Posts tagged Kanye West
[Interview] Goo Goo Dolls Bassist Robby Takac: "Life's Good In The Bubble, Man"
Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

Robby Takac @ Beacon Theatre 10/15/2018. Photo credit: Angela Cranford/MSG Photos

After speaking with Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac the Friday before their show at Beacon Theater as part of their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl Tour, I can confirm that he is indeed Some Kind of Awesome. The music community, not just Goo Goo Dolls, are truly beyond blessed to have someone so passionate about music the way that he is. In addition to his rhythmic duties in a band whose career spans across more than three decades, he's also been running the music non-profit Music Is Art and the boutique record label Good Charamel Records for over 15 years in addition to owning the recording studio GCR Audio in his hometown of Buffalo, New York. "You know, owning a recording studio is very akin to owning a boat," Takac jokes over the phone last Friday, "You do it because you enjoy it. It's not necessarily a cash cow, that's for sure."

Some people would find keeping themselves so busy to be exhausting, especially given the extensive amount of touring that Goo Goo Dolls do (including the tour they’re currently on), but it actually has the opposite sort of effect on Takac. "All these things, Music Is Art included," he explains, "helps to exercise parts of my brain, my emotions, my creativity, that probably might have driven me crazy to not be able to exercise." 

He went on to detail the beginnings of the Goo Goo Dolls from a business standpoint, " We did everything, you know, Johnny [Rzeznik] and I did 30 years ago. Everything. We had this hilarious briefcase that we used to carry around with us like all our papers, and it was pretty much our whole world was in that briefcase." As the band became more popular obviously the briefcase became an inefficient form of handling the band's business."Little by little we let started letting go of parts," he recounted, "It took many many years, but since then we found people who did it better (...) and all these people took a little piece of what we did in the beginning and started doing a much better job of it, but that didn't mean that those things weren't still inside me, you know, clamoring to be exercised, and so I think that that's why I still keep up with all of this stuff. Because it allows me to be better at being in the Goo Goo Dolls if that makes sense at all."

Of his three side passions, Music Is Art is by far his biggest focus outside of the Goo Goo Dolls. The most admirable part about his approach to the non-profit is his acknowledgement for the need for art/music comes from personal experience. As he shared:

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

"(...) There are some people (and I was one of them) whose lives could not be shaped correctly if they weren't exposed to these things because that's just where your mind operates. Their minds don't operate in the classroom all that well. You know, they're not debate team folks. They're not gonna star on the college basketball team or even be able to dribble a ball for that matter, you know? BUT, you put a paint brush or a guitar in their hand and they realize that they can move on. So they have that. I think if you rob young people of that then you're really doing an unbelievable disservice to a huge amount of kids out there." 

To be clear, Music Is Art does incredible things for the music community. In addition to its yearly cornerstone event, the Music Is Art festival, which boasted 20 stages this year, they also organize a variety of battles of the bands both in corporate and public settings. Most importantly, they've been doing instrument drives and to date have donated a half of a million dollars worth of both new and refurbished instruments to schools and communities in the Maryvale School District in Buffalo, New York. While the organization never has an issue with finding volunteers from both musicians and the general public, even with it's rockstar affiliation they share the same struggles that arts-centered not for profits have when it comes to funding. "The hard part is actually keeping it going, you know," he admitted, "and all the realities that you have to face when you go to a lawyer or an accountant. As the festival grows bigger it becomes more and more of a responsibility."

It's not often that I get to speak with someone who has been in the business of music for as long as Takac has, so obviously the conversation drifted to technology. Like any music lover who was  actively collecting music pre-iPod, living in this new era of streaming services is the biggest change in music that has him buzzing with excitement. "(...)Coming from a guy who collected records when I was younger like that is MIND BLOWING man.(...)If you and I are talking about something I could play it for you right now just on my phone. That is MIND BLOWING. Seriously." 

He also had nice things to say about our friend The Algorithm™. He even shared that Discover Weekly had gotten him into The Heavy and Beach Slang recently. He raved, "(...) The ability for Spotify to build algorithms and like expose you to things that it's discovering that you might like, I think that's unbelievable." A kindred spirit, he too has mixed feelings about how algorithms like Discover Weekly are lessening the emotional connection that is made between people when they share music with each other. "(...)It's a little bit sad because I used to have those same experiences but I would have it with my friend Gary Sperrazza down at Apollo Records in Buffalo, or I would have it down at The Record Mine with my friend Dave, you know? It's sad that human interaction is taken from it, but I think the resources that are at hand with music is just unbelievable." 

Another big difference is obviously the way social media has shaken up the music landscape. To an extent Goo Goo Dolls were pioneers in the early age of fan interaction, dating back to the early America OnLine days. Now the band has amassed a massive online fan base, with over 3 million fans on Facebook at the time of print. When they started, fan engagement was primarily about promoting a single, album, or tour. These days Takac observed that having a digital presence has a different impact on musicians, specifically when it comes to access. "You know, we always laugh about guys like Jimmy Page, like you've got this image of Jimmy Page living in his castle somewhere, you know, like whatever," he observed, "Or this weird image of what Led Zepplin was like or all of these bands cause there was a mystique to them, but this current social atmosphere of immediacy, you can't really be that way anymore." He's also a realist when it comes to fans having their smartphones at concerts, as he noted, "It's all out there and it's all out there in unprofessional, unairbrushed, you know, like 'here's our pimples' kinda world. It's changed."

In Takac's mind the archetype for the modern day musician on social media is Kanye West. He further clarified: 

"Kanye makes some cool music but like it's not so much about that with him, you know? A little bit of it is, but it's more about everything else, you know it's about his social media. It's about his wife. It's about his wife's family. It's about their TV show. It's about his sneakers. It's about like all these things that the music is sort of in the background as something that he sort of does, you know? It's why he's such a big star, 'cause I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore... It's all this stuff, you know, that figures in now that, you know, didn't figure in when I was thinking about Jimmy Page in his castle. I never thought about any of that stuff with him. He was just that dude in Zepplin. That's what he did, you know? It's way more than that now."

I don't think the music can make you that big of a star anymore...

Things that are also very different than when Robby and Johnny started Goo Goo Dolls over thirty years ago: the two are both sober, with Robby over ten years sober and Johnny around four years sober. It's easy to assume that backstage while on tour is packed with opportunities to slip back into substance abuse, but Takac was quick to shut that fallacy down:

"It is what you make it," he said, "It's your bubble man. You're in a bubble when you're out here [on tour] but it's your bubble. Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'. You know, for a lot you get to choose what's there and what's not, you know? So we just kind of keep it sane back there, and there's not a lot of parties and that kind of stuff. Not that there's not but there's not a lot."

Like we say 'life's good in the bubble, man'.

While they've admittedly had a few decades to get heavy partying out of their system, it was refreshing to hear that there are legacy musicians that acknowledge their ability to be personally responsible for the toxicity level of their touring environment. These days Takac's number one tour essential is his teapot, which is his way to bring a piece of home with him while he's out on the extensive touring schedules with Goo Goo Dolls. "It's just you need those kinds of things to keep you warm, you know, keep you happy," he offered, "It's tough but you try to get a little bit out here." 

Make sure you catch Robby Takac with Goo Goo Dolls while they're still out on their 20th Anniversary Dizzy Up The Girl tour. I can attest that it is an energy packed night that you won't want to miss even if you're a casual fan. 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

GooGooDolls_20thAnniversaryTour_TourPoster1a.jpg
[Night Out] Wrabel @ Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2) 9/10/2014

Personal update: I'm trying to get back into the groove of going to at least two shows a week. I'm also I really exhausted from all the emails we get about bands I've never heard of and will most likely will never hear of because they're just "okay". To combat this, I've mostly been ignoring the majority of the emails that I get and just digging around the internet to find things on my own. Back in the day, I used to wander around record stores looking at album artwork and taking chances on art that I felt the most connected to and either give them a listen if they were at the listening bar or just straight up buy the album and take a chance. I found a lot of great music this way (VHS or Beta, Josh Rouse, Junior Jack, etc.). 

I started doing this again fairly recently on Rdio and Spotify for every New Music Tuesday. I just scroll around and look for things that are interesting and give them a try. It's less sexy than the thrill of buying an album and being like, "God I hope this is good," but whatever. This is how I stumbled across Wrabel (pronounnced RAY-bell, at first I thought it was rabble, lol) about a month ago. Purely judging a book by its cover, his EP, Sideways, felt familiar. I think it's because he looks like an American version of Mr. Hudson to me. Familiarity has continued to be an ongoing theme for me with Wrabel. His voice, subject matter, etc. all sounds and feels very familiar. Kind of like I've always known him. Obviously since you are reading this post he clearly was able to tick all the boxes I require to decide to keep tabs on him. 

After adding him to my extensive Twitter list to keep an eye on him, I noticed he was playing a show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2. We should get one thing clear: I love Bowery Ballroom more than anything in this world, but there's something about Rockwood Music Hall (both original and stage 2) that holds a special place in my heart. A chance to experience any artist at Rockwood is a thing you should always do, so I decided to venture solo to see how an intimate performance from this newcomer would pan out. 

First things first, this guy's voice is nothing short of solid. Dude has a very strong set of pipes that probably need little to no pitch correction in the studio or anything like that, so much respect in that sense. I soaked in every last second of him pounding away on the piano and serenading a disappointly semi-empty room sipping some white wine, a true "This Is Why I Love Rockwood" kind of moment. It must have been a weird juxtaposition for him though considering he casually mentioned at one point between songs that the night prior he performed "10 Feet Tall" alongside Afrojack at Fashion Rocks over at the Barclays Center, but he never made it feel that way in terms of his performance. Between songs he was very friendly and laid back. At one point he even joked, "My mom keeps telling me to write happy songs and I was like, 'I wrote one!'" It's refreshing for me to know that although he was fairly recently signed to Island that it hasn't gone to his head. It's a shame that that's an exception and not the standard. 

Wrabel performing at Fashion Rocks at Barclays Center, September 8, 2014. Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images North America 

As I headed home last night, I put on Sideways to refresh myself on the recorded version of what I had just heard. I started feeling the parallel with him and Mr. Hudson again like the day that I first stumbled across him. Remember before his Kayne moment with Straight No Chaser when he was Mr. Hudson and The Library and had a sound of his own that he could really dig into (a la A Tale Of Two Cities)? I worry that the direction in terms of sound that they're nudging him into is going to get him lost into the Flavor of the Week pile. It's both a blessing and a curse that his voice has moments of Chris Martin, Sam Smith, and Landon Pigg, with hints of Mat Kearney peppered throughout. It's my hope for him that Island didn't just go, "Oh crap, we need a Sam Smith! Ooo! This guy seems nice. *SIGNS*" I don't mind the synthy bits in "Sideways". I get that bassy EDM + pretty vocals on top = Ca$h Money Hoe$ right now. I guess my hope is that as he assumingly starts working on his debut full length that he doesn't allow himself to get overwhelmed by people trying to tell him to be trendy for the sake of moving units this moment. Or that if he does that he knows exactly what he's doing and plans to be in the spotlight for 4 seconds and then when he has a pile of money he just runs off and does whatever the heck he wants. 

Fact of the matter is, Wrabel is a voice your ears need to hear and I think if he plays his cards right that he will be staying around with us for awhile. 

Wrabel is on the internet in various places like Facebook, Twitter, and Soundcloud. Follow/like/add as you will. His debut EPSideways is available for purchase on iTunes if you're into that as well. 

[Watch] Check Out Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk at the VMAs

NOTE: As with much of MTV's content, most of the videos below are only available to watch in the United States.

The MTV Video Music Awards took place in Brooklyn last night, with highlights and missteps fueling a ton of Twitter banter. One of the best moments from the event had to be Kanye West's performance of "Blood on the Leaves." The chilling, live rendition was lit solely by Steve McQueen's famous photograph "Lynching Tree," a haunting visual to pair with the Yeezus track. Watch it below.

Justin Timberlake also took to the stage during the VMAs, dishing out a medley of hit singles—this included "Take Back the Night," "SexyBack," "My Love," "Cry Me A River" and "Señorita." He was then joined on stage by his former ‘N Sync mates, a reunion moment few thought would ever happen. Justin, J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick performed "Girlfriend" and "Bye Bye Bye" before Justin closed solo with "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors."

The much publicized Daft Punk VMA tease didn't end with a performance as we had hoped, but rather with a simple presenting appearance. Joined by Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, the robotic duo presented the award for Best Female Video (if you were interested, Taylor Swift won). Not exactly worth bailing out on Stephen Colbert, was it?

On the other hand, making their appearance worth it was a preview of the duo's new video for "Lose Yourself To Dance." Serving as the latest single off Random Access Memories, the song's visual treatment is similar that of "Get Lucky" albeit much more shiny. Check it out below.

[Watch] Kanye West Gets On Stage at Travis Scott's Los Angeles Show, Performs "New Slaves"

Rapper and producer Travis Scott performed at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles last night, and attendees were given one hell of a surprise. Kanye West crashed the party, appearing on stage and tearing through an impromtu performance of "New Slaves"—for those who don't know, Scott helped produce the song. Shit got crazy the moment the beat dropped, with the crowd moshing and jumping and surfing as Yeezy dished out verse after verse. Rap fans know how to throw down.

[Watch] Check Out the Official Version of Kanye West's "Black Skinhead" Video

Earlier this month, a leaked version of Kanye West's animated video for "Black Skinhead" made its way onto the web, and the rapper was pretty furious about it. Now, the official, finished version is here. It's not all that different from the leaked video—there are crisper animations and textures—but the dark, aggressive punch hits just as hard. Head over to Kanye's official website to watch the video, now with interactive features such as screen capturing and speed controls.

[Watch] Kanye West Unveils Dark Animated Video for "Black Skinhead"

Kanye West's first video for Yeezus isn't quite what I expected. The brooding clip for "Black Skinhead" shows an animated and very buff Kanye rapping in the darkness while lights flash and twisted imagery interjects. It's... interesting. Not nearly as cool as his black and white projections or the Scott Disick-starring American Psycho parody. Watch it below and let us know what you think.

UPDATE: Kanye took to Twitter to say that the video released was unfinished and leaked, and he was not happy about it:

While Yeezy was busy getting animated, former collaborator and producer Hit-Boy—he produced "Niggas In Paris" and "Clique"—has reworked Yeezus highlight "New Slaves" to his own liking. Check out the redubbed "New Chains" below with an accompanying music video.

In even more Kanye West tinkering, Nate Belasco mashed up "Black Skinhead" with Tame Impala's urgent, raucous number "Elephant." The two songs work amazingly well together, driving forward with relentless guitars and aggressive verses. Stream it below or download it here.

[News] W Magazine Interviews Kanye West

As Yeezus seeps further into the public consciousness, Kanye has begun putting himself out there, revealing intimate details through rare and selective interviews. The first was his interview with The New York Times, where he was open about moments throughout his career, his failings and also his successes. Now, the fashion magazine W has published an interview with Kanye that occurred in Paris just before Yeezus was released.

The interview revealed a Kanye that, as much as he is boastful and self-aggrandizing, understands the importance of inspiration and the effect others can have on oneself. Speaking on Paris, where he recorded Yeezus, he said, "In Paris, you’re as far as possible from the land of pleasant smiles. You can just trip on inspiration—there are so many people here who dedicate their lives to excellence."

For example, the song "I Am A God," a title that flaunts a self-absorbed mind, came about because of a major fashion designer's poor decision to attempt control, effectively dissing Yeezy:

[A] few days before Paris Fashion Week, West was informed that he'd be invited to a widely anticipated runway show only on the condition that he agree not to attend any other shows. "So the next day I went to the studio with Daft Punk, and I wrote 'I Am a God,'" West says. "Cause it’s like, Yo! Nobody can tell me where I can and can’t go. Man, I’m the No. 1 living and breathing rock star. I am Axl Rose; I am Jim Morrison; I am Jimi Hendrix." West is not smiling as he says this, and his voice is getting louder with each sentence. "You can’t say that you love music and then say that Kanye West can’t come to your show! To even think they could tell me where I could and couldn’t go is just ludicrous. It's blasphemous—to rock 'n' roll, and to music.""

He went on to reason why he chose the title "I Am A God": "I made that song because I am a god. I don’t think there’s much more explanation. I'm not going to sit here and defend shit. That shit is rock 'n' roll, man. That shit is rap music. I am a god. Now what?"

Kanye even embraced the shortcomings of his opinionated voice, understanding that his way of expressing that opinion doesn't always work the way he wants it to: "God's little practical joke on me—as an intellect who doesn't like to read a lot—is like, I'll say some superphilosophical shit, but I'll say it the wrong way. I'll use the wrong word, so it goes from being really special to completely retarded."

You can read the entire interview here.

[Download] Check Out a Free Mixtape Featuring the Samples from Kanye West's 'Yeezus'

For those who haven't heard Kanye West's new album Yeezus, stop what you're doing right now and listen to it. Yeah, you might hate, or you might love it. Either way, it's a definitive moment in his career, an anti-pop album from a very mainstream artist. Amidst all the craziness that is Yeezus are a slew of samples, from TNGHT to Snoop Dogg to Marilyn Manson and many more. The folks at Babylon Cartel have been kind enough to compile every song Yeezy sampled into a free 55-minute mixtape. Stream or download it below.

To all the unaware people out there, Kanye's Yeezus officially released today.

Yeezus: The Samples:
01. Intro ( Prod By Gianni Lee )
02. Holy Name of Mary Choral Family – He’ll Give Us What We Really Need (On Sight)
03. Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People (Black Skinhead)
04. Capleton – Forward Inna Dem Clothes (I Am A God)
05. Omega, Omega – Gyöngyhajú lány (New Slaves)
06. Rahul Dev Burman, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey – Are Zindagi Hai Khel (I Am A God)
07. Kenny Lattimore – Lately (I’m In It)
08. Nina Simone – Strange Fruit (Blood On The Leaves)
09. TNGHT – R U Ready (Blood On The Leaves)
10. Snoop Dogg – Down 4 My N’s – (Blood On The Leaves)
11. Lords Of The Underground – Chief Rocka (Guilt Trip)
12. Pusha T ft Popcann Travis Scott – Blocka (Guilt Trip)
13. Beenie Man – Memories (Send It Up)
14. Wee – Aeroplane (Reprise) (Bound 2)
16. Ponderosa Twins Plus One – Bound (Bound 2)
16. Brenda Lee – Sweet Nothin (Bound 2)