INTERVIEW: A boy named Goo, or rather Robby

The harrowing gaze of Hollywood industry types makes everyone ugly. Facts are fact, man; if you’re not pretty you better rock pretty damn hard. So OK, Robby Takac’s not a stinker, but he doesn’t have Johnny Reznik’s pristine poise, or his wind-swept hair. So why is this guy the coolest Goo Goo Doll? It’s not his aesthetic, and it’s not in his rock star posturing. It’s the fact that, while Reznik is on stage winking at comely young coeds, Robby’s standing by rocking the hell out of the songs. No pretense, no poise, no nothing. Just simple, straight-laced rock ‘n’ roll.

I guess it takes all types. The handsome Reznik and hard-rocking Takac teamed up as the Goo Goo Dolls in the late 1980s. They first cut their teeth on the streets of Buffalo, N.Y., playing clubs and dives all around town. After years of recording and promotion their 1997 release, A Boy Named Goo (Warner Bros.), gained the band the national attention it had spent 10 years seeking. A number of prestigious singles, most notably “Iris” from the City of Angels Soundtrack and the release of the subsequent recording Dizzy up The Girl (Warner Bros.), cemented the bands place in mainstream rock.

The sailing’s not completely smooth for the band quite yet ,though. They’re still road dogs. Reznik, Takac and drummer Mike Malinin have spent the last 45 or so weeks on the road promoting their newest release, Gutterflowers (Warner Bros.), headlining and also gigging with the illustrious Bon Jovi. No two ways about it, these guys are rock stars. But as Takac explains, the rock star’s life might not be all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, sometimes, it’d be a lot easier just to forget all the bills and just stay home all day.

Hatchet: Hey, man. How you doing?

Robby Takac: I’m doing good, man. Looking out my window here in Connecticut and I don’t think I can see eight feet, the snow’s coming so hard.

H: We got our hit. We’re done for now.

RT: I saw that. It’s Buffalo snow with D.C. plows.

H: So how are you holding up on the road?

RT: Well, we’ve been out for 45 weeks on Gutterflower.

H: How do you handle that much time on the road?

RT: It’s easier now that I have some money. It was tough when we didn’t. You couldn’t call home; you didn’t have any money. It sucked.

H: Who tells stories first when you get home? You or your family?

RT: I tend not to. I don’t want to feel like I’m rubbing anybody’s nose in it. Buffalo’s an odd place. Growing up there, there’s not a whole lot of opportunity there anymore. People are clawing for opportunities. It didn’t used to be that way. There’s your little history lesson on Buffalo. Now we’ve moved out to L.A.

H: Why the move?

RT: I was spending more time in hotel rooms in L.A., than I was in my home in Buffalo.

H: So do you like the nice weather or do you like the snow?

RT: I’ve been out there for five years. I prefer the nice weather. It’s very crippling. I can think of times being in Buffalo and thinking to myself, ‘Man, I could go out and do something right now. I could go pay this bill but first I’d have to jump out the window and shovel the door. Then I’d have to shovel the car out. You know, get the kitty sand, ’cause it’ll get stuck on the way out.’ So I’d be like, ‘Never mind, I’ll stay home and not pay my bills.’

H: How would you describe the sound of the original Goo Goo Dolls? I’ve seen you written up as a thrash-metal band, a punk band, everything.

RT: I think originally we wanted to be The Cure but we realized we couldn’t do that. So we shot for The Replacements, but I think we got more of a B-grade Ramones sound. We were doing our best.

H: That’s a fun style to play though.

RT: Yeah. And the scene back then was just unbelievable. There were clubs everywhere and the drinking age was 18. There was never a shortage of places to play.

H: How do you avoid falling into the mess of becoming a one-hit wonder? You guys have obviously done that pretty well.
RT: I think you’ve just got to make sure your records are still good. Don’t count on your one big song because if it doesn’t happen, you’re screwed. I guess the other half of it is, the record industry doesn’t know what the hell’s going on right now. Nobody does. These delightful but evil little MP3s are causing a lot of trouble.

H: You really think so?

RT: It makes sense. George W is scaring the shit out of our country. Everyday it kills me. So, people don’t want to part with their money, because they fear for the worst. The recording industry has collapsed.

H: How do you feel about that?

RT: It’s disappointing. Bakers like to get paid for the bread they bake. Guys in bands like to get paid for the records they make. But, then again, the same digital audio files that are causing all this trouble allow me to sit here with a computer and make records in my hotel room if I want. So maybe some talented people, whom the powers that be overlooked, can make records.

H: So do you think that’s all helping the indie scene?

RT: I think sometime in the ’80s all the indie record labels got bought up by all the big record companies. So there was this illusion of this independent record scene going on, when there really wasn’t. It sort of diluted that scene. I think, once again, it’s getting to that point again.

H: How much of the rock star life is true? Do you get spotted out on the street a lot?

RT: Not in L.A. Except for at Home Depot. We’re huge rock stars at the Home Depot in L.A.
H: Really?

RT: Yeah, actually that’s true. For some reason, every time John and I go there we get a huge crowd of people around us. I guess we’re just a Home Depot kind of band.

H: Do you still dig being on the road?

RT: I’m not gonna lie to you. It kind of blows, being out here for two years at a time. You’d like to be home with your cat and your couch, all that cool stuff in your house that you never get to see.

H: How do you keep your energy up on stage?

RT: You focus in on four or five people that are having a really good time and you let it spread across the whole room. It’s real, man. You’re not trying to convince somebody that they’re having fun.

H: Is it harder to do that in an arena?

RT: I think gang mentality kind of lowers your IQ a little bit. It’s kind of tough when there are only seven people. It’s kind of the same thing.

H: Seems like that might be tougher.

RT: Yeah, it sucks when there are seven people kind of staring you down like, ‘I could do better than that.’ When that used to happen I’d just be like, ‘You know what, I wish you would.’

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