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Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac admits that when producers push him toward re-creating a sound from the band's most successful era, it's a trigger to "run the other way." Maybe that's the type of perspective that comes after 30 years of touring and playing music revisiting "the hits" should be just that a temporary visit. Twinged with contemporary electronic influences, but founded in the sound that made them a hit in the '90s with songs like "Iris" and "Name," the band's latest album "Boxes" is a point of refreshing pride for Takac and lead singer and guitarist John Rzeznik. Takac spoke with The Tribune recently ahead of the band's sold-out Red Butte Garden show Wednesday about "Boxes" and what reinvention means after 30 years as a band:
You guys just finished up a couple of shows near your hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. What was that atmosphere like?
We had sold more tickets in Buffalo than we have in a decade, for some reason. I think the new record got a lot of attention. It caught everybody's attention this time, man. I think part of it is the record, I think part of it maybe is just cyclical. It happens (laughs).
Why do you think the "Boxes" album caught people's attention? You mentioned it's cyclical. What made this such a different experience for listeners?
I guess you'd have to start with how was it a different experience for us. I think it brought that experience to the listener. Being a band for 30 years, growing up in an era when we'd go and record on tape, you'd go and work on your songs you'd book a few days and go in and record your songs ... Writing 15 or 20 songs or half-writing 15 or 20 songs, finding a producer, and taking a few months sometimes with us six to eight months to crawl out from underneath this pile of half-finished songs and end up with something that you're proud of. When "Magnetic" came around (the band's last album) ... John decided that he would like to go out and record one song, two songs, and not have that huge pile of songs to crawl out from underneath ... He would get into a room with the guy that was going to produce the song and they'd work on the song together. That was a new way to work for us. What we found was when the record was finished, it definitely sounded fresher than our two previous records. But I think we weren't entirely comfortable with the process of letting people into what we did. "Magnetic" was sort of a learning process that led up to being able to make "Boxes" ... I think that's why this record resonated. I think we did it right this time.
How hard is it to share that process after doing it a certain way for so long? And on the flip side, how important is that to have fresh voices and fresh perspectives?
John feels like he gets inspired when he's around people who know things and can do things that are different from what he knows and can do. That leads you in a lot of different directions, which is exciting. Personally, I'll bring in five or six songs that The Ramones can play (laughs) ... They're much simpler and much less of a journey than they are when I get in and deal with the producer a little bit and let these guys help me out with making it something that's a little bit more special. Having eased our way into this process this time, I think it was much easier. I think you can hear it.
"So Alive" has a OneRepublic feel to it, while "Over & Over" is anthemic and would fit on any of your older albums, but is driven more electronically. Where did all of those diverse sounds come from?
I think that's a lot of the different personalities involved ... That newer sounding stuff, I think a lot of that is the producer you choose to put in the room with you, who's going to lead you down these paths with your songs to give it a different vibe. John made a conscious decision that we need to change the sound up a little bit. There's a crazy thing too, there's a groove about a lot of these songs that just make people move differently. It's weird when you watch it from our perspective looking down on this crowd of people. You can see the motion in the room to songs they don't know, and it's kind of interesting. We didn't have that a lot in the past.
How cool is that feeling from your perspective to see a reaction in the crowd to tracks that aren't as widely known or outside of your normal repertoire?
We've been seeing a lot of parent-kid teams on this tour. Sometimes grandparent-kid teams. It's interesting that that's able to happen now. I think there's a connection between the melodies and chord structures that people have associated with us over the years combined with these sort of things that the younger kids are familiar with ... Electronic music is so easily incorporated if done tastefully into what you're doing ... We're obviously not an EDM band, but you can tell that there's some influence from that world on this record a little bit ... I think that brings a lot of the younger people out with their parents. Then, they can both enjoy "Name" together somehow (laughs).
Outside influences are always there, but can you influence yourself 30 years in from something you've done in the past?
We've worked with certain guys that as you're working on it, you can feel that they kind of want it to be the "next thing." The next "Iris" or the next whatever, it feels that way sometimes when you work with somebody. I think for us, it's a trigger to run the other way. If we recognize it and go: "Oh man, we're repeating ourselves." It's a trigger for us to run away. But that being said, the melodies you go for, the intervals you go for the chords those are things that are ingrained in you.
Band members have come and gone, but you and John have stuck together for this long. I read recently that you're the one who keeps the momentum going and keeps the band chugging along. How is your relationship together after all this time?
I would positively say our relationship is probably the best it's been in years and years and years right now. There's a reset somewhere, man. I've got a 4-year-old now, John's wife is going to have a baby in December. Our world is a little different now (laughs). I don't think John would be upset for me to say he's been sober for a couple years now and I've been on the right track for a while here myself. We didn't get a cake and go: "Hey it's been 30 years! Woo!" and release a record and give each other cards or anything. But I don't think it escapes either of us how lucky we are to be in the position we are. We're not Green Day or The Red Hot Chili Peppers. We're not going to go sell out stadiums when we decide to get our s together and do 12 shows. That's not what we're about, we go out and play shows for two straight years and release records. We've been lucky enough to be able to do that for a few thousand people around the world for a long time now, man. It's stronger when we're firing together.
Twitter: @BrennanJSmith Goo Goo Dolls
With Collective Soul and Tribe Society
When • Wednesday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m., gates at 6 p.m.
Where • Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre, 2155 Red Butte Canyon Road, Salt Lake City
Tickets • Sold out
Also • Goo Goo Dolls will perform Nov. 4 as part of the newly announced Live at the Eccles performing arts series at the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater, opening in October in downtown Salt Lake City. Visit http://www.live-at-the-eccles.com and join an email list to get priority access to tickets. Tickets go on sale to the public Friday, Sept. 16, at 10 a.m. at ArtTix.