Interview: Robby Takac of Goo Goo Dolls
June 08, 2006 12:03 PM
by Christina Fuoco
For the Buffalo, NY-bred Goo Goo Dolls, the 2002 album "Gutterflower" almost spelled the end. But once core members John Rzeznik and Robby Takac got a taste of life outside of the band, they came rushing back to record this year's "Let Love In."
In the interim, singer/guitarist Rzeznik's work included penning songs for Ryan Cabrera's debut, "Take It All Away," while singer/bassist Takac focused on his label, Good Charamel Records.
Takac said that the group took some "bad advice," which led to the temporary split.
"I think when people started jumping in and throwing in opinions that weren't necessarily best for the outfit, the outfit started to break down a little bit," Takac said. "I think the ['Gutterflower'] shows were great. I think the tour was amazing. I think there was an undercurrent of 'Ah, we're probably done doing this. This is our last record.'"
"That is what I think we felt, for one reason or another. For this record, we can't wait to get back in the studio again to start the next one. There's a lot different vibe for this band than we've had in the last six or seven years," he added.
Takac, who said the Goo Goo Dolls are at their tightest, talked to LiveDaily about the tumultuous times, the new album, as well as his band's forthcoming tour with Counting Crows.
LiveDaily: Why do you say the Goo Goo Dolls have never sounded better?
Robby Takac: We've been a three-piece band for a long time. Then we started playing with some other people. The first couple people we got were our friends; guys we knew. We went on a whole tour. By the end, we weren't all as good of friends as we were. [Laughs] We learned a little bit about having people play with your band. Maybe they weren't the right players. I'm not saying they weren't good players. They just maybe weren't the right ones. For the next one [tour], we had auditions. We hired two guys and they [became] really good friends of ours. I think we learned from that, too. Now, I think we knew pretty much what we wanted out of guys this time. I'm talking about as guys, too, not just musicians. These guys came on the scene, and it seemed to be what the doctor ordered for our band. We buckled down and rehearsed like we never have before. Now we've put ourselves in every piss-poor situation possible for the past five weeks. Going around the United States playing boats, Chinese restaurants, music stores, board rooms and record stores, and everything but real gigs. In general it's been just crazy little gigs all over the place. We are so ready right now to go out on a tour. We are so ready to start playing. It's a very explosive time for us right now. We're really excited.
Who are the new guys in the band?
[Guitarist] Brad Fernquist. He's played with, God, everybody from Michelle Branch and New Radicals to Fastball. He's turned into one of those lifetime utility guys. [Multi-instrumentalist] Korel Turnador, he came here to L.A. from Pennsylvania to play with Hanson, of all people. He's one of those weird, sort of semi-spiritual sort of dudes. He can pick up just about anything and make music with it. It's really nice to have him around the scene. He can play the guitar, percussion, drums. It's really turned into a real powerful package. [The core band is rounded out by drummer Mike Malinin, who has been an official member since 1998.]
How did the tour with the Counting Crows come about?
There was some thought about tours we could go out on during the summer. We knew we were going to have a record out, so we talked about doing some co-headline shows with some bands to make sure there was some flesh in the seats. We never know how we're going to do. It's so weird. Our last record sold a quarter of what the record before that sold, but our crowds were much bigger. That could be due to the download craze of the moment when the record came out. This record, we were setting up this tour even before this record even came out. When the Counting Crows situation came up ... they're one of those groups that they go out and people are expecting the crowds. To be part of that is kind of exciting for us. Essentially it is a co-headlining situation, time wise. We decided we weren't going to switch time slots around. That's a little too hairy. We use a lot of wacky [effects]. We're probably going to take the second spot the entire tour, except for a few markets, Buffalo being one of them of course. It's going to be a great tour, man. It's going to be outside the whole summer.
So you're playing before the Counting Crows?
Yeah, we're the second of three bands. There's going to be a side stage at about a little less than half the dates, as well. It'll be great, man.
VH1 mentioned there has been a frenzy about the girl, model Danielle Fillmore, on your album new cover.
A lot of people thought it was Natalie Portman. That's what a lot of people said when the album first came out. This girl doesn't look like that picture when you see her because she's young. She's a beautiful, beautiful girl. Really nice.
What was it like to work with Glen Ballard? Had you worked with him before?
We had never worked with Glen. We hadn't really even met him until it was time to go in and record. It was funny. We did our last few albums with Rob Cavallo. That's eight years of understanding the process of record-making with Rob. It was time we interjected some new blood into the situation. After all this time, we just needed some surprises along the way. Glen's way of record-making is very much like, "Toss it at the wall and see if it sticks." We've never done much of that before. He brought in a whole new circle of people to influence us. It was just a whole different vibe you get in the studio. Before we walked in the studio with Glen, these songs were far along, and if we walked in and Glen was just a blubbering idiot, we still would have made a great record. [laughs] But we walked in, and he only made it better. He's an incredibly talented guy, incredibly spontaneous, musical. He made you feel like every moment that you spend working with him is a very important moment. That's really a freeing feeling.
Did you write songs with him?
No. We spent six months first in Los Angeles sort of kicking around, but doing more talking about what kind of band we wanted to be and the things that we did and didn't want to see happen in the third decade of existence of this band. Even though we collected a lot of ideas, John always speaks of that time as an unproductive time. I don't think that that was it. I think it was more we couldn't make up our minds about anything in Los Angeles. I think we felt we were dealt a lot of bad advice on our last project. We weren't soliciting opinions from anybody. Which means we weren't talking to anybody about anything we were doing. We were just sitting here [in Los Angeles], and it just didn't feel right. Then we went to Buffalo and spent six months in Buffalo in the freezing cold, and worked on these songs 10, 12 hours a day every single day. It was a pretty intense time, man. We brought in a guy we were contemplating using as a producer. He turned out to be a good friend. He actually co-wrote a song on the record with John. We learned that maybe he wasn't the appropriate person at the time to do the record. Once again, we covered a lot of ground while we were in there. By the time we walked into Glen's place, which was his house at the time, we had sessions that were essentially musically together. There were not any sounds we would have kept, but with the vibe of Buffalo and all those things; those vibes were brought right into his house.
You sound like you're really happy with the album.
I really like it. It's funny. When you first finish something you've been working so hard on, you unleash it on the public and a lot of people have opinions about it. I guess I try to make myself as numb to the good comments as the bad ones. You never want to hear your kid's ugly. You hear that every once in awhile and you feel like driving up to their house and saying, "Don't you know you made me upset?"
What bad advice did you receive on "Gutterflower?
There are a lot of people who didn't understand what we did, or the history of what we had done over the years. There was a delicate situation there. It's not easy to keep a band together. It's not easy to maintain some sort of [camaraderie] in this situation
What brought the band back together?
I don't know. The time we spent in Los Angeles. Kind of hanging out, talking every day about what we saw and the way we saw things happening around us and the people around us. It gave us the perspective that, "Hey man, as a team, we're pretty good at this." John went out and did a couple records. I went out and did a couple records for other bands. When we got back to L.A. and said, "Our day jobs aren't so bad. We make money doing this. All right." Sometimes it's hard to see the forest through the trees. There's so much going on it's hard to focus in on what's going on in your camp, because the advice is coming from all over the place.