Talking with Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls

Fama: After the huge success of Dizzy Up the Girl, did you expect Gutterflower to debut higher than #4 on the Billboard charts?

Takac: Actually I was…I know this is gonna sound weird, but I was a little disappointed at how high it entered. I think I felt like I knew we weren’t that band that was going to sit in the top ten for the next two years, and so I felt like the only place we had to go is down from there. I’m used to being the underdog. You know that’s what we’ve been doing all our lives and all of the sudden we enter really high and it was like, oh my god.

Don’t get me wrong, selling records is a groovy thing, but I was just like, oh man this just doesn’t seem right, but you know we’re kind of cruisin’ around doing what you expect us to do at this point. We’re drawing more people than ever, which is like, amazing. The crowds have been so so so so with us. It just seems so right. The crowd is just singing along and it was that way with a hundred and fifty people and like last night it was that way with 14, 000, and it was pretty intense it seemed so weird, ya know.

Fama: I heard about your worst gig – I think it was when you were a metal band – when you only made eight bucks playing for four people. There are so many bands locally here in Baltimore and DC, as well as nationwide who are struggling and would probably give up after a show like that. What are your suggestions and encouragement to a local band?
Tukac: Let me add a foot note to that: By that time we already had our second drummer. That was after A Boy Named Goo came out. I’m not kidding ya, it was in Augusta, Georgia. And uh, after ten years of playing that wasn’t so rare ya know, stuff like that happened and it wasn’t so rare. There’s always that night where you pull up to the bar and the bar owner looks at you like, “oh yeah, I forgot you all were playin'”. You set up your stuff and no one at all would show up, you play your songs and turn around and leave. It wasn’t that uncommon an occurrence in the early days.

Fama: Seven studio albums later, is there anything you regret doing or not doing in your career or personal life?
Tukac: Yeah, I regret not having my first marriage work. But I am happy to say that tomorrow is my first anniversary of my second marriage and I’m really happy. I think we would have given our name another fifteen minutes. Which is tough, we weren’t so sure about it to begin with, seventeen years later we’re positive we just don’t like it, but it’s who we are now. I was 21 when we decided on it and, you know like now, I’m not 21, so you know.

Fama: Being almost 38, do you feel a mid-life crisis coming on or do the teeny-boppers keep you young?
Tukac: Um, I don’t know, I like to balance my day between CNN and the Cartoon Network and I think that’s how I keep myself smiling still cause there’s some bleak situations out there right now man, really depressing, weird situations out there right now. I think what mid-life crisis is, is people trying to run away from those things ya know, and trying to replace it with cars and girls and all that stuff cause they’re bored and scared. They’re trying to make their lives a little more interesting. I’ll have a crisis one day, I’m sure I will be way through my mid-life by then (laughs).

Fama: How has your songwriting progressed since the earlier albums?
Tukac: Um, I don’t know, you just hope that every time you write something, you borrow from the things you’ve learned. For me, a lot of the things for me, you know a lot of the things that helped me is Johnny being such a great songwriter and working with him all the time. I’ve really picked a lot of things up from him. He’s a great guy to learn from.

Fama: What is your favorite city or venue to play?
Tukac: Funny, we’re in Chicago right now and I would probably have to say maybe like the Vic Theatre in Chicago, maybe The Stillmore in San Francisco, maybe the Shepard’s Bush Empire in London. There’s a lot of great venues…Urban Plaza in New York City is amazing; The Metro in Chicago as well.

Fama: I recently read something about your problems at the photo shoot for the Gutterflower CD cover. How exactly did that come about and what exactly happened with the girl that is pictured on the cover?
Tukac: Well when you’re hiring a kid, most of the time you go by the stills, you know. She came in and talked with the guy that shot it and it was all pretty groovy, but when she got to the shoot, you know, I blame this 100% on the mother by the way. Because a six or seven-year-old girl is not responsible for her actions. She is allowed a certain way because her parents are around. This girl was going crazy man. She punched John in the nuts. Yeah she she did. She ate all the flowers…so that flower you see in her hand is superimposed into the photo. We started takin’ them without them cause as soon as we would put them in her hand she would eat them. The last we saw of her, her mother was dragging her out with both feet dragging off the ground cause she had just whipped a bowl of spaghetti on the ground.

Fama: The band has been together for quite some time, and in 1995 Mike joined as your new drummer. Since then, have things between the band been like being brothers or has there been any tension since you spend so much time together?
Tukac: Well, there’s always tension. I mean, I don’t know many relationships that last five years…marriages, businesses, you know five years is a long time in this day and age for anybody to stick to anything. Yeah, there’s trouble sometimes, there always will be. Anything that’s valid is gonna have a little trouble. Especially in this line of work. It’s all opinion. There’s no fact, it’s all opinion. Mike’s a great guy to be in a band with. You know we just slug it out. We know how to get it done.

Fama: I went through high school listening to the Goo Goo Dolls and as I graduated, “Iris” was the #1 hit song that I can remember. I think everyone knows that song whether you are a fan of country, rap, rock or whatever. What has the success of that song done for the band?
Tukac: Well it moved us to a place where public was aware of who we were, the general public was aware of who we were.
That was a really interesting time for us. We were in recording Dizzy Up the Girl as “Iris” was becoming a big song. It was just strange to watch all that happen. It came down as such a…it was such an anomilie sort of it was like it was its own thing. It got played on every format. People say sometimes “Are you ever worried that you’re not going to have a song as big as “Iris” again?” I say, “Nobody may ever have a song as big as “Iris.” It’s bizarre you know. I mean that song got played a million times on the radio.

Fama: Do you ever get tired of playing it?
Tukac: No. There’s not one song we do that I’m tired of playing. But I mean we ‘re a little bit careful about the songs we play. Just cause we have all these records doesn’t mean they’re always going to fit in the set anymore. I mean we’re essentially not even really the same band we were eight years ago. Eight years ago we were still sort of learning. Still gaining our confidence. You gotta be smart about how far back you go you know. I’d feel kinda silly going out there and playing those first couple records now. I don’t even think I…I’m sure we could play them, but I think it would sort of look like a wort, it would be like a flat tire during the set.

Fama: Up until your latest release, the Goo Goo Dolls were putting out albums about every other year until Dizzy Up the Girl. Then the fans had to wait four years for another studio release. What was the wait on this latest album?
Tukac: We had decided after…we’re on tour for two years, well actually on tour recording the record and to and from for three years, so we’re up straight for three years and we come home and to be honest with you we were a mess, you always are when you come home from these things. When you imagine not being in the same place for three years it’s really weird. I’m in a different town everyday. So we decided to take about six months off and chill out. Which we did. Then we started writing right then. So it took us a little, so the record was gonna be a little late anyway. So we decided to get the record out by fall and we were in recording and then of course September 11 happened which closed Capitol Records, which is where we were doing the record, cause they were afraid that was another one of those landmarks in a large city so they closed the Capital Records building for a couple of days so we couldn’t record.

Then we went back, and as the rest of America and the world did we sat in front of the television day and night and didn’t do any recording at $2,500 a day (laughs). So we decided to get out of there and and right at that time we got some calls to go do some relief shows. We did the Tribute to Heros thing, we played the Madison Square Garden show, and the show at Ravens stadium. And I think that sorta helped us to sorta get our heads back on track again and sort of remind us as to why we did this. Because for the first time we were seeing people jumping up and down and dancing and singing and we were thinkin, “oh yeah, this is what we do, this is why we’re here.” So we went in and finished the record. It ended up coming about ten months later than it was supposed to. We didn’t mean to make you all wait that long.

Fama: I noticed on your website that you promote various charitable organizations. At your shows you ask fans to bring canned goods to support USA Harvest. How did you get involved with that and the other organizations you support?
Tukac: USA Harvest was a…we’re friends with some of people who worked with Van Halen back in the day and there was this organization called Rock and Wrap It Up that used to come and take all the catering that was left over for the homeless and that sort of morphed into this thing called USA Harvest which, as you said, goes around and collects non-perishable food items at all the shows. They distribute them right in the communities that they collect them in as well, so it is really fast and there is no huge administrative cost. It’s all done locally through volunteers. At the last tour we raised about 500,00 cans before it was done and right now on this one we are right around 200,000 so far. We’re doing pretty well.

Fama: So I hear a lot about these lemon drop martinis … what’s up with them?
Tukac: That was the drink of choice on the last record. This record we did a lot of frozen margaritas on this record. Yeah, we were drinking the stress of world politics away.

Fama: What direction do you see the Goo Goo Dolls music going in the future?
Tukac: I think we’re just gonna do what we’ve been doin’ man. Write another batch of songs, and find some folks to record em for us, and uh, I don’t know, bring em out and play them for people. The music industry is changing right now. There’s a huge problem with digital music, not to get into too much…cause people don’t like to hear us talking about it too much. What I will tell you is simply, the musicians are the worst hurt by all this and it’s pretty weird. But anyway, the world’s changing and we gotta figure out and see exactly how the world’s gonna work when our next record comes out.

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