Robby Takac (Goo Goo Dolls)
The Goo Goo Dolls, not set to rest on the laurels of there more-than-two decades of success, are about to set out on an acoustic tour of the east coast and mid-west. The tour, called The Otis Midnight Sessions, will feature stripped-down versions of songs from their extensive catalog. If you can’t make it out to one of these intimate events, fear not, the band will be back on the road this summer for a co-headlining tour with American Idol alum Chris Daughtry.
Before they hit the road, Goo Goo Dolls co-founder and bassist Robby Takac was kind enough to chat with us about their upcoming touring schedule, the band’s successes, and giving back to the community.
What was the inspiration for this upcoming acoustic tour?
It was something John’s been talking about forever. We’re lucky enough to have some big songs in the mid-90s that were acoustic-based, and we always talked about how great it would be to try this. We’re all so busy making records and doing tours and it just never really found it’s moment. We had just finished a Canadian run after really long summer and fall tours, and we felt like it was a great time to make some kind of change for a little chunk of time before we set out on another summer tour – it was time to do something a little bit different.
Are you looking forward to playing in smaller venues?
Yeah, it fits the nature of what we’re doing. We sold the tickets first through our fan club sites and then opened the tickets up and most of them have sold out pretty quickly – I think the largest venue is only about 900 seats, most are around 400-500.
The Goo Goo Dolls have been consistently successful for quite some time – to what do you attribute that long-term success?
It’s two things. Obviously you need to have some songs if you’re talking about radio success – that stations are willing to plan. If you’re talking about band success – songs that people can really latch on to. I think you also need the chemical balance that happens in a band to be correct, you need to be brave enough to do the things you need to do to make sure your band can still hang on and be around. If you lose that desire, then you can have all the songs you want and the band’s not gonna function. We’ve been lucky enough to have that balance, and I hope we can keep that going.
Your 10th studio album, Magnetic, was released last year. Is the process of “making a Goo Goo Dolls album” engrained in you at this point, or has that process changed and evolved over time?
There was a process, and we sort of broke out of that for this record for the first time. Normally we would lock ourselves up and do demos and have 15 songs that are half-finished or three-quarters-finished and bring them in to a producer to start working on them, then sit underneath this pile of 15 almost-done songs for 3-, 4-, 5 months. That was pretty much our process.
This record, we did it a bit differently. John decided he wanted to do a bit more writing with the producers who were going to work on the songs with us. So he’d go off and work on a song a little bit, and when he thought it was in the right place, he’d call us in, we’d play a little bit – maybe work on one or two songs, and finish them. Then John would go work on a few more songs, we’d meet up again, finish those as well. There was a lot less tension in the making of this record and I think it really sounds that way. I don’t think it feels as heavy-hearted as the last couple records did.
Your co-headliner for your upcoming summer tour, Chris Daughtry, rose to popularity through American Idol – which has produced a number of commercially successful artists – Do you think shows like American Idol and The Voice set a reasonable expectation level for what it takes to get in to the music industry?
It seems to be a pretty common process now. I think at one point, people didn’t really know what to do when they won those shows. A lot of those guys didn’t really do too much afterwards. I think Chris did a really great job transforming that whole thing in to something real for himself – I really gotta hand it to him.
We came up through a different channel than that. We drove around in a van with no expectations for many, many years before we even got to a point where it seemed like there was a possibility that what we did would be popular. It’s a different way of making it happen. Once you get in to the public eye like he did, you gotta see if you can back it up – and he has.
Ralph Wilson, the longtime, and only, owner of your hometown Buffalo Bills, passed away just a few days ago. Can you give us an idea of what he meant to that community, the city, and how he’ll be missed?
I’ve never been much of a sports guy, but you know I’m from Buffalo – so of course if you asked me if I was a Bills fan I would have to tell you yes. We’ve always heard in Buffalo that he was the reason we still had a team there, so we’ll have to see what happens. People love the Bills in Buffalo, so hopefully they’ll work it all out.
Finally, your organization Music Is Art, has been active in Buffalo for a long time – can you tell us a little about what the organizations means to you, and what you hope for its future?
Music Is Art does work in the schools and communities in the Buffalo area, and tries to promote music and arts in the schools and in general. We have a festival every year that happens in the fall that draws tens of thousands of people, there are hundreds of bands and artists and djs. It’s just a great time. It’s a not-for-profit and you can check out all of the programs we run on our website (http://www.musicisart.org). We do some pretty cool stuff, I’ve got a great group of people that work with me in Buffalo.
And as if all that weren’t enough, Robby also runs his own record label in Buffalo – Good Charamel Records. You can expect to see more GCR coverage on EAH with upcoming releases from Shonen Knife and Pinky Doodle Poodle.