A Goo Goo Comes Home: Mining The 'Underbelly' Of His Local Rock Scene

After 20-plus years living life as a Goo Goo Doll, you start to believe there's a magic "record fairy" that takes your hard work and gets it into the stores and onto the radio and sends you a plaque f

Robby Takac is bassist for the Goo Goo Dolls and owner of Good Charamel Records.

After 20-plus years living life as a Goo Goo Doll, you start to believe there's a magic "record fairy" that takes your hard work and gets it into the stores and onto the radio and sends you a plaque for your bathroom wall. That was not always the case.

As many know, the first portion of the Goo Goo Dolls' career was peppered with borrowed recording studios, dirty vans, college and club gigs and waiting in record company and radio station lobbies to catch the attention of evasive executives.

Then there was "Name," our multiformat hit single. Things changed in Goo Goo Dolls Land around 1995. And, by the grace of God, some good songs and some hard work, during the past 10 years we've grown accustomed to having a finely tuned (although mildly dysfunctional) army of thousands behind us. Not a bad place to be.

In 2001, I opened a studio in my hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. This was the beginning of a re-enlightenment of sorts for me. The three-room complex led to my involvement in what I discovered is a still-rich music scene.

Buffalo has seen its share of economic despair and weather disasters, been crowned official representative of Super Bowl losers and, to top it all off, our crown prince, O.J. Simpson-well, you remember that. Needless to say, a couple of decades like that leaves a city with a bit of an inferiority complex.

During the studio's ramp-up, we would go out for some after-construction drinks and then head to the clubs. I found myself chatting with old and new friends in the ever-changing local music armies and came away from the experience feeling like there was still a flourishing scene throbbing in the underbelly of Buffalo indie rock. These conversations and the shows that accompanied them led me to consider releasing some records from the town that sprung me.

After some serious consideration and one amazing demo of a track called "Irish" by a local kid named TJ Zindle, I decided to throw my hat into the ring and produce/engineer and release some quality Western New York music for all to enjoy. Enter the 2003 formation of Good Charamel Records and the signing of three Buffalo bands: Last Conservative (which features Zindle), the Juliet Dagger and Klear.

In an age when technology allows us to promote, distribute and nurture acts through the Web as well as financially intelligent traditional avenues, it seems crazy not to give it a shot. Good Charamel opened a small office in Buffalo to deal with the bands directly. I brought on Gregg Bell of Kataphonic Records to help out in Los Angeles, and then I headed back to New York state to begin the process of recording three records simultaneously between my studios in Los Angeles and in Buffalo.

All the art and graphics for the first Good Charamel releases were handled by my wife, Miyoko, with the help of artist/photographers Wendy Marvel and Bob Mussell and Grammy Award-winning designer Brian Grunert. Oarfin Distribution out of Minnesota handles the distribution.

Still, we needed to address our relationships with the groups: All of Good Charamel's deals are partnerships after expenses. It only seemed fair after all these years of telephone book-sized record deals.

I'm part of a team with these folks now; we're in it together. I invest my time and effort, and I ask them to do the same equally. (Maybe the Internal Revenue Service should look into this concept.) The recording budgets for our projects are a bit more flexible, since I'm studio owner. We did each record for between $17,000 and $35,000-Buffalo's not an expensive place to be, folks.

We've hired some indies to work the songs to radio: AAM and Planetary Group for college promo and Could Be Wild and FMQB for commercial. We're not looking to take down the giants, just looking for some folks to hear our stuff.

Before signing these groups, I had to make sure they had the desire to get out there and make it work. A lot of the Goo Goo Dolls' success through the years can be directly attributed to shaking hands and kissing babies before and after the shows. We discussed this concept at length with the bands. We'll have these guys out touring through 2005.

The bands have played a successful showcase at the Whiskey in Los Angeles, prompting more interest from labels and sparking a growing industry-wide focus. Our goal is to advance in any manner that comes along: maybe to get one or all of our bands signed to a major or, preferably, to get an imprint deal or a distribution deal with one of the big boys. Either way, we'll be making the rock.

It really is great seeing these bands come to bloom, with the memories of past van tours and the commando tactics from the GGDs' early days. I'm excited for the bands and have faith that they will be out there swinging for me.

Keeping in mind the rich legacies of Twintone, Homestead and so many other labels, here we are with a staff of near-volunteers who believe in this process and have faith in its growth.