By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
For almost 20 years, the multi-platinum darlings of Buffalo, NY- the Goo Goo Dolls, have dominated the radio charts, and sold out concert halls all over the world. While many bands have come and gone during this period, the Goo Goo Dolls never went away. In fact, the group gets better with each release. Last year, they put out their 10th studio album, ‘Magnetic,’ which many fans and critics hailed as the band’s most solid and well-crafted record of their career. This release contained two singles, “Come to Me,” and, “Rebel Beat,” which still dominate the playlists of many adult rock stations.
Currently, the Goo Goo Dolls are on a very unique tour, the “Otis Midnight Sessions,” which has the band performing acoustic shows in very small, initmate venues. This show is a must see for any fan. But, if you’re not lucky to score tickets, the band is filming several of their shows for a future DVD.
What follows is an exclusive interview with the Goo Goo Dolls-bassist/singer/co-founder- Robby Takac. During this discussion, we talk about the band’s current tour, future plans, and much more.
RockMusicStar: Robby, you have already played a couple of dates on your current acoustic tour, the “Otis Midnight Sessions.” I’ve watched some of the video from the first show, and the band sounded amazing. Are you having fun, doing this, so far?
Robby Takac: Yeah, it’s a different thing to do. For me, it’s been a pretty cool experience. Over the past 20 years, a whole bunch of folks have seen us play, and there have been a lot of opportunities to see us perform. So, this is a different side to it.
RMS: You have a show in Niagara Falls, NY, on April 12th, and one in downtown Buffalo, NY, on April 29th. Why did you pick such small venues to perform in? You could have played this acoustic show at a place like Shea’s, and sold out, as well, and not had so many local fans miss out on seeing this unique show.
RT: All the venues on this tour are like that- much smaller than what we usually play. Last night’s, in Albany, NY, was the largest venue on this tour. There were 900 seats there. Most places that we are playing on this tour are 400 seats, and some are even smaller. We wanted to capture a certain vibe, and have a different type of platform. Last night’s show in Albany, in front of 900 people, felt a little bit different, and sounded different, than playing in a 400 seat room. It was more like a regular rock concert.
RMS: With the WNY shows being in such small theaters, how are you even going to cover your guest list? (Laughs)
RT: I can’t even tell you how big our guest list is when we do a local show. But, for this one, we had to basically just tell everyone that we were sorry, but we have to make this work. We are actually filming the show at the North Park Theater. We are also filming seven or eight shows on this tour to put together….something. I’m not really sure what we are going to do with it at this point.
RMS: I read it the Buffalo News, that the North Park show was going to be a bit different. They described that it was going to be an “Otis Midnight Sessions” show on steroids.
RT: No, it’s going to be the same show. I believe that one is the last one on the tour, as well.
RMS: Yes, it is. Just a couple of days ago, the Goo Goo Dolls released a live, five song EP called, ‘The Warner Sound Sessions.’ Is there a reason why a physical CD wasn’t released for this, as well?
RT: …That was something that we did earlier, before ‘Magnetic’ was released. And I think, just because we are out-doing press, our label wanted to get something out there, circulating around. And, with iTunes, it’s a quick fix- you can get something out in the same day. So, we put something together that would be cool and available for fans.
RMS: Before this tour, you were touring Canada in the middle of one of the coolest winters in decades. What was that experience like?
RT: We’ve actually toured Canada like that before, and it surprised me that we did it again, because obviously, it’s freezing. But, Canada is fun for us; we have a good time up there. I think that Buffalonians are akin to Canadians, in a weird sort of way.
RMS: Did you run into any difficulty, getting to any of the shows because of the weather?
RT: Nah, the storms weren’t that bad. Last time we were up there, it stormed the entire time- like blizzards every day. This time, it was just cold. It was like -34 with the wind chill. It was unbearable. They were warning people not to go outside. We walked from the bus to the front of the hotel, and we had to put something over our mouth because it so ridiculously cold. It was crazy. I’ve never felt cold like that before.
RMS: Well, hopefully it will be a little warmer, this summer, when you go out on the road with Daughtry.
RT: I would certainly hope so.
RMS: In regards to that tour, do you have any input on who you tour with, or does LiveNation approach you and suggest possible touring partners?
RT: Ideas circulate. We have been talking to Daughtry for the last few years about doing something. But, opportunities never led us in that direction. But, it was suggested this year, and some folks were pretty excited about it. And, it looks like it’s going to be a good summer tour, tickets are moving really well. It’s going to be a great summer, that’s for sure.
RMS: Since this is the 10th year anniversary of your famous 4th of July show in downtown Buffalo, did you ever consider maybe doing that again, this year?
RT: I’ve been talking to a couple people about some ideas to mark the occasion. We haven’t solidified anything yet; we’ve been rather busy. (Laughs)
RMS: Last summer, you did a co-headlining tour with Matchbox Twenty. Some of your fans were disappointed that you weren’t headlining that tour. But, it really turned out to be a strategically brilliant decision. You played in front of sold out audiences all summer long.
RT: Yeah, it takes us a little while to get through a record cycle, to make a record and such. Leading up to that tour, we had been away for a little while, and I think that it was good for us to be out in that capacity, and be part of a package that you know most people are going to be excited about. And also, to know that, nightly, a lot of people would be there, and you wouldn’t be playing in front of a lot of empty blue seats (laughs). I think that it was a great choice, and put us in a position where we could put this summer together and have another great summer concert season.
RMS: One of the incredible accomplishments of the band is the fact that you’ve played so many high profile events over your career. You’ve played pretty much every major talk show a zillion times, you performed on American Idol, the Macy’s Day parade, before football games, and countless other events. But, has there ever been an event that you have been offered that you turned down, because it would have maybe been detrimental to your reputation?
RT: Well, a lot of that stuff, I never hear about. By the time it gets to me, it’s been already reviewed pretty well. With the way that the music industry changes, and the way that you are publicized, and the way that you can get promotion and exposure these days, once in a while, something can go wrong, and you say to yourself, “Wow, this idea is not a good idea.” Let me think of one in particular…. Okay, we did this ice skating thing. It was: all these hot shot ice skaters would skate, and we would perform our songs. I can’t even remember what that show was called (laughs). “Rock on Ice!” (Laughs). I don’t know, but it was a TV show. But, a million people got to see us play and hear our songs on that. So, you get offers like that sometimes. In an ideal world, you might say to yourself, “That’s kind of silly,” or, “Do I really want to do a 30-minute acoustic set for QVC? Is that something that’s going to destroy the band’s reputation?” I don’t think people think in those terms so much anymore. There’s opportunity out there, and we are just trying to get different groups of people interested in what we do, and not just the choir that we’ve been happily preaching to for the past 20 years. There is still more audience out there. We are always looking for more new fans.
We are really in a very interesting place. I don’t want to sound cliché or tacky, but we are sort of like a “Working man’s band” situation. We never broke out and became enormous. We’ve always been lucky enough to make this happen, be comfortable, and be able to make music and put records out. I think that longevity is much more important than blowing up big.
RMS: Yeah, right on! As, far as longevity, I really can’t think of any band that had been around the last 20 years, and have had as many hits as the Goo Goo Dolls.
RT: Well, there’s a few. But, yeah, most of these bands have gone away, and have come back, and broken up again. I guess you could say that we had some line-up changes, but John and I have pretty much consistently been pulling this thing forward. John, obviously, to a greater extent. But, we have never said that we were going to stop doing this, and then come back to get people excited again.
RMS: Yeah, well that leads to my next question, which is: What led to the departure of your drummer, Mike Malinin?
RT: ….You know, it was just one of those things. It really sucks when somebody that you’ve been doing this with for a long time- it was almost 20 years- leaves. Like I said before, John and I have been pulling this thing along for a long time, and the funny thing is, Mike’s been there for 20 years, and he was our second drummer. We just felt like we had to pull things forward, and in order to that, we felt that it would be best for us to part ways. It certainly wasn’t easy for anybody, but we are in a pretty cool place right now. And, I feel pretty confident about moving forward, and I don’t know if we were that confident before making that difficult decision.
RMS: I read that you said that a permanent drummer may be named down the road.
RT: I don’t know. We really haven’t thought about that too much. I wouldn’t say, “Definitely not, there’s no chance of that.” But, right now, we are having a great time. Rick Woolstenhulme Jr, drummer from Lifehouse, played with us for awhile. Right now, we are performing with Craig Montgomery. And, Kenny Aronoff is doing a couple of shows with us, also. So, we have a few guys who know a bunch of our songs, and can come out and do a great job. It’s also been fun, revisiting these songs with these musicians, and hearing them through their ears for the first time. It’s kind of cool.
RMS: In my opinion, I think you should just keep it between you and John. It’s fine the way that it is, and it’s really not necessary to make someone else a permanent band member, at this point.
RT: Yeah, I think that ending will write itself for us. I don’t think we really need to think about it that much. If it happens, it happens. But, it’s an interesting time for us. We can revisit what we did before, and you really don’t get too many chances to do that. Overall, I think that this worked out well for us.
RMS: I want to discuss your current single, “Come to Me.” It is amazing, how long this song has been on the charts, and how much mileage you’ve gotten out of it. It’s still being played on the radio all of the time, and it was released as a single back in July, right?
RT: Yeah, I can’t even remember when it was released as a single. It came out rather slowly. But, that was another one of our songs that was being played on radio before it was promoted as a single. I think people felt that “Rebel Beat” had played its way out, and they were looking for another song to play. So, we were getting radio play on it before it was released as a single. But, yeah, it did pretty well for us.
RMS: So, what song is going to be released as the next single?
RT: …I don’t know yet. We will just have to see what happens this summer. A lot of that depends on the label. Or if, once again, some radio station programmer gets excited about one of our other songs and starts playing it.
RMS: There are at least five other songs from the record that could be released as a follow up single. And, with you touring this summer, it certainly would make sense to release another single.
RT: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like I said, we leave that up to the label. That way, they can’t come back and say that we were wrong. We can go to them and say that they were wrong. (Laughs)
RMS: A common trend among many classic rock musicians is to write an autobiography. Is that something that would interest you down the road?
RT: Oh, I don’t know. Right now, I have a lot going on. I have a two-year-old at home. I have the ‘Music Is Art’ festival coming in September; I have the Shonen Knife coming out, and a bunch of stuff on my label, Good Charamel Records. We (the Goo Goo Dolls) have this tour coming up, and another album in the works. That (writing a book) seems like adding one too many logs to the fire, and I don’t want to burn the whole house down (laughs). But, I don’t know if it would even be that interesting. Maybe it would, I don’t know. I know that if I told the truth, a lot of people would be upset with me (laughs).
RMS: Was there ever a time in your career with the Goo Goo Dolls, where things got a bit out of control, and you where experiencing the “Rock Star” lifestyle?
RT: Man, it was different for us. I was raging my hardest when we were coming up; we weren’t rock stars, we were punk rock kids. We would hang out in the bars, just barely getting by. It was a lot different than what most people would imagine. We rode it hard, and put it away wet for many years.
RMS: I would like to get your opinion on the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
RT: …Umm, I don’t know. I guess it’s good that there’s a place where people can go and celebrate the whole idea of rock music. The induction process and who’s in there becomes a political nightmare, and, ultimately not very rock n’ roll.
RMS: Do you think the Goo Goo Dolls will be inducted into the hall in the near future?
RT: I don’t really think about that too much. Like I said, we have always been sort of on the fringe. We have never been the biggest band in the world. And, I think that place is for the biggest bands in the world.
RMS: But, you guys have had an amazing amount of hits; more so than any band that I can think of over the last 20 years.
RT: Yeah, we probably have as many hits as a lot of those bands, but, for some reason, we have always been on the edge of being a really big band. I think that has allowed us to be around much longer, because the hippest bands always burn out, and have to go away. We have never been hip for so long; we’re just a regular band, and people like our songs, and that’s allowed us to have a career for a few decades.
RMS: My last question for you, Robby, is: What is your opinion on KISS finally getting into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of fame, after being eligible for 14 years?
RT: I’m a huge KISS fan, and I think that if you ask anyone my age who listened to rock music, they would all think that the band deserves to be in. They had an unbelievable amount of influence; there is no question about that. But, enter the politics (of the hall). Obviously, there is mathematics and chemistry within a band. So, who knows how much chaos is created by the band, and how much by the Hall of Fame. Maybe those people just want there to be a controversial story; that’s a whole other end to it. But, I think that the four guys who we know as KISS should perform together. But, if the politics of the band can’t allow that to happen, and they want to perform with the other two guys, they should; it’s their band. But, on the other hand, I would feel pretty weird dressed up as Ace Frehley, wearing his clothes and make-up, and playing his songs while he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. But, God bless KISS. Gene Simmons taught us that a rock band can be on a lunch box.
Check out Robby’s record label, Good Charamel Records here.