This week, we’re going back to May of 2002 with a Gutterflower era interview with John from Chicago!
Beyond the Goo: success Rising from the underground to pop platinum has altered the Dolls and their audience. But singer John Rzeznik will take any fan he can get.
From: Chicago Sun-Times
Date: May 28, 2002
Author: Jim DeRogatis
With 1998′s “Dizzy Up the Girl,” the Goo Goo Dolls became the rare rock band to break into the multiplatinum pop stratosphere, thanks to romantic hits such as “Iris.” But this was very different group from the one many fans had long been familiar with.
Songwriters John Rzeznik (guitar and vocals) and Robby Takac (bass) first came together in their native Buffalo, N.Y., 15 years ago. And while Rzeznik maintains that the band could not continue without that partnership intact, the emphasis has shifted dramatically in recent years from Takac’s pop-punk to Rzeznik’s lush balladry.
These days, Rzeznik is front and center in the videos with his spiked hair and black eyeliner, while Takac hovers like a shadow in the background. I spoke with Rzeznik about the changes the band has undergone prior to the start of a tour in support of the new “Gutterflower” (Warner Bros.), which brings the Goo Goo Dolls to a sold-out show at the Riviera Theatre on Wednesday.
Q. I first saw the Goo Goo Dolls at a small club in 1987. A lot of people who knew the band back then think it’s almost a completely different group today. Do you ever feel that way?
A. I see it as a logical progression, but I’m up to my eyeballs in it. There are a lot of people who came on board, obviously, after we had a couple of hits on the radio. I don’t think a lot of people really know the whole history of the band, but I don’t think they care. I think they just enjoy what we do.
Q. It’s got to be odd, having this long history and roots in the underground, now being lumped in with the “Total Request Live” pop scene.
A. I’m always grateful when we have a hit or whatever. We slammed around the country in a van for eight or nine years. It’s nice when people start to buy your records.
Q. But it’s a different kind of connection. Carrying your amps out of a club at 2 in the morning and taking time to stop and talk to fans has to be different from meeting people at “MTV’s Spring Break.”
A. It’s a little different. That’s one of the things I miss–not carrying my amp, I don’t miss doing that! That’s hard to do, and you question, “What the hell am I doing?” But you’ll have one moment that’s like really brilliant or really funny, something that keeps you doing it. It’s amazing: Those moments always come right when you think you’re gonna stop, when you’re like, “I can’t take this anymore. I haven’t slept in five days and I’m sick of driving.” It’s funny, on our last van tour, we had so much stuff packed into the van that we pinched the brake line and we had to drive with the emergency brake. I think we were coming from Chicago and going to Green Bay. We used to be driving through the desert and we’d have to keep the heater on full-blast so the van wouldn’t overheat. We used to drive to college campuses and just park the van and go find the gym so we could get a free shower.
Q. Not to romanticize that, but do you find that the depth of people’s connection with what you’re doing as a songwriter was different then, or is it just as intense now?
A. I think it’s just as intense as it was then. When somebody comes up to you and they actually want to talk about your music, that’s an amazing thing. Mostly people want to know, like, “How do you get your hair to do that? Who’s your girlfriend? Can I hang out with you guys?”
Q. Having paid your dues, does it bother you when people slag you off as a pop band?
A. They can think whatever they want. Everybody’s got their opinion, and it’s like, “Am I gonna let everyone’s opinion affect me?” No. I know who I am and I know what I do. It amazes me, because so many people in the indie-rock scene automatically assume that just because your band got popular it’s just not good anymore. I did the same thing when I was a kid with U2. I heard them on the radio and I was like, “F— those guys, they’re not good anymore!” And I was wrong. But that’s OK; I can’t dictate who my audience is, and I’m not gonna discriminate against who likes this music. I should be happy that the room is full, and it doesn’t matter who it’s full of. Those people came to see it, and that means something.
Q. Yes and no. Kurt Cobain was famously bothered by the fact that part of his mass audience would cheer when he played “Polly,” which was a horrifying song about rape. It intensely bothered him that a segment of his audience didn’t understand him.
A. It’s a dubious thing to have your dreams come true. It really is. There’s a lot of [crap] you don’t bargain for.
Q. What was the biggest difference between making “Gutterflower” and a record like 1989′s “Jed”? When you were making an album in 48 hours, you didn’t have to prove anything to anybody. But there are now corporations that are planning their spring quarter around the Goo Goo Dolls!
A. It takes some effort not to think about that. Look, I’m the first guy to know how transient this whole thing is, and I’m just grateful that I’ve been lucky enough to do it for a living. Does it bother me when somebody misinterprets what I do? Yeah, a little. But I can’t please everybody, and I don’t want to. There are people who intensely hate what I do. They hate it enough to spend time writing about it. And I’m like, “Why? Why won’t you go find a band to champion and waste the ink on them?” Because that’s difficult. It’s a hell of a lot easier to break a window than to make one.But this is all transient and fleeting. People ask you questions like, “Don’t you worry about how far you’ve come and how far you can fall?” Well, what makes you think I’m not gonna just climb down from it with some dignity and walk away and live the rest of my life?
Q. Because nobody does! The Rolling Stones are touring this summer and charging $350 a ticket.
A. That ain’t about music. They’re businessmen. That’s a huge corporation.
Q. What is a good song for you? How do you define it?
A. I can always tell when somebody is telling the truth when they’re singing or playing. When I hear that, you can hear in the lyrics or in the music the struggle that this guy or this girl had when they were writing the song. You can just hear the truth of what they’re saying. A good song is really anything you relate to. There are people who hear Britney Spears and say, “Wow, that’s such a good song.” I don’t understand it, it’s like musical wallpaper, but it matters to them.
Q. What I liked about the Goo Goo Dolls from the beginning was the fact that there was melody and songcraft, but it was delivered raw and unadorned, like the great Replacements records. The new album is called “Gutterflower,” but I think there’s a little bit too much flower and not enough gutter.
A. In the studio, on this record, we tried to use a really old board and we got an old-time rock ‘n’ roll engineer, and we used the [computerized] Pro Tools mostly as a tape recorder to do some editing. I didn’t let them fix my vocals. I just listen to a lot of records that come out now and I’m like, “What the f—?” Me and Robby and [drummer] Mike [Malinin], we always play together in the studio; we just knock out the songs with the three of us playing together, and then we add on to it. That’s why we go out and play acoustically all the time: I do want people to know that we actually are playing, we actually are a band.
Q. What does Robby do for you? He’s been with you forever. What’s the chemistry there?
A. I always say he’s the brother I never wanted! I mean, we’re friends. He throws the straight fast balls down the middle, and I throw the curve balls.
Q. But his role has changed — it seems to me that he writes less than he used to.
A. He puts the songs on the record that he wants, and that’s cool. He said to me, “Well, you write songs that become hits.” And I’m like, “That’s bull—-.” So he’ll say, “I’m gonna put these four songs on the record ’cause I really like them.” And I’m like, “That’s great! Let’s try to make these four songs the best that they can be so they all fit together.”I think Robby’s extremely necessary to lift people out of where my f—ing head is, and I think it’s that injection of that into the records and into the live show that keeps it good and balanced. If Robby said, “You know, I don’t want to do this anymore,” I would be like, “Cool, it’s done.” I wouldn’t get someone to replace him. This is our band; this is mine, this is his, and that’s the way it always will be. And when one of us gets sick of it, it will end.