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Q&A: Robby Takac of Goo Goo Dolls

| July 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

Illinois Entertainer: What’s the secret to surviving, not only in the music business for as long as the Goo Goo Dolls have, but also as a group of individuals?
Robby Takac:
Yeah. It’s obviously a lot of things. The most important one is – and it sounds simple, but it’s pretty easy – you just don’t break up. You just keep it together and keep trying to find out what the next logical phase of what you’re doing is and be open and not too stubborn to go those places you know are going to allow you to maintain and make it still happen.

IE: It’s always been our theory that the band’s who become successful are the ones that just don’t quit.
RT:
Before we had our first single on the radio we had already been together for longer than most bands exist. We were together for almost 10 years before we had any significant radio airplay at all, so I guess you just stick it out. It’s coming up on 26 years now. It’s pretty crazy.

IE: You’re playing three nights here in Chicago at Ravinia. Not many bands can pull off that many shows in one place. The Rolling Stones just did it. Speaking of longevity, do you think you’ll be kicking it onstage as long as Mick and the boys?
RT:
Oh, I don’t know. I think we just keep our heads down and worry about making the next record and see where things take you. But yeah, it’s pretty amazing that we’re doing the third show there and Chicago’s always been a great market for us. But I think this combination of bands, Matchbox 20 and ourselves on this tour, has really proven to be a pretty good idea.

IE: Why do you think the pairing works? There’s a general opinion that most bands from the’90s have passed their sell-by date.
RT:
There’s two differences between this tour and, like, what you would call a ’90s nostalgia tour. One, yes we had the largest amount of success measurably in the ’90s, both ourselves and Matchbox 20, but the interesting thing about these bands is neither one of these bands ever really went away. We have been releasing records, doing tours pretty much this entire time and having songs on the radio pretty consistently this entire time. Perhaps not as big as “Iris,” but I think we’re on our 14th or 15th Top 10 AC song or something like that right now. It’s pretty crazy. So I think both bands, like I said, were both at their commercial peak, at least up to this point, during the ’90s, but neither of us have gone anywhere. I think we’ve been accruing new fans this entire time and I think the combination just makes for an appealing ticket for people.

IE: Do you have a prior relationship with the guys in Matchbox 20?
RT:
No, not really. We’ve both been very busy. But no, I’m actually surprised it’s taken this long for this pairing to happen. It seems like something that would have happened ages ago, but it looks like in the grand scheme of things, maybe it wasn’t bad to wait till now to make it happen because people seem excited about it. So, yeah, I can’t wait to meet those guys and I hear they’re all really cool dudes and I think it’s going to be a great summer.

IE: Don’t all famous people know each other?
RT:
I’ve seen [Rob Thomas] a couple times. I saw him at a radio show once. I think an awards show once. I was like, “Hey man, I know who you are. How are you doing?” I gotta tell you man, I don’t think we’re by any means famous people, but I’ve been at some of these events where like real, real famous people are at and it’s pretty amazing in they kind of act that way. It’s always weird to me, but I have noticed that before. It freaks me out just a little bit.

IE: Surely, that’s how fans that have been listening to you for 20 years feel.
RT:
Yeah, sometimes it’s funny because . . . how do I say this in a nice way? It’s like, there’s some boundaries you want to keep with folks, but after people get to know you through your music and even more so these days through social media, you really start to form this third party relationship with folks and it’s kind of fascinating sometimes. I’ve got to say, it’s pretty wild when you meet someone and you realize through the years you’ve become sort of a component and significant portion of their lives. It’s pretty wild for sure.

IE: Now that you have a daughter, has that changed the way you feel about interacting with fans outside of a concert setting?
RT:
I think having a baby pretty much changes the way you look at everything, quite honestly. But I think, like you said before – how does this thing stay together for 26 years – you figure out a way for it to work and it was that time in my life to make that happen and we’ll figure out a way to make it to work. Although, I do have to say it makes it a little bit tougher going away on tour.

IE: You can’t bring everyone on the bus?
RT:
I don’t know if everybody would like to have that happen [laughs].

IE: You’ve all gone through some big life changes. John Rzeznik is getting married and he also told CNN that he stopped drinking. And you’re a new father. How did all of that impact Magnetic?
RT:
I guess no matter what happens in your day or night, you know between the last time you tried to make a record and this time, all that stuff is gonna have some effect on the way you perceive things, the way you’re writing in a very abstract way. I think in a much more concrete way, we decided we were gonna try to make things a bit more sane during the recording process this time. Rather than getting pinned under a pile of songs that all need to be finished at the same time, we went one by one and kind of finished our idea and moved on to the next. It really sort of took a lot of that pressure, like I said, that mass of stuff to finish up looming over your head so you could focus on each idea individually and get it done and feel like it’s time to move on to the next.

IE: The emotional tenor of the album is much lighter than Something For The Rest Of Us.
RT
: Yeah, we sort of noticed that. It’s funny, I said you get pinned underneath this pile of songs, so sometimes I don’t think you really realize where you’re going until you get there when you’re making a record, and I think the last few records have been getting darker and darker and I think we made a conscious decision to make sure this one wasn’t going to follow that path and make a little bit of an easier listen. The last one was a little tough.

IE: I once heard a musician say that if you look at your journal, rarely do you write about happy things because you’re usually too busy enjoying them. That it is easier to write about the things you’re depressed about. Was it challenging to make something brighter?
RT:
John basically would pick a producer – and John’s songs make up a majority of the record. John would basically pick a producer and they would start writing a song together and when the demo was finished we’d come in and work on it, so I think the tone of the record was announced, if you know what I mean, it was determined before they went in to do this stuff. I think with the producers having that in mind and having all the resources that they needed at their hands it was pretty easy to craft the record the way John was feeling and myself as well.

IE: You recorded Magnetic in New York, Los Angeles, and London, but John refers to it as “a real New York” record.
RT:
I’ve been living in New York, in Buffalo actually, for the past three or four years, and John was spending the majority of his time in Manhattan during that time as the record was being written, so I think it holds that vibe. Although, like you said, not all of it was done there. Some of it was actually done here in Buffalo as well, we did some string arrangements here in Buffalo, so there’s a lot of different ideas, but I think the record’s vibe was sort of cemented by the time John was spending with Greg [Wattenberg] in New York. And I recorded my two songs with Greg in New York as well, so the majority of the record was done there.

IE: Like you said, you’ve really never left radio. I hear “Iris” maybe once a day. What is your relationship to that song now? Obviously you owe it to the fans, but would you also be happy to retire it?
RT:
That song propelled our band’s career to a place that we had never expected to be, so obviously we owe a huge debt of gratitude to fate for allowing that to happen. At the same time, it’s cast a pretty long shadow, but I guess with the sun being as hot as it is these days, it’s nice to have a shadow to dash in and out of, I guess. But, I think, having to play a song too much because people want to hear it is like a problem we shouldn’t be complaining about. Yeah, I really feel like we wish sometimes that that wasn’t what seems to be the end-all identifying marker of what we do, but at the same time it’s pretty flattering to have an identifying marker of what you’ve done. When you’re standing in front of a crowd of people and playing music, like they’ve come there that one night. They haven’t been to the other 4,000 performances of “Iris.” Maybe they’ve seen a couple, but you really gotta just go to that place, man. Just take yourself to that same place and realize all these people are in this moment, which is a different experience for them than it is for you. And their experience is pretty awesome, so you just gotta connect with that and enjoy it. And I think if you lose that, I think you’ve really kind of lost sight of what the heck you’re doing here in this job, ’cause that’s what you do it for.

Goo Goo Dolls appear with Matchbox 20 at Ravinia (418 Sheridan) in Highland Park between July 2 and 4.

— Janine Schaults

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