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In 1986 Buffalo, NY, natives John Rzeznik (vocals, guitar), Robby Takac (vocals, bass), and George Tutuska (drums) came together to form the Goo Goo Dolls, a name picked from an advertisement for a toy with the same name. Originally an alternative/punk band, the Goo Goo Dolls would hit their stride when they made the migration to a more pop/rock-orientated band.  For the next three decades, they would put out nearly twenty top ten hits and sell over 10 million records.  As they enter their forth decade, their passion continues with the release of their 11th studio album, Boxes.  We had the pleasure of speaking with Rzeznik as they get set to embark on tour with Collective Soul and Tribe Society to talk about the creative process for Boxes, the history of the band, and the unsolved mystery of whether or not they presented Michael Jackson with an award.

You just released your new album, Boxes, on May 6th on Warner Brothers; can you take us through the writing process for the album and does it differ from record to record?

This record was definitely a different process than previous albums. I traveled around a little bit, went up to Seattle – I live in Los Angeles – and went to New York.  I did a lot more collaborating on this record than I’ve ever done on an album.  I really tried to find people to work with; well I worked with some old friends and worked with some people I’ve never worked with before.  It was really interesting.

Are you the primary songwriter?

Well, I collaborated with people on the songs. It would be me and Gregg Wattenberg and Derek Fuhrmann, me and Drew Pearson would write a song, or me and Robby wrote a song.  It was like this little group of people that are really creative, really talented and fun to work with.

Is that typical?

No, it was me and Robby for a long time; we would occasionally bring somebody in to polish up a song, but it was mostly us.  Then we got out to try and expand what we were doing.

The first single, “So Alive”, has a modern vibe to it; do you find influence in newer bands? If so who?

The thing about a lot of modern bands is that they sound like bands that were around when I was a teenager. It’s interesting to me how that works; everything old is new again.  It was also being in a room with a guy that’s 25 years old and listening to his perspective on music, working with someone who’s half my age and learning from them.

There is a duet with Echosmith’s Sydney Sierota on the song “Flood”; how did that come together?

We got kind of lucky on that one. She’s on the same label as we are.  We were thinking, who could we get to do it, and she was at the top of the list; she was the first call that we made.  She’s just herself; she’s exactly who she is.  Her voice is unique, and she’s got something special going on.  When she said yes we thought, this is amazing.  When we got into the studio, she stepped up to the microphone, and the first phrase that came out of her mouth, it was really obvious. The song blew up out of the speakers, it was that good.

If we go back into the history of the Goo Goo Dolls, you started off as an alternative/punk band supporting bands such as The Dead Milkmen and D.R.I. Can you take us through the transformation of the band.

(laughing) I know. I don’t really know; we just kind of grew up.  Those are bands that we liked, but I always listened to all kinds of music.  As I got older, I felt like I wanted to write something different.  My feelings and who I was as a person were changing, so my writing started changing.

When you first started out, Robby was the primary vocalist; what prompted the change?

Honestly I think it was one night I had gotten drunk enough in the studio to be brave enough to get up in front of the microphone and sing a song. Robby was all for it. It was that simple; I was hammered and said, “Let me sing this one”, and I did.  That’s how I got started singing.  Another part of the evolution of this whole mess.

Back in ’94 you fired your original drummer, George Tutuska. What happened there, and did you ever reconnect?

No we haven’t reconnected. The relationship ran its course; he wanted to do something different than Robby and me.

What’s your take on the current state of the music industry?

Wow, it’s as rigged as it ever was just in a different way. There’s a different set of criminals making the money now.  There’s obviously money there – the artists just aren’t getting it. That’s nothing new.

After all these years of doing this, do you feel like you are still getting screwed?

No, we’re lucky; are you kidding me? When I talk to young guys, I never give a young guy advice unless they ask for it.  I think it’s harder for the kids coming up now than it was for us.  The trajectory was pretty clear when we were coming up.  You write some songs, you go and record them, put a single out, make a video, you get on MTV & VH1.  Go out and tour, sell a bunch of tickets, then you make money.  Now because of the internet, streaming, and technology, it’s just so much harder to get a foothold.  The world is awash of information, there’s more music than ever, and it’s very difficult.  People don’t want to pay for what they can get for free.

It’s unfortunate.

It is unfortunate because a lot of very talented people aren’t able to make a living doing what they love, and that’s a shame. We were able to support ourselves even though we were playing in shitty bars.  Yes, Robby and I lived together for almost 10 years, but we always managed to scrape the rent together playing music.

At one point I read that you presented Michael Jackson with an award; tell us about that experience.

We did? (laughing) If we presented to Michael Jackson and don’t remember it, I had to have been pretty drunk.

Maybe it didn’t happen.

Then again it might have, and I just don’t remember it. If that’s the case I would definitely talk to a doctor.

Speaking of awards, you were inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, receiving the Hal David Starlight Award. What did that mean to you?

That was awesome, it was amazing. To me it was better than a Grammy because the writer is the most important part of the process; it’s what matters most.  Speaking in modern terminology, this is a very content-driven business, and if you don’t have content, you have no business.  Without the writer there’s nothing.

That’s a big deal considering a one point you had writer’s block, just before you wrote “Iris” correct?

Yeah. But I say this in all earnestness – there is no such thing as writer’s block.  That’s what I learned from having a bad case of writer’s block is that it just doesn’t exist; it’s a phantom.  It’s nothing but fear and ego getting in the way of doing the work that’s in front of you.

That sounds like some great advice for new bands.

Yeah there’s nothing to be afraid of, honestly. You create all the monsters under your bed; if you can’t see past that, then you’re going to freeze yourself.  That’s what I did – I froze myself.

You once played at an Obama fundraiser; any thoughts on the current Presidential election going on?

Not really, man, I’m keeping this one close to the vest.

No endorsements?

(laughing) Who gives a shit what I think?

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

Wow, who would I collaborate with? God, I don’t know, a guy like Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, or Paul Simon. I just want to sit in a room and see how these people work.  What made you write what you wrote? Not even really collaborating, just sitting and talking to them.

Any solo work?

Right now, it’s just the band.  I don’t know what’s going to happen.  I mean, the band is always going to be here.  Robby and I are probably going to wind up playing together until one of us drops dead.  Nah, I don’t have any plans to do any solo stuff.

What can fans expect on the upcoming tour with Collective Soul and Tribe Society?

Tribe Society is a new band; they’re really great. They are awesome, really, really good. Collective Soul, you know all the hits; they are a really great live band, watching them I’m like, holy shit they’re good.  I’ve seen them play and just standing there I’m thinking, damn this band is really good.

When you are off tour what are you doing?

I’ve been fixing up an old house.

Sports fan?

Ah, no. It’s funny; it’s baseball season, and I love going to baseball games, but I have no clue about any statistics or anything like that.  I love movies and documentaries about sports.  To try and follow a team I just can’t do it.  But I love going to the ballpark.

I see you’re from Buffalo, and I’m a New England Patriots fan.

Yeah, lets not get into that (laughing).

You guys are known for doing quite a bit of charity work; anything you’d like to talk about there?

This summer we are working with St. Jude’s, the children’s hospital. We are going to try and raise some good money for them and help out with a great cause.  It’s an amazing place and something that’s close to all of our hearts.

Wrapping up here, another great record, Boxes, by the Goo Goo Dolls and looking forward to you guys on tour this summer. Thanks for your time.

Thank you brother I really appreciate the conversation.
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