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Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik expects to start his latest Canadian tour with a screech.

No, he isn't having throat problems. And no, he hasn't gone heavy metal. The singer-guitarist simply plans to cap his band's opening night in St. John's by getting Screeched In -- a local custom that involves downing a shot of the eponymous potent rum, puckering up to a codfish and answering the question 'Is ye an honorary Newfoundlander?' with the phrase 'Indeed I is me ole cock, and long may your big jib draw.'

"At first I didn't believe it was true," chuckles Rzeznik down the line from his L.A. home. "Somebody told me about it, but I thought he was just pulling my leg because I'm an American. I figured if I walked into a bar in St. John's and asked to be Screeched In, they would take me outside and beat me with a stick or something. But then I Googled it, and it actually looks like a lot of fun. So I'm ready to kiss the cod. I've never been an honorary anything in my life, so I'm looking forward to being an honorary Newfoundlander."

Of course, not every stage of their most extensive Canadian tour -- which takes the band through the frigid darkness of a prairie winter -- is that appealing. "A couple of our tech guys live in Winnipeg, and I just asked one how cold it was there and he said -20. I couldn't tell if he was just trying to scare me or not" says Rzeznik, adding "Oh, God!" after being assured that's par for the course in Winterpeg.

But it's all in a day's work for Rzeznik, who started Goo Goo Dolls 25 years ago in Buffalo, N.Y., with bassist Robby Takac (current drummer Mike Malinin joined in 1995). Along the way, they've had their ups (the No. 1 singles Iris, Name and Slide) and downs (Rzeznik has taken plenty of flak for sounding a little too much like The Replacements' Paul Westerberg). But through it all, they've slogged on, spurred by their blue-collar, midwestern work ethic. It came in handy again on their ninth studio album Something for the Rest of Us. Originally slated for release in 2009, it was pushed back several months after Rzeznik and co. decided to scrap much of the disc and start from scratch. (As opposed to starting with Screech.)

As Rzeznik steeled himself for some northern exposure, he took some time to chat about doing musical bodywork, the freedom of losing your juice and how Mick Jagger probably deals with a clogged toilet.

I mean this as a compliment, but I was surprised to see you're only 45. It seems like you've been around forever. Does if feel that way to you?

Honestly, yeah (laughs). I realized the other day that I've been doing this longer than I haven't been. Which is an odd place to be. Wow, I must be old.

A lot of people talk about songwriting as this mystical thing. You talk a lot about how much work it is.

Well, it is for me. Some guys, it just pours out of them. Me, no. I mean, there's moments of great inspiration -- you get these flashes. But then you have to sit there with the hammer and pound it into shape. It's like doing bodywork on a car. And that's a good thing.

That's what helped me get over my allegedly famous bout of writer's block a few years ago. I finally came to the conclusion there's no such thing as writer's block. It's just that you're writing a lot of songs you don't like, so you feel like you can't do it anymore. But you have to sift through the trash before you find what you're looking for. And you're putting up your own barriers and inhibitions by worrying about the outcome -- 'Is this going to be a hit? Is this cool?' You have to get rid of all that.

It seems you used the same deliberate approach in the studio on the last album.

Yeah, that was very much the case. We had to walk away from it. We had been so immersed for so long with the writing process and the recording process that we took a couple of weeks off. Then we listened to it and thought, 'No, this just isn't right. We can do better.' So we went back and stripped down the tracks -- we rerecorded some stuff and re-sang some stuff and rewrote some stuff and wrote a little more material.

But when you start second-guessing yourself like that, how do you know when to stop?

I've got people around me that can pull me away and tell me when it's done, and when it's good.

Don't they just tell you everything you do is good?

No -- they love to tell me when I suck!

Do you feel you get the respect you deserve as a songwriter?

Absolutely. People still come to see us play after 25 years. And when somebody comes up to me and says, 'I picked up the guitar because I really liked this song you wrote' or 'You really helped me through a bad time in my life,' that's people paying their respects.

And that means more than awards or hits or critical acclaim?

You can't count on that stuff. Music critics are looking for the next big thing, and that is not us anymore. And really, it's actually a relief to be in a place where those things have sort of lost their juice and I can concentrate on writing what I want to write and entertaining people and just enjoying it. The sky is not going to fall and the Earth is not going to cave in if we don't have a hit. We're here and we're fine.

After all the work you put in writing and recording, is touring the easy part? Or do you approach it with the same determination?

Yeah, we do. We always go back and listen to show tapes and tinker around with stuff, trying to make it better. After all, people are paying money to come see you play, and there's a lot of enormous talent out there. So we always play the hits. And then we introduce people to the new songs one at a time. We put a new song in and then go right into a hit, so just in case the reaction to the new song wasn't very good, you don't see it. Yeah, I'm hedging my bets.

I get the sense that you still see yourself as just a guy from Buffalo.

Oh yeah. The majority of my friends are still in Buffalo. My four sisters still live there. They help keep me grounded -- there's no illusions in Buffalo. Robby and I have our studio there, and I always go home to write because I need to be around those people. In fact, my girlfriend and I are moving back to New York, to Long Island where her family lives. I'm sick of Los Angeles.

I read that you were going to be a plumber. Have you still got the skills?

Yeah, I went to school for plumbing. I still apply the skills occasionally if I need to. I'm not going to go rough in the plumbing at my friend's house. But if I have to replace a toilet or fix a sink, I can do that. I like the fact that I'm able to take care of my home myself.

I doubt Mick Jagger replaces his own toilets.

Nah -- he just buys a new villa with a new toilet in it.

Goo Goo Dolls Canadian tour dates

Feb. 7 & 8 | St. John's | Delta Conference Centre

Feb. 9 | Grand Falls | Joe Byrne Memorial Stadium

Feb. 11 | Halifax | Rebecca Cohn

Feb. 12 | Charlottetown | Civic Centre

Feb. 14 | Saint John | Trade & Convention Centre

Feb. 16 | Montreal | Olympia

Feb. 18 | Ottawa | NAC

Feb. 20 | Windsor | Ceasers

Feb. 22 | Thunder Bay | Community Auditorium

Feb. 23 | Winnipeg | Pantages Playhouse

Feb. 25 | Regina | Casino Regina

Feb. 26 | Enoch | River Cree Casino

Feb. 28 | Calgary | Jack Singer Theatre

March 2 | Vancouver | Commodore Ballroom
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