By Vincent Arrieta
Being from Buffalo, Goo Goo Dolls’ frontman John Rzeznik is naturally passionate about chicken wings.
“Duffs,” Rzeznik said confidently when asked which bar has the mightiest wings in Western New York.
“You can’t just ask ‘Duffs or Anchor Bar’ because if you really want to go deep on the chicken wing issue – there’s a place called the Lenox, which is unbelievable,” he continued. “There’s a place called La Nova that they do ‘char-beque’ wings, which are barbecue wings charbroiled; unbelievable. Then there’s Imperial Pizza, their wings are incredible too.”
Goo Goo Dolls – singer/guitarist Rzeznik and bassist/singer Robby Takac – are scheduled to perform in El Paso for the first time in six years with an appearance at the Plaza Theatre on Nov. 20.
Rzeznik said his roots in Buffalo were crucial to his early worldviews that influenced his songwriting and Goo Goo Dolls’ early punk rock sound.
“When I was growing up in Buffalo, it was a place you wanted to get out of,” he said. “Now it’s a place to be.”
Rzeznik said his hometown was “decimated” in the early ‘80s after the downsizing of steel mills crippled the economy, only to have a strong revitalization in recent years through tourism and service industries.
“The city has come back and it’s becoming more self-sufficient,” he said. “It’s not relying on a giant corporation to keep the community thriving. It’s the community interacting with each other and supporting each other and that’s what keeps it going. That’s a much more stable place to be.”
In a case of Bob Seger or Jackson Brown-esque road fever, Rzeznik said many cities on the road tend to “blur together” amid the hustle-and-bustle of touring life.
But he has noticed similar positive changes in the smaller towns the band tends to play.
“The smaller cities in this country are starting to thrive, and I love that,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve seen occurring over the last 20, 25 years where these towns have been rehabilitating their downtowns and creating new economies – all based on having a distinctive identity for what you are in these towns. The little restaurants, there’s always somebody brewing beer, the renovation of the old architecture and all that. There’s been a huge release of entrepreneurial activity. It’s really cool.”
One can’t help but compare the revitalization of small-town America Rzeznik is referring to with El Paso’s own nascent revitalization.
Perhaps El Paso’s small-town-spirit-in-big-city-clothes relates to Rzeznik’s musical ideas coming from a similar place, and that’s why Goo Goo Dolls visit more than many of their contemporaries.
The Plaza Theatre appearance will be the Goo Goo Dolls’ third borderland appearance in 12 years.
Many of Rzeznik’s songs contain a distinct sense of aspiration and longing.
Most notable are the band’s signature song “Iris” from the soundtrack to the film “City of Angels,” and Rzeznik’s solo composition “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” from the soundtrack to the Disney film “Treasure Planet.”
While the former song was inspired by the film’s themes of giving up immortality for mortal love, the latter song was more inspired by the feelings Rzeznik might have felt in the shoes of “Treasure Planet’s” main character, Jim Hawkins.
“That was specifically written for that movie,” Rzeznik said. “But even though you have your subject matter in front of you, I’m relating to the character Jim in the film, and then I obviously wrap up myself inside that character. If I were Jim, what would I say? Everything gets run through the set of filters in your brain and it comes out in a certain way.”
“I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” remains the only solo release of Rzeznik’s career, and for all intents and purposes, he said it might remain his sole solo venture.
“I got to be honest with you, I think it would just sound like a Goo Goo Dolls record,” he said laughing when asked if a solo LP is on the horizon. “Unless I deliberately pivoted in an opposite direction or something, like if I tried to make like a reggae album or something, I don’t know. But I sound like me. Right now, I don’t feel the need to do that, but I’ve thought about it. If I get pissed off at Robby, I’ll think ‘I’ll go make my own record,’ but I never do. Robby and I have the understanding that ‘we’re going to do this.’ Why? Because it still works.”