November 5, 1997

The Goo Goo Dolls are freed from a naive record contract

From the time the Goo Goo Dolls released their first album ten years ago until their 1995 commercial breakthrough "A Boy Named Goo," each band member held a part-time job. Frontman Johnny Rzeznik was working as an independent radio promoter when he wrote the eventual No. 1 hit, "Name."

Even when "Name" catapulted the Goos into the alternative stratosphere, where backstage beverages include Beck's instead of bug juice, the Buffalo trio was still stuck in the same tax bracket. Despite selling more than two million copies of "A Boy Named Goo," the band didn't see a penny in royalties, and each member was pulling down a welfare-envying $6,000 a year from the label. Their ridiculous financial situation came about because of the still-enforced record contract the then naive band signed with Metal Blade prior to the release of its 1987 debut album.

"I thought about carving 'Slave' into my face, but it didn't work," bassist Robby Takac says, alluding to The Artist Formerly Known as Prince's bizarre protest of his Warner Bros. contract several years back.

"I don't blame Metal Blade for taking advantage of the situation," adds guitarist Rzeznik. "That's just the nature of the business. If you allow somebody to take advantage of you, then they're going to. Ultimately it was our fault that we signed that contract."

The Goos still had to eat, though, and they embarked on a two-year tour to pay the bills. The group even reluctantly joined the glitzy, teen-skewed Bush/No Doubt tour, an experience that Takac likens to "having a dentist enter through your ass to pull your wisdom teeth out." In the meantime, the band sought legal help to get out of the contract. The band won a nine-month legal battle in August to liberate itself from the Metal Blade contract and, beginning with the next album, will record exclusively for Metal Blade's distributor, Warner Bros. Goo Goo Dolls attorney Peter Paterno calls the new deal "twice as good" as the old one.

"I feel like such a lucky guy, 'cause we just had a really successful record and I think we've got another good record in us," Rzeznik boasts. "But there were definitely some pretty bumpy times where you just go, 'Why the fuck am I doing this? This is stupid. This is insane.' But, at the same time, you love what you're doing, so you'll put up with all the bullshit to do it."

In preparation for the Goos' sixth album, the band played sporadically this summer, mostly near its Buffalo hometown and in Canada. Aside from performing their contribution to the "Batman & Robin" soundtrack, "Lazy Eye," the Goos' refused to test new material on the road. "You can't play [new songs] live now," Rzeznik says. "Because the next day some jerk's selling it on the Internet."

The Goos will record new material in New York, Los Angeles and "maybe someplace weird," according to Rzeznik. Thrilled that they'll now be paid fairly for any future success, the band is still angered by the record industry's restrictive bureaucracy.

"They've been saying 'somebody's gotta reform this business' since the first time some dude crawled out of Tin Pan Alley singin' a song," Rzeznik laments.

"Someone will someday," Takac adds.

"But it ain't gonna be us," says a relieved Rzeznik.


Copyright © 1997 by Straight Arrow Publishers Company, L.P. All rights reserved.