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October 10, 2007 by Stacie Caddick-Dowty

From Goo Goo Dolls’ front man to The Next Great American Band judge? John Rzeznik knows what he is talking about and will speak his mind and bring honesty to the show. Real bands, who work together, play gigs in bars and who have been together for years, out to compete for their shot at a record deal. The Next Great American Band will make bands jump through TV hoops and play unfamiliar genres of music. They’ll be judged by Ian “Dicko” Dickson, Sheila E, and Rzeznik on all levels, including chemistry within and audience connection.

Rzeznik wishes he had someone treating him fairly when he was trying to make it, so that is what he plans to do, as long as you are not full of your own shit. Egomaniacs beware, because John isn’t buying it!

We recently talked to him regarding his new stint as a judge on this first season of The Next Great American Band, which premiers on October 19th on FOX. He’s faithful that we’ll be seeing a great selection of bands who are all worthy of a shot at the big time. These bands will be given just that, minus Simon’s vitriol.

Interviewed by: Stacie Caddick-Dowty | October 2007

So we are here talking about the show that premiers on the 19th of this month, The Next Great American Band. You are one of the judges this year. How did it come to be that you got involved with the show?

At first I said no, I didn’t want to do it. Then my manager said “Look, just take a meeting with these guys!” So I went in and spoke with them. Originally they wanted me to be the host and I was like *groan*. My manager knows how to cajole me into doing anything he wants so… *laughs* I was like, okay,fine! So we went and we talked and they asked me if I’d rather be a judge. I asked “Do I get to speak my mind? Do I get to say the truth?” They said “Absolutely, we’re not going to feed you!” and I just said “Ok, I’ll do it!” I had some time off. It’ll be fun. My band just got done with an 18 month tour and we’re not starting up until after Christmas, working on a new record.

So you had the time and the space to be able to do it!

Yeah, but it’s kind of fun to do! It was really difficult for me to say to bands “I’m sorry but you have to go!” but, now that that’s over and we are down to the 12 finalists, I feel like I can… I just want to be constructive with my criticism. Mostly give people advice about how to get better…

It must be interesting to be on the other side of everything for you.

It is pretty interesting but, I’m not going to be a music critic and slam somebody for no good reason. It’s not about my taste in music. There are great performers in ALL genres of music.

We know that this is a spin off of American Idol, were you an AI fan?

NOPE! No, I’m a guy in a band. All guys in bands hate American Idol, until they have bands on, and now everyone wants to get on THIS show.

Well we are interested because we are all about bands at theywillrockyou.com and we are excited that they are doing a band thing. There are a couple of us that work here who have been fans of the rocker guys on the show. It was more of an entertainment factor, but now that you guys are doing the bands, we are kind of excited to see what is going to happen.

You know what is amazing about it? They’re REAL bands, in hometowns, they all hang out together, they all drink beer together, and they practice in their garages. They go out and do gigs in bars. Some of these bands have been together for years! It’s cool to see a group of people working together like that. It’s not just a pretty girl who can sing with a bunch of slick studio musicians behind her. To me, what you see is what you get. There is no trickery there is nothing, it’s a big battle of the bands! That is why I was like “Cool, I’ll do it!” Maybe we’ll get a real band out of it that isn’t put together by a group of creepy marketing guys.

The premise of the show is to push bands past their comfort zone, while playing some original tunes they’re also going to be performing other genres of music they don’t necessarily have experience in.

Yeah, well you’ve got to make them jump through hoops, its TV, right?

These bands won’t carve their niche in the music world this way, so why the twist?

You know if I ran the circus, they’d play ALL original music the whole series, but I don’t. BUT, I’ve heard all their original music. They’ll get to showcase that when they get the record deal… and that is when the real trouble is going to start for them. Basically the show is going to give them a good running start but, they are going to have to go out and prove it every single night. They are going to have to make a good record. They are going to have to go out, and they are going to have to write their material, and make their record and it’s going to have to be good! Then they are going to have to go out on tour, and play in lousy clubs in front of 3-400 people.

Yeah, but those are the best shows!

Those ARE the best shows!!

I understand there were 6000 entries which were then whittled down to the top 60 hopefuls, then to the final top 12. To what extent have you been involved so far? Were you involved right from the beginning?

I’ve been involved since the top 60 bands… I got there late.

Well, that’s enough!

That’s plenty! Some of them were unbelievable! It was funny. Some of them were really good, and it was sad to see them go. Some of them had great people in them, but the band just wasn’t “there” yet. You know what I’m saying, it just didn’t gel yet.

I don’t know, I just wish I had somebody being fair to me when I was trying to make it. Instead of stupid rock critics just slamming the crap out of you because you weren’t “this” or you weren’t “that”. At least give me empirical evidence of my ‘badness’! I’ve never heard a music journalist say “The production on the album is bad!” or “The guitar tone could have been better!” “He was a little off key here!” They don’t give you constructive advice. I just had a conversation with a guy who is a music critic from my hometown newspaper, and I took him to task. I said “Why do you bother writing about things you hate? You are wasting ink, and you’re not doing anybody any good. Why don’t you champion things that you think are great?”

Not only that, how is that enjoyable?

Hey, they’re music critics, they’re ALL miserable! I just think it’s a waste of space when you’re “Don’t buy this record it’s hideous!” Its like “Fuck you! It’s your opinion!”

Well that’s just it, it’s all an opinion and hopefully people out there understand that.

The one thing that I do like about this show, this contest is that what you see is what you get, and it’s a democratic process. People are going to call in a vote for what they want to see. This is what they want to see. It might not be what I want to see, but who the hell am I?

Out of these bands that you’ve been watching, these top 12 that we’ll be seeing in a couple of weeks, is there anyone you can tell us about, or do you have to stay quiet?

I’m reserving my own judgment until I give everybody a fair looking over. I just want my role to be positive and constructive, you know? I’ve done really well for myself in the music business but I’ve taken my fair share of unjustified ass whooping. I’m not going to do that to people. AND I actually know what I’m talking about cause I’ve been doing it!

Do the three of you have specific rolls in judging? Such as performance skills, rhythm and percussion, composition, appearance and if so what is your role and the roles of the other judges?

No, no one told us anything. I don’t really care what a band LOOKS like. What I’m looking for is people that listen to each other, the play as a unit, that have a good chemistry together, and mean it! Because what they’ve got to do is make the visceral connection with the audience. That is ultimately what it is about. Connecting with your audience! If you don’t do that, you are never going to be good. You are never going to make it. I’m looking for people… this is the internet so I guess I can say what I want…

*dog barks*

Hey you have a dog!

Yeah, he’s a pain in the neck!

I have a cat and he screams all the time. He’s this big tom cat, like an alley cat. He walks in the room and he’s like Wreow! He does it all day long. People think there is a baby in the house. “Why is that baby crying!?” “Is your cat in heat?” Right? He’s just a loudmouth!! I don’t know. What the hell were we talking about?

We were talking about your role as a judge, if you were supposed to hit on certain topics…

Yeah, no… that was never defined.

You know… if Sheila E supposed to stick to rhythm and percussion?

Nobody told us “You are this guy!” or “You are this woman!” Everyone is just being themselves.

So no one is the “Simon”?

Well… Ian has a huge personality. He also has a really, really HUGE sense of humor! That condescending disdain isn’t there; it’s always matched up with a lot of humor! If he doesn’t like something he is really humorous about it. I think that is pretty cool. He’s worked with a lot of bands and he’s a no bullshit kind of dude. But, he’s really funny, which I think will be nice to see, instead of pure vitriol.

Will we be seeing guests on the show that may critique the bands during the week and might be giving them suggestions?

I don’t know…I have no idea. It’s TV who knows what can happen.

What are your expectations, what would you like to see as the end result?

I want to see someone get a shot that really deserves it! Instead of some prefabricated, manufactured artist who gets together with a bunch of slick song writers and gets over produced and over marketed. I want to see some BANDS get a chance!

So this is going to be true and real… these are real bands, these are real guys who are really trying to make it. You are out there to really give somebody a shot.

I really hope so otherwise I don’t think I’ll be coming back. I may be naïve, but I doubt it.

You know there is talk out there, people are skeptical. You’ve got “vote for the worst” and people are trying to curve the vote.

But, that’s not an element in this show! There is no what was that kids name with the Mohawk?


That’s the guy!! I was thinking Sanjay like Sanjay Gupta! When does he have office hours? He’s always on tv!!

There is nobody bad in the finalists.

So at this point whoever wins can be a great new artist.

I’m hoping so!

What besides experience and exposure, will the winning band take away from the competition?

Just a running start… then they have to prove the rest themselves! They are going to have to go out and earn it. They are going to have to connect with their audience, and if they don’t, they’ll be a footnote! What I’m looking for most? Is guys who aren’t full of their own SHIT when they are playing on stage, because I really hate that. You’ve got to have the goods to back it up. I don’t want to deal with a bunch of egomaniacs that have limited ability.

Closing comments?

I’ll give my band a shameless plug. We’ve got a greatest hits record coming out in November. Then I’ll be moving back to Buffalo, NY and record my next album there.

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