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Ready, Set, Goo! The Goo Goo Dolls's John Rzeznik Lets 'Er Rip On Critics, Humility, Fame--And Bush's Foreign Policy

By Vanessa Juarez | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Aug 29, 2002

He's got the scratchy voice, the gorgeous, ultrawhite teeth and the just-woken-up shag. But if you actually get past John Rzeznik's cliched rock-star exterior, you'll find he's also got a few real things to say.

THE LEAD SINGER of the Goo Goo Dolls, Rzeznik spent 10 years touring with the band before the trio broke through in 1995 with their signature ballad, "Name." A follow-up in 1998 gave listeners the lovely "Iris" and the foot-tapping "Slide." Then, with the exception of a 2001 collection of remixed songs called "What I Learned About Ego, Opinion, Art and Commerce," the band took a four-year hiatus. This summer, The Dolls toured to support their latest release, "Gutterflower." NEWSWEEK's Vanessa Juarez spoke with Rzeznik about the band's evolution, politics and the upcoming anniversary of September 11. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What would you say is the theme of your new album?

John Rzeznik: You know what? I don't know yet. I don't have enough distance from it to know. I'll figure out that later.

What have you been doing for the last four years?

I bought an old house that was all trashed, and then I fixed it up. It took about six months. I didn't hire a designer. I sort of thought it up by myself, looked at a lot of magazines. It was fun going online and finding my plumbing fixtures and having them delivered, and picking out my stove and stuff.

On your new album, what and who is the song "What a Scene" about?

I was experiencing an awful lot of culture shock living in Los Angeles. I just get really tired of all this manufactured nonsense that's going on. I just think that there's so much amazing stuff out there that's not getting the chance it deserves.

As you have evolved from a garage band, where do you find yourselves now?

I think we've just evolved into a rock band. But I don't think that we really fit into any category. All I ever wanted to be was myself, and I've been lucky that my career has lasted long enough that I could actually find out who the hell I am.

You've been together 16 years. What's the secret to longevity in the music business?

You concern yourself more with writing good music than being famous. And you ignore each other when you have to. You kind of accept the good things with a grain of salt and try to face the bad stuff with some dignity.

Your song "Slide" was really popular, but you've said that critics misinterpreted it as a love song.

That song was about two teenagers who got pregnant and they were trying to figure out if they were going to have an abortion or run away together. There were people that understood it, but I don't particularly think that a lot of music reviewers are music fans.

You don't?

Once I started selling records, I got the crap kicked out of me by the critics, but it's OK, man. It's like it doesn't affect me anymore. I know what I meant, and that's fine if they don't. If you try to please the critics, you're done, doomed, screwed. They don't know anything about the love of a piece of music.

Obviously the music's still pretty important to you.

I've spent time with rock stars, and they're a--holes, and I don't know if you can print that. I personally find most rock stars to be f--king a--holes, and I don't want to be like them. I think our upbringing and being from Buffalo [N.Y.] and constantly being reminded by our friends and our family not to turn into that has helped us.

Have you met any rock stars whom you liked from afar, but whose behavior surprised you?

Yeah, but I won't mention any names. You need to be f--king grateful for having a cool job. It's like, "What, you feel a sense of entitlement to this? Go f--k yourself." I hate to be so abrasive about it, but it pisses me off. I never feel above anybody. I don't want to. This is going to be gone, and I'm going to have to cope with living in the real world again. People are like, "Oh, you're so grounded." It's like, "No, you gotta understand man, I'm holding on to that ground like my life depends on it." I want to be a good songwriter, that's all I care about.

Certainly you've found material in the events of September 11. How did that day affect you?

It made me think a lot about home and family and friends and doing something meaningful in your life. I think that was the most profound effect that it had on me.

Any other ways?

It made me question our current government a lot. It's been awhile and there's been some distance, and I think that Bush is trying to keep everyone really, really scared. He's going to try and keep us in a war until it's time to get reelected. That's the only thing that's going to keep his approval rating up.

You're obviously not a fan of the president.

I also think about this a lot: Why aren't any of those Enron guys in jail? Because they were all Dick Cheney's buddies. And that really pisses me off. It amazes me that someone that has a $30 or $40 million contract screws everything up, destroys the company, ruins thousands of people's lives and then he walks away with 10 or 20 million bucks in his pocket, and he's not in jail. It's ridiculous.

What are your plans as we come up on the anniversary?

I'm definitely going to keep the TV off all day long, and I'm taking that day off. The media wants us to relive it as much as possible. I personally don't want anyone to forget about it because it was a pretty profound event, but people need to think about the reasons that it happened a little bit, too.

Source: http://www.newsweek.com/id/65026/page/1
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