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Interview with Robby from buffaBLOG
« on: May 20th, 2011, 12:55pm »
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Interview: Robby Takac
This July be on the lookout for a new album from Shonen Knife. This album is a throwback to the punk band’s beginnings as a Ramones cover band. The album (tentatively) will be named after their original band name, Osaka Ramones.
The idea for this latest album came about when Shonen Knife mentioned that they started playing because they loved the music of The Ramones to Robby Takac, bassist of The Goo Goo Dolls and founder of Good Charamel Records, a Buffalo-based label. He suggested that they should do an album of Ramones covers, and Shonen Knife heartily agreed. Half of the album was recorded in the label’s Buffalo studio near Allentown, then Shonen Knife recorded the remainder of the album in their hometown, Osaka, Japan. The rest of the tracks were recently sent to Good Charamel, who will have it mastered and ready for release this summer.
Good Charamel has a strong connection to Japanese rock groups. The label represents many bands from Japan and will also release a documentary “Live From Tokyo” about the underground rock scene there this July as well. Currently in town before The Goo Goo Dolls go on tour this summer, Takac sat down with Buffablog in the main studio of Good Charamel to tell the interesting story of how his label began and how he came to be involved with “J-Rock."
Buffablog: How did you meet Shonen Knife?
Takac: Naoko from Shonen Knife did a project with Juliet Dagger, just for fun. We really just lucked into it. Shonen Knife happened to be looking for representation at the time. They’ve been a band almost 30 years, and been managed in just about every kind of scenario…firms, brother in laws…My wife Miyoko had never managed a band before and I’d never signed an international act. They just want someone they trust around. We really have their best interests in mind...when the driver I hired for their last tour wasn't doing his job, I just went out and drove them myself for a month.  
Buffablog: Looking at the list of bands on Good Charamel, it seems like you’re focused on Japanese music.
Takac: Yeah, we are pretty much focused on Japanese music. We’ve fallen into a weird little place I guess being a label from Buffalo and doing this. But I guess fate takes care of it, like I said we lucked into it. It’s not as though we go out searching.
Buffablog: How long have you been in this studio?
Takac: I owned a studio down the street from this one, and it was vacant. I came into ownership and fixed it up. I’d say we’ve been in it from 2007. We got John Stork to come back. He built this studio originally.  It was originally called “Trackmaster” and I was an intern here actually in 1983. He built studios in the late 1970s and 1980s, one was for Jimi Hendrix.  
Buffablog: Have The Goo Goo Dolls recorded here?
Takac: Yes, we made our last album here and we finished the vocals in LA. We rebuilt the studio for a band to make a record in this day and age. It’s different than a lot of older studios out there. It’s a true facility. We can make whatever sound someone could want. For example, the walls in this studio open and close, so you can create a live sound or something quieter. We’ve done country acts here, hip hop…we’ve had everyone from little local bands and high school kids to B.o.B to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. It’s not just one kind of artist that can come here. It can be a hard town to have a recording studio. These days you can go into your room and record and it will come out all right. Tons of great records are made that way. But our studio has resources…guys who know how to EQ a guitar and use a microphone.
Buffablog: Why did you decide to have a recording studio in Buffalo?
Takac: It happens to exist because The Goo Goo Dolls decided to make a record here. It’s really a lucky series of events to have it here. We could have given it to some studio in L.A., but having a record label in Buffalo is a huge advantage.
Buffablog: How did you get involved with the documentary, Live From Tokyo?
Takac: Someone sent me a link about it, I guess because they knew I was doing all this stuff with J-Rock already. Lewis Rapkin recorded it over a three year period there, and was looking for someone to release it. It’s really well done, the DP who did the work on it is very professional.  These filmmakers are real go-getters.  I wanted to work with them because just in general, I’ve got an incredible amount of respect for people who work hard at what they have…just like Shonen Knife, maybe they’re not huge, but they know what they have and know there is that group of people who will come out and see them and I really respect that. They’re not angry they’re not Pearl Jam or something…I’ve worked with people like that before and… [shakes his head].  
Buffablog: What’s it like to be working with film now?
Takac: I’ve found releasing a film is really no different than an album. Good Charamel did a film before with Shonen Knife, we filmed their show at Mohawk Place. You can find it on our website actually. We’ll put up the trailer for Live From Tokyo on our website too, but they’ve got their own website and everything too. [www.livefromtokyo.net]
Buffablog: Have they shown the film yet anywhere?
Takac: They’ve had screenings at Asia Society in New York City…in D.C., at Princeton. I’m working right now on finding an agent to get more screenings.
Buffablog: And you mentioned that a portion of Live From Tokyo’s sales are going to earthquake relief in Japan right?
Takac: Yup, part of the proceeds are going to Red Cross Relief.
Buffablog: Have any of your bands been affected by the earthquakes in Japan? Is everything okay?
Takac: One of the bands was in Sendai, they were doing a show there and booked for that night. They were stranded for days. A friend drove them gas from Tokyo. The rest of the bands were okay.
Buffablog: Glad to hear that. Well what is up next for you? You have a tour coming up right?
Takac: Yup, Goo Goo Dolls are going on a summer tour with Michelle Branch and Parachute, I think that’s starting July 4th weekend. I’m almost never in town actually.  It’s nice to have a few months like this, I just moved back here, to South Buffalo, after living in L.A. for 14 years. Anyway we’re gone all the time and sitting in a bus or at hotels…I’m not complaining! But like I said, it’s nice to do things like…I don’t know…like tossing kibble to my 27lb cat.
Buffablog: Your cat is 27 pounds?!
Takac: Yeah, I took him to get de-wormed and they told me I had to make him move more, so they suggested throwing his food to make him move.
Buffablog: Can I include that in this interview?
Takac: Yes, all that important stuff. [laughs]
Check out more bands and information on Good Charamel’s website www.goodcharamel.com.  If you need somewhere to start exploring J-Rock and Good Charamel, I highly recommend MOLICE. Here’s a link to their music video for their catchy tune "Romancer" (a song also available on the excellent "I Heart J-Rock" compilation CD from Good Charamel)
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