Robby Takac, 2007

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

Hey Robby, how are ya?
I am doing well, man. How are you?

 

I am great. I am glad we finally got to hook up about Let Love In.
Yea, you know. It is a tangled web we weave, but we always get to the interviews. And its great to talk to you.

It is great to talk to you, too. It has been quite a few years since we talked and even then I said you have been at this game called music for a while.
Yea. Yea. We have been at it now for 21 years actually. It is crazy.

 

Looking back, there was a definite punk influence with the Goo Goo Dolls, which now many wouldn't believe. Are you shocked at how long you have been able to maintain as a band?
I think with as well as not a lot of bands lasting that long, a lot of bands do not let themselves grow into something they can be comfortable with and still wear as a comfortable outfit 21 years into what they are doing. You know, I have stacks of reviews saying we put out the same record time and time again since 1986, and obviously somebody has missed something somewhere along the way. But part of that is because when you look at your sister every day you don't see her grow up. And when you look at your kids every day you don't see them grow up. That is because they progress as nature intended. And there are those people that show up and one day they are into the tight jeans and the next day they are Satanists or whatever and that will happen to some people. But in general, people don't develop that way. I guess we have just had the luxury and good fortune to be able to grow and mature in a way that was natural for us. And I think that is why we are around still doing it.

 

With that, it seems every time one turns on MTV someone is showing off how much money they have, but the Goo Goo Dolls seem to keep it pretty low-key. Do you think being able to shut off the rock-and-roll lifestyle has been helpful with maintaining a level head when it comes to your music?
You know it's funny, when we first starting getting songs on the radio about 12 years ago, people would say, "Now that you have songs on the radio with Mariah Carey, how does that feel?" Our answer was always we felt like we were visiting. It is like we are at the Grammy's but that is only because we were nominated for something and are playing, but I wouldn't be there otherwise because I don't belong there. That is what it always felt like. It is like we were just wandering through the neighborhood and caught a party going on and just went in. But I guess in the span of our career we have watched that happen numerous times. And I feel blessed that we are one of a couple dozen bands from our era that cut their teeth at CBGBs and Maxwell's and all those places. There are only a few bands that have been able to stick it out, and us being one is pretty cool, I think.

 

I do remember seeing you play live, and you are always in your bare feet.
Yea, you know I equate that to those little vibrating football games we used to have when we were kids. [Laughing] I play the bass, you know, so I tended to feel it a little more with no shoes on. But now I guess it is more superstitious and yada yada.

 

But there seems to be some sort of comfort level that comes with that.
Well, you know there is always that thing in the back of my brain asking, "Do I have a bugger hanging out my nose? Is my fly down?" I mean that is what always enters your head when you are out doing something like that. But we have been touring a lot and that hour on stage is really the only thing I know. I understand that. That is the same every day. I know how to do that. So I have a comfort level with that. That is the one thing I can confidently go out there and do every day. Everything else that surrounds it is the big mystery to me. Like I don't know how normal people survive every day. I mean, I sit and think that if this weird thing of music didn't happen for me, I have no idea where I would be right now because I just don't have the capacity to line stuff up without a lot of help. I don't know how else to say it. [Laughing] I mean this life really forces you to surround yourself with people you trust because one person can't handle everything. And is some ways that makes you a little but helpless, which is kind of a scary thing to think.

 

You talked earlier how the band has been able to progress over the 21 years. Is it that progression that keeps the band fresh and excited about each record? After all, 21 years at any job can be a bit mind numbing.
Yea, you know I think for the first time in our career we felt that after making our last record, Gutterflower. I think that we felt as though our moves have become, for the first time, a bit lateral and a bit predictable in our minds. But obviously that opinion has fluttered around for years amongst some folks. But for us, when we listened to that record, and not to get into Gutterflower too much, but September 11 happened right in the middle of making that record and there was just craziness surrounding the making of that record. The whole world was changing and our focus didn't seem to be quite there. We seemed to be self-censoring ourselves into a situation of where we were really in danger of repeating ourselves. And too boot, that was a really, really dark and manic record. I mean, when it was up it was up, but when it was down, man was it down. For us to listen to that record now and especially when we listened to it then, when it came time for us to do another record we got Glenn Ballard in the mix because we knew we wanted some outside influence. Yet at the same time we were terrified to let go. We had done 80 percent of our hits with the same team of people, headed by Rob Cavallo. But we were scared because on Gutterflower we didn't feel it like we did on other records. We didn't feel challenged or that we challenged ourselves; and the fault lies nowhere, it is just what we felt. So when Glenn got involved, we asked ourselves what he was going to bring to the situation and we opened ourselves up to letting him do what he does. What he did was teach us and remind us that there is a forest through all those trees and that we have recorded a dozen huge songs and thousands of people come to see you play; and you seem to forget about that. And we were like, "Oh yea, I guess that is what we do." So he said that is what we do so just do it and not let anything stand in our way of doing the best job at it. I know that it sounds very simple, but at that time it was something that we never really thought about too much. It was usually a big rumble getting our records done. A big drunken rumble most of the time. This time we went in and left our bad vibes at the door and made some good songs. And I think it gave the band much more than a good record, it gave the band much more life and I think we are going to torture the world with a few more records at this point. I think we see open road ahead of us. And when you asked how do you stay around that long? The answer is all these things. They all have to happen. If they don't all happen, you go away and that is why 99 percent of band just can't make it this long, I guess.

 

With this new record, there seems to be an extra bit of energy. You mentioned Gutterflower and when it was down, it was really down. Does making a record like this reinvigorate you outside of music, to can you separate music from daily life?
Well, when Gutterflower came out, Newsweek and Time simultaneously released cover stories saying, "Hey, never pay for music again, and here is how." [Laughing] And that record and us as a band were tossed into an old strategy of how music operates. Our record label was throwing money at the old industry and I think everyone started to realize that wasn't working. We were out just doing out best trying to figure out why we were playing in front of more people that ever. We were on shitloads of radio stations and we can't sell any records? What is going on here? Let me rephrase that. When I say that we still sold 900,000 copies of that record and I can't believe that has become just a status quo statement for me now. It's crazy. Anyway, the label and other people involved were just rolling their eyes at that number. I mean, are they crazy? Picture 900,000 mosquitoes in your room or nickels piles up on your desk. That is a lot of nickels. But for us, I think when this record came out; along with a new attitude was a new understanding of how this new record industry is operating. As much as we have lost control of being able to sell records, we gained access to a lot of people, man. Directly. For 20 years, we have been touring Europe and I really saw it as a vacation because no one really came to see us and I got to see Europe and then I came home. That pretty much was the way it was. But them Myspace happens, and boom, boom I don't have to tell you what happened with that. Then all of a sudden we are going to Europe and dude, we did six sold-out nights in London when this record came out and we are going back again in three months. We can't play over there enough. Iris was in the top 20 just a few months ago, and that is because they missed it the first time. There was just some disconnect amongst ourselves, our record label and those handling us. They just couldn't figure out the correct way to get us to the people, and we have it now. So like I said, there was a new set of criteria for success for us an it wasn't people pounding us with, "You only sold nearly a million records." Now it is more of a wow factor that we are playing to more people then ever and they are coming to our shows, we are making money on the road and we are selling records. The way our band works is we do what we do. And the pendulum flows of what is popular on the radio and the pendulum swings and the pendulum of what we do swings. At times over the 20 years, those things have collided pretty hard and those are really awesome times. But I think doing what we do, you cannot craft something to try and make those two pendulums collide. Because if we did we would ruin what we do. We just have to keep making records and wait for those pendulums collide in a few years; I hope. [Laughing].

 

What I just like that you said was you like making records. It seems today bands are getting signed based on a single that can sell on iTunes but rarely is a band given the chance to grow and mature if another band with a single comes along.
I think that is going to be the next thing you see is people getting signed for single deals instead of being signed for record deals. Which is probably the most detrimental thing to A&R as far as discovering any talent. It is probably the most detrimental thing that has ever happened to music. You may remember, that in the '60s there was bubblegum pop but at the same time the format was the long-play record. And even though they were out selling singles, the format was long play. That was how you released your record and you released singles from that. Unfortunately, I see that package becoming less and less important and that is really taking the depth away of what you are letting people see of you as the artist.

 

When the band sits down and says we have 12 songs to put on this record or whatever the number is, how evenly distributed is the time for each song?
It's like anything else, some come easily and others, well ... Just ask a mother who has given birth to many children, she will probably tell you the same thing. Some of them are very easy and some you leave screaming on the table all afternoon. [Laughing] The ones that take the longest time are not necessarily the singles; they are just the ones that take the longest time. Better Days, for example, was written, demoed, recorded, mastered and on CNN within two weeks. And there are other songs on that record that took John (Reznik) two years to pull together that will probably never be heard on the radio but were important for the record.