Interview: Goo Goo Dolls ...Let Love In...
Takac Talks About Album, Touring, and Life
By Jillian A. Berry
Let Love In
The Goo Goo Dolls
Earlier this year, the Goo Goo Dolls released Let Love In, their tenth record, and their first studio album since 2002’s Gutterflower. Although they’ve moved away from their punk rock roots, their songs remain just as powerful as singles like the title track, “Let Love In,” addressing the problems of the world.
Last Friday night, the Goo Goo Dolls performed at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston. Over It, a lackluster rock band from California, opened the show, but the Goo Goo Dolls then came out with a bang, performing “Stay With You” off their new album. Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik was almost unrecognizable with a Bono-inspired look featuring sunglasses and slicked back hair. Throughout the night, the band made the audience feel included as they let us sing some of the verses, and Rzeznik even answered an audience member’s cell phone. Although the show was full of energy, Rzeznik was somewhat detached since he had been to the dentist earlier that day and was on pain medication. Nevertheless, the music was still amazing, and they sounded quite different from their albums (in a good way). “Sympathy,” normally an emotionally packed, yet mellow song, was performed in a fast paced style more reminiscent of their rock songs. Likewise, they played “Better Days,” a sensitive Christmas song from the new album, with a faster tempo and edgier sound compared to the studio version.
Though they only played for an hour and a half, the Goo Goo Dolls were able to show off 16 songs, including two encores, and they made every second count.
A few weeks ago I talked with Robby Takac, the bass player and a vocalist for the Goo Goo Dolls.
The Tech: How long have the Goo Goo Dolls been together?
Robby Takac: 20 years and a few months. Crazy.
TT: How old were you when you got together?
RK: I was 21 when we started playing. I’m not 21 anymore. I wish I were.
TT: This album has certainly moved away from your rock roots. Do you think you’ve mellowed with age?
RT: I just think if Johnny and I were to go out now as the people that we’ve grown up to be and go out and try to be the band we were in 1986, I think we’d feel really silly. For me, I think the most exciting part about being in a band like this is it can literally grow up with us. You know I was in college and John was in college, when we met, I think our whole expectation of being in a rock band was to have enough beer to get to the next day, hopefully feel groggy in class, get out of school, get a real job and move on with our lives by twenty-something. I guess that anyone who wants to be in a band or wants to play music for a living that’s what they want to do. But I think in the back of their minds, most people understand it’s like winning the lottery. I mean it’s not about talent so much most of the time; certainly not the most talented people become the most successful, but we’ve been able to grow up as people, and at the same time make sure our band grows up along the way.
TT: Now you mentioned that you had an idea that this might not have worked out. If you hadn’t been as successful as you’ve been, what do you think you would have done?
RT: I’ve always been in music forever. I do radio, Johnny and I own a recording studio together. So it would have been something like that, unless I went mad and joined some … cult. Then everything would have changed. I could have become a Scientologist or something. Who knows, maybe I’d be running the world right now if I was a Scientologist.
TT: Where does the majority of your inspiration come from for your songs?
RT: I think I can speak for John as well … I think it’s really just a collection of observations since the last time that we had to sit down and think about what sort of approach we’re gonna take. It’s hard some times because sometimes you’re writing from you’re own perspective, and sometimes you’re not, and no one really knows when you’re writing from your perspective or not. But no matter what you say, people are immediately going to assume the easiest thing, and that’s you’re singing about yourself, and whatever you’re singing about is a girl … I think that the record goes a little bit deeper than what the average person probably thinks. Probably for the first time we got to express that very outwardly … The video [for “Let Love In”] deals with poverty, the video deals with politics, social issues, military action, with the dawn of the nuclear age, with fear, with the dawn of the nuclear family; the concept of love is much larger than a boy and girl holding hands at the park.
TT: You mentioned “Better Days” is about Hurricane Katrina, is that true?
RT: Well actually, no this is interesting. We got asked to write a Christmas song for a record that NBC and Target were putting out for their stores. We looked on the list and everyone was doing “Here Comes Santa Claus” and just all the standard issue “let’s make a rock song out of a Christmas song” bogocity that happens around Christmas every year … At the very last minute, Johnny and I were talking, and I said, “you should really try to write a song man cause this is full of standard issue guys playing Christmas songs as a rock band.” The next day Johnny showed up with that song for a Christmas song, and we went in the studio and it was recorded within two days. Probably within the next two or three days, somehow, someone at CNN heard it, and they were in the midst of getting their Rita and Katrina Hurricane Relief Effort together and they used the song as the musical backdrop to the whole campaign. So it was very weird, all of a sudden this song that Johnny had written about how he felt about this girl — ok, this one was about a girl. Very interesting, happened the other way on this one. This song he had written from his heart about this little situation he had had, all of a sudden was thrust on to this huge level.
TT: One of the songs on the record is a cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit.” Were you surprised by the success of it after singing it on the “Live in Buffalo, July 4, 2004” DVD?
RT: That’s why we covered it. The DVD we made it was pouring rain about half way through.
TT: I think the rain actually made it better.
RT: I do too … I think we thought even in the rain, a song that we literally learned two days before, if you go into the extras on the disc, there’s a portion where they show us trying to learn the song the day before. We didn’t know it at all. We just kind of went out and faked our way through it. After we listened to it, we were like, “oh my God, that almost sounds like one of our songs.” It just sounded so good, we decided to go in and try to do it for real. So we went in with all the same folks that were at the show and we went in and recorded it. The original idea was for it to be a bonus track on the disc. But we decided somewhere along the way that it fit into the whole theme of the record. So it just ended up in the body of the record.
TT: You’re on tour right now?
RT: Yes, we’ve been on tour since May.
TT: What is your favorite part of touring, and what is your least favorite part of touring?
RT: My favorite part of touring is the shows and my least favorite part of touring is when we’re not playing shows. No, that was actually very true for most of my life, but now … I’ve been to a host of places many, many times, but I’ve never seen anything in most of them. I’ve really taken an interest in getting out and seeing what’s around in a lot of places I’ve been, so I’ve been seeing a lot lately.
TT: Do you still live in Buffalo when you’re not touring?
RT: My wife and I live in Los Angeles … John lives there too. For the past five years I’ve had a recording studio in Buffalo, that’s where we grew up. John just joined me in the studio and we’re setting up to do our next record there …. LA is a really cool place. John really, really, really, really, really, really hates it right now. But for me, I have a pretty easy, not easy, pretty cool situation there. John’s not married now, he’s got a girlfriend, but he’s not married so his life is different from mine. I think professionally the best thing for us to do as far as making this next record is to get out of LA because what we found with this last record was when we’re in LA we’re constantly worried about the outcome, and you can’t be worried about the outcome when you’re just in the beginning of the process.
TT: Whenever you hear one of your songs on the radio, do you turn it up or turn it off?
RT: Depends who’s around [laughs]. I’m just kidding. There’s nothing more embarrassing than being caught listening to your own band; but at the same time I think when a record first comes out you’re really curious to hear what it sounds like once it goes through the airwaves and ends up on that little clock radio at your hotel room. But I would have to say once I hear it one time, I can’t get to the radio fast enough.