- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2017

Although Goo Goo Dolls bassist and singer Robby Takac says there is now much less booze on the tour bus than there used to be, he fondly recalls how an even more famous rocker once redefined what it meant to be “sober.”

“We walk into Keith [Richards]’ dressing room, and they had a whole bunch of bottles of vodka on the table and orange soda,” Mr. Takac recalls of meeting the Rolling Stones legend during a tour for which the Goo Goo Dolls were the opening act. “I was with my friend [record executive] Phil Quartararo, [and] Phil said to him, ‘Keith, I though you stopped drinking.’

“He goes ‘No, no, no, that’s just vodka — that ain’t drinking.’ According to him, he was ‘sober’ at that point.”

Hearing the mumbling, chain-smoking English guitarist explain to him that only “brown stuff” was drinking — and watching exclusive sound checks for the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band — marked a career and life high point for Mr. Takac, a native of Buffalo, New York, who helped found the Goo Goo Dolls in the mid-‘80s.

It would take a decade of struggle and playing before mainstream success came to the band thanks to the hits “Iris” and “Name.” It was both an auspicious and precipitous time for the music industry.

“Either we came in at the tail end of it or we came in at the beginning of this new thing,” Mr. Takac said of the dawn of the internet age of file-sharing in the mid-‘90s.

But rather than run from the future, the Goo Goo Dolls began using the web to share daily updates with their fans. They even began writing on a platform that would one day be called, by the rest of the connected universe, a blog.

“I don’t think we knew that word ‘blog’ at that point … we were just doing daily updates on what was going on with us,” Mr. Takac said. “But we were able to really energize a community of folks all over the country, all over the world, who kind of meet each other and hook up for shows.”

Two decades since “Iris,” those shows continue, including a stop at the Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, Tuesday evening, with the band sharing the bill with Phillip Phillips.

“We’re not in a van with no windows and a mattress on top of our gear like we were for the first 10 years,” Mr. Takac said of the comforts of the Dolls’ 21st century touring apparatus. “But I guess that’s what happens when you manage to keep it going for a few decades. A lot of people don’t get the chance to see that happen.”

In addition to meeting Mr. Richards, Mr. Takac has also been able to bump elbows with other heroes of his youth like Alice Cooper and Todd Rundgren.

“I turned into a fanboy, and I couldn’t figure out what to talk to him about,” Mr. Takac recalls of meeting his idol. “I’ve never had a more blank slate in my mind ever.”

Mr. Takac, who plays Yamaha guitars, now advises up-and-coming musicians that they should not concern themselves about making money — at all.

“Take that eight hours of your day and figure out how to make some money. And then figure out how to play your guitar amazingly well. And then figure out how to be in a great band,” he said of the need for a musician to maintain a day job. “Then figure out all that other stuff.”

Furthermore, the road will be hard. Mr. Takac said he has seen far too many of colleagues give up on their dreams — even before they were 30. (Mr. Takac is now 52.)

“I can’t tell you how many of my friends [said], ‘I can’t make a living playing music.’ And I’m like ‘You know what, you’re right, you can’t!’” Mr. Takac said of such naysayers.

“So many people get wrapped up in this crazy thing that if they can’t make a living playing music, then they stop playing the music,” he said. “It’s about playing music. And if you keep that in mind, eventually you get so good at it, or you realize that maybe it’s not what you’re supposed to do.

“I don’t think you should ever, ever set out to be in the music business,” Mr. Takac said. “You need to set out to be in a great band and write great music and do what you need to do on your instrument to make that great music.

“Don’t worry about making money playing music. Like literally zero.”

Mr. Takac says this a “super not rock ‘n’ roll answer” to young musicians’ question. He has a similarly bland answer when asked what he must have with him on the road.

“My teapot. It sounds crazy, but I need it, man,” he said, laughing. “My guitar probably makes its way in there at some point, but that stuff is generally taken care of by somebody.

“But the teapot …”

Mr. Takac said he and the Goo Goo Dolls continue making new music so that they can grow together as a band and as individual musicians.

“[We] just try to keep [making music and] try to make it be something special enough, but different enough that people stay interested,” he said of their ongoing quest to redefine their sound. “What’s the next thing that will allow us to move on and feel like we’re doing something different [and] more interesting and more varied than what we did the last time?”

When asked if he will spend any time exploring the nation’s capital next week away from the Wolf Trap stage, Mr. Takac said he attempts to get out and about in every city along the tour.

“You’ll go crazy if you spend all your time sitting in a hotel room, then backstage,” he said. “On three-month trips you gotta get some air, get some sun and see some stuff.

“I’ll probably be out and about,” Mr. Takac said. “There’s definitely a lot to see in that area.”

Goo Goo Dolls’ “Long Way Home Summer Tour” comes to the Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, Tuesday. Tickets are $40 to $75 by going to WolfTrap.org.

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