With their huge crossover hit ‘Iris’ dominating the airwaves, Goo Goo Dolls flourished in the American alternative rock scene of the ’90s, not least with the release of Dizzy Up The Girl.
Since then the band have recorded and toured steadily, gaining a loyal fan-base.
Daniel Jeakins spoke to singer, lead guitarist and songwriter John Rzeznik about hard-partying, touring with the Stones and why bands should play their biggest hits.
Hi John. Your latest single ‘So Alive’ has arrived, new album Boxes due next month. What’s it about?
“‘So Alive’ is about the last eighteen months of my life. It’s been pretty intense, I’ve been going through a lot of changes. Getting married, trying to start a family, and just being busy in a really introspective way.
“The album’s a good reflection of where we are right now. I’m also always keen to learn more and more with each new album, and I think I’ve done that too.”
Even as a band with a lot of experience, do you still learn something from going on tour with an act as big as The Rolling Stones?
“Yeah, you watch that machine work and it’s incredible. There’s literally hundreds of people to put on one show. What I learned is to hire the right people to put on your show, just from seeing how the tour works.”
Did you get any time to hang out with them at all?
“We spent a lot of time with Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. On the first day they said ‘this is our dressing room, the door is always unlocked, come in any time’. It was like the coolest clubhouse ever.
“We met Mick Jagger at the beginning and the end, everyone else was always round and were really nice to us. It was incredible really, I’ve opened for bands that were roughly on the same level as us and they’ve been miserable pricks. Then you go with one of the biggest bands in the world and they actually help you put on a great show.”
You’re playing a lot of live dates throughout the rest of the year, how has your relationship with touring changed since the early days?
“The main difference is now I got to bed every night! There’s no insane partying – I know that sounds boring but that had to stop otherwise someone was going to wake up dead.”
Was there a point for you where you thought ‘this has gone too far’ at some point in the nineties?
“That didn’t happen until 2014 (laughs). I’ve been trying to quit drinking for fifteen years and I only managed it then. So far it’s worked, but it could all go tits up at any moment. I actually remember all the ridiculous things I said the night before.”
What do you think the secret is to your longevity?
“Robbie (Takac, bassist) and I grew up in a very blue-collar working class environment, and this is the kind of business where you never know if you’ll ever be able to work again. You look back at all the bands that broke through in around 1995 like us and there’s hardly any left.
“We’re f****** lucky, and I’m just grateful we still have the opportunity to work. I think a lot of it is because of where we were from. If you stayed up until five in the morning taking coke, you had a shower and went to work at six. That’s the work ethic that we maintain.”
I’m sure you hate being asked about this, but what’s your relationship with ‘Iris’? Obviously it’s the song you’re remembered for by the mainstream media, so how do you feel about it today?
“I’m grateful for that song, it gave me a career. Sure, sometimes I think ‘why won’t anyone ask me about another song?’, but I’ve toured with a lot of bands where the song that bought them the house on the hill or got them the super-model girlfriend, they refuse to play. I just think ‘you’re an arsehole to your fans’.
“I have to be grateful for that, it’s the reason I got a house of my own for the first time. People have written me hundreds of letters about what that song means to them, I have to treat it with respect. I wish I could write another one!”
Goo Goo Dolls’ latest album Boxes is out on May 6, with new single So Alive available on all streaming services.
Main photo credit: Bob Mussel