By Kevin Cooper
Robby Takac is an American rock bassist and vocalist and is one of the co-founding members of the Goo Goo Dolls.
He began his musical career as a member of the rock band Monarch, prior to joining the Beaumonts, which disbanded in 1985. Also in the Beaumonts was guitarist John Rzeznik and along with drummer George Tutuska they started a band which they named the Sex Maggots with Takac as the lead singer and bass player.
In 1986 they changed their name to Goo Goo Dolls and after the release of three albums; Rzeznik took over the lead vocals.
In 1995, after Tutuska left the band to be replaced with Mike Malinin, they received their first commercial success with the single Name. The 1998 follow up Iris reached number one in several charts. Goo Goo Dolls have been releasing music and touring continuously since.
In 2003 he formed the dance music collective Amungus with Brian Schulmeister. Also in 2003 he started his own record label, Good Charamel Records which initially focused on local acts. Today the label primarily releases J-Rock music by female fronted bands.
In 2004 he founded the Music Is Art Festival. As its President the Festival supports a multitude of programs, concerts, and events, ranging from collecting and donating instruments to local schools, mental health awareness tours, music industry education, amongst others.
Whilst busy preparing for their tour of the UK, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Hi Robby, how are you?
Hi Kevin, I have to say that I am very well here in the States, and I am just getting my day started here in Buffalo, New York. However, more to the point; how are you today?
I’m very well thank you, and before we move on let me say thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
Of course, it’s no problem at all, it’s my pleasure.
And we have to speak about the Goo Goo Dolls latest album, Chaos In Bloom.
That’s right; we really should spend a few minutes speaking about the album (laughter).
Well, I have to say that I have been playing it now for a couple of weeks and I think that it is fantastic.
Really, well I really do appreciate that, thank you. As you know the album was released last year, and it really does seem like a long time ago now quite honestly. John (Rzeznik) and I started writing the album during the pandemic, when everything was shut down. It was at the time when the vaccines were not out then, so we were kind of sequestered in a small church that had been converted into a recording studio, in Woodstock just outside New York. We went in there and recorded a whole bunch of songs, some of which are on the new album, some of which are still kicking around which may well see the light of the day someday.
How was it having John produce the album?
That’s right, he did, and I have to say that thankfully it all worked out okay (laughter). We went into the studio and John produced the record for the very first time. We had never done that before. It really was a new experience for both of us, but I have to say that recording a new album during the pandemic was also a new and at times strange experience for the two of us as well.
I have to ask, where did the title come from?
Well, I have to be totally honest with you and say that it was just one of many that were on the list (laughter). But once we got serious and started thinking about a title for the album, Chaos In Bloom really did seem like an appropriate title. As we have already mentioned, the world was shutdown at the time that we were making the record, so it just sort of seemed like we were fighting against all of this chaos whilst we were trying our very best to make this recording happen. What can I say; it’s the one that stuck (laughter).
Are you and John both happy with the final product?
Yes, I think so. Like anything, you finish it and then you go, “we could have done this, we could have done that” but at some point, you have got to let it go. You have got to put it out there to the world. I honestly think that John and I have written some great songs once again.
How have the fans taken to the new songs?
We did a bunch of shows here in the USA last summer, and it felt like the fans had warmed to the new songs right from the get-go. We are coming over to the UK shortly to show everyone the new show. We are currently down in Mexico, then we are heading down to Brazil, and then onto Porto Rico, and it will be great for us to be in a position to play some new songs for the people.
It’s a hard life (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) sometimes (laughter). Sometimes you are on the beach together with room service and sometimes you are in a cheesy roadside Inn in New Jersey, but that’s okay too (laughter).
From writing to recording, how long was it?
I would say that it actually took us quite a while. I would have to say that it was way over a year. The writing and recording all happened at the same time. We had some ideas when we went into the studio, but the record actually started to take shape once we could all get together in the studio. Because of the world climate I do have to say that things were really tough at that time.
You know better than me that these things change like the wind but at the moment I have got four go to tracks on the album, they are War, Going Crazy, Past Mistakes, and Loving Life. I think that those four tracks are fantastic.
That’s great that really is great; thank you. I will relay that message to the rest of the band (laughter). Joking aside, we really do appreciate hearing comments like that so thank you. So, you like the rockers more than the ballads, do you?
On this album I would have to say yes, I do.
That’s great. In the past we have found ourselves getting more poppy with a lot of the ballads over the last few years, together with a lot of mid-tempo kind of songs, but I do have to say that the soul of this band is a pretty powerful rock band for sure.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
We have been playing Going Crazy during the recent shows and I have to say that it was a pleasant surprise whenever we played that track. Also, we have been playing War and a lot of the songs that you have mentioned. We have managed to work them into the shows over the last year. But it feels like we can go into those areas, we can play these harder, rockier songs now and it’s no longer a shock to the people.
People know what the band is all about, and actually, quite honestly, it’s tough sometimes man because you want to keep the shows up-tempo, but we have got all these popular songs that are kind of down-tempo and mid-tempo, so it really is a struggle sometimes for us to keep the show up-tempo and still play a lot of the popular songs that we have written over the years. Having said all of that, I guess that there are way worst problems to have (laughter).
And I guess that it gets harder the more songs that you write and record?
That’s right; in fact I have to say that the show could get much longer (laughter). So, we have to take a decision and make the older stuff go away, but you have to remember that there is stuff that simply can’t go away. Little by little those spots where you go off and do whatever the heck you want, simply have to go. If you take a look at the average concert goers set list they are going to want to hear those songs. As I said it’s a struggle, but I can think of far worse struggles.
You will be back here in the UK in June; do you enjoy your time spent here? Do the UK audiences look after you?
Yes, they do, we love it being over there in the UK man. We find that the UK audiences are just kind of one notch up more excited it seems whenever we get to play over there (laughter). We don’t get to come over to the UK as much as we would like because we are constantly touring here in the States. We are constantly on the road, constantly playing shows, which mean that whenever we get over there to the UK, it makes it feel even more special to us.
Whenever we get to play all of those Apollo’s, all those Academy’s, all of the places that we go and play, the feel of them is such like a classic, rock hall. It just feels like we are in the right place to be doing that kind of thing (laughter). To play to a crowd who are singing along and having a total blast man, that is what we are in this for.
What makes Rock City here in Nottingham a must play venue?
Whenever we play Rock City, and take a look around, no matter where you turn your head you see people smashed into this room. People are sweaty, people are singing, and they have been waiting a long time to come and share this experience with you. So, we like to make sure that it is great.
How many of the new songs will make it onto the forthcoming tour set list?
We usually work on having three new songs on the set list but this time we might even play a brand-new song which I’m not sure if it will actually be out by the time that we get over there. We have recently been discussing that so watch this space (laughter). Every once in a while, we figure out ways to kind of reach out to our loyal fans and ask them what kind of music it is that they want to hear.
So, we are actually in the process right now of polling the fans to see what songs they want to hear and maybe what songs we may have forgotten about along the way; the kind of songs that excite the fans, whenever they hear them in a set. So, we are currently in the process of doing that, so that should yield some pretty cool results I think, during the next few weeks.
What has the fan’s reaction to the album been like, were they favourable?
Yes, they have, and I think that the fans have once again embraced what it is that we, as a band, are trying to do. It’s funny because things now days are so immediate, for example you put a single out, people will listen to it before they get to the venue and by the time that they get to the venue they will kind of know it (laughter). The world has changed so much. The immediacy is so great so that record, from the very moment that we released the first single you could see people across the audience singing that song, you could see it within days (laughter).
It really is a truly amazing thing that things really are that quick. You really can get things into the fibre of your audience that quickly. It is a little bit of a challenge to the music business, but at the same time I think that the immediacy really is a pretty amazing thing.
I personally just wish that the audience would keep their mobile phones in their pockets.
At the shows right (laughter). I would totally agree with you on that point. A little part of me wants them to take a quick picture then put their phone away so they can talk about it but sitting behind it and watching the whole show through their mobile phone screen sort of makes you feel like that is the only way that they know; it’s like their reality translator or something for some folks (laughter). I think that to many, it is a badge of honour, ‘look where I was last night’ (laughter).
You and John have been working together now for thirty-seven years, longer than most marriages last, do the two of you argue?
Yes (laughter). You know man you have just got to figure out a way to get you to the end of the day. If you can work that out then often the following day is better, and then you don’t worry about the day before. We have been doing this an awfully long time, and as you mentioned John and I have been working together for some thirty-seven years now. There have certainly been different phases of our lives, when it was just me and him, and we were both living in the same bedroom. Our relationship was a lot different simply because we didn’t have any money. We were sharing the same one-bedroom apartment; our lives were intertwined that way.
Now, we both have kids, John lives in New Jersey while I live in Buffalo. We both lived in Los Angeles for decades, so as you can see, our lives are so different than what they were. Our relationship is much different to the way that it was too. The magic thing about this is we talk about it all the time. Through whatever crazy shit has happened over the last four decades, we have always managed to sort it out, that’s how you do it. You have just got to figure the shit out.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Oh goodness man. I mean like the first time we played like together on a late-night television show back in Buffalo, or the very first time that we played the Arena where we had seen Kiss when we were kids. To be totally honest with you I can’t even think. There have been so many of them, you know. I think that a moment that kind of hit home the most are the things that happened here in our hometown because you can look at the lineage of the band, from the very beginning in this place, you will know the faces that show up and the interactions that you have with the people. You can see your whole life, not just the history of the band.
All of those things connect to these really special shows that we have done here in town. John and I once did a show on the front steps of the City Hall in Buffalo, and it rained like crazy man (laughter). There were tens of thousands of people there, and when you see that happen you are like, ‘oh my God, how did we make this happen’ (laughter). Those are the moments when you just sit back and go, ‘oh my God, this has been pretty amazing’ (laughter).
On that note Robby let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great.
Absolutely Kevin, and I hope to see you at the show over there in Nottingham at Rock City, I really do appreciate it man. Stay safe and speak soon.