Salt Lake magazine chatted with Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls while he was at home in Buffalo , NY after short European tour. Takac is a founding member and the bassist of the 90’s radio-staple and he made time for our interview in between his daughter’s hair cut and Cinderella Halloween costume shopping. “The joys of having a four-year-old,” he said with a smile.
SLM: Where are you now? You were in Europe, right?
Robby: I was in Europe, I just got back, I’m spending a little time in Buffalo with my daughter, and then I’m heading back out.
SLM: So you still live in Buffalo?
R: I’ve lived here for the past 10 years. I was in LA for about ten years before that. John was out in Los Angeles as well, but he’s moving to New Jersey.
SLM: Well, in my opinion Buffalo is better than LA. Until winter comes.
R: Well, it depends of what you make of it. I’m lucky enough that I’m traveling most of the time, but my daughter’s just going into school—shes in kindergarten next year. So, my wife is going to get some serious does of winter. That lake-effect snow is insane.
SLM: So you were just in Salt lake this summer. You played Red Butte Garden, like, two months ago.
R: Yeah we did. It was awesome, actually.
SLM: Red Butte is such a great venue. In February when the skies are gray, we all just look forward to Red Butte concert season. But, I want to know what brings you back to Salt Lake so soon?
R: We’re doing a lot of traveling to markets we haven’t been to yet as we’re circling the U.S. one more time. The show sold out rather quickly last time, so we’re coming through to play another show for people who either didn’t get into the last one or who want to come back and see us again.
SLM: I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but the venue that you’re playing when you get here hasn’t even officially opened yet. You’re only the second act to play it, it’s a brand-new Broadway-style theater. So, really, the feel of the show probably couldn’t be more different than the feel you had Red Butte a couple months ago.
R: Well, Red Butte is definitely a unique situation. It’s much different than the average rock show. The fall tours will go a little deeper into the catalog and it’s a little less bombs and explosions and it goes a little deeper into the catalog. Not that we actually use bombs and explosions.
SLM: So that was something I wanted to talk to about—how do you create your set lists? You’re a band that has a huge back catalog, but you’re really well known for several Top 40 hits, so how do you find the balance in that for a 90-minute set?
R: We like to play the songs people are probably there to hear—the casual listeners. We’re lucky enough to have a lot of songs that the casual listener may hear and say, “Oh, yeah, I know that.” Some bands may only have one for those songs, and that makes it a little more difficult because you’ve got to string them along for 90 minutes. So, in that respect it’s a blessing—but on the other side, there’s songs we’d love to play because they’re fun to play.. But in my head I try to remember that even though we do this every single night, night after night after night after night, the audience isn’t seeing us night after night. They’re coming to see us once and so we kind of have to deliver the goods. So we try to stick to that.
SLM: So I read a little bit about you before I called and I saw a lot of references from John (Rzeznik) about how you are the glue that has held the Goo Goo Dolls together and how you’ve been doing that for 30 years. So, my question is: Do you think that’s true? And if so, what’s the secret?
R: It’s all about the chemistry and being able to make it happen with people who are in the room. When we started we were a three-piece band. But after the first ten years of having a third member, we didn’t have a third member for 20 years after that and we still made it happen. And we went through this weird rocky period where we had a new band and a new drummer and switched out drummers a couple times , but John and I look at each other now as a stronger unit than we have in a long time and I think after all these years that’s pretty awesome to be able to say. I think quite often a band feels like they’re just going through the motions at this point, but we haven’t got there yet. So, the answer is the chemistry. I think both do what we need to do to make sure we make it another day.
SLM: And you’re still putting out new music, you’re touring on a building catalog. That has to help too.
R: We talk about that a lot. We never want to feel like we’re just up there playing our old songs. But we’re lucky, because our fans roll with the punches. New songs come out, and I swear to you, I’ve been looking at these people’s faces for decades now and it’s like, they know all these new songs when they come. And obviously, you play a song like “Slide” and there’s a huge reaction and people get excited. But I never feel like people are looking at us with a question mark over their head. It feels like people know. And these days you don’t have to pay for it! You can go on YouTube and hear full albums. So if they come not knowing the songs, they have no excuse!
SLM: Tell me about the newest album, Boxes. You and John write most of the songs, right?
R: We made records the same way for a really long time. We’d write a bunch of songs, take 10-15 of them and we’d go in and start recording and try to pull out from underneath a huge pile of half-finished stuff and it became exhausting, honestly. And the records started feeling that way. So for Magnetic, the last record, John decided we’d work with a bunch of different producers. So, we’d do one song with one guy, one song with another guy and basically pull a record together. And when it was finished, the process seemed less taxing on us and the songs sort of felt like they were able to breathe in a way. So, I think with not yet being conformable with what that process was, Magnetic turned out to be the record it was. But this time we knew the process and we knew what to expect, and I feel like that as an experiment it yielded much stronger results. So, my personal opinion is that this record feels natural, it’s a pleasure to play and it just feels good.
SLM: I think it feels like a true evolution of the band in a way that a few of your previous records didn’t.
R: Yeah. You always want to feel like you’re moving forward. Although we were making conscious decisions about moving forward, I think that were more songwriter and this new process really opened a lot of doors and it’s tough after three decades with a band, to say hey, wait a minute. We may have discovered a new way to do things here.
And we’re pretty lucky because John’s voice is a pretty serious indicator of the Goo Goo Dolls. His voice is definite like a stamp so that allows us to open up things in a different way. And when we’re bringing producers in they are bringing things in that we never would have thought of. I think having that relationship and having the guts after all these years and not being in our own bubble—because after you’ve been doing this a long time people are scared to to bring ideas to you. But we had to throw the ego out the window.