John from Goo Goo Dolls – Exclusive Interview

InterviewJune 6, 2013Tuningo

This week, we thought that we would combine our Graduation Theme with #Throwback Thursday to feature an interview with John Rzeznik from Goo Goo Dolls! He tells Tunigo about how he wasn't allowed to do the graduate walk because of his hair (or lack of it), the process behind the new album "Magnetic" and his relationship with the song "Iris" today.

Legendary rock band Goo Goo Dolls are back this summer, with their tenth studio album, “Magnetic”. Front man John Rzeznik feels that this new record is the next step for what Goo Goo Dolls is all about, and as the primary songwriter of the band, he has approached this album in a different way than before.

- I needed to freshen the band up, because I don’t want to make the same album again and again. Goo Goo Dolls has a signature sound, but what the band is capable of has grown geometrically because I allowed other people to be involved this time.  It was good for me to sit down with my co-writers Gregg Wattenberg and John Shanks and ask for their opinion. It really challenged me to be better, John said when Tunigo met him.

“Rebel Beat” is the name of the first single, which is an upbeat song with lyrics that have a bit of a split in them. The chorus is fun and happy, but the verses are about trying to put together a second chance for yourself.

- When I wrote it, I was picturing a guy and girl who are part of this working class thing. There’s a line in the song that goes “We’ll take what’s ours for once, and run like hell”. Basically, getting up and getting out and living your life. That’s kind of what the whole album is about.

The seize the day-feeling in this song fits well with our graduation theme for this week. What memories do you have from your own graduation?

- I remember not being allowed to do the graduate walk, because I had the sides of my head shaved. That was unacceptable at my school, so I wasn’t allowed to recieve my diploma. They gave it to me, but I couldn’t go on stage. But I wasn’t pissed, I hated high school. I was a freak, I wasn’t good at sports, really shy… I just didn’t fit in there. I took a lot of shit from people, it was just a miserable and unhappy experience. I had to go through it, but I’m glad it’s over. God, it’s a lifetime ago!

Right after John Rzeznik had gotten out of high school, he and bassist Robby Takac formed Goo Goo Dolls together. But up until 1995, they were just “a couple of part-timers messing around” according to John.

- We would go on tour for a couple of months, then go home and get a job and make another record in our spare time when we weren’t working. It was sort of an overblown hobby. Then our song “Name” become a big hit in America, and suddenly we were able to do this full-time.

Do you remember the moment when you realized that you could support yourself with your music?

- Yes, because I had to pay off my student loans. I was avoiding that, and then they called me and said “you have money now, and you owe us.” My accountant said, “you’re a middle class American now”, and I was like “wow!”. I had lived my life in the cracks, I was always a bartender or working in night clubs. I’d never had a credit card or a driver’s license, always got paid in cash… I lived off the grid for a long time when I was a kid, but the day when I had to take responsibility for myself was definitely the day that I grew up.

Have you ever missed having an ordinary bartender job since then?

- I would love to be a bartender again, it was such a fun job. Once in a while I get to do it for charity events, and I love doing it. It was my favorite job. I could talk to everybody and have a great time, and I had an excuse to talk to every pretty girl in the bar. And I went home every night with a pocket full of cash. I really enjoyed working with that. But now, whenever I feel like it’s time to go, it’s always a little victory we have that keeps me coming back to the band.

Right now John Rzeznik hopes that he’s written a record that people can relate to. “Before I’m gone I need to touch someone. With a word, with a kiss, with a decent song” he sings in the first singel “Rebel Beat,” and it’s safe to say that he has accomplished that goal, by far. Last year, the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” from 1998 was chosen by Billboard as the number one pop song in twenty years.

- I actually found out about it by accident. I was flipping through a Billboard magazine at the record company’s office, and I was like “what is this?” I showed it to Rob Cavallo, who was one of the guys that produced the record, and said “did you see this?!” It felt good. I’m always grateful for that song, but I’m also very aware of the shadow that it has cast over the rest of our work. Sometimes I wish that we had other songs that had that kind of impact, but I have to stay grateful for actually having one song that did that. It’s a pretty amazing thing to have happened to you.

You must hear a lot of “Iris”-stories from people?

- Everybody’s got one. I think it’s really interesting, because in a weird way I was there for all those things. I always hear stories about how someone was going through a divorce, and felt better while listening to the song. It seems like people use our music to get through hard times, at least the people that tell me about it. And that’s fine. I’m glad that our music has a purpose.