The Wild Adventures Of Those Crazy Goo Goo DollsInterview • 1989 • Rip
By: Janiss Garza
Robbie Goo is complaining good naturedly about the status of the Goo Goo Dolls around their home town of Buffalo. "Most bands get in bars for free," he groans. "The three of us can't even got in 'am, man. It's terrible. Not that we're bad or anything- we're really not, you know! We don't cause no shit, hardly ever. But its just that when we do, it always happens to be in front of a real lot of people.” All rock 'n' roll bands raise hell that's a well-known fact. The only problem with the Goo Goo Dolls is that they have a habit of getting caught with the goods. But that's also the wonderful thing about this silly, melodic, thrashy bunch. They're as upfront and unpredictable onstage as they are off. You could call them a power trio-that is, if your idea of a power trio is three wind-up toys, gone completely out of control. The Goo’s (as they are affectionately known) toss off songs that are an equal blend of punk, Replacements, undigested high school dissatisfaction, twisted hooks and the kitchen sink. These guys bring mayhem to every house that blares their second LP, Jed, or their self-titled debut. It's only logical that life should imitate art.
The Goo Goo saga began some three years ago. Bassist Robbie and drummer George Goo (no, they're not brothers-their real last names are so unpronounceable, they just don't bother with them) met each other in school. Guitarist Johnny Goo was attending a neighboring scholastic institution that Robbie claims was "the only school within a mile of our school that had a bar. Se we got together, and we said to ourselves, 'We could probably do something pretty nifty here."' Originally, they planned to pull a couple of other members into the band. "Johnny's girlfriend was going to play keyboards, and we were going to try and find a vocalist. We had to practice in this big, old abandoned building downtown, in a pretty run-down section of Buffalo. So we set up on the roof and it became painfully evident, after about ten minutes of jamming, that keyboards had no place in . . ." at this point in the narrative, Robbie dissolves into an infectious fit of giggles. It also became not-so-painfully clear that Robbie was able to handle the vocals himself, with an occasional assist from Johnny. So the band was born. What was next? A giant economy-sized record deal, of course. So the three spent a rainy week in the Big Apple, homemade photos and bargain basement demos in hand. "We had names that we got from some people, just names:' recalls Robbie. "I mean, there'd be no reason why these people would see us at all, you know! We basically walked around New York, dripping wet in the rain, completely unsolicited, smashed out of our minds, and got thrown out of every record company down there."
Undaunted, the Goo’s went back up to Buffalo and recorded some more demos at the studio where Robbie worked as an engineer. Finally, someone wanted them. In fact, the label which will go unnamed to protect the guilty even offered the group $750 for its first record. The Goo Goo’s, shocked at the huge sum that dangled within their grasp, signed the contract. 'We can pay our rent for the next two months, put out another record, and pay our rent next month!" was the band's reasoning. However, their dream was shattered before it even began. Although the debut "basically, it was just fourteen demos that we had done, trying to get a deal . . ." says Robbie was released, the band never saw a cent. Which brings us to the tale of how the GGD'S found their manager, Artie Kwitchoff who later came to be immortalized in a song. "We called up the president of our record company on Christmas Eve," Robbie remembers, "shit-faced out of our minds, and started screaming at him cause we were broke, and our girlfriends all hated us because we didn't have any money to buy them presents, and we were sitting around, having the holiday treat loaf-Spam with a piece of pineapple on top of it-and he ruined our Christmas, and blah, blah, blah, blah-our drunken banter. And the next day, we got a telephone call from this guy named Artie, who said '(The label) never wants to talk to you guys again. They want to talk to you through me from now on. This move backfired on the record company, because Artie wound up taking the band to heart and wrestled them from their contract. Metal Blade Records caught wind of the band's reputation and just had to check them out.
When the Goo’s came to Los Angeles, supporting Gang Green, execs were in attendance. The band almost didn't make it to the stage. 'We were getting hammered before we played," Robbie relates. "There were all these people out on the street, drinking. We were just standing there and all of a sudden, we looked down and, like no one was drinking and everybody had left! And this police car comes rolling up onto the sidewalk, this is literally three minutes before we were going to walk onstage. Held us out there for twenty minutes, giving us summonses for drinking in public. We had to walk onstage after being searched and everything. Man, it was hilarious!" But that wasn't the end of it. "You know what else happened that night? All them Suicidal fuckers (meaning Suicidal Tendencies fans) were lined up across the front of the stage, ignoring us, with their arms crossed, looking out from the stage . . . So I went down the line and started kicking them in the backs of their heads, all the way down the side of the stage. They were wicked mouthing off to us, so-we've got wireless guitars . . .I just jumped, feet first, right into the pile of them!! And they're chasing me around, and some kid in a wheelchair belted me in the face! He was a fucking suicidal in a wheelchair! I couldn't even bring myself to whack him in the head with my bass or anything like that!” And this was the gig that landed the Goo’s their deal with Metal Blade.
Robbie gets serious-sort of when he explains the philosophy behind the majority of tunes on Jed. "Most of our songs are "Fuck you" songs to the people that we grew up with, actually. We've all been kind of different our whole lives, you know? We always just said, 'We're doing music that's what we want to do,' so we were labeled losers from that day on. This is all just kind of like, 'Yo, man, I ain't making no money, but I ain't hanging around GM, working twenty hours a day with my three CD players and being miserable all day so I can come home and watch cable you know? I mean, okay, I'll do without the cable, man. Just give me the rest of the day to myself." The words to the blunt little rocker "Up Yours," were written by Johnny, who also sings it. "That was about an after school special on TV," explains Robbie. "These kids had a suicide pact to get stereos from their parents. These two kids go, “We say well kill ourselves, and mom and dad will think we're nuts and buy us the stuff . . .'' So, that's what that song's about an after school special. Shows you what we do with most of our time doesn't it?" "Sex Maggot" was written when the band first formed and, in fact, used to be its name. "That was when we thought we were going to be the biggest hardcore band on the face of the earth," confesses Robbie. Then there is "Artie," about their manager, in which you can actually hear Artie's panicked stuttering for a few bars. Robbie explains how they got him on tape: "We called him up and had Johnny tell him we were breaking up because we didn't have any beer at the studio to record with. “He's going Artie that's it” Everybody Is fighting, we ain't got no beer, and if you don't drive beer out, we're breaking the band up.” And he is like, ‘But Johnny I am at work . . . I can’t bring you beer!’ Robbie nearly falls off his chair laughing. "It was hilarious! I've got a whole cassette of it!"
As for the music, on one hand, he refers to the Goo sound as "Nursery rhyme rock" It might be a combination of the two, with a little bit of old fashioned R&B, courtesy of the fabulous Lance Diamond. Who’s that? "He's probably the longest running performer in the Buffalo music scene ever," says Robbie. Diamond lends his vocals to the Goo's cover of the Credence Clearwater number, "Down on the Corner," and for the next LP will sing "My Girl." The lounge crooner, who is in his fifties, also makes an occasional appearance at the Goo’s local shows " He comes to hardcore shows and plays with us," Robbie enthuses. "It's unreal. He just walks out onstage in his three piece suit, and everybody takes two steps back, and the hand slapping starts going and he's bouncing the microphone all over the stage and it's amazing!" Lance is only one of several characters who are part of the Goo Goo Dolls' camp. Another is Jed Jackson, an artist whose self-portrait appears on the group's live album cover. The bearded Jed is depicted sitting behind the steering wheel of his truck, sipping a beer, with his pouch of chewing tobacco by his side. "He's a friend of George’s," grins Robbie. "He studied with Jed in college and they hit it off real well. Jed’s a guy who grow up in Kentucky, and he's a good ol' boy who goes to these big, fancy art openings and things, and drinks Jack Daniels out of a paper cup and screams at the top of his lungs, but they got to lot him in, because he sells paintings for hundreds of thousands of dollars!" Robbie pauses for a contemplative chuckle. "That's kind of what I'm hoping will happens with us, you know," he continues. "Well be the beer-guzzling yahoos, but through some bizarre chain of events, I hope we get some kind of respectability."