Robby Takac recalls realizing the success of Goo Goo Dolls when their hit “Iris” was chosen as the song to be played when the Detroit Red Wings, the winners of the 1998 Stanley Cup, skated in triumph in front of the enthusiastic, boisterous audience of hockey fans. “I knew that we had crossed into something different from what we knew. And that was a huge moment for me, because then I realized that we were now in a world that I didn’t understand.”
A world that he does understand very well is that of the touring musician. On Aug. 12 he hits the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater with lead singer Johnny Rzeznik for Goo Goo Dolls’ Boxes tour.
Goo Goo Dolls have performed there for many years, and in what seems to be a recurring theme, in the pouring rain. But no matter what the weather, Takac and Rzeznik are always eager to play for their fans at Jones Beach and are excited be back with their new single, “So Alive,” as well as their enormous catalogue of hits.
Takac, bassist for the platinum-selling band behind “Slide,” “Here is Gone,” and “Name,” quickly came to understand the band’s sensational staying power. Since forming the band in 1985 with Rzeznik, Takac and the Dolls have released 11 studio albums, including critically applauded “A Boy Named Goo,” “Dizzy Up the Girl,” and “Let Love In.”
“When Johnny and I started the band when we were 20-years-old, our only concern was to make as much racket as possible, and have a little music in there at the same time. I think as we learned how to play our guitars and to write our songs, there was power that came from places other than volume, and sheer aggression,” Takac remembers fondly, looking back on a continuously rewarding career. “We started experimenting with stuff and I think record by record we’ve grown. But I’ve read reviews that have said that we put out the same record over and over again. I think that we’re proving our point finally. We’re growing at what we consider to be a comfortable pace.”
With the current tour of “Boxes,” Takac hopes audiences “fill-in” their own feelings about a recurring theme: thus, the ominous (and short) album title. “I think after ‘Gutterflower’ people were questioning the possibility of this music continuing as a whole. There was a very dark cloud over that record. As we were making it 9/11 happened, we had to stop for three weeks because everyone was freaking out. It was a really weird time and weird moment for this band. But eventually we realized that there truly was some magic in what we were doing, and I think finding that again woke us up to try things we really hadn’t tried and dealt with before.”
As for Friday’s concert at Jones Beach, fans can expect to see Takac and Goo Goo Dolls (with special guests Collective Soul and Tribe Society) and his famous bare feet (he never wears shoes when performing!) in a peaceful, warm atmosphere…hopefully sans rain. “We’re playing the living hell out of the new stuff, so we’re having a blast.”
When not touring with the Dolls, Takac works as a producer. In 2002, he opened ChameleonWest recording studio, where he works with undiscovered talent in Buffalo. “Economically the city has been challenged since the mid-70s. It’s a good town that takes care of itself and understands itself,” he says of his hometown. Also located in Buffalo is Takac’s Music is Art Foundation, which, in addition to raising money for instruments in underprivileged schools, runs festivals for local bands and artists. Takac also works with Goo Goo Dolls in philanthropic endeavors across the U.S.
“We work with USA Harvest, they do food collection at all our shows. Basically, they collect food in big barrels, and we’ve raised over half a million meals since we started working with them. It’s pretty cool to be donating, and the food has circulated into the cities and communities where we played.”
The communities give back to Goo Goo Dolls, with the adoration fans bestow upon the band. Just ask Takac about how his Pez collection of over 1,700 different dispensers started.
“I have [more than] 1,700 dispensers right now. Kids would toss them up to me. One of the guys started collecting them one night, and by the time the tour was finished we had like 50 or 60. I started a collection and that was many years ago!” Takac even voiced a cartoon for Pez. “One of the bands on my record label, Juliet Dagger, performed the theme song for the first Pez DVD cartoon. I even wrote the song,” he laughs.
The easy-going, well-rounded Takac can only think of one thing he would change about his long-standing gig with Goo Goo Dolls — and it’s not his love for Pez. “If we could go back in time, we would have changed our band name into something cooler. It’s embarrassing to say at the age of 51! At the time we came up with it we thought it was pretty silly but it doesn’t mean much anymore. It was in a magazine we saw and we thought it was the most unfitting thing we could use. We were a punk rock band. I didn’t know that 20 years later we’d be writing ballads, that we would be doing shows with the Rolling Stones,” he laughs.
What name could possibly be cooler? “Um, the Whoop-Ass Band? I don’t know! I guess for now we’ll just have to stick with Goo Goo Dolls.” His fans would say that’s a good decision.