On June 1st, 2011 we had the distinct pleasure to interview Robby Takac of The Goo Goo Dolls, about everything from their live DVD, Takac’s record label, struggles and triumphs, as well as their future plans and more.
Interview conducted by Angela Mastrogiacomo
Infectious Magazine: Jumping right in, in 2004 you released a live DVD of a July 4th show in your hometown of Buffalo, What is the experience of recording a live DVD during a show like? Does it affect performance/audience mood/ participation, etc?
Robby Takac: That was a pretty exciting day in Buffalo. We were on the front steps of city hall on July 4th, it was a free show, and it was also one of the biggest storms Buffalo had ever seen in modern history. We got an unbelievable amount of rain, and all the storm drains backed up. It was a couple feet of water while we were playing. So, the experience was pretty intense, lots of thunder, lightning, manhole covers blowing up into the air. But I do have to say it was one of the most exciting days of my life. I almost couldn’t believe it ended up being recorded when it was all said and done. It was one of those moments where you say to yourself ‘wow, I wish we would have had cameras recording this.’ And just coincidentally, we did. It was great.
IM: Now, talking a little more about the industry, you also run a record label, Good Charamel Records, how has that been going? How is it to be on the other side of the industry?
RT: The record industry is a tough place these days. People are very used to listening to music, more so than buying it. I don’t think they’re any less interested, I just think that they’re just more used to listening. So that’s really changed the way people look at things and it really makes it difficult to be a record label. But, we try and experiment, we’re very much an indie label. So we experiment with different kinds of things. Our output is never so huge that we were going to lose huge amounts of money. But we work with a lot of acts, Japanese acts mostly, that we really love, and we really like being involved in. It’s exciting to be on that end of it as well because the view is so much different than what goes on in the indie scene, and I feel like it’s nice to still be checked into that, still understand what goes into making the whole portion of the business exist as well.
IM: Well, that’s what I was going to say as well-do you think that running a record label has helped you as a musician to understand the workings?
RT: Yeah, I guess it makes me understand how fortunate I am to be involved with something like Goo Goo Dolls. I mean, it’s really, it’s a different ballgame than a lot of people have to deal with everyday. I’m very fortunate. We have a great fan base, we have a huge collection of songs that people are excited to hear. So that really changes things. The record business itself has changed more dramatically than I think probably anyone can imagine. It’s like the Pony Express in a way, now. But I do think that people still love music and they’re still enjoying music, so it’s just a matter of how do people who create that music exist within the framework of what’s going to exist now. I think people are going to figure that out eventually and we’re going to keep having great bands and great music.
IM: You’ve had so much success over the last 25 years which for aspiring musicians is essentially the dream-what would you say are some of the unexpected challenges you’ve faced once gaining the success, and things that fans might be surprised to find out.
RT: I think the thing that sort of blew us away the most was when “Iris” did so well. The shadow that threw on us as a band, some people never get out from underneath those shadows. You try your best to climb out of it, with everything you do, but when a song gets that big-that’s got nothing to do with anything other than everything was right at the same time. “Iris” is a great song, there’s other great songs too that never got that big. Everything lined up, everything worked and I think we spent a long time darting out of the shadow of that song. Although, it allowed us to have a career. It really kind of defined who we were as a band, and I think that’s a tough one sometimes.
IM: You guys also came to be in a generation that was sort of on the cusp between records and CDs and now we’re in the era of downloading and iPods. Did you ever expect to see so many changes, and how do you think it has impacted bands and the industry in general, from both sides?
RT: I never saw it coming, I don’t think anybody saw it coming. As soon as people started trading Mp3s around the internet I went ‘oh boy, this is going to be bad’ and I think a lot of people did. But I also think a lot of people really thought that the powers that be, whoever that is, the power of just and right things were going to go along and legislate something that was going to stop this all from happening. I think in retrospect a lot of people who understood what was going to happen didn’t take steps early on enough to secure the business from this kind of thing. I think it’s a runaway freight train at this point. (laughs) You’re not going to stop it. I think that as quickly as they’re going to figure out a way to change the laws and people’s buying habits, there’s going to be new technologies that present themselves that are going to change it. Unforeseen things. Like we were talking about, did you expect to see this coming? I didn’t expect broadband to be this fast. In a couple of years that you’re going to be able to download movies in 15 minutes. That’s going to be trouble too, when you can download an entire film in two minutes, which is coming. It’s just the way it is, and you can do it peer to peer, you can do it person to person, so you don’t necessarily even have to go to a website to make it happen. Or you can do it through torrents where there is 4,000 people to blame for every download. (laughs) You’re not going to prosecute that. So yeah, I don’t even know. I don’t know what the answer is other than there is an answer and we’re going to discover what that is as these technologies present themselves, I think.
IM: Now, I had read that Johnny actually enjoyed a fan made video for your song “Home” more than the official video you made-have you ever considered having some sort of fan contest, to do just that as a way to sort of give back to the fans?
RT: (laughs) We have some amazing people who follow our band and who interact with our band. One of them is a woman who runs this Absolute Goo website and she’s just done an amazing job at giving the fans an interactive experience, that is appropriate for fans because it’s a fan run site. We have a thing called The Inner Machine that provides exclusive content and all that kind of stuff. Nothing, I think makes you feel more alive inside than to see a completely unprovoked situation like that video was. Fans who are just enough of fans that they took the time to put this whole thing together and make it happen. The 25th anniversary of our first rehearsal was a couple of weeks ago and a bunch of fans put up this video that they made from all this old footage, all these old photographs and stuff. When you see that it’s so different than if we were to have paid someone to do it. It was done from the heart, I think that was the thing. That was one of the things that made John feel great.
IM: I heard you’re a fan of using the web cam while you’re working. So speaking of web cams, what was the experience of broadcasting your recording sessions like?
RT: (laughs) I’m a big fan of the technology, John’s not a big fan of having cameras open in the studio. But we did do a lot of that. We didn’t do any audio, but we did hours and hours and hours of just the control room, and people working in the studio. I think it was just cool to be able to build some excitement to what was going on, and in a lot of cases with that kind of stuff you’re really preaching to the converted ‘cause they’re fans already. But, it’s nice to be able to give people just a little bit more access, without completely turning the whole process over. It was nice, and we did the same thing at pre-production, rehearsals. We have a little app that we’re going to start doing some chats on. Little .99 cent Iphone app that we can start doing chats on and stuff as well. So, we try to use those types of technology to do stuff but at times when you’re in the middle of trying to make your band happen, it seems a bit intrusive, I think. But we do our best to try to incorporate them into what we do and keep people informed as to what’s going on with things through all the modern conveniences and such.
IM: Tell me a little bit about your work with USA Harvest.
RT: USA Harvest we’ve been working with for, my goodness, well over 10 years now. According to the figures I’ve heard we’ve raised well over a million meals since we started with them. All we do is ask people to bring non-perishable food items, canned goods, things like that to drop off stations which are run by our street team, who are a bunch of awesome people. Whoever brings the most stuff for donation ends up coming back and meeting the band, taking a picture with the band, that kind of thing. It’s been a great thing, and when it’s all done at the end of the night we drop it off at a local food pantry, so it actually helps folks right within the community.
IM: That’s great, that’s a great idea.
RT: It’s a cool thing and there’s no red tape involved, it’s just basically food to the gig, food to the shelter, food to people. There’s not a lot of nonsense involved.
IM: What is one question you would like to be asked, but never have been asked and what’s the answer?
RT: “Hey you want this extra million dollars, I have?” That would be nice. (laughs)
IM: And then lastly, just anything else you’d like to add?
RT: It’s going to be great to be out this summer. Michelle Branch and Parachute are two great acts. People love to be out listening to rock music during the summer. It’s great to be able to do another one, this will be our third in a row. We’re really excited about being out there and making it happen one more time, out under the stars.
IM: Thank you very much.
To see upcoming tour dates and more news visit us here.
For more on the Goo Goo Dolls visit their official website.
For more on USA Harvest visit their official website.
Thank you to Tj Tauriello, and the rest of Warner Brothers Records for setting up this interview.
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