Takac, bassist/vocalist and co-founder of The Goo Goo Dolls, talked from his Vancouver
hotel July 24. The interview for The Reader was advance publicity for their Omaha
show August 1. Takac is about as easy-going as it gets, a real pleasure to interview, with
a great sense of humor and an easy laugh. He's quick with answers and has the same voice
and delivery as the king of cynical comedians, Dennis Leary.
opened by reminiscing about some early dates he played at Omaha's Ranch Bowl, a bowling
alley/entertainment center that happens to be the home of Omaha's national touring indie
music scene everyone, from the Chili Peppers to Bob Mould to Pavement, have played
there. None are very happy about playing a bowling alley, but it's an experience
they never forget.
||Takac: We used to love going to the
Ranch Bowl, because when we didn't have any money, they let us bowl for free, they hooked
us up, man. The first time I was in Omaha it was 11 degrees outside, it was freezing. The
next time I was there, it was 111 degrees and cows were exploding, they were boiling
inside and dying. Land of the exploding cows.
||Where are you right now?
|We're in Vancouver, it's
pouring rain right now, and we're playing outside and I'm hoping it doesn't put a damper,
if you will, excuse the pun.
||And you played San
||And also drove up to Seattle and did a bunch of live
||How's the tour?
|It's been going great. Sugar Ray canceled San
Francisco. Mark (McGrath)'s voice is messed up, but I guess they're back on tonight. I saw
their buses. They're yo yo enough to bring that thing into it. We don't play with loops
and things. They also have a hipness factors, and they're cool guys. We're having a good
||The first time I
heard you guys was way back in '92, watching 120 minutes on MTV, they played
"There You Are," and didn't include the video info and I freaked out, trying to
find out who you were
||That was the first video we had ever done.
It was shot in a baseball stadium in Buffalo. It was weird, we were happy being a punk
rock band back then. We were happy having our little victories all the time. It was about
that time that Nirvana was starting to happen. Everything was starting to happen, but
things weren't happening very quickly for us back then. It's not like it felt like we
weren't progressing, but at a slow rate compared to a lot of bands who we would see zip by
us on the way up and eventually past us again the other way. It was always sort of bizarre
to us, because you finally reach this level where you get everything you want and you stop
working, you don't want to do interviews anymore. A lot of people start shooting
themselves in the foot at that point. That's the thing we saw the most.
||Do you think you get
jaded by the whole business?
||I don't know how you get
jaded when good things are happening to you. It's like 'oh Jesus, I'm selling millions of
records now and I'm doing sold out shows, this sucks' No, that don't suck. 'Suck' is
trying to pull your record off for $15,000 and driving around in a van for six months,
that's what sucks. It was always weird to me. You know when no one wants to talk to you,
you're in trying to talk to everybody. The second everyone wants to talk to you, no one
wants to talk to anyone anymore. We really try to sidestep that whole thing and sort of
realize, especially in this day in age, that if you go away for a year they forget who you
are and you have to come back in swinging with all the viciousness you did before.
||Did you think when
Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all broke that this was gonna make more people pay
attention to what you were doing?
||You always thought that. When guitar bands
started to get signed there was maybe more of a chance. The odd thing that happened with
us is, when all that stuff was getting unpopular was kind of when our career started to
take off. And maybe that's because we're not just a loud guitar band.
||On Hold Me Up,
I heard the band's ballad potential with "Two Days in February." They say your
sound has changed and now you're writing pop songs, but there's still plenty of
high-powered stuff on this disc.
||I think our sound has changed as much as
someone who is 28 years old changes when he turns 35. When I was 28, I was still listening
to cro mag records. Now my brain requires more than that.
||But many songs on this
one could have been on Hold Me Up
||Certainly a lot of stuff could have been
on Hold Me Up, but I dont' think we would have executed it the same way.
We're much better players. Hold Me Up was a weird record, it was the first one
where John really started singing a lot. And it was also the first record where we sat
down and said to ourselves 'We're going to work on this album.' All the other records were
like, 'Let's do four songs, and here's four more, let's try this, see if this works, then
collect all the demos and recordings and make a record out of it.' Hold Me Up, we
actually went in and said 'Okay, this album needs to work, from beginning to the end.'
It's not just a collection of songs, it's a full thing.
And we started working working
with Armand Petri, who co-produced and mixed Jed. He became quite an asset to the
group. He was a classically trained musician and understood a lot of things we were doing,
and we didn't know what we were doing. He took the time to say 'Here's why this is
working. These notes don't match, but it sounds cool.' There was a lot of wrestling on
that record over what was right and what sounded right. He came from the angle that
'Mathematically, this doesnt' work,' and we're like 'Well, you're just gonna have to
give us this one.' If I hold up a baseball bat, five plus three equals nine, you gonna
argue with me? No, ya know? There's quite a growing process that went on with that record.
When I listen back to that record, which I don't listen to that often really, when I
listen to it now it's eerie, sort of. I feel everything that happened. It was very 'coming
of age' for us, very intense.
||You don't feel
you've changed, but you certainly write more ballads than you did back then.
||That's one of the things that John
realized he could do very well. I think you find something you can really express yourself
in, when you find a certain matter of expressing yourself, it's a pretty powerful tool. I
knew from Hold Me Up days, when he started bringing that stuff in. There's a song
called "James Dean" on Jed that's as mellow as anything we've ever done.
And that came out in 1989, 10 years ago. It was always there.
then, we were really terrified to turn our guitars down. Not so much because we thought
people would say we were pussies. We just weren't confident enough in our playing or
songwriting to actually think we could have an impact without a turn-it-up-to-11
When we started this record, I sat down with Rob (Cavallo) and said 'I want to know why
this Led Zeppelin record and this Black Sabbath record sound so huge even though they're
the worst guitar songs I've ever heard in my life. The power lies in so many different
places. A perfectly placed shaker sounds every bit as intense as a Marshall on 10 if it's
done correctly. I think we decided we were gonna try our best to make a record that could
be listened to in 15 years and still sound big. And Rob was really good at that, man. A
few small amp tones instead of one huge one, one guitar down the middle instead of four at
one time, because when the four come in, they sound even bigger.
||In the clips, John
talks about the band losing its indie cred
How important is having an indie cred to
you, and how has that been impacted by having hits and putting out power ballads like
"Name" and "Iris"?
||Having been someone who for years could
say 'We've got indie cred,' the term basically meant that critics liked us but we weren't
selling any records. That's indie cred, you don't sell records. A lot of people hide
Look, no one doesn't want to sell 2 million records. Anyone who makes a
demo in an 8-track studio wants to sell 2 million copies of it. And if you don't, you're
an idiot. I don't know why you wouldn't. The more people who get to hear your music, the
more people come to see you play, buy your records, know your songs. It just makes it more
fun, more pleasurable.
We were never a band to stand there and go, 'OK, we're aiming
this record directly at turtleneck-wearing Trent Reznor clones.' We never picked a group
of people to like our records. And I think that's part of the appeal. When 'Name' started
to get big, we started getting calls to be on fuckin' Dick Clark's New Year's Eve Show, or
90210 or Friday Night Videos. At first, we'd be like, 'oh gee, I don't know. What's
everyone gonna think?' And it wasn't 20 seconds before John and I were looking at each
other and saying, 'Who cares what they think?' Are we going to be so pretentious and lofty
as to say our music is not for the main stream? Our music is for us; whatever happens,
||In the cases of some
punk bands, there's a core group who are afraid that other people are going to discover
||A lot of that happens. That happened with
U2. I remember when U2 began becoming successful and everybody was saying 'they suck,' And
I would say 'No they don't. You telling me War sucks? Listen to that record man,
that record does not suck. But I can remember kids who were hardcore U2 fans saying 'well,
it's on the radio now.' Somehow, when your record gets played on the radio, that makes you
less credible and I'm not quite sure why
There's an elitist mentality in every
single occupation. There're welders with indie cred.
||You'll be playing
some punk stuff with the ballads, and there will be some people coming to the shows
expecting two hours of "Iris."
||Well, that would be boring, wouldn't it?
It's funny, this whole selling out issue. We've been on a major label for half of our
career. I will tell you, I have been fucked worse by indie labels then I've ever been by a
major label. The problem is, with the whole indie world right now, it's become a status
thing. I'm not quite sure why
I could mention some band names and it would make this
all make more sense, but I won't
. There's a lot of Southern California pop punk
bands out there now who are selling lots of records and getting millions and millions of
dollars from major labels and are still trying to tote themselves around as some sort of
poster children for indie punk rock. I want to tell them, 'For God's sake, take off that
$700 shirt if you're gonna do that, and give all your money to start a label and make
other little bands marginally successful. But don't sit back in your mansion on the side
of the hill and say "Man, we are still so punk." Whatever
just make your
records, man, and stop it.'
||How do these bands
manage to keep that vibe going?
||I'll tell how they do it: They find a very
simple recipe and stick to it. The problem is, they're not gonna be around in 15 years.
People are going to expect the same thing every time they put out a record, and eventually
are going to get sick of it. And then they're stuck having a 6-year career, putting out
the same record three times.
||The state of today's
music scene, bands come and go very quickly, they're on top of the heap for one album and
Six months ago, everyone was talking about Marilyn Manson, before
that, it was Spice Girls. Today it's Ricky Martin, and so on . You've been around more
than a decade and seem to be at the top of your game now. Do you worry about falling out
of favor or are you immune to that because of how you write music?
||I think that it's inevitable that that's
gonna happen. I can't see us as the Goo Goo Dolls being an influential band for another 20
years. I think that would be foolish and we'd look foolish, being 55 in a band called the
Goo Goo Dolls, you know? Do I think as people, that John and I can be relevant still?
Probably, but it will have to move beyond this. Although 15 years ago I would have never
thought I'd be here doing a Goo Goo Doll interview. I though I'd have a job somewhere,
figuring out where my life's gonna be.
We'll know when it's time. We'll look at each
other and go 'Man, this record's not gonna be good.' If that happens, you realize you've
lost the gas, man, you're balloon has deflated and it's time to stop making records.
||Well, could you ever be
satisfied being in a band that tours for three weeks at a time in a van again?
||I feel too old to do that. I feel that was
a great thing to do when I was 18, 19, 20 years old. Or 25, or however old I was. I did
those things because I had to. It's like asking a sergeant major if he would mind going
back to bootcamp for eight weeks and starting all over again. Or being near a top of a
mountain, being a mountain climber, and going 'hey, listen, you don't mind if we drop you
down at the bottom again and you start over?' It would be like, 'waitaminit, that's no
Our biggest fear is looking as retarded as Foreigner does now, or Journey,
traveling around with Steve Augeri on lead vocals.
||You could be like Brian
Adams, who's quietly continued to work, doing soundtracks and having hits, and not caring
if people think he's cool or not.
||I think that's cool that he's able to do
that. But one point is he's one person. No matter what he does as that person, that's his
next thing. It's not like it's 'Bryan Adams and Red Ryder'
Tom Cochran comes out
solo after Red Ryder and now he can put out records for the rest of his life. Would you be
waiting for the next Red Ryder record? I don't know
Who knows what the future is at
this point? All I know is the present is really good. When this tour is done in March,
we'll take a month or two off, pull our shit together and collect the tragedies of the
past three years and write another record.
||It's gotta be a blast
||Yeah, it's a blast, but It's pretty fucked
up, really. Since last August, I've done my own laundry once, I haven't made a bed,
haven't taken out the trash, I haven't driven myself but three or four times in a car. All
the things that happen in your life peripherally you have to put out of the way, so you
can go out and do what you do.
||So you miss taking
out the trash and washing your clothes?
||Yeah, or having discussions with your
loved ones about what's fucked up in your life or whatever. You don't want to bring
yourself down out here, it's easy enough. I've been home maybe a total of two weeks since
last August, you've got to try to keep your stiff upper lip out here.
||Are you married or
||I was married, no kids. My ex-girlfriend
had a couple kids, and that was even tough talking to them on the phone and stuff.
||So time kind of
stands still on the road?
||Yeah, totally, you come home and it's as
if time stood still. I've been to Japan twice this year, Europe three times, Australia
twice, to New Zealand, across the entire United States three times and Canada once. We've
done an awful lot. And then you come home and the same asses are planted in the same
barstools. Like they never left. 'What the fuck are you people thinking? Get up, do
something. At least go to another bar. At least find two bars you can hang out at.'
weird thing is you go home then and it's like 'okay, I'm not on the road anymore, so I
have some time to sit and think.' And you start to think. The last record, John and I
moved to New York after the tour for about nine months and we were basket cases. I was
dealing with a divorce, dealing with the fact that we sold 2 million records and still
owed the record company money, that kind of stuff.
||So many bands don't
understand any of that stuff
||No, they don't get it. And once again, I'm
not going to name any bands, but there are a lot of bands who go out and make a demo at
18, get signed, go out and sell 4 million records, and then don't know enough to bring
themselves back down to earth. You've gotta bring yourself down, because dude, at 19, that
is not your life. Someone gave you that life for a little while. You're 19 years old and
you're gonna be spit out so fast because you're not royalty, you're just some schmuck.
Your job is as important as the guy taking the tickets in front of the building, when it
comes right down to it, it's all just a part of the process.
When you're finished, and
can step back and look at it that way -- mind you I make more money than the ticket guy --
it's all just part of the process. Someone can always be plugged into that spot. I'm not
James Brown. It's not a guarantee, not even for REM anymore.
||What about the Stones?
||That's human oddities. Like the guy with
the 2-foot prick, not the norm. We just opened six shows for them. It was crazy man, if
any band is ever an asshole again as an opener, I have no tolerance for it at all. Mick
Jaggar came in and sat in our dressing room and hung out with us and gave us a sound
check. There's certain other English bands we've played with over the years who were very
difficult. Try opening for Oasis some day, dude.
Mick Jaggar's standing there, we all
snap to attention like a fucking drill team. He walked in the room, it was like,
inspection. "Mr. Jaggar Sir," you know. He was totally cool, man. Why wouldn't
he be, I guess, right? They rented a box and watched our show the first night. Came up the
second night and had comments about the show and stuff, so we knew they actually watched.
It was really cool. A band like that, them going out now, it works for a couple bands. It
worked for the Stones and for Fleetwood Mac, but count how many tours went out that way
that didn't work. Like Motley Crue, how was that one? Or the big Berlin/Missing Persons
||It's kind of sad
when you see Styx/Kansas on tour...
||I know, dude. This venue in Buffalo,
called Darien Lake, it's like Six Flags, they did 13 shows this year. Of all the shows
guess what the biggest seller was: Foreigner/Journey. The biggest seller. The only thing
that's really crankin' in a lot of the markets is the reunion tours and the boy groups.
||But that's all the
radio stations are geared to these days.
||Alternative radio seems to be faltering a
bit. The term 'modern rock' itself is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You've put a
shelf-date on the format. I mean, what's Sheryl Crow? Alternative? I guess alternative to
There's a lot of shit I don't get these days. I don't want to sound like
Greg Allman talking about rap music, but I swear there's just six bands on the radio.
There's the Southern California punk bands, there's the ska bands, which are becoming few
and far between, there were a few swing bands in there, and then you've got your
borderline gothic fashion rock, and ...
||And then Ricky
||Yeah, Ricky Martin and that's about it,
you know. I was driving around L.A. with a friend of mine the other day, listening to
KROQ, and we were laughing every time another band came on. We were naming the five bands
that were on every three minutes.
Copyright © 1999 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.