Thursday, May 26, 2011

Goo Goo Dolls interview; Temecula performance

Warner Bros. Records

A version of my interview originally appeared in the Californian newspaper. It can be viewed here:

Concertgoers regularly use camera phones to shoot clips and post them on YouTube. As a result, many established bands refrain from performing unreleased songs. 

Not the Goo Goo Dolls.

Last year, while on tour before the release of ninth studio release “Something for the Rest of Us,” the veteran trio encouraged fans to record live selections from it. The decision probably helped the album’s top 10 chart debut.

“It’s a very different world we’re living in these days. You have to realize the outlets are out there for people to consume that stuff,” said bassist/vocalist Robby Takac, in a phone interview from his home in Buffalo, N.Y.

Takac doesn’t think musicians need to be “so unbelievably careful” about where the material ends up. It’s inevitably going to be in the hands of people who haven’t paid for it, so you should capitalize on that.”

A standard Goo Goo Dolls show usually finds Takac prowling around the stage barefoot with a huge smile, looking like a kid in a candy store.

“If you lose your excitement, you’ve missed the point of being up there,” he noted. “Seeing an idea go from couch to recording studio to people’s ears and back to the band again, is an amazing thing.” [<<<]

Having racked up more than a dozen top 10 singles at Adult Pop radio -- including such format staples as “Slide,” “Iris,” “Name,” “Black Balloon,” “Broadway,” “Here is Gone,” “Better Days,” “Let Love In” and a cover of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit” -- the Goo Goo Dolls always keep their sets well stocked with hits.

“We’re lucky enough to be a band that can go out and do that.”

In the beginning, Takac worked at an upstate New York recording studio, where he met guitarist John Rzeznik and formed the group in 1986. The bassist handled lead vocals on their first few raucous punk albums.

“When our band first started, we used to write these unbelievably happy punk rock songs about the most morbid subjects. People didn’t really hear the words most of the time."

Rzeznik gradually got more comfortable as a singer/songwriter and by 1993’s “Superstar Car Wash,” the Goo Goo Dolls had finally garnered significant alt-rock radio airplay.

“John wrote more and more stuff; his palate blossomed and opened up a bit.”

Two years later, “A Boy Named Goo” became the group’s commercial breakthrough. They forged a reputation for crafting earnest rock anthems that were fixtures at high school dances and weddings.

“From the band’s inception, we grew up listening to the Replacements” and similar artists, recalled Takac.

“Back then, there was a need to wear your heart on your sleeve. You didn’t want to be a poseur…I think that’s one thing we really hung onto. Around prom time, you don’t just happen to write a song about a guy and girl because you want to sell it to teenagers; it all comes from somewhere real.”

A similar reality continues through “Something for the Rest of Us,” where Rzeznik’s lyrics touch upon the “emotional uncertainty that accompanies hard times” without getting too dark.

“When you’re addressing what’s going on out there and taking a good look around (you notice) a lot of wars and economic uncertainty,” Takac said. “It’s hard for people to feel proud right now. That stuff adds up.”

Elegant, orchestrated “Not Broken” -- inspired by a female Goo Goo Dolls fan whose military husband suffered injuries while serving in Iraq -- features Rzeznik’s trademark soaring vocals and Mike Malinin’s crashing drums. Other highlights: the strident rocker “Home,” propulsive, piano-driven tune “Still Your Song” and dramatically eerie album closer, “Soldier.” 

Producer Tim Palmer (Ozzy Osbourne, H.I.M.) basically “came in and joined the group; we’d never had anyone do that before.” When he moved on to another project, the musicians felt the album needed something extra and used Butch Vig (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and John Fields (Switchfoot) on a single track each.

Takac credited the insight of touring members Brad Fernquist and Korel Tunador for adding more melodic guitar and keyboard textures and harmonies than usual.

How would the bassist describe the Goo Goo Dolls signature sound now that the band's silver anniversary has rolled around?

“You hear John’s voice and you [immediately] know what it is…after 25 years of making records, if we haven’t developed something -- aside from a rash -- I think we’re in trouble,” said Takac, with a laugh.

Goo Goo Dolls perform at 8 p.m. May 27-28, Pechanga Theater, Pechanga Resort & Casino, 45000 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, $55-$80, 877-711-2946.

The band returns to Southern California later this summer on Aug. 23 at Humphreys in San Diego and Aug. 27 at the Greek Theatre in LA.

For a full tour schedule and more info, go to

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