Goo Goo Dolls' Robby Takac not crying over the past

InterviewNovember 23, 2016Knoxville News Sentinel

Robby Takac, founding bassist with the Goo Goo Dolls, is in Allentown, Pa.

“It’s very hotelly-out-by-the-airportish!” says Takac with a chuckle when asked how Allentown is.

The band is supporting the new album "Boxes," released in May 2016, which marked the 30th year since Takac and lead singer/guitarist John Rzeznik started a band called Sex Maggots in Buffalo, N.Y., and, shortly thereafter, changed the name to the almost equally unlovable Goo Goo Dolls. The band began as a loud and punky garage band, but hit platinum with the emotional 1998 pop hit "Iris."

“The audience, honest to God, you’d laugh," Takac says. "There’s 17-year-olds and 70-year-olds. The 17-year-olds, they know about ‘Iris’ and ‘Slide’ and all the big songs, but they’re more familiar with the new records. You can see it. So, to them, that’s the current reality of ‘Goo Goo Dolls.’ When we do a song from ‘Superstar Car Wash’ or something like that, you can see the question mark above their heads, because they never really got that far. To them, our first album was ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ or something like that. It’s like all the Fleetwood Mac albums before ‘Rumors.’ "

Despite the sheen that the band's breakthrough and current music has, there's always been a little something working class about the band.

“Well, we’re from Buffalo," Takac says. "My parents got up every day and went to work. John’s parents got up and went to work. John’s father was a mailman in Buffalo! That's going to work hardcore. All the snow. And you have to get to school! And that figures into the whole Midwestern vibe and the whole idea that you get up and do what you need to do to make things happen. So that’s figured into our lives, no question."

Takac was actually the original lead singer of the group. Rzeznik didn't start singing until the second album, "Jed," and then became the primary vocalist with the 1990 album "Hold Me Up." Takac says that period may be his favorite era of the band, although, "it's a little like saying which of your kids is the cutest."

“I think there was that whole era of ‘Hold Me Up,’ leading into ‘Superstar Car Wash’ that kind of defined what this band was going to be. So there’s something about that era that I kind of hold dear. The early stuff is full of pimples and too much beer, and it kind of sounds that way to me. We were just trying to have fun. But when we found that ‘Hold Me Up’ era, we were saying, ‘Hey, we can kind of write songs here’ and ‘We can make records that are more than just a disruption,’ which is what the first records felt like to us.”

The band's first brush with success came with the album "A Boy Named Goo" in 1995, and the hit "Name." But, "Iris," first released on the soundtrack to the film "City of Angels," changed everything.

"I remember when we were making the ‘Dizzy Up the Girl’ (album) and ‘Iris’ had already come out," Takac says. "We were sitting in the lounge watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. I can’t remember who won, but, afterwards, they were skating around the ice and ‘Iris’ came on. We were just ‘Wow, man. This is gonna be tough!’ It all of a sudden just felt like this really connected. In many people’s eyes, record companies and publishers, there was a race to have another ‘Iris,’ but ‘Iris’ was a supernatural phenomenon in our world. John’s done a lot of great songs that I think that are just as good or better than that. But there was a time, a place; the moon, stars all lined up."

He says the band's last two albums were easier to make than the ones before, because the band has begun working on a song at a time rather than going into the studio with a stack of unfinished music. He's particularly happy with the new disc.

He says he and Rzeznik have probably gotten along so well through the years because they've learned to let each other do their own work. And, he's amazed that acts simply don't work for long periods of time.

“We never really stopped. We do much heavier periods sometimes and sometimes we only do a couple of shows a month, and John and his wife are having a baby, so we’re taking a couple of months off. Lots of bands just sort of stop, and I can’t figure out how they do it! Your techs go away. Your band goes away. You can’t pay the bills for the people who are on salary all year. ... It’s not like we’re the Rolling Stones or anything. We’re just a band that people took in and made their own, and that’s helped us keep a group of people who are excited and interested in what we’re doing next, and they come to shows. That’s what keeps us able to do this."