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By John Staton

Published: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 9:26 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 9:26 a.m.

Maybe it's a product of being from the working-class city of Buffalo, N.Y., but there's not much pretension surrounding Johnny Rzeznik.

While talking with him over the phone, the lead singer of power pop band The Goo Goo Dolls – who, with Collective Soul, will play a concert Thursday for the N.C. Azalea Festival – comes off as friendly and open, with a ready, often self-deprecating sense of humor and a reflective streak.

Rzeznik formed The Goo Goo Dolls with bassist Robby Takac in the 1980s. Drummer Mike Malinin joined up in the mid-1990s, when the band became a household name thanks to huge radio hits like “Name” and “Iris,” which feature moody themes and lush, memorable melodies.

During an interview last week, Rzeznik talked about getting older, feeling the pain of uncertain times and the upcoming release of the band's 10th studio album.

Hey, Johnny, thanks for taking some time.

No, it's cool. I've been doing some interviews. You're the first guy I've talked to today. There's all women out there doing this now.

Well, we'll see how long I can hang on in this female-dominated industry.

We're all hangin' on, bro, we're all hangin' on (laughs).

This is funny, I actually won a trip to L.A. to see you guys in ‘95 or ‘96.

Where was that, The Troubador?

I believe it may have been. That was right at the height of everything for you guys.

Yeah, that was insane.

You're close to selling out a 6,100-seat venue here in Wilmington and you haven't had a new record out in four years. How does it make you feel that, clearly, people still like your music even after all this time?

You know what? It feels really, really good. How can I say this? I want to say this kind of tactfully. I feels very, very liberating to know that we can go out and make a living out on the road even though the record business is kind of in the toilet.

That's one thing that's just totally changed since you started – the music business is just 100 percent different. Does that affect you as an artist at all, or does it affect the work?

No. I could sit and spin out on it, but I'm at a point in my career where, people who dig my band, if people hear the music and like it, there's always room for more people on the boat, you know? You can't really bow to the pressure of what's going on over there b/c that whole scene's in complete chaos.

Seems like you guys are getting hip to the new technology, you're on Twitter and all that. Do you have to do a little more of the work yourself these days as far as promotion?

Yeah, it's very DIY now. But it's cool, because it's one less level of convolution, you know what I mean? I kinda like it because it's more direct contact with the people who matter. Which are the people that are into your band or that will come to see a show that you're doing or whatever. In that respect it's liberating. It's not so much fun not makin' any money selling records, but it's cool. We're really, really lucky that we can go out and make a living on the road.

Speaking of records, I saw on your site where you just had a photo shoot for the new album. Is it still called ‘Something for the Rest of Us'?

Yeah, yeah.

Is there a release date on that yet?

Nah, I haven't nailed anything down yet, you know? It's coming. Today is the last day of mixing.

It seems like it's been a long road. Are you ready to get it out there? Are you over it?

Yeah, I feel like a woman who's been pregnant for 11 months. We took a long time making it because we built our own recording studio. Which I don't recommend for anybody to do (laughs). It's like, you save up some money in the bank and you want to lose it really quick, just open a recording studio. We spent months just messing around.

Are you going to be playing a lot of the new stuff on this tour?

Yeah, we're going to be doing about half the record. We'll play all the big hits, and we're digging deep back into the catalogs, back to “Boy Named Goo” era stuff.

What is the new stuff like?

Most of the material on the record seems to be addressing the kind of the angst and uncertainty of the times that we're living in, but on an emotional level. One particular song on the album is called “Not Broken.” I got a letter from a woman whose husband was in Iraq. He was injured – paralyzed – and he doesn't want to come home. He wants to stay in the hospital. He's ashamed of himself. He feels like he's less. And she just wants to let him know that he's still everything that she ever wanted. I don't know, it just kind of came out. It's kind of like I was writing a love letter to him on her behalf.

It sounds like instead of one of your fans being inspired by you, you were inspired by one of your fans.

Yeah, it's really interesting. These are really hard, trying times. And the way that affects people and their families, people losing their jobs and everything's so insecure, I just wanted to say something about that.

It seems like a lot of bands are dealing with this now across the entire musical spectrum.

Yeah, I think hard times breed a response to what's going on. At least it should. And then there's the other side of the coin, which is like complete escapism through music. I think that's where you have your Lady Gaga type deal going on, where it's like total pop escapism, I can turn this on and shut my brain off. Which is cool, it serves its purpose, it's just not my purpose.

Last year David Cook (of ‘American Idol' fame) played the Azalea Festival, and the first thing he said when I asked him about influences was Johnny Rzeznik, Goo Goo Dolls. And he's pretty young, so it's not just the 40-year-olds who are digging you guys.

It's kind of interesting to be on the other side of it. I spent the first 15 years of doing what I do talking about Paul Westerberg, you know? The guy was my hero, my biggest influence. I wanted to be him. Now it's kind of weird. Every once in a while, it makes you feel a little old when people are like, “Yeah, your band's been a big influence on me.” I'm like, “Aiee, uh, thank you.”

Better than the alternative, I guess.


Why has it been so long since the last album?

I wanted to really dig deep and there are a million songs I threw away, like, “Nah, it's not good enough. I wanna do something different. I wanna do something better, go deeper.” I also wanted to have a life with my girlfriend for a while. I owed it to her to spend some time with her and be normal and be in one place. That was kind of important. Then we started the whole boondoggle of the recording studio, which was way too expensive, but man, it was a lot of fun.

I've talked to some bands who seem like they get sick of playing their hits. How do you feel about playing all of your old songs that everyone knows?

I want to play them. It's funny, because I had a conversation with a guy I was out on tour with, and he's like (affects feminine voice), “I'm just so sick of playing those songs.” And I was just like, dude, you're lucky you have hits. If somebody's going to plunk down $50 to come and see your ass on a stage, yeah, you play your hits. You've got to stay focused. I mean, you've got to be realistic about this. We all want to go off on our tangents and be quote-unquote “artists.” And you're allowed to do that and you can reinterpret your songs to some degree. But, man, if I'm paying that kind of dough, I want to hear the hits. It was a pretty tense conversation, because he was like, “Thousands of people, they come to see me every night.” I'm like, dude, you're there for them. You owe them. There's a give and take here, because if those people don't show up, you're nothing.

Well, Johnny, that's a great note to end it on. Thanks for your time.

All right, man, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

Source: http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20100406/ARTICLES/100409795?Title=Goo-Goo-Dolls-frontman-Rzeznik-grateful-for-band-8217-s-longevity-fans
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