John Rzeznik says a Goo Goo Dolls trip to play in Syracuse feels like home

InterviewSeptember 27,

Published: Monday, September 27, 2010, 12:00 AM
Mark Bialczak/The Post-Standard

When 2011 rolls around in a couple of months, it’ll officially be a quarter-century since John Rzeznik and Robby Takac got together in their hometown of Buffalo and started the Goo Goo Dolls.

Does that make lead singer and guitarist Rzeznik feel old? Or, does it make him feel good that the rock band has displayed the sort of longevity that’s becoming increasingly rare in the music business?

“Both,” Rzeznik says during a recent phone interview, chuckling at the concept. “I’m good and old, you know. It’s kind of a strange feeling when people say, ‘You guys are veterans.’ Yeah, I guess so, we are veterans. It feels good that we’ve been able to maintain it. If you grew up with the same bands that I did, all these bands are gone. Where did everybody from my generation of music go?”

Rzeznik has done his share of traveling, too, but not with Takac and Goo Goo Dolls drummer Mike Malinin far from his sight.

In the 24 years since starting as a Buffalo bar band (Malinin joined Rzeznik and Takac 15 years ago), the Goos have put out nine studio albums, including “Something for the Rest of Us,” released on Warner Bros. Records on Aug. 31.

“Maybe time’s flying fast because we get to do what we want to do,” Rzeznik says from his L.A.-area home.

Life in all that good weather is pretty nice.

There’s a farmers market today. We’ll pick up some fruits and vegetables. I’m doing some interviews. I’ll make dinner and hang out and watch a movie,” he says. “I’m on a short break.”

The time off ended in Syracuse.

This leg of the band’s tour starts Tuesday in the Mulroy Civic Center’s Crouse-Hinds Concert Theater. For “a couple of days” before that, Rzeznik says, the Goos will have rehearsed in the Landmark Theatre, renting the former movie palace even though it’s closed for shows while awaiting the start of its back-of-stage expansion.

“I love those great, old theaters,” he says. “They make you feel like you’re going to up your game.”

Besides, Rzeznik adds, he’s pretty darn comfortable in Syracuse, after many years of driving to play clubs in the days when Rzeznik’s day job was selling Sahlen’s hotdogs from a cart in front of Buffalo’s county courthouse.

“We always go to the Dinosaur. That’s some of the best barbecue ever,” he says. “We’ll hang out and enjoy a couple of days. Syracuse is a lot like Buffalo. It’s like somebody might recognize you, but they don’t care. It’s still like when we first started getting popular. It’s a little strange. Somebody might say, ‘Hey, dude.’ The most people want to do is shake your hand and say hello.”

On a national scale, the Goos blew up in 1995 after the hook-filled song “Name,” went to No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Rzeznik says they listened to some good advice right then and there.

“My manager said, ‘Keep your head down. Keep working.’ That’s what we’ve done,” he says.

That diligence — and great songwriting — led to a steady presence on rock radio. “Iris,” from the soundtrack of the movie “City of Angels,” went to No. 1 and stayed there for 17 weeks in 1998. “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” “Broadway,” “Here Is Gone,” “Big Machine,” “Sympathy,” “Give a Little Bit,” “Better Days,” “Stay with You,” “Let Love In” and “Before It’s Too Late” continued the march of success. “Give a Little Bit,” a cover of Supertramp’s 1977 hit, went to No. 1 and remained there for eight weeks.

To think, Rzeznik says, all he wanted to do at the beginning was play music in the mold of his hero, Paul Westerberg, and the Replacements.

“I didn’t want to sound like the Replacements. I wanted to be the Replacements,” Rzeznik says. “In my mind, (Westerberg’s) up there with guys like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen as far as the depth and breadth of what he does.”

Rzeznik says the record company folks let them get a feel for themselves from the start.

“It took so much nurturing and patience on the part of the guys running the record company at the time,” he says. “We would sell 40,000 records, 60,000 records, and they were like, we’re going to get this. They helped us along until we really developed our identity. And we outgrew our heavy, heavy influences.”

So how did they keep the momentum going through the 90s, 2000s and into a third decade?

“I’m going to say, first and foremost, luck. Then, after luck, we worked our (butts) off. If there was a problem, this band is really, really good at circling the wagons and pulling each other through a difficult time.”

The details
What: Goo Goo Dolls in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Crouse-Hinds Concert Theater, Mulroy Civic Center, Syracuse.
Tickets: $39.50, $49.50. Available at Oncenter box office, Ticketmaster outlets, and 315-435-2121. Special rate of $20 for college students with valid ID at Oncenter box office only.