By Nicki Escudero
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"That's all right," says Takac, who, as the original lead singer of the group when it began in the late '80s, is about as gracious as you can expect a rocker to be. "From the very beginning I was trying to get John to sing. We had the semi-unique distinction of learning how to do things and play our instruments in front of everyone. I think one of the nicest things about this whole situation is that this is how the thing is supposed to work. I think the reason this has been able to happen is that we came from a place that was honest. You did what was real. You did what was supposed to be done, in spite of everything."
That place they came from was the dying steel town of Buffalo, New York, and the club the band first aired what Takac describes as "our sub-drunken teenage invalid opinion on everything" was The Continental.
"John, myself and our first drummer George decided we were just gonna put our heads down every Thursday and play for free or play for drinks until more people wanted to see us. After 30 or 40 shows, we had a problem with the bar owner, who turned out to be a great friend of ours. But we got thrown out of there for a couple of years. I dunno, things got broken, ill words were spoken. So we just started booking halls around town and realized people could come to see us and we could make money there. When I say money, I mean we'd split 80 bucks. So we did some shows in Rochester and before you know it, we're on a little circuit throughout the Northeast and we landed on a tour with a band called Gangrene in 1987 and went out a couple of months in a van with no windows. The vans got bigger, the venues have gotten bigger, and more people buy our records. That's kind of how it works."
Unlike the Replacements, the Goo Goo Dolls didn't have that punk success/failure inner struggle going on. The Goo Goos loved punk more as a music idiom rather than a lifestyle, so instead of instigating self-destructive stage antics, the trio stayed sober, stuck to their set list and seriously worked their fourth album A Boy Named Goo, an album Takac needs never hear again.
"A Boy Named Goo I heard a lot. I have that in my RAM. On that record, we were jumping up and down going, Look at us! Look at us! Look at us!' And nobody was. On Dizzy Up the Girl, it became people wanting to see what you were doing. That was great most of the time; then there were the points when it wasn't so great. Being from a small town like Buffalo, we're used to that on a small level. . . . That's why living in Los Angeles is pretty good at the moment. Our label is here, our management's here, and while we're shopping, De Niro might be around the corner. Nobody gives a shit if you're hanging around here."
Recently a fan who believed all Rzeznik's songs were about her had stalked the singer. When asked if Takac has someone bothering him, he laughs. "No one that I can't hit DELETE' and get rid of. Stalking on the Web has just gotten to comic proportions. There are some freaks out there. But 99.99999999 percent of the time, everybody just wants to say hi' and what's up' and they don't interrupt your dinner and they're not assholes and everything's cool."
Takac in turn knows how to respect the fans. When Warner Bros. was short-shrifting the group with its misinformed official band site, he instigated wresting control away from the corporate Webmasters. Now the band-controlled site includes a tour diary, gig photos and more personalized touches than the standard bio and sound clips. It probably helps that the Goo Goos aren't posting any unofficially released material.
"We don't write lots of songs. We use it all. . . . Anything we do you can get; we've never turned a demo in our entire career. We just go in and make a record."
Gutterflower's already surpassed Dizzy's peak chart position, zooming up to number four on Billboard's album chart in April. A new single, the swaggering "Big Machine," and its accompanying video will hopefully restore the album back in the Top 100 by the time the second leg of the tour, which opens in Phoenix, concludes.
For the moment, Takac seems more interested in talking like a music fan himself. After voicing disappointment that the Who canceled two shows and resumed their tour after losing the world's most incredible bass player, talk swings back to the 'Mats. "If you're a musician and the Replacements haven't somehow influenced you, then you've missed something huge."
"Anytime the Replacements had a new record, I would have to listen to them in a very precise manner. Otherwise it would cost me several copies of the album. 'Cause I would break them or throw 'em out the windows and stuff. . . . I had to realize that the first listen I would have no opinion, the second listen I would hate it. If I stopped there, I would be in big trouble. Because the third listen it would start to sink in, and by the fourth listen I knew I loved that record."