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Mike Ragogna: Is it true that you almost finished your new album Something For The Rest Of Us in '09, but then decided to work on it a little more?

John Rzeznik: Yeah, we got the final thing and we listened to the mixes, but we kind of got the feeling that it wasn't right yet. So, we went to the record company, and they were like, "Yeah, take some more time. Make it better." So, we went back in the studio and tightened things up. We wrote another song, recorded some things, and remixed the whole album, and this is what we've got.

MR: Has the band done that with any previous albums?

JR: Not to the extent we did with this one. We really went in and tried to do the whole Bionic Man routine. We went in and worked with a couple of more producers and a different mixer. I just wanted to make a record that I thought would age well. We went back to a lot more classic guitar tones, and we really dug through old albums, listening for great sounds and trying to recapture some of those.

MR: This album reminds me of your older projects. Was that intentional?

JR: I don't think it was intentional, but I think it did kind of come out that way. I think that had a lot to do with the guy that ended up mixing the album because he mixes us live. He's our live sound guy, and we put him in the studio and let him go. I think it helps when somebody who mixes you live every night mixes your album because they know how you sound, and they put your stamp on it.

MR: That's a good point because, although it's not live, it has the energy of a live performance.

JR: Yeah. We used to go in the studio and stand in front of a big microphone, and have to stand three feet away from it. You can't move, and it's really emotionally restrictive, you know? So, I just grabbed a regular, hand-held microphone, and just sang all of my lyrics into that. I could actually kind of perform while I was doing it, and it felt really comfortable.

MR: So, essentially, you captured a true "performance."

JR: Yeah, you can throw a lot more emotion into it, you know?

MR: Yeah. Now, "Home" is your new single?

JR: Yes.

MR: And it comes with a video.

JR: I've got to be honest, man, I don't really like the video. They kind of wanted to do this sort take off on Lost In Translation, and I'm doing a hundred things, and I'm like, "Sure, okay, that's fine. Let's do it." You know, there's another video out on YouTube that the fans made. They sent in little video clips and some woman edited them together, and I think it captures a lot more emotion than the official video did.

MR: Often, fans do know what's best.

JR: They do, they always do.

MR: And they've been following you for a while. This is your ninth album, right?

JR: Yes.

MR: Now, you've had many hits and have been nominated for a few Grammys, especially for "Iris." How did you feel about that level of success?

JR: I don't know, man. I just hope that the music we put out is still relevant and relatable. We've accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, a lot of nominations.

MR: Something For The Rest Of Us also is released as a deluxe version with a digital download of "Home," a signed lithograph, and three bonus tracks--Flesh For Lulu's "Postcard From Paradise," Pete Townshend's "Rough Boys," and the Kinks' "Catch Me Now I'm Falling"?

JR: Yeah, yeah.

MR: What inspired the covers?

JR: Well, I love that Flesh For Lulu song. It's such a great song, and I was looking through the old CDs and stuff trying to download it online. Actually, I have to confess that I went to Limewire and found a copy of the original song because I couldn't find it on iTunes. So, if I ever run into the guys from Flesh For Lulu, I promise I'll give them a buck (laughs). It's just such a great pop song, and people don't write songs like that very much anymore.

MR: I remember when Pete Townshend's "Rough Boys" came out on his album Empty Glass. At the time, that was a real landmark record.

JR: Yeah, that was a big one; Robby sings that one. The Kinks' song, I couldn't believe it, I was listening to the lyrics and I was like, "Wow, this song is really relevant today."

MR: Yeah. That's one of my favorite Kinks songs. "Now I'm calling all citizens, from all over the world. This is Captain America calling. I bailed you out when you were down on your luck, so will you catch me now I'm falling..."

JR: Yeah, yeah, it just feels like we're falling. Sometimes it feels like we're falling apart.

MR: Yeah, it's hard. It just seems like an impossible task to get over the economic aftermath of a long period of, to be kind, strange decisions.

JR: Very strange decisions, and very screwed up priorities. I guess Obama's trying, I'm sure he's trying, but the right-wing attack machine is, like, in overdrive. I'm really kind of getting over politics. I have my opinions about it, but the thing that worries me is that I wonder, "What the hell has been going on in Afghanistan? What is the end game?" Why are we putting people's lives in danger? Is it really going to advance the cause of democracy or whatever? Why don't we worry about our own democracy here at home, and let people make up their own minds without having a boot put to their neck.

MR: Do we really know what the end game is in Afghanistan?

JR: Well, if you look at history, that's where empires go to die.

MR: Very interesting. You'd think we would have learned a lesson from the old Soviet Union's defeat in that region.

JR: I don't think we have. I never thought I'd say this in my life, but I think American foreign policy is definitely dictated by the privileged in this country, and the fact that we have an all volunteer army plays a very big role because I think there are corporate elitists and very wealthy people who are perfectly willing to sacrifice a poor kid's life. If there was a draft--and no matter if you were the president's son, a senator's son, or a garbage man's son, you're going--I think that would definitely rationalize our foreign policy more. It's just not fair. If your parents have money, you go to college and go to keggers. If you don't have money and you want to go to college, you go fight in the army.

There is an increasing chasm between the rich and the poor in this country. I live in Los Angeles, and I'm really starting to see pockets of third-world poverty. When I go back to Buffalo to the neighborhood I grew up in which is a working class, Polish neighborhood, it really looks like somebody has been fighting a war there, literally. The buildings are burnt out, falling down, and boarded up. I'm being really bottom line about this; we can't afford to fight these wars. It's a huge contributing factor to destroying our country.

MR: I would say they absolutely destroyed our economy, combined with a few other factors. And we had layoffs, bank and corporate bailouts...there's only so much money in the piggy bank.

JR: The funny thing about the bank bailout, which is really bizarre, is that the institutions that were too big to fail just got bigger by buying other banks and not giving anybody credit, loans, or anything. It's just like, "What are you supposed to do?" Sometimes, I really think it was Bush's last, big cash grab for his buddies.

MR: It was beyond obvious, then President Obama got stuck with the aftermath.

JR: Yeah, we definitely went through the looking glass for eight years, and I just don't get it. Now it's Obama's responsibility to get us out of it, but you just can't keep borrowing money and cutting taxes, it's wrong. You don't do that at home, you can't do that with a country. How the hell are we going to dig out of this debt? And in Iraq, we pulled out fifty thousand combat troops?

MR: I think so.

JR: But there are fifteen thousand new, private mercenaries going over there. What are we doing, are we privatizing a war? If you want to run a private war then go to the people that are going to make money off of it.

MR: Well, we did that with Blackwater.

JR: What is the world coming to when corporations start fighting wars and expect tax payers to pay for it.

MR: Well, now they're considered citizens, thank you, Supreme Court.

JR: Someone might want to think about that when they're trying to get rid of the fourteenth amendment or change it.

MR: Exactly. Now, getting back to Something For The Rest Of Us, there's been an evolution in the band's sound over your nine albums.

JR: We were a band from '86 to '95, and we were these indie darlings. Then we had our first "hit," and our manager said, "Look, don't let this go to your head. Now you have to work twice as hard. Just keep your head down and keep working." We've done that, and we just poked our heads back up and it's like, "Oh my God, it's fifteen years later." It's insane to think about it, and so much of it is just a blur.

MR: Are there any specific events that occurred where you've thought, "Oh my God, if it wasn't for that, then this wouldn't have happened"?

JR: Well, we had a really bad record deal that we had to get out of. In my opinion, it was a really bad record deal. The one thing that this band is really, really good at, is that in times of crisis, we know how to circle the wagons and stick together. We grew up in Buffalo, and there's a certain blue-collar mentality of how we live our lives and work. You've got to get up and go to work, and you keep going until the work is done.

MR: There are some acts that don't really seem to care about evolution or longevity. In fact, there are weeks when if there were no such thing as pitch correction, we wouldn't have a Top Ten.

JR: Yeah, it's kind of interesting.

MR: There seem to be two main routes to success now: Be an indie band that works the Internet and gets a huge fan base that's loyal and supportive, or let a major entity with deep promotional pockets who becomes a partner in your image and sound.

JR: I feel for these kids because, you know, they're talented, but I think one of the things with the whole American Idol deal is that they grab a hold of you and you do what they tell you. I wrote songs with David Cook for his last record, and he's talented, man. That kid can sing, he can play guitar, he knows what he wants to do, and he's constantly fighting for his identity and his right to be an artist. I respect him a lot.

MR: Me too, and you have to admire Daughtry or Josiah Lemming because they shake up the generic sound that's applied to virtually all American Idol graduates.

JR: I worked on a TV show called The Next Great American Band. We had some time off, and I needed some money, so I was like, "Sure, okay, I'll do it." It was actual bands, and the people all played and they were insanely talented. It just turned into this thing, where it was like, "Wait a minute, what about the original music?" It kind of turned into the same thing. The show got canceled, and I'm really grateful that it did because I don't want any part of this anymore. The complexion of it changed because the first couple of weeks, the bands got to play their own music. Awesome bluegrass, and crazy big band stuff, I was like, "This is really cool." Then it sort of turned into, Beatles week or Elton John week, and it started to turn me off.

MR: You're on tour right now?

JR: We're going to do a run of small towns in America, then we're going off to the U.K., then Canada, Japan, and Australia.

MR: Touring with anyone?

JR: The opening act on this run is going to be a really great band called Spill Canvas. They did part of the summer tour opening for us, and they're just a great rock band. They go out there and they don't mess around, man.

MR: As you know, in addition to being on The Huffington Post's entertainment page, this interview also will be broadcast on solar-powered KRUU-FM. What do you think about solar power?

JR: You know, I live in California, and every time I look at my electric bill I'm like, "Uh, maybe we should look into these solar panels?" I think it's amazing that you guys do that.

MR: I'm amazed that we're the only ones doing this in the Midwest and that more stations aren't jumping on it. What's wrong with that picture.

JR: I don't know. I think you guys are really kind of blazing a trail here, and you're showing that it's feasible. You guys should be really proud of yourselves.

MR: Thanks John. Do you have any advice for up-and-coming acts starting out right now?

JR: Yeah, just be yourself. Don't be afraid to be yourself. And don't worry about getting famous because that means nothing. There are a lot of really useless people in this world that are famous. Do something good, do something you're proud of, speak your mind, and do it fearlessly.

Tracks:
1. Sweetest Lie
2. As I Am
3. Home
4. Notbroken
5. One Night
6. Nothing Is Real
7. Now I Hear
8. Still Your Song
9. Something For The Rest Of Us
10. Say You're Free
11. Hey Ya
12. Soldier

(transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
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