still hear all those conversations ringing in my ears now, but yeah, we toyed with the notion of calling the band Goo, calling the band GGD, but then just left it as it is and here we are now.”
Do you guys actually refer to yourselves as the Goo Goo Dolls when you’re together or do you have an “inside nickname” for the band? ”No,” he laughs, ”but I will say that we probably say it as little as we have to,” he laughs again. ”We’re just ‘The Band,’ probably! I will say that I’ve noticed that we do tip-toe around saying the name of the band quite often. It’s pretty long too and you can’t get it over with quickly!”
Yeah, and then people put ‘The’ on the front so then it becomes ‘The Goo Goo Dolls’! ”Yeah right, its just syllable, syllable, syllable. That’s the one thing I did like about it though. I love the circles, man! I love the circles!”
But, it does flow – ‘The Goo Goo Dolls’ ”Sure, stop saying it though,” he again laughs.
What are your thoughts on operations such as Napstar that offer artists music for free on the internet? ”I actually believe that this digital revolution will straighten us all out. It sure is straightening up the record companies, you know. I think that the very thing that is stealing money from myself and other people who are releasing larger-selling records; and smaller selling records, is the thing that is probably gonna give us the opportunity to hear a lot of really live, really great music, musicians and composers. I think that technology – which is simply the transfer of digital files – and the ease of transfer of these digital files is what will change people’s minds. I mean, for $300 or $400, and a lap top, you can have a program that allows you to have a recording studio every bit as powerful as some of the biggest around the world. And, for $19.99 a month and a screen name and a password, you have access to the world’s largest distribution system for free. This revolution is going to change things, change the way the entertainment business operates, change the way people view and deal with music. It’s about to be a really exciting time again after a really long, and dry spell here.”
Wow, now that was deep! ”Well, you know man, I get a lot of time to think on airplanes and buses,” he laughs.
Tell me more about those early days on the Northeast bar/club touring circuits ”They smelt like beer and cigarettes as did our mattresses and our van and our clothes, because our mattresses were on top of our equipment which were in the clubs all night. It was very colorful and I met a lot of really awesome people who were super, super, super, super supportive of us. We played some really, really, really great, really full and not quite so full bars of really awesome people and some amazing things can be seen driving yourselves around in a van with no air conditioning, no windows and no seats ! For the entire touring round the entire United States of America ! And as romantic of a notion as that sounds I wouldn’t like to did it again ! But, it was amazing, it really was. You know, I guess it’s amazing how some people talk about, like, the time they spent down in the coal mines, you know; ‘Yeah, it was amazing’! Oh yeah, sure it was ‘cause that’s why you’ve got black lungs now!,” he laughs. ”They’re trying to get this nervous tic under control and they’ve got no ACL’s, but no, it was great and I think there was a theme back then in the US. The independent scene was amazing. There was a camaraderie and a real notion that something was going to happen, and of course, it did, but when that happens you don’t think things will homogenize and pasteurize and get to be right now.”
Reveal a secret about yourself ”Let’s see. Well, I collect Pez ! I have almost 900 Pez dispensers. That’s very true and because I’m all over the place I know where a lot of the stores are so like whenever I’m in Germany or Japan I just go to the stores.”
How did this fixation come about? ”About six years ago when we went out on tour some kids stated tossing them up on stage at me. At the time I was kind of a sugar freak and I was also about 60 pounds heavier. So, they were tossing Pez up to me and I started giving them to the road crew and they started stacking them up on the board and my amplifier. Well, people saw them and before you know it before the tours over I’ve got about 100 of them ! And so at that point I started collecting them and have done for five or six years now. I’ve got a fourteen-foot high collection in my living room,” he laughs. ”I’m not a geeky collector in where I keep them in the packages or all that kind of stuff, you know. I don’t catalogue all my stuff or anything like that. I just like to have them around ….. listen to me! ‘I’m not like one of those geeky collectors. I have 900 Pez.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not one of those geeky collectors’ ! Man, I better get out of here. I gotta go!” he laughs.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
To win a copy of their latest CD Gutterflower and you think you know all things Goo Goo, just let us know which Goo Goo Dolls album the track 'Domino' appeared on ? Just send an e:mail to me with the subject title 'Goo' and your answer in the text to:
Check out the Goo Goo Dolls (and Bon Jovi !) when they hit the Palace of Auburn Hills this coming Feb. 18th. Tickets available via Ticketmaster or the Palace Box-Office, but going fast !!
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