Tag-along exposure a real trip for Goo Goos

InterviewApril 19, 1996Unknown source

Tag-along exposure a real trip for Goo Goos

From: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Date: April 19, 1996

In a single night during their slot on the sold-out Bush tour, the Goo Goo Dolls are playing to more people than bought their first few albums.
That fact registers regularly with Goos bassist Robby Takac. After a decade of toiling in obscurity with his scrappy trio, Takac finding himself in the middle of an arena rock tour is only slightly more surreal than suddenly landing on the moon.

"I'm up there playing and there's, like, 300 kids laying in a pile on the ground in front of me," Takac, 31, said with a laugh during a recent phone interview. "It's really, really bizarre. Yet I'm really excited to be a part of it. It's incredibly satisfying, but at the same time, if you would have told me eight years ago that we would have sold a million and a half records, I would have laughed."

It is pretty funny when you think about it. After four albums of loving, hard-rocking homage to the Replacements and Cheap Trick, the Goos finally hit it big last year with an uncharacteristic acoustic ballad, "Name," the second single from their fifth record, "A Boy Named Goo." "This is a big, big tour, and pretty high pressure, for Bush especially," Takac said. "To be honest, I just can't wait to get back into our 1,500- to 2,000-seat theaters and just kick (expletive) for people who bought our records, as opposed to trying to convert Bush fans."

The Goos should be careful what they wish for. In the mercurial world of alternative rock, they just might get it. Most of the groups dashing up and down the modern rock charts these days are young bands in their 20s with one or two albums to their credit. The older Goos are part of an occasional phenomenon where fickle fame unaccountably agrees to a blind date with a geezer. Take Arizona's Meat Puppets and Oklahoma's Flaming Lips. Like the Goos, both bands had slogged it out as critic's darlings and cult favorites for more than a decade before becoming the toast of the town with unexpected smash singles the Puppets, in 1994, with "Backwater," the Lips with "She Don't Use Jelly." It didn't last. The Pups' 1995 follow-up album, "No Joke," surfaced briefly with "Scum," then sank. After headlining Lollapalooza's second stage and opening for Candlebox, the Lips are back (probably happily) in humble clubland: They'll play 300-capacity Shank Hall on May 2. But that was them and then. For now, the winds of good fortune are gus ting at the Goos' back. Everywhere they go, thanks to "Name," everybody knows their ridiculous name. After the current Bush tour wraps up May 5, they'll jet off for a swing through Japan and the Far East. Once back home, they'll headline a couple of months with various opening acts (Dishwalla, Triple Fast Action, Gigantic) before hooking up with the Gin Blossoms. The Goos also will open for the Violent Femmes July 4 at Summerfest's Marcus Amphitheater.

The miracle of "A Boy Named Goo" isn't that it found success, but that it came out at all. Although it's their most cohesive album to date, the trio nearly imploded making it the result of the pressures of making good music into an appreciation vacuum for a decade. "A lot of it was just that in 10 years, people grow up," Takac said. "A lot of marriages don't last five years, and we're talking about three people here." As the recording of "A Boy Named Goo" progressed, the good-natured Takac found himself playing not just bass but peacekeeper in the increasingly strained relationship between singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and drummer George Tututska. By the time the album was in the can, emotions were out of control. "The band actually kind of broke up for a few hours there," Takac said. "I think the next day I called John up and said, `This is kind of dumb, why are we doing this? We have a finished record sitting here. What can we do to keep this going?' "

The answer, as it is for so many bands, was: Ditch the drummer. Out went Tututska. In came Mike Malinin, 29, a friend of a friend who was playing in a group called Careless. "We went out to L.A. for a month to work with Mike, and the energy in rehearsal with him was real exhilarating," Takac said. "He had all our records and pretty much could play anything we asked him to, even songs off our first record. It just felt really, really nice to have those lines of communication open again." Malinin has been with the band a year. But even though the Goos knew they had a strong album in "A Boy Named Goo," the runaway success of "Name" took them by surprise. "I think we figured that eventually we'd try to do something with it, but it wasn't our main thrust at all," Takac said. "It's not like your typical rock ballad with screaming electric guitars and long, drawn-out anthemic choruses. We all thought it was a little left of center, but I guess we were totally wrong. It was so much down the middle that it hit a lot of different radio formats." If Takac could have chosen any Goos song to became as famous as "Name" has, he said, he'd have picked "Falling Down" from their previous album, 1993's "Superstar Car Wash." "We were all geared up to have that one come out as a single, but it never got a chance after `We Are the Normal' stiffed," he said of the sole "Superstar" single. "That was a real big disappointment for us." So, who would Takac like to have cover their songs for a fantasy Goo Goo Dolls tribute album? "I think I want the Ramones to do 'em all," he said with a laugh. "No, wait. The Ramones on side one, Cheap Trick on side two."