As part of the original trio who founded the Goo Goo Dolls (the other two being Johnny Rzeznik and George Tutuska), bassist and occasional singer Robby Takac has seen the band through two decades, eight studio albums, and more line-ups than we'd ever ask him to tally. With the band starting into Decade #3, it seemed to be a pretty reasonable time to release a collection of their most popular singles. Bullz-Eye spoke to Takac about what the band's been doing recently, how they came to put together this new best-of set, what he does when the group's between albums, and whether or not he can still play tracks from the Goos' debut record.
Robby Takac: Hey, Will, how are you, man?
Bullz-Eye: Pretty good, man. How are you doing?
RT: I'm doing well. Thank you very much.
BE: We actually talked back in August of last year.
RT: Oh, that's cool. Was I nice?
BE: Y'know, I want to say you were, yeah.
RT: Okay, well, that's good. At least it didn't stand out as, like, a horribly sour experience. So that's good.
BE: No, I'm definitely not bitter or jaded over it or anything.
RT: (laughing) Awesome.
BE: Where are you guys today?
RT: I am actually in Buffalo, at our studio.
BE: I think last time you were actually in tour with Counting Crows.
RT: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. Man, that was two summers ago.
BE: Really? I would've sworn it just last summer…wasn't it?
RT: Was it last summer? No, it was the summer before; we did last summer with Lifehouse and Colbie Caillat.
BE: I guess it's been longer ago than I thought then.
RT: Yeah, man. Well, anyways, it's been a long time. How you been?
BE: Not bad. Well, I was going to ask if you have any anecdotes from the Counting Crows tour, but I guess I should ask if you have any from the Lifehouse tour, instead.
RT: Yeah, you know, we had a tornado-slash-hurricane kind of thing come through and tear our lights down, swing around, and send some dudes to the hospital when one fell over into the seating area. Nobody got hurt with that one, thank God, because the house wasn't open yet, but that was probably the highlight of, like, the action. It was pretty curious. But, yeah, we had a great summer. Colbie and…you know Colbie Caillat, obviously, who was blowing up as she was out there with us, and you…well, Lifehouse was riding that huge wave of, you know, getting that car campaign, I forget what car it was for, but they were on the T.V. every fifteen seconds. It was, like, all of a sudden, it was, like, ba-boom! The tour was, like, done and, like, crazy. You know, it's great to go out with the Counting Crows and, you know, bring what Counting Crows bring to a show, and have people show up, and you kind of figure there's going to be a lot of people there for that kind of thing, you know, but it's really great when all the stars just kind of line up, you know, like on that tour, they way they kind of did. You know, all of a sudden, we had two, three songs on the radio; Lifehouse was blowing out; Colbie was blowing out, and it was, like, all of a sudden, all the sheds were filling up, and it was, like, oh, yeah, check this out; this is great, because it could have went either way; it's always that way.
BE: So with the greatest hits, was that ya'll's idea, or was that Warner Brothers' idea?
RT: Well, you know, Warner Brothers had been bringing it up for awhile, but I don't think we ever really felt it time for us to do it, but we were discussing one night about an article that one of us had seen that we had thirteen top ten singles, and we were, like, man, if we don't do this soon, we're going to have to release a five-volume greatest-hits record; which is, oddly enough, sort of probably what we are going to end up doing, in a way, because, you know, most people's greatest-hits records will give you six songs that were hits because, you know, generally, that's all the life of a band can generally support before they end up breaking up or killing each other…or solo careers or whatever it is. And I think for us, we noticed it's, like, wow, okay, it's definitely time now to put out a greatest-hits collection before our next record. So with that, you know most people are able to present some other stuff, too, when you release a greatest-hits collection and so we decided to go for volume one and volume two; make volume two a little bit more inclusive of a collection. I think we're actually going to sell volume one and volume two together, I think is what we're talking about doing, and I'm not positive about that, though. So right now we're digging through the libraries at Warner Brothers, you know, the stuff that we own the rights to on T.V. and on video and audio. You know, it's pretty amazing how much stuff we have accrued over the past 21 years of doing this, so we're going to choose through and do something that's a little more of a fan piece; kind of based on the box set concept. I'm not really sure where we are going to go with it yet, because we are just in primary stages, but it's sort of interesting, because we did a greatest misses kind of record called Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce, and we listened to all of our records, but I had heard all of those already, so it was just sort of revisiting that, but it's, like, a lot of the stuff that we're hearing now, I've never heard before, because I was doing it, you know, and it was going out live, and I didn't even know most of this stuff was being recorded in a lot of ways…which is scary, actually. But, now, going through and getting a chance to listen to it, you know, it's pretty wild to hear these different versions of the band that we played with over the years; you know, the live band that we played with over the years, there's been four different versions of, you know, of side musicians that we've played with over the years. So to hear all of these different versions of the band and how they are all kind of, like, a little different from each other, but still there was that thread and that core that sort of held it all together that, you know, it was definitely with The Goo Goo Dolls. It's a pretty cool thing to be able to do after all these years.
BE: "Before It's Too Late" first appeared on the "TRANSFORMERS" soundtrack, and I guess you were pretty well past the playing with toys age when "TRANSFORMERS" hit, but were you still pretty psyched to be on the soundtrack?
RT: I thought that it was cool. I mean, I was psyched about it mainly because there was a two-story building in the middle of Hollywood that had the Transformers logo on it, which we actually ended up shooting a video on top of. But I knew that the hype on it was going to be huge, and we were just coming off doing a lot of pretty high profile stuff with "Better Days" so when the Transformers thing came across John's email box or however he got it – I don't even know – and he decided to bring it to the band and make it a Goo Goo Dolls thing, it was, like….I knew it was going to be very high profile. And we were coming out there in the summer, and, you know, for us, it's really important to be able to pick radio stations and be able to do the right thing with them, so we have a great show. So, yeah, it was a great opportunity for us, absolutely.
BE: As far as the other new stuff on the singles collection, what's different about the remix of ‘Feel the Silence?" Is it audible?
RT: "Feel the Silence"…you know, to the disserting ear, probably. I think what it is is it's a bit more of a rock and roll mix than the one that was on the record. Having to fit into the context of the disc led it in to one direction, and I think John was really gifted in the arrangement, and it felt more like a rock song, and I think that…yeah, I think that you would be able to tell the difference, you know. I don't know if just in a casual listen you would, but we had a bunch of people review things, and that's the one that ended up on the disk.
BE: Why the decision to re-record "Name"?
RT: Really, I think because Mike didn't play on it originally; it was our old drummer, George, and I think the whole record…Mike's been in the band for twelve years now. That's a long time, and it just sort of felt like the right thing to do, I think. You know, once again, this is what we do, you know what I mean? Every day. And it just felt like the right thing to do, that's all.
BE: Will Volume 2 go any deeper into the back catalog, or did What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art & Commerce cover that for ya'll, as far as you're concerned?
RT: I'm not sure yet. As I've said, we have stuff from…starting in 1986, on tape, that we could use. Right now, I think we just have to come to a decision as to what we want this thing to be, you know? How far back we actually want to take it, you know? There's talk about doing a web-based portion of the record as well, which we did on Ego as well, and, so, if we're going to do that, we'll be pretty apt to go pretty far back into the catalog pretty deep, because we'll have an awful lot of space to deal with, and we won't be just constrained to a couple of discs. You know what I'm saying?
BE: Yeah. Is there another new album in the works already?
RT: We're just building our studio right now; I'm sitting in a big pile of junk, hoping that they meet their December 20th deadline, so when Johnny's done with the TV show, we can start cranking out this next disc.
BE: Any talk of who's going to be producing it?
RT: You know, we're talking about maybe just kind of starting it and worrying about that later, you know what I mean? I don't know, it's weird. The life has changed, man, you know? Things are a little bit different than they used to be, and so we think it's time we start playing around with that concept a little bit, just about things being different. And I think that's going to start with just setting up a set of drums and seeing how different we can make it.
BE: Do you find that downloading has hurt you guys at all?
RT: Oh, it hurts everybody. Yeah, I mean, not exclusively. I mean, not exclusively us nor exclusively downloading, you know, it's just the attitude towards recorded music now is just that it's not valuable. It's just information, that's all it is. It's like it's a word file, you know? It's not that iconic piece of vinyl that I used to stare at with tears in my eyes when I was a little kid; it's not that any more. The process that leads to what's on your little MP3 file there really doesn't concern anybody anymore, you know. It's a whole different world. I think you have to look at that for what it is and try to figure out what context music has in everything, and how you can make your music, and what you do still exists within the oddball constraints of this new thing. But I think you just can't lose sight of the fact that it's your music that's out there, and that you're trying to get out there, and whatever avenue you need to take to make that happen, that's where we're going to head.
BE: I was going to ask you what's up with Amungus (Takac's musical side project) these days?
RT: We just recorded a show at U.B. last night, actually. Yeah, we just did that last night…with a cast of about 27 people, actually. A lot of singers, a lot of amazing singers, and we were trying out some new software this morning, some interactive software that we're thinking about outfitting some dancers in. You know what ,dude, it's a great release for more; it's something that is so outside the box from what I do in my band... You know what? I love to do it. It's so out of the box and it's so refreshing that…I don't know, I'm really glad I've got it, you know? After 400+ shows on this last tour, you know, it was time to be able to go out and listen to some disco music, have some fun, and that's sort of what I've been doing. And now it's going to be time to regroup again in a couple of months, and we'll see what happens; I don't know. Like I said, the industry is changing everyday, you know. Amungus has recorded about 25 songs now, and they are semi-mixed and ready to go, so we're going to put them up online, and we have videos made for a whole bunch of them, and…I don't know. We'll just see what happens.
BE: I was trying to figure out where your musical taste lies, because your songs for the Goo Goo Dolls tend to be kind of, like, balls-out rockers for the most part, but then Amungus is definitely cut from a different cloth.
RT: Well, that's what I love to do, you know. I love…I love playing rock music, man. You know, you give me a guitar in my hands, and I go out there, and, for me, it's like…you know, some dudes like hunting, fishing, going out and playing ball in the backyard with their buddies on a rainy day like I like being out with my buddies playing rock guitar; that's what I love to do, I love it. But when you get in the studio, there's so much going on, and with a band like Goo Goo Dolls, we're very careful about what we do; we try really hard to take the concept of what we're doing and make it grow in the right ways, and, once again, for me to have an outlet to kind of do all this other wacky stuff, you know, and sort of scratch those itches I've got, you know, allows me to come back with a much clearer head and appreciate my day job for what it is: absolutely amazing.
BE: Last question, to help keep you on track: how many fans do you think have followed the Dolls from the starting line to where you are today? Or do you even worry about that anymore?
RT: You know, I think there's some out there, mainly because they have grown up like we have. You know, most people aren't still running around in their Doc Martens with a cigarette pack rolled up in their sleeve and suspenders on, pissed off at the world. That's most of the people who liked us when we first started, you know. We were a punk rock band, and I think a lot of those folks grew up, and I don't think it's completely unimaginable that some of them grew up liking and being influenced by some of the same things that we have. The important thing is that we have been able to move forward and still feel relevant and still feel that we're doing something that matters; maybe not on an unbelievable level, but it matters, and it's cool. You know, we're moving forward, and a lot of people seem to like it, you know, when we come out and we play our shows, and lots of people come out and they sing along with us. We've developed quite a relationship with the people who come out and have seen our band over the past twenty years, and I think that's a really special thing.
BE: Do you still have the guy out front screaming for "Don't Beat My Ass (With a Baseball Bat)"?
RT: Yeah, every once in awhile. We usually invite him back stage and hang out. (Laughs) But I don't think they'll hear the song, though.
BE: If push came to shove could you even still play it?
RT: (Laughing) Um, yeah, we could still play it. But we would look pretty stupid doing it, though.
BE: Cool. Well, alright, man, good talking to you again.
RT: Alright ,brother, I will talk to you very, very soon.
BE: Good luck with the best-of.
RT: Okay. Bye-bye.