Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls gives The Stylus the inside scoop

InterviewApril 12, 2011The Stylus

The Goo Goo Dolls have been around for years — 25 years, to be exact. Yet, the band still relates to fans of all ages and releases chart-topping music. Robby Takac, bass guitarist and vocalist, recently called The Stylus to discuss how the band has stayed relevant all these years, the upcoming show at Brockport and growing up in Buffalo.

While trends have come and gone, the band members of the Goo Goo Dolls have remained true to their roots.

"The only way to do this for real is to not worry about it and keep your head down," Takac said. "We're not the same people we were in 1986 and the band has grown up with us. I'm unbelievably flattered and appreciative we've been able to do this for so long. We're one of the lucky ones."

Currently playing across the country, the Goo Goo Dolls have a varied audience. Besides college shows, the band plays at amphitheatres during the summer and theatres the rest of the year.

"Those concerts are seated, so the seats up front are more expensive," Takac said. "Crowd [members range] from elementary school kids ... to senior citizens who found something in the music to connect with."

While he enjoys performing for all ages, Takac said the college shows are a unique experience for the band.

"With colleges … it's very youthful and it's either an open floor or an outdoor area," he said. "The people up front really want to be there."

When the band performs at Brockport on Sunday, April 17, the concert will be outside on Alumni Walk. Takac said the band is looking forward to playing at Brockport. He said he and his bandmates read about the concern from the village board in a previous issue of the Stylus about profanity and said no one should be too concerned.

"We're not going to be dropping f-bombs," he said, with a laugh.

While Takac and lead singer/guitarist Johnny Rzeznik are originally from Buffalo, they moved to Los Angeles for 10 years. Takac said he and his wife returned to the area recently and the band recorded the most recent album in Buffalo.  

"We rented an old town building and set up a studio in there," Takac said.

When asked why the band chose Buffalo over past recording areas, he said, "We liked having the separation from the music industry and our songs that we got in Buffalo [versus Los Angeles]."

Takac liked recording in the area so much, he ended up revamping the studio the Goo Goo Dolls recorded its first three albums in.

Takac said he was approached by Ian Gillan, the lead singer for Deep Purple, about recording in Buffalo and found the studio to be a mess.

"[Johnny and I] fixed it up for him, went in for a guest thing and said to ourselves ‘This is where we should do our next record,'" he said. "‘This is it.'"

The studio was revamped by John Storyk, a famous studio architect who designed Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studio along with private studios for Alicia Keys, Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

Takac said the studio is now open to the public as GCR studios.

"So far, B.o.B, David Cook and more have recorded there, so a lot of folks stop in," he said. "It's an impressive room. It's bringing people to western New York."

The Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey team used the song "Better Days" for its 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, which became a huge thing for the Goo Goo Dolls.

"I probably got more emails about that than anything else we've done," Takac said. "They (the team) made a donation to a not-for-profit organization of ours [in exchange for use of the song]. I thought it'd be a little thing, but it turned out much bigger."

Takac said it made sense that the Sabres wanted to use the song.

"Let's face it, Buffalo has had better days," he said. "Iris had the same thing — something about the song and the moment clicked and it spoke to [listeners]."

While the song fit for the spring playoff run, Takac said the original inspiration came from somewhere else.

"The song was originally written as a Christmas song for a [holiday mix] CD," he said. "The lyrics make a little more sense after knowing that."

The song has been used for numerous commercials, both with the Goo Goo Dolls' permission and illegally.

"I hear it on TV commercials all the time," Takac said.

Though the music business has changed over the past 25 years, it hasn't slowed the band down, Takac said.

"The business has changed," he said. "We used to take a year off [after a tour] to sort our heads a bit. The industry doesn't have a lot of down time at the moment. It's keep your head down, keep your name out there."

While stars like Justin Bieber and Snooki are constantly in tabloids, the Goo Goo Dolls have had to work to keep mainstream.

Takac said that while the band is currently on tour, the group members are also writing new material.

"We're on tour until Christmas of this year most likely," he said, "but we just recorded a song hopefully for a pretty big film. This is the first time we're actively collecting ideas for songs while on the road."

Though the Goo Goo Dolls typically seem to be placed in the pop-rock genre, Takac said there's something for everyone at the  band's shows.

"We're a hard-rock band," Takac said. "We've been touring since '86 and started at CBGBs."

The days at CBGBs influenced the group in numerous ways, including the name choice.

"We were a punk-rock band when we started out," Takac said. "We [originally] had an inappropriate name." He said the band members saw an ad in The True Detective Magazine for a doll, and it went from there.

"We thought ‘OK, that's the silliest name we've ever heard. Eh, we'll try it.'" he said. "In retrospect, I wish we had 20 more minutes. As we got older, [the name has] become twice as ridiculous. It's similar to KISS — what does that mean? Now it explains our music and what we are, not who we are."

While the silly name has stuck, the band has shown serious talent with 14 songs reaching the Top 10 charts, including "Iris," "Better Days" and most recently, "Home" in 2010.

The Brockport concert is April 17 at 3 p.m. We the Kings will be opening the show and doors open at 2 p.m. Tickets went on sale Monday, April 11 at 9:30 a.m. As of press time Monday, tickets were still available at the box office.

Takac said he is hopeful students will give the Goo Goo Dolls a chance.

"I could say we're raffling off a Jaguar, but we're not," he said, when asked how he would recommend encouraging doubters to come to the show. "If all you know is the songs on the radio, you're missing a lot of what we do. It's going to be a great show. Plus, we're local boys, so come support us."