Interview - Goo Goo Dolls - 6.3.13Interview • June 3, 2013 • AbsolutePunk.net
Interviewed by: Gregory Robson (06/03/13)
Buffalo's favorite chart-toppers Goo Goo Dolls are set to release Magnetic on June 11. Bassist Robby Takac took a few minutes out of a busy schedule to answer a few questions.
So the Florida Theatre on Wednesday? Have you played there before? If so, when? What do you like best about the venue? What do you like best about Jacksonville?
I can't remember honestly if we have been there. What kind of space is it?
It's a historic theatre in downtown Jacksonville.
That honestly doesn't ring a bill. I know we've been to Jacksonville. But it's been awhile. I have fond memories of Jacksonville. We've done some outdoor radio shows there which have been a blast.
And where are you now?
In New York.
How's the weather?
In my hotel room, it's just perfect. <laughter> A cool 68 degrees. No wind. It's pretty great <laughter> No but the weather here has been good. It was boiling hot a few days ago.
The video for "Rebel Beat" was released a couple weeks ago. You worked on it with PR Brown, what made you choose him? What did he bring to the table this time around? Would you work with him again?
PR did a video for our song "Stay With You," which probably was the coolest video we ever did. That was awesome. So we always look forward to working with him. He also did a cool green screen video for "Let Love In." He's just a cool guy and fun to work with. Those videos, ya know I'm not trying to complain but they can be arduous. So its nice to be around a guy that's pleasant to be around and not out to do a remake of Citizen Kane.
In a few weeks you guys are set to hit the road with Matchbox Twenty, two 90s radio heavyweights taking to the road, how did it come to be?
We got a call from our agent at William Morris. We had talked to Rob briefly at one point, or they had talked to Rob, going out a couple years back with his solo show and it never really worked out. But they came to us this year and thought it might be a good idea. Started talking to people, the response has been amazing really. It's been crazy. Lots of people saying how they cant believe its taken this long to happen. Its just a good time for both bands to put this package together. It should be a good set and a good summer.
There's a lot of 90's revival tours circulating. Art Alexakis of Everclear has Summerland; Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray has a tour, Barenaked Ladies have a tour. And they're all during the summer, just wondering if you can comment on all that.
I guess the biggest difference from the ones you've mentioned is that both us and Matchbox never really went away. We've been perhaps bigger than those, we've always had a song on the radio with every record and doing shed tours every summer and doing really well on those tours. To me this tour feels less like a summer 90s tour and more like, we didn't have to find new guys in the band. <laughter> This isn't a revival. We're all still Goo Goo Dolls and doing our thing. Matchbox is the same way. I think there's a little less of a revival feel. You don't get the feeling everyone will be throwing their flannel on and coming to the show <laughter>
"Rebel Beat", is a different sound for you guys and definitely a nod towards the electronic-tinged vibe that is circulating the airwaves. Do you feel a need to change the sound to stay relevant or do you believe strongly in sticking to the band's bread and butter despite the times?
I think that John did a lot of writing with others. Actually he's been doing that the last couple of albums and a lot more on this album, too. And a lot of the songs were recorded as demos with drum machines and we sort of came in and reinterpreted a lot of what was being done with the drum machine on real, live drums. The vibe of that comes from a place that's more or less like that. Do you follow me?
Yeah. So like, I don't know if its pronounced on the entire record. There's another song that John wrote with John Shanks called "More of You," that's sort of the same thing as "Rebel Beat." And the one with Greg Wells called "Bulletproof Angel." That sounds like really built up. We can't really figure out how to play it. It's all built on feedback loops, you know that heavy studio sound. Very production based. And that's a lot different from stuff we have done in the past. I think it's a cool experiment. I don't think it's jarring but its different. People aren't like "Oh Holy Christ, what is this?" It's sort of fun to play into the body of work like that.
Since 1994, it's been the same three guys in the band. How is it creatively working with the same people so long, does it ever seem stagnant or does it help on the comfort level?
It's a chemical equation, ya know. A chemical equation that allows any relationship to happen, really. From the outside it seems pretty dysfunctional and I guess from the inside too. There's always something that makes you say to yourself "Wow, this is worth doing." At that point, it's not figuring out how you will make it happen, just figuring out how it will happen and that's the attitude that has happened for the past 20 years or so.
Does seeing people like Bob Dylan and Aerosmith putting out new albums this past year, give you any motivation and drive to do this another 20-30 years?
As long as there are opportunities and we don't feel like A-holes, we'll keep doing it. I like doing other stuff and I think that's the key to keeping this whole thing going. We are not afraid to goof around and exercise our creative muscles and get back to this whole thing and make the best of this. We'll keep doing it. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, ya know?
You personally found a lot of solace in punk music, but to date the band has strayed from that. For you personally, what has the progression of your music been like, especially now that the band's output is so far removed from punk?
I still sort of play around with all that through the songs I write for the band or through my label. I work with a lot of Japanese punk bands. I guess you could call them that. Alternative, maybe. I love the power of a guitar. To me its an amazing thing. You know as a band that you have to maintain and adjust and stay together for so long. You have to find that medium ground. You find that thing that everyone is involved in the process of and gets something from. Ya know, It's not been difficult to walk up and play these songs. It all feels very natural. From where we were and the record before, it never seems that far to me. For years were were putting out records, every two to three years, a review would say we put out the same album as the one before, but if you listen to our progression from 1986, obviously some things have changed dramatically. To me at least they have happened in a very logical fashion and not something that's jarring.
You always pay homage to your early stuff, playing a cut or two from Superstar Carwash, and prefacing how thankful you are before playing most of your songs. It's rare to see these days and its really refreshing to see artists, this far into their career to not lose sight of what got them their in the first place. I was wondering if you can comment on that.
I guess it's spending 10 years driving around in a van, trying to convince people that what you did was worth two seconds of their time. And then actually having it work. If those ten years were taken seriously, which I like to think we did take them seriously, you don't lose sight of how awesome everything is. You can tend to get bogged down in some of the bullshit through the day, and we are almost certainly guilty of that, but keeping your eye on the bigger picture, you are fortunate just to be able to play music, and more or less have it be your livelihood for any significant amount of time. That's what allows you to keep it all in check.
Where do you feel the music industry is these days. Is it hard trying to stay a relevant rock band these days?
Yeah I mean, I guess its hard. You gotta be out there, you gotta be making it happen. People's focus sure changes quickly. We just did a pop radio festival and it was all these prefab kinda pop bands. And it was amazing to see how quick it comes and goes. It's always been that way. There's always been that component to the music business. The Internet is sort of giving people the opportunity to discover exactly what they want to hear. And you know, right now, there are beginning to become some pretty significant and reputable outlets for people to go to who are of like opinions. I think there are amazing opportunities that come with that. There will always be that component of mainstream though, you will always be fed it, and it is what it is. <laughter>
Favorite song on the new album? It can be one of yours, no worries there.
<laughter> Actually, I will tell you what song I like playing the most live. "Keep the Car Running." It's a John song and it's a lot of fun to play live. That's probably my favorite.
Any chance we will hear it in Jacksonville?
Eh, I don't know man. Maybe. That one goes in and out of the set list. but who knows.
Any plans for a Dizzy Up the Girl 15 year anniversary tour?
<laughter> Um, I don't know. We are not much for milestones. We let 25 years of the band slide past without making a big deal of it. I doubt we'll make 15 years a celebration for Dizzy. But its not a bad idea. I will say this, its been 10 years since we released that DVD in the rain.
The one in your hometown in Buffalo.
Yeah. That one. <laughter>. So I don't know, maybe we'll do a 10-year anniversary and do a concert on the steps of City Hall. That sounds good. <laughter>
Thus far in your career, who is your favorite producer you've ever worked with?
I think working with Glen Ballard was a lot of fun. That was great. I think earlier in our career working with Lou Giordano was pretty cool. He came from a different headspace than a lot of the guys we work with now. I thought that was a lot of fun. We worked with a guy named Greg Wells.
Yeah, Katy Perry's producer. I can't really think of anything else he's done.
Neither can I, to be honest. He's an interesting guy though and has a cool way of working. I think every producer brings their own experience, his own way of making things. Tim Palmer, we worked with him on the last album. He just kind of joins the band and works on our songs that way. Glen Ballard was a magician. He came in and we didn't know what was going on. But he was always playing a piano and writing down notes and making sure his musical touch was on everything. I think everyone has their own grip on how to make records. Ultimately its about the vibe and how you feel with the producer, that's how you get the best out of yourself.
What's on your playlist these days? Anything you've heard that you're really stoked on?
Right now, a Japanese electronic band called Sakanaction. I've been listening to and mixing a band called Pinky Doodle Poodle. Um, what else? A band from my label, TsuShiMaMiRe. Hmm. Cornelius has a new record out. That's pretty awesome. <pauses> Yeah, mostly Japanese stuff, but yeah.
Live From Tokyo, was a documentary released on your label, which features mostly Asian bands. Can you discuss your impetus into the Asian market and all that?
Yeah, the label started out as a way for me to release material for Buffalo bands. I was working with The Juliet Dagger, a BUffalo band, and my wife is from Tokyo. So we set up a tour for them over in Japan. While they were in Osaka, we recorded a song with Naoko from Shonen Knife and we started a dialogue. Shonen Knife then played here for a tour in the States and I became friends with their whole camp and started releasing Shonen Knife here in the States. From there I met other Japanese bands who were similar to Shonen Knife and so I released some records by them. Then we sort of had released three records by albums with Japanese ties and female singers, and I said to myself, hmm, this is an interesting niche to get into. And that's what we've been doing the past three or four years. We actually have four releases coming out this year, all bands from Japan.
Released in Japan?
No, in the States. Japanese bands, but released here in the US.
That's pretty neat actually.
Yeah its pretty cool. I don't have any illusions of grandeur, but its something I really enjoy. I get to do a lot of work with bands and that's awesome.
<Robbie is informed there's only two minutes left in the interview, only allowed to ask two more questions>
Favorite album you've released aside from Magnetic?
Hold Me Up.
On the band's earlier releases you sang a ton of songs, but since A Boy Named Goo, it's been mostly Johnny, can you explain that shift?
Cause we started selling records, man <laughter>.
Thanks again for your time Robby. See you in Jacksonville.
Yeah man, thanks a lot for taking the time. I appreciate it.