Author: absolu90bg

Tulsa World: Coming attractions: Of course this movie didn’t scare Goo Goo Dolls away from Oklahoma

The Goo Goo dolls have contributed songs to many soundtracks, including the soundtrack of a filmed-in-Oklahoma movie. The wicked weather depicted in that movie (“Twister”) did not make the band want to avoid Oklahoma. Proof: The Goo Goo Dolls are performing Oct. 29 at the Brady Theater.

“We braved a couple of tornadoes in the past,” bassist Robby Takac said during a phone interview. “We have seen them on the horizon. It’s crazy when that happens. You are driving in a bus and you can see them in the distance.”

The Goo Goo Dolls’ song on the “Twister” soundtrack was “Long Way Down.” Takac recalled that the song is heard only briefly in the film.

“I believe we were on a truck radio as someone was pulling into a gas station or something,” he said.

“We did do a video for the movie, though, and the director put us on this turntable, this huge turntable, and turned us in circles for like nine hours. About 45 minutes into the shoot, we were like why didn’t you just (rotate the cameras?) It probably would have been a little bit easier, you know?”

How did the guys in the band keep from getting motion sickness during the video shoot?

“We didn’t keep from it,” Takac said. “We had to stop like every 15 minutes and take a break because everybody was getting vertigo. It was crazy.”

If only there had been some kind of miracle pill for the occasion.

Fast forward to the present, and the Goo Goo Dolls’ new album is “Miracle Pill.” Released in September, it’s the 12th studio album for a group that has sold more than 12 million albums.

“We’re pretty happy to have some new music to go out and play for people,” Takac said, indicating that material from the new album was received positively during a summer tour with Train and during a recent South America trek with Bon Jovi.

If it sounds like the Goo Goo Dolls are still on the “go go,” that’s because it’s true.

“I’ll tell you, man. When you’ve been making records for a few decades and you are seeing people are still interested, your heart won’t let you stop,” Takac said.

“We are dudes from Buffalo. We took every opportunity possible our entire career because you never think anything is going to amount to anything, so that’s just how we were brought up. We still have sort of got that mentality. Right now the record is doing pretty well. It is getting on the radio. We had a great tour this summer. … It’s pretty exciting to see this happening after all this time. A lot of bands are winding down and figuring out how to get their butts into the casino circuit at this point. For us, it really seems like there are still some mountains to climb, so we are out doing it.”

Formed in 1986, the Goo Goo Dolls were initially a punk band. Takac said punk rock was pretty much dead and buried by the time the band got its start, but the Goo Goo Dolls rose from the ashes and evolved into a group that earned heavy airplay on “regular” and alternative stations in the 1990s.

“We just felt that we could play harder and faster and louder than anyone else in town and still have songs, still have a melody that you could follow,” Takac said.

“That’s what we were born from. Most bands don’t get a chance to see what they grow into after a few decades and we have been lucky enough to be able to live that out a little bit and see ourselves develop as people and see music change and resources change and the industry change and most importantly our lives change as people. I think the albums kind of follow that trajectory probably.”

“A Boy Named Goo” from 1995 was the group’s first multi-platinum album. The song from the “Twister” soundtrack was on it. But the big track from that album was “Name,” which went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in addition to topping the alternative chart.

“Everybody knew that song, but I don’t think everybody knew who did it really, especially because for the most part we were still a pretty heavy band back then,” Takac said.

But music listeners couldn’t help but know who the Goo Goo Dolls were after a song for another movie soundtrack exploded. Johnny Rzeznik wrote “Iris” for the film “City of Angels” and it was included on a Goo Goo Dolls album (“Dizzy Up the Girl”) while the song was booming. The album went four times platinum.

“I would say the way that all happened was beyond belief,” Takac said. “It all just kind of lined up.”

“Iris” trivia: “If you watch the movie, that version of the song is not even in the movie,” Takac said, indicating that it was rejected by the movie folks in favor of an acoustic version by Rzeznik.

Meanwhile, the version you’re familiar with wound up on the soundtrack and, in 2012, was ranked No. 1 on a Billboard list of top 100 pop songs from 1992-2012. The list ranked songs from the first 20 years of the Mainstream Top 40/Pop Songs chart.

It was weird, said Takac, that the song was initially deemed not good enough and then it became the biggest song of the Goo Goo Dolls’ career.

“It’s like our ‘Dark Side of the Moon,’” he said.

The phone interview ended with Takac saying this about the Goo Goo Dolls’ upcoming show in Tulsa: “One of the great things about our musical situation these days is the streaming services are all out there and we are finding that people are knowing the songs when we show up. You release a single and they know it that night. It’s pretty amazing. So please come ready to sing. It’s way more fun when everybody is singing.”

Tulsa World



Goo Goo Dolls Evolve with “Miracle Pill”


In light of today’s divisive political and social climate, it is very refreshing to hear the music of a new album from some old faces that can bring people together. The Goo Goo Dolls are certainly no strangers to reminding people that music is indeed what molds us — as human beings — into one unified people. It seems as if their new album, “Miracle Pill,” came out just in time to allow their fans and other listeners to escape the troubles we face today by reflecting upon the beauty and complexity of love, life and death. The album features 11 tracks that flow well together, along with three singles.

In the album’s first track (the third single), “Indestructible”, John Rzeznik and company introduce a very uplifting song about two young lovers who feel — as the title suggests — invincible together after having felt broken alone. Next, the band digs into more pop beats with the songs “Fearless” and “Miracle Pill.” Though the chorus of “Fearless” sounds light, and the song is about someone who doesn’t give up on life and fights to find happiness, the lyrics have deep meaning. The words from verse two, for example, “I can’t be myself if I’m hiding / And if I’m not living, I’m dying / I can’t feel / What I don’t know” sound very depressing and troubling. I found the title track to be, perhaps, the best in the album, because it deals with very relevant issues. It represents America’s drug epidemic — concerning opioids and Adderall — and the causes of addiction. The song sounds uplifting at first, but becomes more unsettling and even disturbing when you think about the real word significance.

The two tracks “Money, Fame, & Fortune” and “Lost” effectively mix the classic Goo Goo Dolls sound from older tracks like “Name” with the new pop touch of “Miracle Pill.” They illustrate the band’s evolution.

But this album is not perfect, or even groundbreaking. The two songs with bassist Robby Takac on main vocals are easily forgettable. They don’t offer much besides Takac’s raspy voice that may haunt you after you’re done listening. The song “Lights” is another breakup/love song that contains more generic pop than usual. I can’t help but think that the order of the final two tracks should be switched. Ending the album with “Think it Over” leaves a sort of bland musical taste that easily misses the distinct sound and flavor usually found in Goo Goo Doll’s songs. It is potentially the worst song on the entire record. Instead, the album should have ended with the ballad “Autumn Leaves,” which sucks the joy right out of you in the most elegant way. Certain lyrics like“ Life is change / We move on / And where you go I hope the summer goes along / So I wait / And I wait yeah” conjure feelings of loss someone and recovery. It really leaves the listener in deep thought.

“Over You” is the most familiar-sounding song on the album. From the guitar intro to the lyrics to the beat, it is very reminiscent of timeless hits like “Black Balloon” or “Iris” that propelled the band to stardom in the ’90s. Superb lyrics include “Haven’t seen the sun in days / Oh did you take it away with you / Might have gone our separate ways / But every night brings me back to you” and, “There’s only one truth / There’s only one you / There’s no way out / There’s just no over you.”

This splendid anthem describes a lost love and inability to get over it.

All in all, this album is really well-done. Even with a few hiccups, it still paints a great picture of the Goo Goo Dolls for the modern era and for future years to come.

Album: “Miracle Pill”

Artist: The Goo Goo Dolls

Label: Warner Records

Favorite Tracks: “Over You,” “Miracle Pill,” “Autumn Leaves”

If You Like: Alternative Rock

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5


Goo Goo Dolls Evolve with “Miracle Pill” Interview: Goo Goo Dolls’ Johnny Rzeznik

“Iris” hitmakers the Goo Goo Dolls are survivors – quite literally. As well as walking away from an Italian plane crash in 1999, the Buffalo, New York group also survived a number of perilous van smashes in the band’s early days. Frontman Johnny Rzeznik admits jack-knifed wrecks aren’t the only perils facing your average rock star: unhinged fans practising witchcraft are just as dangerous.

“We’ve had a few run-ins with mentally unstable fans and it’s a little bit scary,” Rzeznik explains. “I had to get a restraining order after someone broke into my house. They broke in through the gate and did some crazy ritualistic shit in my backyard. I found these candles burning and this weird little altar and a box of strange objects. I was like, ‘Okay, this is not going to happen’ and I had to get lawyers involved.”

Did you have to move?

“No, I didn’t have to move… but I did!” Rzeznik laughs. “There are a lot of sick people in the world and a few of them happen to gravitate towards me. That’s part of the deal though: I decided I was going to be a musician out in public and say things, so sometimes you have to deal with unfortunate circumstances. Thankfully it all worked out.”

Some 21 years since “Iris” topped the Australian singles chart and parent album Dizzy Up The Girl went platinum, the Goo Goo Dolls’ new album Miracle Pill is an expertly executed wolf in sheep’s clothing. While the catchy melodies and pop production give the songs a joyous spirit, Rzeznik’s lyrics are a dark assessment of modern times. Behind the big choruses lurk communiques on prescription medication, the emptiness of the social media sphere and the vicious political climate.

“Politics in America is just shit,” Rzeznik sighs. “Politicians would contact us to raise money for them, but I got to the point during the last election where I was just like, ‘Nah, it’s not going to happen’, because the entire system is broken on both sides. The Democrats are as bad off as the Republicans. We are living in really scary, tenuous times. In America now, discussing your political opinion can actually be really dangerous, which is bizarre. I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and I’ll always be pro-union because I grew up in a blue collar family and that’s what we were. That hasn’t changed about me, but if you mention, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could go and see a doctor?’ suddenly you’re branded a socialist who’s ruining the country. Forget it, I don’t need that shit.

“I think everyone in our country is just fatigued and slightly shocked,” Rzeznik laughs wearily. “There’s an epidemic of gun violence and it’s sad. We have the potential to be so great, yet we shit all over each other.”

Rzeznik identifies the September 11 terrorist attacks as the point when the United States descended into a bleak phase of history. Eighteen years ago this week, the Goo Goo Dolls frontman joined Limp Bizkit on stage for a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” at the America: A Tribute To Heroes charity event in the wake of the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks. He recalls going into the recording of the one-off collaboration in a state of numbness.

“Oh, I just felt this whole empty feeling,” he says. “I was saying to myself, nothing is ever going to be the same. I truly felt that. I felt we were about to head into a very crazy time that we’d never experienced. That was the real push for the surveillance state. I realise we need to be safe, but we’ve given up a lot of our rights and civil liberties in the name of security. It breaks my heart, because since 9/11 Americans have been sort of traumatised. It culminates in the last election and people are going, ‘What the fuck is going on?’. It’s better to just lay back and do what I’m good at, which is play music and be part of people’s lives, if only in a small way.”

Taylor Swift is one of the Goo Goo Dolls’ many fans who have been inspired by the band’s music. Introducing Rzeznik in front of her sold-out Madison Square Garden audience in 2011, Swift stated, “In my opinion one of the greatest songs ever written is a song called “Iris””.

“Well I don’t know if she was inspired by it, but all I know is that I got to play with her at Madison Square Garden and she was very smart and very nice to me,” Rzeznik humbly notes. “I don’t know if she’s a fan as I can’t speak for her, but I know she loves “Iris”. That song is still really, really special. It amazes me, the fact that it has lasted so long. I’m grateful that song came into my life.”

Kicking off with the line, ‘And I’d give up forever to touch you’, “Iris” feels like listeners are joining the song partway through a dialogue between lovers. It joins Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs Robinson” as hit songs with ‘And’ as the unlikely opening word.

“There weren’t any other lyrics before that line, I just have a bad habit of putting ‘and’ at the front of sentences!” Rzeznik explains. “It’s just some stupid quirk in my writing and I have been reprimanded for it many times, but fuck you, I’m writing it how I want to write it! I’ve done it in a bunch of songs other than “Iris”, but it just felt right.”

More than 30 years since the Goo Goo Dolls released their debut album, Rzeznik holds hope music has the power to bring people together, no matter how dark the times.

“I think it can be a start, just like bowling could be a start or a football match could be a start,” Rzeznik says. “I was out on stage the other night and there was about 12,000 people at the show. The whole audience was singing a song with me and I thought, theoretically, in a vacuum, half this audience voted for [Donald] Trump and half voted for [Hillary] Clinton, but everyone in the room is singing in a room together. We don’t appreciate the similarities we have, so maybe that’s the place to start.” Goo Goo Dolls Prescribe an Aural Miracle Pill


When budding songwriters finally connect with their muse, the moment is a literal gamechanger — and it’s something that might just make the difference between being part of a permanent cult-level outfit or transitioning into a superstar act that can fill arenas and stadiums on a consistent basis.Such is the case with Goo Goo Dolls, the pride of Buffalo, New York whose lineup’s backbone for over 33 years and counting consists of a pair of lifelong friends — guitarist/vocalist John Rzeznik (at left under the umbrella in the above photo) and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac. Once the Goos moved somewhat beyond their punk-centric roots and were able to tap into said muse, a string of economically named hits followed in their 1990s wake — “Iris,” “Name,” “Dizzy,” “Slide,” and “Black Balloon” among them, to name but a few — and they’ve been able to mine that prime songwriting vein ever since. Current evidence of their aural-prescription mastery can be found on Miracle Pill (Warner Records), released on September 13. The band’s 12th studio album, Miracle Pill is a fine mixture of declarative intent (“Indestructible”), wary lament (“Money, Fame & Fortune”), and undeniably Beatlesque ear candy (“Think It Over”).

Rzeznik ascribes the Goos’ inherent audience connectivity to a combination of being true to one’s self as a writer while also being able to embellish each tale without alienating the listener’s relationship with it (and them). “I suppose a certain amount of what I do is always autobiographical — and then it completely switches to fiction!” Rzeznik concedes with a laugh. “It’s amazing. A lot of my songs are based on a true story, and then they sort of weave their way out into becoming something else.”

Rzeznik (53), Takac (54), and I all got on the line together not long before Miracle Pill was released to discuss finding analog sounds in a digital world, how to make albums that are immersive experiences, and what the secret to their longevity is. We’re so ready for the better things to come. . .

Mike Mettler: The breadth of the Miracle Pill recording palette seems to lend itself more to the vinyl listening experience, would you agree?
John Rzeznik: I think so, because we did so much old-school stuff in terms of how we recorded it. Ironically, a lot of the recording of that album was done by a kid who’s only 28 or 29 years old, and he’s so into the old-school way of doing things from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. He and I had been investing in this rack of gear, microphones, and old amps. We were scouring the internet and talking to older guitar techs and engineers. We had a conversation with the great producer and engineer Al Schmitt about how to mike an acoustic guitar the old way, you know? The old-school way.

So, we would get these beautiful sounds, and then we’d put them in the digital realm. And then what I like to do is mutilate the sounds with digital plug-ins. (chuckles) What I found as the biggest thrust of this world of making plug-ins and doing everything “virtually,” or whatever you want to call it — the main focus of all of that technology is trying to make the recordings sound like they were done on analog gear. They’re creating digital algorithms and impulse responses to make everything sound old, and shi–y!

Mettler: And real.
Rzeznik: And real! It’s like, instead of putting sugar in your coffee, you put in saccharin. I like recording into the digital realm just for the convenience of it, because tape’s a real pain in the ass. And what is it, Robby — you’ve only got 12 or 13 minutes per tape?

Robby Takac: Yeah — it’s around 13 minutes, which costs about 400 bucks.

Mettler: It’s a labor of love when you’re doing it that way. Have you thought about going all-analog at some point anyway?
Rzeznik: Yes. But I think it would always hit the digital realm, because I love being able to manipulate and mutilate sounds that way — especially keyboards. When we were making this album, we got into this thing where we had found this box where you could take a pedalboard like the one you have on the floor with all of your guitar pedals, and it would change the impedance of everything. You could plug it right into the console. We would be using distortion pedals on shakers and tambourines, plus wah-wah pedals and stompboxes — all this crazy analog stuff we’d use to make sounds on the album.

Takac: I often compare the differences between that and making a record on tape like we used to. It would begin like you were given a word processor and all the programs and plug-ins you could put into it, but then you’ve gotta go back to the typewriter again. I think sitting there without all the advantages of the digital technology would just be so unbelievably limited, to go back and record directly to tape. You’d miss all these awesome opportunities to do things if we were just living in that [tape] world.

Rzeznik: I’m on the flipside of that. It would be kind of fun. At some point, I’d like to get the whole band in the room at once, and just roll the tape and play live.

Takac: It’s funny — we did what John said, once. We went into a studio with this guy up in Washington where we set up and played in a room as a band. And it did sound like a buncha guys playing together in a room, but it didn’t sound like something you’d hear on the radio. Does that make any sense?

Mettler: Yeah, it does — it sounded more like a jam session, is what you’re saying.
Takac: It was almost like a jam session, right — but it wasn’t like a record, so we ended up pulling it back again. You’d really have to do so much pre-production to do that type of thing.

Rzeznik: Well, you should do pre-production. You really should.

Takac: Or just a little amount.

Rzeznik: It’s interesting. You’d have to bring in extra musicians. I think it’d be kind of fun to take the time, prepare what you’re going to do, get together with five or six people, and learn the song down, cold. And even if you’re still using a digital platform, when the drums, the bass, and the guitar are playing together, there’s a push and pull between the instruments. And that’s fantastic, rather than recording it all individually.

The one thing we always say, because it is digital technology, is that you can manipulate timing and being in tune, and all that stuff, so much. It’s more like, “Listen — don’t cut the drums to the click! You can play to the click, but don’t edit the drums to the click. Let ’em breathe and go back and forth and rise and fall in a human way.” That’s still pretty important.

Mettler: At the beginning of “Lights,” where it sounds a little bit sampled and there’s some surface noise going on there too — would that be an example of “being human” with it?
Rzeznik: Yeah, in just messing around with stuff. What’s really fun is we were running a lot of vocals and other instruments through the filter sections of pedalboards. And the bass guitar too — we were running it through an old Moog synthesizer, using the super-low-end stuff and playing along with it. It’s exciting to do that.

Mettler: It sure sounds like it. And then there’s the beginning of the title track “Miracle Pill,” which reminds me of a John Lennon solo track where you have a little bit of echo on your vocal. That gave me a very Lennonesque feel there.
Rzeznik: Well, I’m a huge fan of that Lennon style. We did a song called “The Pin” on the last record [May 2016’s Boxes] — and I loved that song, because we used a big tape echo on it and an old spring reverb that we had that’s the size of a refrigerator (laughs), and then this piano thing. And Lennon, he hated the sound of his own voice. On a lot of that Lennon solo stuff, they used this really heavy slapback on his vocal, and I thought it was really interesting because, to me, “The Pin” was sort of this cross between Lennon and [David] Bowie, production-wise. I wanted to try to do that again on this album where we could, because I love that.

Mettler: Well done, I’d say. Robby, for one of the songs you sing, “Life’s a Message,” I wrote down that it had a “Kate Bush-like intro” to it. Does that assessment sound right to you?
Takac: Yeah yeah yeah. I wrote a lot of stuff on synthesizer, and we ended up carrying a lot of that over to the finished tracks, and often in an unpredictable way. A lot of that stuff sounded pretty unique, and we ended up using a lot of it.

Mettler: There’s a very ’80s kind of feel to some of the background stuff on that track too, which sounds like it was your intent. It’s vintage but modern, in how you put it all together there. Just like you planned it!
Takac: (laughs) Right, exactly.

Rzeznik: It seems like a lot of people are looking backward to find the new sound.

Mettler: Sure does. Here’s a question for each of you guys. When you were growing up in Buffalo, what was the first record you bought that still has some impact on you today, one of those audio talismans from back in the day?
Takac: I was given a cassette copy of The Rolling Stones’ psychedelic greatest hits, [September 1969’s] Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits, Vol. 2). For me, that was kind of the soundtrack to my childhood. [Through the Past, Darkly included some of The Stones’ “trippier” songs of that late-’60s era, such as “2000 Light Years From Home,” “She’s a Rainbow,” and “Dandelion.”]

Rzeznik: And, oddly enough, the first album that I was really exposed to, and really deeply loved, was [December 1971’s] Hot Rocks, which was The Stones’ greatest hits from, what was it, ’64 to ’71? Do you remember that one?

Mettler: Yeah, I do. It was a double album, and it came with a black sticker on the cellophane wrapper that I actually put across the top of the front cover, because I didn’t want to lose it since it listed all the song titles. That’s the cover that has their five heads within each other, right?
Rzeznik: Yeah, the five heads within each other. And the gatefold is that big collage of all the photographs — so cool!

Mettler: That was when you picked up an album and realized that it was a real experience, the whole ritual of it. Will we get a similar tactile kind of experience with the Miracle Pill vinyl?
Rzeznik: It is going to be cool, because it comes in a lot of different color choices. I mean, I remember when just opening up an album was exciting, and the artwork was so important. It became an immersive experience.

When we first started doing the digital thing, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is going to be incredible, because you’ll be able to go so deep with the digital booklet. You’ll have videoclips and crazy art, a lot of interactive sorts of things and all your lyrics, and everything!” But, I don’t know — that all seems to be overlooked now.

Takac: Your record cover has become that size of your pinky now, you know? (all chuckle)

Mettler: Another thing I like about Miracle Pill is it comes in at a nice, concise 40 minutes. That must be a conscious decision in that you feel that’s about the right length for an album-listening experience these days.
Rzeznik: I think that these were just the best songs, and they just happened to come in at that time.

Takac: Maybe subconsciously, from us growing up, that that’s how we hear how long an album to be.

Mettler: You just wrapped up a summer tour with Train, where you did shorter sets than when you headline. Will we get a 90-minute set or longer from you in the fall?
Rzeznik: Yeah, we’ll go 90-plus. I guess we could play for about three hours, but it would devolve into a lot of extended jam sessions and cover tunes, you know?

Takac: And we’d only be able to tour for like two weeks! (both laugh heartily)

Mettler: I did see you guys at CBGB in New York and Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey back in 1991, and during those sets, you did do some of those really fast, punk-style covers.
Takac: That was fun, man.

Rzeznik: Yeah, it was fun. But, believe it or not, at the time, we were like, “Wait a minute — you gotta do a cover tune. Why?” They wouldn’t play you on college radio unless you had a punked-up cover of a classic song, you know? (chuckles) So we would do a couple of those, and they would play them on college radio stations around the country.

Mettler: And then maybe they’d play “Laughing” [the lead track from the Goos’ third album, 1990’s Hold Me Up] after they played your take on [The Plimsouls’] “A Million Miles Away” [also from the same album].
Takac: That was the hope! (all chuckle) You had to be introduced through a cover song.

Mettler: Do you have tapes from those days in your archives? Have you thought about going back and releasing any of that material at some point?
Rzeznik: You know what’s crazy is that I was just with my manager in his office, and he said, “I was cleaning out my storage space,” and he brought out this enormous box of DAT tapes — remember those? And he goes, “I can’t listen to any of them because I don’t have a DAT player, and I don’t even know if you can get them anymore.” I went online to Reverb [an online marketplace for new, vintage, and current gear] and I bought him a DAT machine — a big old Sony DAT player — for $200. The thing was like $2 grand when it was new. Since then, he’s been sifting through live shows, demos, and all this stuff I didn’t even know existed.

Mettler: Cool. Would you put together a box set of that stuff, or maybe come up with a subscription series through your website that people could buy it all from? Or maybe do some Best of Live and Best of the Demos volumes that you could release on vinyl on, say, Record Store Day?
Rzeznik: Wow, I never even thought of that! That’s a pretty cool idea.

Mettler: Sorry, I didn’t mean to give you more work to do. (chuckles)
Rzeznik: No, you’re giving me good ideas!

Mettler: (laughs) Okay, good! Do you recall that nexus point where you knew things had changed? There are a few touchstones, of course, but what’s the one where you guys really felt like, “Okay, now we’re really at the next stage in our career”?
Rzeznik: I think it started early, with [February 1993’s] Superstar Car Wash. That was the first sort of shift, because that’s when I was like, “Oh wow! I think I can really write songs” — instead of just writing “goofs,” you know what I mean? A lot of the music on the first couple of albums was just goofy. We wrote those songs in under an hour. It wasn’t like a ton of thought went into most of it.

Mettler: Sure, but I still like “Out of the Red” [another track from Hold Me Up].
Rzeznik: Well, there were messages in there, but we were young and we were going, “What’s the brass ring we’re trying to grab? I don’t know — playing a weekend at The Continental?”

Takac: Yeah — and for a case of beer, and a couple more fans to talk to, you know?

Rzeznik: Those were the things, but when I hit the age of 23 or 24, I just started to go, “I think I can really do this!”

Mettler: I remember Superstar Car Wash getting that Paul Westerberg seal of approval, which kind of reminded me of when John Mellencamp shifted gears from his pop roots to where you realized, “Okay, this guy is a major songwriter.” He was a great singer of pop stuff, but now an added depth was there where you could see the seeds had been planted for him to get there. That sounds like the same thing for you guys. You had the seeds already.
Rzeznik: I was also told by producers and guys I respected, including Westerberg, “You’ve gotta write. You’ve gotta write until you freak yourself out.” You try to find that thing inside you. [Westerberg, the acclaimed singer/songwriter/guitarist of the notable Minneapolis band The Replacements, co-wrote Superstar Car Wash’s “We Are the Normal” with Rzeznik, a track that made it to No. 5 on the Modern Rock chart.]

The thing I loved most about Westerberg and [Hüsker Dü’s] Bob Mould — and I never really cited him, Bob Mould, as an influence, but I’d go back and listen to those earlier records of ours and go, “There’s so much Mould here, it’s ridiculous!”

Takac: Well, you played guitar a lot like him.

Rzeznik: Yeah. And, you know, Bob Mould is just pure, raw emotion. That is a man with a big, deep soul who’s just baring it for the world. And lyrically, how clever he is.

Takac: And how interesting it all is too, yeah.

Mettler: Just what he did on [Hüsker Dü’s October 1983 EP] Metal Circus alone — it still blows me away. Let’s finish by talking about your long-term friendship. What is it, like 33 years now that you guys have been friends?
Takac: It’s like we’re family.

Rzeznik: It’s been 20, 25 years. 25 years.

Takac: So, what, we’ve only been friends for 25 of the 33 years? (both laugh)

Rzeznik: Yeah! (chuckles some more)

Takac: Well, we’ve been doing this together our whole lives. We’ve been doing it together much longer that we haven’t, you know?

Rzeznik: It’s strange, because we got together when I was, like, 19, and we’ve been going for that long. For the first 8 or 9 years of the band, we would go out and do a tour, become homeless (Takac laughs) and have girlfriends who would let you stay with them. And then you’d go back out and hit the van and go, “I swear to God, this is the one where we make it, baby! I’ll see you in a year!” (both laugh heartily)

Forbes; Johnny Rzeznik Of The Goo Goo Dolls On Pushing The Music Forward With New Album Miracle Pill

For Goo Goo Dolls singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Johnny Rzeznik, the seeds to the band’s twelfth studio album Miracle Pill, now available via Warner Records, were planted on tour last year in celebration of the band’s most successful album.

“I got done doing the Dizzy Up the Girl 20th anniversary tour. By the end, that tour really informed me a lot about where I need to be as a writer, as an artist and as a performer. Because every night it took me back to that time,” said Rzeznik. “We were playing all those songs and then the second half of the show was playing later songs, more obscure songs, and the evolution of who I am became really obvious. And it kind of emboldened me to get off that tour, get right to work and get a new album out.”

In 1995, the Goo Goo Dolls broke through to the mainstream with their fifth album A Boy Named Goo, thanks the the once unthinkable crossover success of the song “Name.”

The album sold two million copies in America and suddenly left the group with the task of figuring out how to follow up a type of stratospheric success that’s left many artists in its wake.

But they didn’t just follow it up, they topped it. Dizzy Up the Girl doubled sales of A Boy Named Goo and the song “Iris” became the most played song on the radio in all of 1998.

For Rzeznik, the challenge since has been how to grow as a songwriter and continue to evolve more than 30 years in.

“It’s very important to me. As time goes on, your worldview changes and your abilities change. You just change as a person. I find it really exciting to make a record that somebody still wants to listen to this far into our career,” said Rzeznik. “I love David Bowie. And it just amazes me how the music changed as time went on. He knew where to look, you know? He knew where to look for inspiration.”

Over the years, the music of the Goo Goo Dolls has incorporated elements of punk and alternative but Miracle Pill is a batch of songs that stands on its own in today’s contemporary pop world. None of the songs rehash old sounds as Rzeznik continues to explore new territory.

A collector of vintage recording equipment, Rzeznik has gotten deeply involved in the production of Goo Goo Dolls albums. And one of the biggest ways he’s continued to push things forward musically is by working with people like songwriter Sam Hollander.

“I love the idea of creating something new. I collaborate now a lot on my writing which I never did before. And the reason that I started to collaborate is that I started to just be in an echo chamber. And I’m like, ‘Well, look… I know what I know but I need to learn from other people,’” Rzeznik said. “So sitting down and working with those guys, you learn so much. I always want to find a new sound – even if it’s a sound that someone made popular 40 years ago. I still want to do something fresh. It excites me to hear something new, you know?”

The new album addresses the turbulent times in which we live. “Miracle Pill” hits on topics like instant gratification and the album itself addresses the world without getting political.

“I think that our country for the last almost 20 years, we’ve been living in a state of this chronic, low-grade anxiety. And I think it’s really starting to wear people down. I know there’s times it wears me down. And we’re living in an incredibly unfair society. Incredibly unfair. And I’m not talking about politics, I’m just making a social commentary,” Rzeznik explained. “The album is about connection, loss of connection, the hope of making a connection. Look, we’re turning into a very, very lonely, disconnected society. And it’s starting to rear its head in very ugly, nasty ways. If there’s no hope, there’s going to be trouble.”

In an era when it’s become difficult to monetize recorded music, a great live show has become crucial. The Goo Goo Dolls have never stopped touring. And, to Rzeznik, there’s benefits of the live music experience on a number of different levels.

“I went out this last summer and I was standing on stage and there were about 15,000 people there. So I’m standing on the stage and I’m playing these songs. And I’m thinking, ‘So almost half this audience, politically, disagrees with the other half of the audience…’ Statistically, theoretically, half this room disagrees. But both sides of the room are singing the songs, right?” mused Rzeznik. “Live music especially is what’s gonna keep people together. Because you can’t experience that on the internet. You have to get off your ass, drive twenty miles, buy a ticket, stand in line, talk to strangers, deal with people – it’s a beautiful thing. Everybody is there for one thing that they all agree on: They all agree that they want to be there. And that’s a good thing.”

During the music industry boom period of the 1990s, there was a standard cycle that existed around the release of a new album, which saw bands release a record, tour and disappear until the next one, usually a span of about two to three years.

But, today, in the era of online streaming, there’s been a gradual shift away from that toward immediacy. A catchy single is often more important than a great album and bands can’t just disappear until the next album drops. The Goo Goo Dolls have embraced that by releasing singles and EPs to streaming platforms and touring relentlessly.

“It’s just the way things are. But I kind of dig it. It’s like, ‘Well, I’ve got a really cool idea. Let me call this guy and book the studio, get in and let’s have it done next week.’ It’s kind of cool,” said Rzeznik. “I’m planning on doing that again. Miracle Pill is a piece of work – it’s a collection of songs. But if I come up with a really cool idea, I’m just gonna put it out there. It’s a matter of sink or swim.”

The Goo Goo Dolls toured in support of the Dizzy Up the Girl anniversary last year and have been on the road since, hitting amphitheatres in large markets this summer with Allen Stone and Train. And for Rzeznik, that remains an experience which identifies and informs everything the Goo Goo Dolls do.

“I see people from every walk of life in what I do. And I talk to people every single day, every city I go to. I talk to people about everything. I just talk to people every single day. And it informs me and it kind of influences my songwriting. I want to connect, man,” Rzeznik explained of life on the road. “Doing the [upcoming] tour, we’re going to be playing theatres and smaller cities. I dig it. I want to appreciate what’s going on in smaller cities. It’s very, very different than in the big cities. I’m excited,” he said of a tour which takes the Goo Goo Dolls through Texas, the midwest and northeast during October and November.

Through all of the ups and downs in his band’s 30 years, there’s been one constant for Rzeznik: his partnership with co-founding singer, songwriter and bass player Robby Takac.

“We still get along. He’s kind of a semi-autonomous unit within the band. I do my thing, he does his. But we still actually like each other,” said Rzeznik. “There’s times when we want to punch each other in the face – and there were times we did punch each other in the face – but it just feels right still. When it doesn’t feel right, I won’t do it. But it still feels right. So I don’t think I’m going anywhere.”

*** Miracle Pill is available now via Warner Records.

*** The Goo Goo Dolls launch an American tour Friday, October 25 at Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas, making their way through the midwest and into the northeast through November. Click HERE for the full itinerary.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik Talks ‘Miracle Pill,’ Staying Fearless & Catching Feels

­Ahead of their new album release, Rzeznik discusses the concepts on ‘Miracle Pill,’ his thoughts on social media, why he’s “so pro-daughter” and more

Alt-pop heros the Goo Goo Dolls are one of those bands that just keeps going. Even before they shattered the charts with jangly radio staples like “Slide,” “Iris” and “Black Balloon” in the ’90s, singer/songwriter/guitarist John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac were just a punk duo from Buffalo, New York, releasing records on indie labels—four, in fact, before their 1995 effort, A Boy Named Goo, broke them into the mainstream with its yearning acoustic strummer “Name.”
More than 12 million album sales and three GRAMMY nominations later, Rzeznik and Takac haven’t slowed down. They’re still together, still releasing albums and still faithful friends. which, as The Ringer recently pointed out, makes them rather unique entities in rock ‘n’ roll circles.
That’s not to say that the times haven’t rattled them, though. On their latest album, Miracle Pill, which arrives on Sept. 13, the duo attempts to grapple with the changing look of celebrity, the way social media breeds insincerity and the need for instant gratification and, perhaps most important, what it means to become a father.
Ahead of Miracle Pill’s release, Rzeznik called up the Recording Academy to talk about the concepts on Miracle Pill, why he’s “so pro-daughter” and getting a lump in his throat listening to fellow Replacements fans (and future tourmates) Beach Slang.

Listening to this album was a lot of fun. I appreciate the thematic thought that went into it. I’d love to get your thoughts on why Miracle Pill felt like the right name for the album?

Well, conceptually, it’s the idea of “miracle pill” to me when we were working on everything was kind of like the instant gratification and kind of quick-fix society that we live in, which has proven to be really dissatisfying.

Yeah, I think we can all agree by now that scrolling through Instagram can potentially bring about less-than-satisfying feelings of worthlessness. Not to mention the lengths some people go to achieve influencer fame using those platforms.

Yes. It’s unfortunate. That’s kind of where I’m going with this. I’ve met very lonely people who have 10,000 friends on Facebook. And it’s just not real. We’ve set up this artificial society in cyberspace. And that’s supposed to be a community, like a real community. It’s supposed to be where people go to get solace or friendship or have fun. “No man,” and, “That’s interesting.” That was an observation that was made in my own head because I don’t dare speak about my opinion in public about politics anymore.
I think [our] audience is divided 50/50 on politics, but at least they all agreed that they wanted to come and see us [on tour] or they wanted to come see Train. At least [music] is one thing we all have in common.

So if we’re living in a time when being a popular artist means that you must have an active social footprint, how do you personally choose to utilize social media?

Yeah, I tried it and I just found myself getting into arguments with people. You can hate my band, I really don’t care what your opinion is. You can hate my music, you can tell me how sh*tty I look because I gained 10 pounds or whatever. But when you drag my wife into it or my daughter or any of that kind of thing, then it’s like, how do I not respond?
So I quit all social media and I hired a guy to do it, and I send him texts and stuff. “Hey, I’d like to talk about this, but I don’t even want to see what the responses are.” I’m putting information out.
For me, social media is a one-way deal. It’s like all the traffic goes one direction and I don’t care how many people follow me, I don’t care how many people like what I do, give me a thumbs up or whatever it is. I am here to share a piece of information that I’ve decided is relevant to our relationship as musician and audience member. And that’s as far as it should go, you know?

Yeah, it’s interesting because the Goo Goo Dolls showed up at a time when album sales largely determined your success. Now, you can’t be a band starting out with no social following. Artists are basically signed to labels now because of their social following

It’s a much more complicated path. I want the music to actually speak for itself because that’s what’s ultimately driving these people. And sometimes I feel as though maybe I’m, for the second decade of the 21st century, an inadequate entity. Maybe I don’t have star power or star potential or whatever you want to call it. Or maybe I don’t have qualities that someone in 2019 needs to maintain a certain level of stardom. I don’t know, but I don’t care about it because it’s the songs are going to get through.

Personally, given your position, I don’t think you have to worry much about maintaining your social presence.

I’m getting to a point where I don’t care about the light show. I still care about people. What I’m trying to write on this album is my observations about what’s going on. A lot of the record is about getting second chances, about making connections. That’s one thing that was an unintentional theme that kind of took over the record.
I didn’t sit down and go, “I’m going to write a concept album.” It’s just, this is what’s on my mind. I’m not bringing my daughter up in this, but there’s a song called “Lost” on the album.
Derek Fuhrmann, the guy that I wrote the song with, he and I, his wife’s about to have a baby and I got a kid and we just started writing this thing, and it’s just like this song unintentionally became like a little piece of advice to our kids.
I am so pro-daughter, not that I’m anti-son, but we all have daughters, the whole band. Every guy in the band who’s got a kid has a daughter. And we get all our little girls together, we take them out on tour with us for a little bit at a time. And the older ones are spray painting their hair with the pink and the blue, and they’re spray painting the little girl’s hair. It’s a joy that I never thought I would have in my life. But the point of what I was saying, I got to backtrack you because I’m obsessed with my daughter.

That’s super sweet.

I love her. But the message is, you got to be strong, you got to be yourself. There’s a lot of shiny, pretty objects out there that when you actually touch them, they just fall apart. And it’s like, you need to be authentic, you need to be yourself. That was the point of that song. And you can’t have any fear about that, which brings me to the song “Fearless.”
That song is definitely about where this society, and the world at large, is sort of perched precariously. And I don’t know how much is media-driven, I do not know how much is reality. Because I think the wounds of this country are real. I don’t think they were ever properly healed and resolved because of a small group of peoples’ unbridled greed.
I think the media has a great way of irritating a wound to the point where it becomes sensationalized. And it’s like, no, these things need to be addressed in a thoughtful way. It’s like, you can’t explain your position on climate change in a 10 second soundbite. But that’s the world that we live in.
How are we going to do anything meaningful?
I have started trying so hard to sit down and just spend time just reading a book, not on a computer. And like calling people on the phone. People are weird about getting calls now

Yeah, people panic and think something’s seriously wrong when a call comes in.

I want to hang out on the phone and bullsh*t with you. I don’t know, man, you’ve got to be fearless. That’s all there is to it. And the people who are going to be bold are the people who believe everything’s going to work out okay. This country’s going to have a few more dings and dents in our skull, but I think everything’s going to be okay. Ultimately.

You’ve mentioned your daughter a few times in this interview. She’s still very young. What made you decide you wanted to have kids? Keeping in mind, well, all of the problems you outline on Miracle Pill.

I thought it was important to become a dad. I don’t know. I never thought I was going to have kids. Never ever thought I was going to have kids for all those reasons that you just mentioned, the world can be so bad.
But it’s like, when I finally got sober and I was sober for a couple of years the selfishness that drove my life, the selfishness and the self-pity and the self-seeking behavior just kind of melted away. And I didn’t realize how deep a purpose, trying to guide someone through this little thing, this little tiny thing, and all of a sudden all the selfishness just kind of drained out of me.
I remember holding her when the doctor gave her to me and saying to myself, just saying this little prayer, “God, please don’t let me f**k up this little life. Give me the strength to be a good dad.”

Switching gears for a minute, I was thrilled to see that you guys were touring with Beach Slang. Didn’t Robby just produce their MPLS EP?

Did he? I didn’t know that.

Yeah, I read that. I just think it’s awesome how your band and Beach Slang aesthetically orbit around the Replacements. Alex James from Beach Slang is super up front about his Paul Westerberg influence, and the Goo Goo Dolls’ earliest work takes a similar track.

Among others things. Let’s not forget the Replacements just pretty much stole everything they did from like the New York Dolls and bands like that. So, whatever. But continue.

Well, I wondered if this touring combo had anything to do with your similar tastes.

I didn’t know that Robby had worked with them. Somebody said these guys are available to tour with you. And I was like, okay, I got a whole list of guys, a whole list of bands. And I went to Spotify and started listening to an album by them or it’s like a playlist. “This Is Beach Slang” or something like that.
And I got a lump in my throat. Because it was something, there was something so … I don’t know, man, just so emotional about the music and it brought me back to a time where I felt, I don’t know, that honest, attached with that naive. I don’t know what it is. You know what I mean? It’s just sort of, the music really like, it just struck a chord with me and that’s the best I can say. And yeah, it did, it reminded me of us, only better. When we were, like the Superstar Car Wash era.

Well, I just have one more question. You guys recorded Miracle Pill at Capitol Records in Hollywood…

Yeah, down in the basement. All the famous studios are down in there. We worked on Gutterflower in that building. There’s just good vibes. The woman who runs it, Paula Salvatore, is just, she’s amazing. She had a lot to do with getting some of the sounds on this album because I went to her and she is a Los Angeles institution. This woman is, she’s an institution. And, man, if you could ever talk to her the stories, unbelievable.
And she’s such sweetheart. I’m like, “Hey, I don’t know any gospel singers. Do you know any?” [She says,] “”eah. Yeah, honey. I know some, let me make a phone call.”
I don’t know any string players, could you help me find them? “Sure, no problem.” Boom, these badass string players show up. It’s like she’s just so supportive and wonderful, and that’s what makes the experience. Also, the place is full of really cool ghosts.

Yeah, was there anything you noticed this time that stuck with you?

There’s this one enormous photograph of Dean Martin and he’s singing inside a glass, well, a booth, a vocal booth with these big windows in it. And it’s not that I’m looking at him singing, but I’m looking through the window into the recording studio and there’s about two women.
I don’t know, there was just something about it that just made me go, why are there a couple of dozen women in the recording studio with Dean Martin? I’m like, oh yeah, of course. Dean Martin, that’s what happens when you’re Dean Martin.


The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing

By Rob Harvilla
  One uncool thing about the Goo Goo Dolls is that they survived. No caustic breakups, no indefinite hiatuses, no onstage brawls, no spectacular flameouts. No dramatic makeovers, neither: no embarrassing synth-pop reinventions, no prestige TV-derived critical reappraisals. Just a stubborn consistency that is not, by their own admission, a particularly rock ‘n’ roll approach to making it (and keeping it) in rock ‘n’ roll. But the romantically grizzled Buffalo alt-rockers have still suffered for their art, if evidence of suffering is what you require.

“I don’t know too many musicians who are on their first marriage,” is how singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik explains it to me. “I don’t think I know any.”

The deal is that the Goo Goo Dolls, anchored by Rzeznik and singer-bassist Robby Takac, formed in the mid-’80s and quickly put out five albums on, incredibly, Metal Blade Records, the label that also put out Slayer’s first album. The Goos’ own 1987 self-titled debut sounds like the Replacements at their forgot-to-take-out-the-trashiest, includes rowdy covers of both “Sunshine of Your Love” and “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper,” and ends with a slower but somehow rowdier original called “Don’t Beat My Ass (With a Baseball Bat).”

Then their sixth album, 1998’s blockbuster Dizzy Up the Girl, turned them into post-grunge prom kings, anchored by the growly power ballad “Iris,” which is forever synonymous with maudlin Meg Ryan rom-coms, forever synonymous with thousands of way more maudlin homemade mixtapes in the twilight of the actual-cassette mixtape era, forever synonymous with legit American greatness. In July, while in town to play the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, Lindsey Jordan, who leads the young, rad indie-rock band Snail Mail and was born the year after Dizzy Up the Girl came out, closed out a late-night club gig with an achingly sincere cover of “Iris,” joined by Sophie Allison, the equally rad young indie-rocker known as Soccer Mommy. The capacity crowd ate it up with aching sincerity; listen to the way everyone present bellows out the line, “When everything feels like the movies / Yeah, you bleed just to know you’re alive.”

The Goo Goo Dolls have made six more albums post-“Iris,” including Friday’s spunky and sensitive Miracle Pill; they have mastered, as few alt-rock sensations of their era have mastered, the art of indulging nostalgia for their commercial peak without looking backward for so long that they turn into pillars of flannel or whatever. Last year, the band did a full tour to celebrate Dizzy Up the Girl’s 20th anniversary, but that only got them looking forward again. “Songs like ‘Slide,’ ‘Iris,’ ‘Broadway,’ they’re such a big part of who we are,” Rzeznik says. “I mean, I still feel very close to them. But it was kind of nice at the end of the tour to sort of pack that record up and put it away.”

Another uncool thing about the Goo Goo Dolls is they were never terribly cool even at their moment of greatest radio saturation. (“Name,” from 1995’s A Boy Named Goo, was their first massive growly power ballad.) “Everybody was too fucking cool for their own good,” is how Rzeznik remembers the ’90s. “There were certain musicians, you were out in L.A., and you’re rehearsing in a rehearsal room, and then there’s a common area. But if somebody from the wrong band was there, ‘Oh no, don’t talk to them. They’re not fucking cool.’”

Rzeznik longs for the camaraderie he sees in hip-hop and pop nowadays, a gentle collaborative spirit he gets in his own genre only via documentaries like 2019’s Echo in the Canyon, which celebrates the ’60s Laurel Canyon folk-rock scene and prominently features, as a celebrity interviewer, fellow ’90s hitmaker Jakob Dylan. The Goo Goo Dolls were not edgy when they broke through (the post-Nirvana power-pop jam “Naked” still rules, though) and remain out of step with whatever constitutes the rock vanguard now. Miracle Pill flirts with Imagine Dragons–style mechasaur bombast (“Fearless”) and the sort of scuffed-up synth pop prevalent on modern rock radio (“Money, Fame & Fortune” is skeptical about all three), but the record as a whole still sounds unmistakably like good old Johnny and Robby, both in their don’t-beat-my-ass Buffalo punk days and their late-Clinton-administration heartthrob days.

All the no-first-marriage talk aside, these guys committed to each other. “We’re all fascinated by young, shiny, beautiful things, you know?” Rzeznik says. “But being in a band is like being married. Are you going to do the work? Or are you going to complain to the fucking press about how unsatisfied you are? The relationship takes work. The band has always been me and Robby: We’ve had various drummers over the last 30 years, but none that did any writing of any consequence. You just have to do the work. We made an agreement: ‘All right, I’m sticking with you, you’re sticking with me. Pretty much fuck everybody else.’”

Of course the fuck everybody else mind-set is more prevalent, sonically, in the early years, when Rzeznick was writing the band’s first minor hit, 1993’s dead-ender salvo “We Are the Normal,” via snail mail with none other than the Replacements’ own Paul Westerberg, and Takac’s handful of tunes on each new Goos record pulled things in a noisier, raspier direction. (The boys first got into rock ‘n’ roll as surly teenagers via Ramones records, which Takac now lovingly describes to me as “like training wheels for guys in a band.”) On Miracle Pill’s would-be arena-pop anthem “Step in Line,” Takac mostly just sounds raspier. But there’s still a legit band dynamic at play here, steeped in three decades of resilience that has kept the Goo Goo Dolls alive even when their very genre appeared to be dead.

They have outlasted nearly everyone, fellow breakout bands and industry stooges alike. Rzeznik is still salty about the frigid reception his label gave the band’s 2010 album, Something for the Rest of Us, which is indeed a later-period highlight and a more cynical spin on U2-style stadium-rock grandiosity. “They had expectations of what we were supposed to be,” Rzeznik says of his Warner Bros. masters at the time. “I’m supposed to be the ‘big love ballad’ guy. But I came in and delivered an album that was pretty fucking heavy and dark.” (“They loved it when we dropped it off,” Takac observes.)

“We’ve been at Warner Bros. since 1990,” Rzeznik says. “We’ve been through 27 presidents, 5,000 staff members. It’s like, we’ve been there longer than anybody. I mean, had we actually had a job at that record company, we could retire and have a pension. We outlasted all of them.”

What’s cool about the Goo Goo Dolls is that if you catch them on tour this fall, you will for sure get the pure nostalgia jolt that probably lured you into the theater: Dizzy Up the Girl’s “Broadway,” in retrospect, feels like the more hopeful sequel to the Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular,” as delivered by the earnest and skillful Replacements disciples who fashioned the most sustainable and thus non-Replacements-like career out of their devotion. But the Goos can also play both very old and very new songs that are far less familiar but still feel familiar without feeling stagnant. And they can also play “Iris,” a world-conquering signature tune so indelible that back in 2011, when Taylor Swift played Madison Square Garden, she welcomed Rzeznik to the stage to sing it with her.

“What shocked the hell out of me was that, I mean, I’m on stage with arguably the biggest star in the world, and she was very, very nice to me,” Rzeznik says now. “She said my name to that audience. They applauded. I was blown away. Might have just been everyone’s moms.”

Probably not just them, though.

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Variety: Aboard Jon Bon Jovi’s Runaway to Paradise Cruise: the Sights and Sounds of Superfandom

It’s the second night of the Jon Bon Jovi Runaway to Paradise Cruise and the ship, halfway between Barcelona and Palma, is taking a beating from rain and gusty winds. A stormy day at sea would be unnerving for any normal cruise, but the Norwegian Pearl is anything but. On the pool deck, a festival-sized stage has been erected where, at 6 p.m. that night, Bon Jovi would perform an acoustic set accompanied by a Q&A session with fans. If the staff of Sixthman, the production company specializing in music festivals at sea, is nervous, there are no signs of it.
This isn’t the company’s first celebrity-branded cruise, having previously hosted cruises by Kiss, Kid Rock, 311 and Paramore, among others, but it is Sixthman’s first sail in Europe and the clock is ticking. Nonetheless, the voice of Sixthman Jane cheerfully chimes from the loudspeakers, wishing all a “Happy Jon Bon Jovi” day and announcing that the man himself would soon be boarding the boat and inviting all to greet and cheer on his arrival. As the staff passes out maracas and other toys to guests on the deck, the crew has already activated plan B, setting up instruments inside the ship’s Stardust Theater, where Bon Jovi has agreed to do two intimate shows to accommodate all 2,000 on board.
“We had to pull an audible,” says Matt Bongiovi, Bon Jovi’s brother, in football speak. “We had talked about that potential of a weather situation.” By the time the boat arrived ashore to pick up Bon Jovi (“Jon is the first person to use a cruise ship as an Uber,” laughs his brother), the weather was starting to clear, but there was still danger with water on the deck. Bongiovi had to break the news to his famous sibling. “Lucky me,” he laughs, but Bon Jovi agreed to the plan.
The situation was a “blessing in disguise,” Sixthman CEO Anthony Diaz says, with Bon Jovi rewarding guests with two separate concerts and varying set-lists — the second show streamed live in the atrium so everyone could be in on the action. Bon Jovi was forthcoming with his answers, handling delicate questions about the departure of guitarist Richie Sambora (“He just wouldn’t show up anymore… that was hard”), whether or not Bon Jovi would have its own biopic like “Bohemian Rhapsody” (answer? No, since it’s been done before, although he would like Angelina Jolie to portray him if there was a film), and the revelation of the new album title, “Bon Jovi: 2020,” with a tease of an unreleased song thrown in for good measure.
Bongiovi plays a key role on the Runaway cruise, having convinced Jon to consider the idea of two  embarkments — one in April from Miami to the Bahamas and this one, held Aug. 26 to 30, in the Mediterranean. In 2018, Bongiovi had started a new position at Entertainment Benefits Group, a company partnered with Sixthman, when he was asked if his brother would be interested in doing a cruise. The initial reaction? “No f–ing way.”
But having become familiar with Sixthman, which has been in business for 18 years with artists like Florida Georgia Line and wrestler-rocker Chris Jericho, Bongiovi was curious, and hopped aboard the KISS Kruise. “That was the first time I actually cruised to see if firsthand,” he says. “That is how I was able to truly see how this machine works, and then be able to assure my self and reassure Jon about what type of experience this is.” One caveat: Jon didn’t want to spend all four days on the boat, due to his heavy work schedule,
The advanced work that goes into staging a Sixthman cruise starts a year before anchors aweigh. The goal: to provide an immersive experience for the superfan, one that begins the moment they step onto the ship. Once aboard, DJ Dave Bain blares Bon Jovi classics like “Blood on Blood” (from the album “New Jersey”) and the band’s first single, “Runaway” while Bon Jovi live concert video plays on the ship’s television screens. A pop-up museum in the atrium showcases iconic outfits from several tours, with photographs by David Bergman adorning the elevator doors. Gold record plaques are also on display, with branded napkins at all bars and the “Runaway to Paradise” logo draped on the blackjack tables in the casino. Excited passengers posed for photos with a cardboard cutout of Jon and participated in planned activities, like a live Q&A with Matt Bongiovi and  longtime engineer Obie O’Brien and a wine tasting with son, Jesse.
In terms of branding, there’s nary a surface or product that doesn’t bear Bon Jovi insignia. From blankets to themed cocktails to souvenir cups, arcade games and beyond. A pop-up merchandise store of Jon’s Hart N’ Dagger clothing line was available for shoppers, as well as a recreation of the singer’s philanthropic Soul Kitchen restaurant, a pay it forward eatery with locations in New Jersey towns Red Bank and Toms River and Rutgers University, which encouraged diners to donate $20 to help families struggling with hunger. Other panels included behind the scene discussions by Phil Griffin of the filming of the movie, “When We Were Beautiful” and Bergman’s inside look at photographing Bon Jovi on tour.
Live music on the ship is not exclusively Bon Jovi, however, and included performances by Johnny Rzeznik (pictured below), Grace Potter, BETSIE GØLD, Stewart Mac, Antonio Rivas, Hannah Wickland & The Steppin Stones, Kris Barras Band and the up and coming British rockers Collateral. Goo Goo Dolls frontman  Rzeznik, fresh off a summer tour with Train, played on the pool deck (as did Potter) performing two sets — one acoustic and the other with Bon Jovi tribute band Slippery When Wet. “Sixthman does a really good job,” Rzeznik tells Variety. “We did another event with them … and know you are going to be treated well.”
The Goo Goo Dolls opened for Bon Jovi on the 2003 “Bounce” tour and while originally from Buffalo, New York, Rzenik now lives in New Jersey so naturally, he cracks a joke about highway exits. But seriously speaking, the singer hailed the cruise as an opportunity to get reacquainted with Bon Jovi’s fanbase, rest and recharge before the Sept. 13 release of the Goo Goo Dolls’ new album, “Miracle Pill.”
Artist BETSIE GØLD was also a previous warm-up act for Bon Jovi, at a 2017 show in Toronto. “Jon is a big influence,” she says. “I first heard of him when I was 13, and I said to my mum, ‘I want to do what they do and open for them one day.’”
The third night, Bon Jovi is onboard again and loose, joking that he had “brought the rain to Spain” and clearly having a blast with backing band The Kings of Suburbia. Framing the evening as a “jukebox show” of favorite songs, his setlist includes Bon Jovi hits “Born To Be My Baby” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” and covers like the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman,” Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” and U2’s “When Love Comes to Town.”
No doubt, the carrot for fans, beyond the music, is the opportunity to be in close physical proximity to their idol. It’s what many onboard cited as the reason they ponied up anywhere from $1500 to  $5,000-plus per person in addition to airfare to and from Barcelona. On one such occasion, Bon Jovi invited two fans to join him onstage — one named Kaitlyn won the hearts of the audience with a duet of “It’s My Life” (watch the video below). Bon Jovi was also charmed by the crowd, cooing “I never played live for women in hot tubs before… I kind of like it!”
The same can be said of the featured performers, like U.K. rockers Collateral, who won the opportunity to play on the ship. Set to release an album in February with distribution through Roulette Media Records, says frontman Angelo Tristan: “I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I have been a Bon Jovi fan since I was nine, and I still have the posters on my wall.”
Both nights, Bon Jovi posed for photos with fans at a meet and greet and allowed a few lucky die-hards to be escorted upstairs to the ship’s exclusive area, The Haven, to listen to three songs from the new album. These experiences were the culmination of a dream started by the star’s mother, Carol Ann, who once ran the fan club and came up with the idea of hosting resort takeovers in hotels for fans. When she retired from fan club duty, Bongiovi took over, revamping the business model to become what is now Jon Bon Jovi Runaway Tours, an opportunity for fans to travel to destinations –from Miami to Tokyo — with their favorite rock star.
“When people are paying a lot of money, you have to take care of people,” says Rzeznik, pointing to perks like free swag left in every state room nightly. “Jon’s is an important brand. It’s all about the experience.”
Variety – Click for a couple of photos