Up to five years ago, no one would dare see Rzeznik as a MTV-type rock star.
The Goo Goo Dolls, despite their obvious love for pop melodies, were considered an alternative rock band. Their first two albums from the early '90s, SuperstarCarWash and A Boy Named Goo were fuelled by trashy power chords.
But in recent years, things started to change - and click into place. Malinin replaced George Tutuska on drums. A Boy Named Goo sold over 1.5 million. The Goo Goo Dolls moved from the independent Metal Blade Records to major-land after they sued the small label, saying they had seen no money.
The biggest step was when Rzeznik suffered a writer's block. To shake himself out of it, he stepped out of character and wrote a song he normally wouldn't have. It was "Iris". The track was included on the soundtrack to The CitY Of Angels. The band thought nothing of it. After all, some of the other acts on the album like U2, Alanis Morissette and Peter Gabriel would get more attention, right?
But "Iris" changed everything for the Goo Goo Dolls. They got their first ever No. 1 single, first in Australia, and then in America. At its peak, the single was selling three times as much in America as what A Boy Named Goo has sold. *Iris* sold 140,000 copies in Australia and was biggest single of 1998 for Warner Music. Suddenly everybody wanted to know about the Goo Goo Dolls.
All this set it up for the release of their album Dizzy Up The Girl (through Festival) and their upcoming Australian tour with Bachelor Girl. The album has a wide variety of moods, some great songs and abitching rock sound.
Q. Billboard magazine reckons Dizzy Up The Giurl is poised to put Goo Goo Dolls into the superstar league. How do you feel about that?
RT. "That idea would not suck! We got no problem with that at all."
JR. "It's out of our control, to be honest. We've heard about so many bands who were hailed as the next big thing and nothing happened. We'll just continue to work hard and let the people decide. By definition of success, we've already made it because American pop radio is full of manufactured bands like Backstreet Boys. We're one of the few real bands that are played on American pop radio. That's cool but weird at the same time. You know, you hear a Goo Goo Dolls and then Backstreet Boys and you go, Ugh, do we belong here?"
MM. "We're into a real anti-Backstreet Boys trip here aren't we!"
JR. "Every day we wake up and decide to hate a band and can them all day, and today it's Backstreet Boys. But I'm proud of the fact Goo Goo Dolls wasn't put together by a producer or a record company guy, but by three kids in college wanting to make some noise, hang out and have some fun. Right now, I think the band's playing stronger than it ever has, and I'm real excited about the future."
RT. It*s been a long time for us. We*ve done a lot od driving around in the back of vans in freezing weather, begging radio stations to let us go on, turning up to find that they hadn*t even got a copy of our record. There are so many bands in America trying to get the same kind of airtime, so it becomes a real battle.
JR. As a band we went through a really shitty time just before this record came out. We sued our first record company because, in our opinion, it was a unfair deal. We were selling a lot of records but did not see a penny.
Rob and I were living in New York at the time, Mike was in LA, and we were thinking, it's futile to keep going. But we were lucky that we had enough of a fan base so we could go on tour, make enough money to get a lawyer to get us out of the deal. Then '76s" came along and that was a gift, that changed everything around. Maybe we needed to go through this shitty stuff so our heads were forced to change from where we were before. You can hear that in the songs"
RT. "I think I got my confidence back quicker than John. Once we got into the studios working on demos, we knew something was working there. Plus having Mike injected a whole new thing. He's not a bad guy... for a drummer."
JR. "We played some shows last year with two extra guys, and more important than their music abilities was the fact they were comedians. They came from two opposite ends of the spectrum. One toured with REM for two years. Then another played keyboards in a disco funk band who still wore shiny shirts. I knew him when he was an obnoxious nine year old and I was in a band with his brother."
RT. Once you bring the fun back into what you do, the problems disappear.
Q. Robbie had further personal problems, didn*t you? You got divorced, your ex-wife got sick, you moved back to Buffalo with your new girlfriend, right?
RT. *Correct. The song *Extra Pale* came from that. It was written in a bar on the back of a cocktail napkin. The phrase comes from the beer tap of Rolling Rock beer. The term *Extra Pale* seemed to relate a lot at that time to my life.
Q. What shape did the band first hear "Iris " in?
JR. "I played it on guitar to the music director of the movie. Then I did a demo with drum machines for the band. They pounded out a different version. (Suddenly goes off the track). Hey, you know what pissed me about making this record? I'd be recording solos, and our producer Rob Cavallo, a great guitarist, would hear the song once and do the guitar parts better Man, my guitar tech plays better than me!"
Q. Did the success of 'Iris" change the kind of dudes who'd hang out with you?
JR. "Remember in high school when you got something the cool kids wanted, and they wanted to be your buddy. Do you go 'get out of here!' or do you go 'Oh, wow, thanks for liking me' (laughs). "Iris" put the Goo Goo Dolls in a new league, I guess, and suddenly people wanted to hang out. I've got a friend who's an actress, young, good looking, makes lot of money, she gets invited to parties up in the Hollywood Hills where all these super-famous people get together and take drugs. She never goes but she always gets invited. I'm like, Hey, I'm a big rock star now, how come I don't at least get invited to these kind of parties? But I don't. I go out for pizza with my friends and go bowling on Saturday nights."
MM. "Don't forget we were invited to a party at Courtney Love's. We couldn't go because we were in Buffalo but we were thrilled at being asked, though."
Q. Did you have a problem with someone comparing "Ifis"to Billy Joel's "Piano Man"?
JR. "Just as long as it's not the only thing you do, ya know? Because the records that inspired us to make our own music were records that you could listen to from start to finish, and they were eclectic. They took you on a journey. I think our album has a lot of different things. Dizzy to me sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Gang Of Four with a great hook, while "Bullet Proof' has a really nasty hook which kicks in. "Slide" is a good rock song, an angst sex anthem from a good Catholic boy. On the other hand, you get "Iris"and then you get "Acoustic #3" which has this gorgeous orchestral arrangement by David Campbell. The record company wanted to put it out as a single, and I guess it could become a hit, but I wanted the Goo Goo Dolls to go out with something heavy."
Q. Before you started recording Dizzy Up The Girl, you talked about wanting to make a timeless record, Which classic CDs are your reference points?
RT. "These were usually made by bands that did what they wanted to do. Cheap Trick's Live At The Budokan still does something for me."
JR. "Any one of those amazing Led Zeppelin records. I didn't hear them first time around, I was 12 when they broke up. But they still sound like they were recorded yesterday. Same thing with those Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers albums. L12's The Joshua Tree is another. There are records made today which will sound amazing in ten years, Radiohead's The Sends for instance, amazing record. It's to do with having a bunch of great songs, pure sounds and a legitimate production that doesn't use too much gimmickry. A lot of records that came out of Britain in the early 70s are still awesome. The guy who mixed our record used technology from all over the place. Some of his console had been used in the making of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and some during the making of the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed."
Q. The track "Broadway" is about the neighbourhood in Buffalo where Johnny grew up. Do you other guys come from a similar backgrounds
JR. "The song is not about New York's Broadway which is where the theatres are. It's about the Broadway of Buffalo which is a Polish Catholic ghetto, very working class, and where everybody has an opinion and voices it very loudly."
MM. "I'm from Miami, Robbie and I are from the suburbs. Our parents made enough money to get us out of the city to give us a supposedly safer life, yet there's a lot of weird stuff going on out in the suburbs too. The heroin addicts of places like Buffalo are the kids of the rich people. Miami's got such a huge drug culture. When I was in junior high there was all this cocaine around, real pure uncut stuff, so for a time there, five people were overdosing a day. It was always the kids of some rich upper class white family, or an aspiring lawyer."
JR. "That's when the Government starts to take notice of the problem, when a politician or a movie star dies from it. Rest of the time, if someone's poor or in a minority, they ghettoise the problem. It's so disheartening to see."
Q. Is "Hate This Place "a tribute to the '80s band The Replacements?
JR. "Not so much a tribute to The Replacements, a great band who never got the success they deserved, but more a fuck you to those who keep saying we sound like them!"
Q. What inspired "January Friend"?
BT. "I was on vacation in Hawaii. Weird things happen to your head when you're in paradise, right?"
Q. Speaking of weird, where did "Black Balloon" come from?
JR. "When we first recorded it, we weren't sure about the arrangement. It took our producer to say, are you kids kidding it's great. It's about watching someone you love fuck up bad but it's not something that happened to me."
Q. You guys did a version of Sydney '80s band Lime Spiders' "Slave Girl". where did you hear that?
JR. "My girlfriend at college turned me on to it. It was a big record on college radio in America."
Q. What's been the most disasterous Goo Goo Dolls gig?
JR. "The Poyolon State Fair in Washington State, they gave you T-shirts with a pig on it. Anyway, Jewel was on it, I think she's real hot and I wanted to impress her, 'cos she was watching from the side of the stage. We were doing "Naked" and we counted in wrong, each of us came in at the wrong time. This is in front of 7,000 kids, right? So I turn to see Jewel, she's shaking her head and walking off! So much for me trying to act cool for her."