Category: Articles 2012

’90s indie punk rockers Goo Goo Dolls morphed into mainstream

June 15, 2012
by Holly Leber

Robby Takac, bass guitar player for the Goo Goo Dolls, said his only memory of visiting Chattanooga is playing “Chattanooga Choo Choo” on the tour bus. Perhaps this time around, he’ll leave with a more indelible impression.

The band plays the Coca-Cola Stage tonight at Riverbend.

Formed in 1986 in Buffalo, N.Y., as an antidote to hair-band pop culture, the Goo Goo Dolls have evolved from angry young men who wanted to make some music and get a few free beers to Grammy-nominated, Billboard chart-topping superstars.

“We grew up with AM radio, and when we got a little older, we started listening to indie punk-rock music,” Takac said.

“I think we saw an honesty in that genre and in the underground music that we thought was stripped out of the mainstream of rock music at that point,” Takac said of the band’s roots. “We were just doing what we were doing, and somewhere along the way that genre of music began to have a chance in commercial venues.”

Their style, he said, “aligned with what folks were looking to put on the radio in the mid-90s.”

The year 1995 saw the release of “A Boy Named Goo,” and the group’s first major hit, “Name.”

Three years later, lead singer Johnny Rzeznik wrote “Iris” for the movie “City of Angels.” Later released on the band’s album, “Dizzy Up the Girl,” the song topped the Billboard pop and alternative song charts, and was No. 9 on the Hot 100 in 1998.

When the group started to become more mainstream, Takac said, band members had to figure out where opportunity met desire.

“The struggles come when opportunities come about for things that you perhaps wouldn’t have rushed to do on your own,” he said.

Things like having their songs on TV or performing on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I remember there was a big deal when I was a kid about the Doors’ song, “Light My Fire” in a car commercial. It was a huge deal. The fans rose up.”

The opportunities, he said, made more sense as they came along, and as the band members got older. So, too, did the sound change.

“I think it just moves on to the next phase from the last time,” Takac said. “People’s lives morph into different places, and you try to take all that into account.”

The influences, he said, can evolve as well. As young men, they looked to bands such as Kiss, Cheap Trick and The Replacements as idols. Now, they are more enamored of artists with longevity, including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and U2.

“After being around for a long time, you tend to look at bands who have been around for a while and ask yourself how they managed this,” Takac said.

When they began, they were in their early 20s. Takac is now based in Buffalo with his wife and new baby. The Goo Goo Dolls recorded their last album there.

“My family is here, so it’s nice to be back,” he said.

The group, he said, is soon to begin work on a new album.

As a new generation begins within the band, Takac, Rzeznik and drummer Mike Malinin are looking forward to playing to a multigenerational audience tonight at Riverbend.

“One of the lucky things we have is that we’re a band that’s been around for a while, but we weren’t putting out songs back in the ’60s that are archaic to young people,” Takac said. “Most young people who hear ‘Iris’ will say ‘I know that song, my mom used to listen to that song.’ It still has a place like the Stones did for me. They were slightly ahead of my time but something I could still appreciate.”

Interview with Johnny Rzeznik

by Ed Masley– Jan. 26, 2012 03:57 PM

The Goo Goo Dolls turned 25 last year, an anniversary they marked by sending the ballad “All That You Are” up the charts on Adult Top 40 stations.

Now, they’re headed to Phoenix to rock the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the Coors Light Birds Nest party tent.

A week before the gig, lead singer Johnny Rzeznik checked in from Los Angeles, outside the building he’s been using as a writing space, to talk about that anniversary, their latest album, “Something for the Rest of Us” and how Buffalo’s Goo Goo Dolls managed to grow from a trio of scrappy young Replacements fans into the singers of such sensitive ballads as “Iris” and “Name.”

Question: You’re writing new material? It’s only been, like, a year and a half since “Something for the Rest of Us.”

Answer: I want to try to get this one going and out. It’s an interesting approach where you actually come to work every day and work seven, eight hours a day.

Q: I thought I read that you had moved back East.

A: I did. But I have a little writing studio here. So I came out for a week, just to meet up with friends. And Mike (Malinin), the drummer, is still living out here. So we’ll get together and play for a few hours.

Q: Last year was the 25-year anniversary of the Goo Goo Dolls. How did it feel to turn that corner?

A: (Laughs) It made me realize that I’ve been in this band longer than I haven’t been. That was part of the idea of getting the record out as fast as possible because I don’t want to be 50 and put a record out.

Q: But you probably will put a record out in your 50s.

A: If anybody wants to hear it, yeah.

Q: People wanted to hear the last one.

A: That was a very arduous process.

Q: What was arduous?

A: We just made a lot of mistakes that we had never really made before, a couple poor decisions about where we were gonna record and what we were trying to do. I’m not putting anybody down, but I don’t think we had the right producer at the beginning of the project. He’s a great producer. Don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think we clicked very well.

Q: So what were you trying to do?

A: I really wanted to write an album that was sort of coming at what was going on socially at the time, but from a very personal perspective. I’d see people who had just lost their jobs or lost their homes and how that affects them emotionally. That’s what I wanted to speak to but I think it might have been a little esoteric.

Q: Who are the rest of us in the title?

A: “Something for the Rest of Us” means something for everybody who’s not a one-percenter or super hip and cool — just average, normal, everyday people.

Q: Do you think that’s kind of the Goo Goo Dolls audience at this point?

A: I think we’ve always been, for lack of a better term, a more sort of blue-collar band than a lot of people. Our roots are from a blue-collar town and a blue-collar upbringing so that obviously affects what you do artistically or musically.

Q: But when you guys first started, you were playing punk clubs.

A: Yeah, we were kids, you know? Just bashing out three-chord, cut-time songs, having a good time. We never thought we’d do anything. We figured we’d play for a couple years, finish college and then move on with our lives. And somewhere along the line, we decided that there was a way to really kind of write cool songs.

Q: Do you think you came away from the punk years with any of that sensibility intact?

A: If you listen to bands like Husker Du or the Replacements, which were two of my hugest influences obviously, even the Clash, you have to evolve if you’re gonna survive. And it has to be a natural sort of evolution as you grow as a human being. I don’t want to pretend to be 22 anymore. And playing music like that, it just doesn’t excite me. I wanted to grow as a songwriter. I want to do that every time I sit down with a guitar.

Q: Were you surprised when you started having a lot of your success with ballads at Adult Top 40 stations?

A: I was a little surprised by that. But that’s what I seem to do best is write ballads.

Q: You’ve had a lot of songs in movie soundtracks. Are there songs you’ve written for specific scenes?

A: Yeah. I mean, “Iris” was written for a particular scene in a movie. I enjoy that, a lot, because the subject matter is right in front of you and you can kind of tinker with it. OK, if I were this person, what would I be thinking and feeling right now? What’s the message I’m trying to get across? It’s kind of fun to play a role, almost like acting a little. Not that I would ever want to be an actor.

Q: I was just about to ask that.

A: I tried it once. They wanted me to be in this movie called “The Shipping News.” I was like, “I’m not an actor.” And they were like, “Just go to the audition.” So I did. They put the camera in front of me, I started reading and I was just like, “I can’t do this.”

Q: Don’t you have to act to some extent when you make videos?

A: No, you’ve just gotta stand there and pretend you’re singing (laughs), pretend you’re rocking out to your own song.