Hard Work Pays Off For The Goo Goo Dolls

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After more than 25 years, nine records and a plethora of Billboard hits, including “Iris,” “Name” and “Slide,” Buffalo, N.Y., natives the Goo Goo Dolls are in a bit of a celebratory mood.

Performing at the Moncton Coliseum alongside Matchbox Twenty on Wednesday evening, there is a joie-de-vivre that the trio of musicians that make up the Goo Goo Dolls — guitarist-vocalist John Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac and drummer Mike Malinin — let shine through on the band’s latest record, Magnetic.

While the Goo Goo Dolls might be a multi-platinum-selling band now, there was a time when, like countless other bands, they too were an act merely hoping to be heard by a wider audience.

In the early days, the Goo Goo Dolls’ sound was undeniably closer to ramshackle punk rock than to the radio-friendly sound of the present day.

Formed in 1985, the band was influenced by acclaimed Minneapolis band the Replacements. In some ways, the career trajectory of the Goo Goo Dolls mirrored that of the Replacements. Indie band from Nowhere, U.S.A., some scrappy punk rock records, then a move into the world of major labels. The Replacements never quite found the success the Goo Goo Dolls did. The influence of the Replacements is something the Goo Goo Dolls are forthcoming about.

“I think when you are starting your first band, as we were in 1985, you try to emulate those bands that you look up to because that is what you know about music and that is what you get excited about,” Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac said in an interview with The Times & Transcript from West Virignia.

“I don’t think there would be any point to us trying to deny the influence that Husker Du, the Replacements, Bad Brains and the Ramones had upon us. They were the bands that we were trying to be. After a while though, bands tend to find a voice of their own and you subsequently take a step back from mimicking your influences to merely having them incorporated in the music you are making.

“I think it makes a lot of sense why we earned comparisons to the Replacements. We were both midwestern rock bands and both liked to write a good song. Being mentioned in the same breath as the Replacements are pretty good company to be in, as far as any of us are concerned.”

The road to success was a long one for the Goo Goo Dolls but it has paid off. They started their recording career on Metal Blade Records, the same label that gave rise to Metallica and many others, before moving to their current home, Warner Brothers.

Coming from the blue-collar city of Buffalo, the Goo Goo Dolls never took anything for granted. Robby says the players recognized early on that if they were going to achieve any level of success, they would have to work for it.

“I think it’s safe to say that people from Buffalo are hard workers but don’t really have an expectation that anything is going to just happen for them,” he says, “As a band, we recognized that we were going to have to work if we wanted to see success in music. We lived through 10 years of driving around the country in a van to come home to find jobs and find a girlfriend to live with.

“Being able to look back on the early parts of our career helped give us perspective when we did start to see success. When we started to figure out what the business is all about, we realized that it is not all about having cash, a herd of horses and a ranch to call home. There is nothing wrong with hard work; we learned that pretty quickly. We’re still learning about it, too.”

Part of the learning process is finding ways to keep the making of new music an exciting prospect to the band. Robby says that as the Goo Goo Dolls grow as musicians and as people, the task isn’t as daunting as some might expect.

“Every time we go into the studio, the process of making a record is a little different. Every record ends up being an exercise of how to keep the band on track. And while the process might change from record to record, we always look for ways on how to keep things interesting and exciting.”

With the 30th anniversary of the Goo Goo Dolls coming up in the next couple of years, we asked Robby if the band had any plans in the works to help commemorate the occasion.

“We skimmed over our 25th anniversary celebrations without much in the way of fanfare so it is tough to say what, if anything, will happen at the 30-year-mark,” he says.

Article published in the August 26, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript