Goo Goo Dolls: Johnny Rzeznik on vintage gear, inequality, and why America is moving backwards

Goo Goo Dolls in a wood
(Image credit: Warner Bros Records)

Ensconcing themselves in splendid isolation in the remote Dreamland Studios outside of Woodstock in New York State paid off for the Goo Goo Dolls and their thirteenth album, Chaos In Bloom. Born partly from lockdown blues and not a little frustration with the state of their nation, the Johnny Rzeznik-produced album is the band’s best in some time. 

Classic Rock caught up with Rzeznik – the band’s guitarist/vocalist – pre-show in Seattle.


You finally self-produced a Goo Goo Dolls album. Is your ego now completely out of control? 

Ha! You know, I just wanted the time to experiment and to create in a way that we have not had the opportunity to do over the past few records. I love those records, but I wanted something different. I was watching videos of us playing live on YouTube, and I’m like, well, you know, the songs sound a lot tougher live, and I thought, well, we need to capture this stuff. 

You drove your own vintage equipment coast to coast to get the album sound you wanted

I have this massive collection of vintage recording equipment, and I didn’t trust anybody to ship it for me. So my friend John and I put it in a truck and we drove from California to New York in the middle of winter on this four-day adventure. 

The Chaos album has a darker edge lyrically than some fans might expect. Was at least some of the record’s mood impacted by lockdown? 

On one hand, I got to spend a lot of time with my little girl, and working on the record helped me keep sane, so there was that. But part of the record is a reflection of the time, and a lot of the songs are not just about the pandemic, but what’s going on socially.

So after driving coast to coast across the USA, how’s the state of the nation looking to you? 

It’s difficult to speak about politics as a musician. Theoretically, you can alienate half your audience. But we’re so divided as a nation, awash in a sea of disinformation. And even if I was a Republican, I would disavow Trump and Trumpism. Those things are not the core beliefs of that party. I believe that our country is moving backwards, and that’s frightening to me. Then there’s climate change, huge inequality, all of it. 

Hence a song like Let The Sun? I mean, initially it sounds like classic Goo Goo Dolls… 

And it’s about the economic inequality in America, I know. But I can’t ignore that. More and more money in the US keeps getting funnelled into fewer and fewer hands. Why does one guy get to have two hundred billion dollars? To put that in perspective, we all want to be a millionaire, but that guy became a millionaire two hundred thousand times over. It’s fucking absurd, isn’t it? It’s grotesque. The pigs at the top keep the cash. 

What would the young Johnny Rzeznik who wrote Superstar Carwash have made of all this? 

I just feel like I’m at a point in my life in my career where it’s like, well, I have a little more freedom to do exactly what I want, and that’s where I am and who I am. But I think that kid would have written about this stuff too, it’s just that these times now, they’re so unprecedented.

Chaos In Bloom is out now via Warner Bros Records. The next leg of Goo Goo Dolls' US tour kicks off on October 28 in Eau Claire, WI. Full dates available on the Goo Goo Dolls website

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.