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The Hometown Hero
Interview with Goo Goo Dolls- Robby Takac
By Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Conducted on May 21, 2004

Make no mistake about it, the Goo Goo Dolls are the pride and joy of Buffalo, NY. Not only because they are hometown boys that made it big with an endless string of top 40 hits and multi-platinum selling CD’s, but because of the fact that band members Robby Takac and Johnny Rzeznik continue to show their love for Buffalo by supporting many local charities and causes, even though they both have resided in L.A. for the last eight years.

Takac has recently taken his support for Buffalo a step further by building a recording studio in downtown Buffalo call Chameleon West. It is here that he runs his record label Good Charmel Records, produces local bands and holds his annual Music is Art Festivals.

Takac is a very busy man, even with all of the aforementioned projects his number one priority is still the Goo Goo Dolls, in which he is currently in pre-production with for their next CD which is scheduled to see the light of day during the early part of 2005.

What follows is an exclusive glam-metal.com interview with record producer, label owner, studio owner, philanthropist, songwriter and oh yeah, bass player for the Goo Goo Dolls- Mr. Robby Takac.

Last week, you and Johnny announced that the Goo Goo Dolls are playing a free concert in Buffalo on July 4. Who’s idea was it and how many thousands people do you think will show up?
Yes, two distinctly separate questions. The first one, almost a year ago now the seeds of this show were planted. I was doing the “Music is Art Festival” and I met Brian Davis. Brian was working with the BuffaloPlace folks, who are responsible for the free Thursday in the Square shows in downtown Buffalo. And Artie Kwitchoff, who was my manager a while back, is now in charge of booking the acts for the Square shows, so we sort of just fell right in it. Also, a couple of my Good Charamel bands played some of the shows last year and then we came up with the idea the maybe we could play one of the shows too. But, I never thought that it would happen. We’re not on tour and it cost a lot of money to bring other bands in and the twelve guys that help run all of our stuff. Many of them are out on tour, so we have to buy them out of their deals and put them up in hotel rooms. Before you know it, you have a 60-70 thousand dollar bill just getting your people together. It’s pretty crazy. Anyways, we wanted to do a live video and we said we wanted to do it in Buffalo, were else would we do it, we’re a Buffalo band. So we looked into doing it at Shea’s, but that didn’t really pan out and it wasn’t really all that exciting. So, we started thinking about doing it somewhere outside, and then Buffalo Place come to us with the concept of doing the July 4 show.

Yeah, it’s very exciting. My heart actually stopped for a second when it was announced. I think it’s so cool that you guys are doing this I can’t wait to see the show. So, how many people do you think are going to show, a half a million or so.
(Laughs) I don’t know. .....Who knows, there are so many factors, like what kind of day it’s going to be. Is it going to rain? I really don’t know.

Well, I feel a bit sorry for the other 4th of July festivals in town because they don’t stand a chance.
(Laughs) It’s going to be fun man. We are going to be at the steps of city hall.

Do you know any of the other bands that are playing?
No not yet, No one really knows. On the date that we are playing, July 4, we are shooting our live DVD as I said, so we will have all of our camera points set up, so if we do have other bands, it will have to be on another stage. We will have all the cameras set up, so we really can’t risk blowing an absurdly huge amount of money, that I can’t even conceptionalize, that it’s going to cost to do this thing.

When do you expect the DVD to be released?
Sometime before Christmas.

In addition to the show on the 4th, you are also running the “Music is Art” again this year on the steps of your recording studio in Buffalo. Last year was your first year of running the festival and it was very successful. What is going to make this year’s even better?
Well, number one, last year we had thirty six bands, this year we have fifty four, fifty five actually. It’s hard to say no. We had over two-hundred entries this year. (This year the MIA fest will be on June 12th and 13th.)

Wow, unbelievable. Are they all local Buffalo bands?
Yes, every one of them. Well, the only out of town bands that are playing have at least a member of the band from here. Yeah, it’s pretty cool, we added a third stage. Half the bands last year played inside the studio and then we had a small outside stage, that was suppose to be for acoustic performances, but it turned out to be a regular stage.
So this year we added a third stage and signed on sixteen dance companies, some performance artists, some media rooms, a whole bunch of not-for-profits coming out. Active citizen brigades, as we call them, a bunch of radio stations, TV stations, we have live murals being done on huge canvasses throughout Buffalo. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Last year you performed as Robby Money and played a set of Eddie Money songs. What are you going to do this year?
Laughs, Yeah, I really don’t know. I’m sure that I’ll do something.

Your festival proves that there are some great bands in Buffalo. But why do so few make it? Other than your band, no band has really made it big. Why is this?
Well, if you look at it there are quite a few musicians from Buffalo that have done quite well.

Well, I mean, there really aren’t many bands that have broke out.
Yeah, well bands in general don’t usually remain together. We are an odd thing (the Goo Goo Dolls) oddly enough if we had this conversation eighteen years ago, you would ask what are you doing tonight and I would say I’m going to a Goo Goo Dolls rehearsal. Well, I think that if a lot of these bands would have stayed together, they probably would of done really well. There are so many factors involved. No one has really looked at Buffalo as a hot bed of music. I’m feeling this incredible rush of optimism these days in Buffalo, it’s really weird. It’s really exciting to be involved in. We are trying to do some good things for the music community and community in general.

Well, I think that the optimism is because you are putting so much effort into promoting the music scene here. Many who make it move away and never come back and do anything for the community.
Yeah, well Ani DiFranco’s spending some money here with her studio. I’m spending some money in town. Some young pissed off people are coming in and taking some active roles. Being some sort of community minded person to me is just the right thing to do.

Aren't you also involved with a musical instruments for kids program?
Yeah, one of my partners suggested that we have a drive for musical instruments for kids, so I said yeah let’s do it and the next thing boom, we are having musical instruments drives for schools and kids that can’t afford them. We have been meeting with school broads and all this crazy shit. You want to know why it happens. It’s because people got together for this event. Let’s go back to the Music is Art festival. Let’s say that there are five members in each band times the amount of bands plus the people working the festival, that’s over three hundred people. Then the 5-6 thousand that wander through. Those are all people that were involved in something that was free and really cool. It was no trouble. We had Anal Pudding play at 2:00pm on a Sunday, this is cutting edge shit. People have been made aware this and many support it.

It’s really so great for the city that you’re organizing such a cool event. I was impressed at how success the Fest was last year being that it was your first time doing it.
Yeah, we really didn’t know what we were doing to be honest with you.

You have also produced three CD’s during the last six months. All three being bands from Western New York, Klear, the Juliet Dagger and Last Conservative. How did you get into production and did you pick the bands or did the bands pay you to produce them?
No, I went around and shopped all three of those bands, I did the sound and run the label, and my wife does the graphics. I’m working on a Klear video as we speak. I’m editing the video. It’s a real hands on operation brother.

It’s great that you decided to do it in Buffalo and not in L.A.
You know I started to look out in LA for opportunities, and there were some options, but I don’t have any control over anything out there. It’s like you work for someone and if you fired, you’re fucked. You know what I’m talking about, it’s like a fucked up survival game out there. It’s tough, you’re only as successful as your last successful thing. There’s a weird mentality out in LA. For me, my band is out in LA because we have to be. It’s my job, for us to do what we do, we have to be there, and it’s that simple. But, I don’t know how to fandangle a situation out there because I never had to. I never go out to clubs there. I’ve played more clubs that I’ve been to in LA. I just don’t do it. So for me, coming to Buffalo made perfect sense. It was like I know that there are a shit load of good bands, a lot of my friends work at the radio stations and will listen to my records. They wouldn’t play them if they aren’t good, but at least they will listen. So it just seemed to make sense to start a label in Buffalo. I love all the three bands that are on my label

I heard the Juliet Dagger CD and it’s just awesome. I love the sound, it’s fresh and I think that the band has a lot of commercial potential. It kind of has that early Veruca Salt sound.
Yeah, Veruca Salt, and I think it also has, you’re going to laugh, but a Go-Go’s vibe. There is even a Go-Go’s song on the CD. The build up on the vocals are very 80’s.

I think it has a fresh sound with a cool retro vibe to it.
Yeah, it does. I also love the Last Conservative record as well. TJ the singer/songwriter is great. I think people are waiting for something new and exciting to happen outside of this sort of prog-rock version of e-mo that’s so popular right now. When I heard TJ’s stuff, all I could think of is when I heard J.Mascis for the first time or like someone like Neil Young or someone like that, who is on the edge in their talent at all times. Therefore they are on the edge of everything. They’re on the edge of being able to sing, they are on the edge of being on key for god sakes. But with T.J, the passion that exists is pretty undeniable, when I first heard that I said o.k. I want to fucking record this kid. I recorded one song with him and then in six weeks we were talking about doing a record together.

So, as a producer what are you most focused on trying to capture. Are you looking to capture the chemistry and magic or are you looking for a perfect performance?
Well, with pro-tools if you use it properly, not like some who take a sucky band and make them sound like they can play and I don’t think that that is what should necessarily be done with it. My attitude is let’s play this song until it feels perfect, o.k. it feels perfect , but there are three mistakes in it, ok give me four minutes and then they will be no mistakes, I’ll patch it up because this take rocks. You know what I mean. With pro-tools hard drive space is free, I have fucking 64 takes so if we don’t have a perfect take we can cut something in. That’s the deal with pro-tools, you can record every take that you do and never have to erase anything. You pretty much have unlimited drive space, so some of these sessions are like 40 gigs, it’s fucking crazy, but with a guy like TJ you keep giving him more and more rope and he keeps going further and further. He keeps learning more and more. Most producers try to rake people in, I do the exact opposite. I let them do what ever they want. Because I let people do what ever they want and it sort of is the way it’s working now. I would have to say that without pro-tools this really couldn’t be done this way. I know how long it takes to record records, the Goo Goo Dolls ‘Dizzy’ record took five months to make. But, I love the technology, it helps make some real fresh records.

If you could produce any artist or band who would it be and why?
That’s a great question, I don’t know...(Long pause) Well, you know what, I would like to do a record with Pete Townshend. That’s who I would like to do a record with him, an electric record with him.

What do you think you could add to a Pete Townshend record that would differentiate it from his other recordings?
I think that I could go back far enough into the stuff he did that was good to bring his current ideas, which seem like they are flying all over the place, to a place that’s a little more reasonable. I’m a huge fan of his and he kind of derailed somewhere and it kind of shocked me that he derailed. It didn’t shock me that the Stones stopped writing great songs because it sort of looked like it was going that way. Even when the Who finished, Townshend was still writing some great stuff. The Who’s records were up and down at the end, but it did shock me when..... you know what, wasn’t Townshend the guy who decided to tour two days after his bass player John Entwhistle died? Yeah, I don’t want to work will someone who would go back to work two days after his bass player dies. (laughs) Forget that answer.

(Laughs) Dude that was funny. Even funnier is Metallica’s most recent CD. What the fuck was Bob Rock thinking?
I don’t know, I haven’t heard that CD yet.

Well, the production is god awful, it sounds like they tried to break new ground with a raw sound, but it his no soul and that fucking snare drum.
Yeah, there’s a lot of that going on. A lot of bands that didn’t need to sound like Nine Inch Nails all of a sudden started to sound like them.

Thank god that the Goo Goo Dolls never did that.
Well, we have embraced pro-tools, but in an odd manner. In not exactly the standard way, not the Third Eye Blind way of introducing loops. For us, it’s been a bit of a different trip. We do a lot of texture things and we have on our last few records. We have a guy that comes in and he makes weird sounds all over the record. And we sort of mix them in low and I did some stuff like that on the Klear record.

Now are you currently writing the new Goo Goo Dolls CD?
Yes, we are. We have rehearsal later tonight.

Oh yeah, how much of the new CD is written?
Not too much yet we have about five songs. We were going to release it in time for Christmas, but now we are thinking because we are doing the DVD, that it will be after the New Year.

Sounds great, I can’t wait. Alright Robby, thanks for your time and I’ll see on June 12 and 13 at the “Music is Art” Festival in downtown Buffalo.
Alright, take care brother.

Check out Robby’s many sites. www.goodcharamel.com www.chameleonwest.com www.musicisart.org
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