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by Jeff Miers

The Goo Goo Dolls have spent the summer on the road with guests Collective Soul and Tribe Society, touring arenas and sheds across the country in support of the recently released album "Boxes," a collection that founders John Rzeznik and Robby Takac consider to be a creative rebirth.

The tour stops home for a show at 7 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.

Last week, the guys were kind enough to respond to my email questionnaire while on their tour bus en route to a Canadian gig. As ever, they were sometimes deep, sometimes silly, and sometimes a little bit of both.

Question: What’s the biggest dump in Buffalo you ever played?

Robby: Probably our first apartment!

Q: Why do you think the Goos broke big while some of your peers and influences, like the Replacements, didn’t really move beyond cult status?

Robby: It’s all in the math, I guess. Things worked out for us after years and years of low budget traveling to spread our music and once we became recognized, we made sure we were taking every opportunity afforded to us as a step to the next thing. I think we were open to trying new things, searching out talent to help us along the way and seeking out fresh influences as we moved ahead.

Some artists, despite their best intentions, become their worst enemies. I think we’ve always tried to avoid that trap.

Q: When the Goos hit it big, so many of us here in Buffalo thought that other bands in town might be able to follow suit, that label geeks would be coming to Buffalo with their checkbooks in hand looking to sign bands. Why do you think this never happened?

Robby: I think it did, but maybe in a not too obvious way. Since bands like Rick James, Goo Goo Dolls and 10,000 Maniacs found some success, artists from Western New York like Ani DiFranco, Every Time I Die, Cute is What We Aim For, Snapcase, Mercury Rev, Pentimento, Joywave and others have all found successes in genre-defining ways, breaking into their respective scenes with something unique and, I’ d like to believe, something special to our area.


Q: Do you each have a favorite Goos album?

Robby:  I love them all equally. Right?

John:  I'm pretty enamored at the moment with "Boxes," because it's like a new toy to play with. We broke so many of our own self-imposed rules, but left the soul of the band intact. Really fun.


Q: Can you each name one album by an artist that totally changed the game for you and made you want to be a musician? And do you still listen to that album today?
 
John:  I'd say ‘London Calling,’ by the Clash. It just defined a crazy, heartbreaking, beautiful time in my life. It truly changed me. It gave me permission to be myself.

Robby:  "A Wizard A True Star," by Todd Rundgren.

Q:  I’ve really loved the acoustic shows over the last few years. They created such a refreshing environment for the songs to breathe in. What did the experience teach you? Do you prefer the more intimate shows – like that gig at the North Park Theatre, which was epic – to the sheds and arenas?

Robby:  The acoustic shows are fun.  They really make us up our game, because you’re out there performing with less volume, less chaos and more opportunities for people to notice you're screwing up!

We have been doing three-piece acoustic shows as of late that really feel like they return to the spirit of the original GGD trio shows -  just three of us slugging it out to the end of the song.  It’s really a lot of fun.  But so are the huge rock shows - you really can’t beat a huge rock show.

Q: What do people you meet in your travels really think of Buffalo? And have you seen the perception of Buffalo change over the years?

Robby:  No question, Buffalo is on the rise. We are spreading the message daily and are amazed every single time we return home from a tour to see all that has happened in the short time we’ve been gone.

Q: What was the best tour you ever shared with another band? And what was the worst?

Robby: Best: Opening for The Rolling Stones. Worst: Having to actually play before The Rolling Stones.

John: Best: The 1998 ‘Dizzy up the Girl’ tour was pretty insane. Worst: No comment.

Q: We grew up during a time when playing in bars, staying up all night and drinking were considered part of the job, in a way. You guys have seen all sides of the lifestyle by this point. How have you managed to deal with some of the questionable lifestyle stuff we learned when we were too young to know better? Is it easier or more difficult to tour and perform sober?

Robby: Everything is easier sober. Everything.

John: I grew up working at the Continental. Bud Burke was a major influence and supporter of our band and of me as a musician. That was a very heady scene. It was easy to get caught up in the mayhem of a place that opened its doors to freaks of every variety. Life was a party. Drinking was deeply ingrained in the culture.

But I took it to very bottom, over and over. It just became a drag and pathetic. I was hurting the people and things I love. I was losing the good part of me. So...

Q:  The street in front of the Elmwood Lounge is now named Lance Diamond Way. What does that mean to you?
 
Robby: It means The World to us. We’re so happy the city of Buffalo took the time to recognize Diamond in a lasting way, a great performer, a great friend that left us way, way too soon.

Q: What’s the secret to integrating new musical influences and working with new co-writers without losing the core of what made you great in the first place?

Robby: It’s the voices, it’s the melodies and it’s a developed sense of what makes a great song.


Q: Every time I write something positive about you guys, I hear from someone  who will insist that you "sold out" to get popular and that “Everything after ‘Jed’ is garbage,” or something like that. It’s both hilarious and ridiculous. How do you answer people who confuse your evolution, growth and maturity as songwriters and performers with “selling out”? (I’m sure having all those hits helps to ease the pain, [laughs])

Robby:  There’s probably a few folks sitting in front of their cassette players in their Doc Martins that are pretty pissed at us, but there’s plenty of things for them to listen to out there, and I’m sort of flattered that they’re still thinking of us. Hugs and kisses.

John: [Laughs] An artist of any kind has to grow change challenge themselves. That doesn't mean people are going to like it, but if you're honest with yourself, then those people don't matter. It's the work that matters. The fact that I got off my ass and brought something into the world.

Q: You guys have now been friends and musical partners for way longer than most marriages last. What do you still like about each other?

Robby: Our relationship has had an ebb and flow, like all relationships do. But we have each other’s backs and we know that for sure. And that’s what makes this all work.

John: I like Robby’s tenacity and pragmatism. Oh yeah - and his hair.
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