“I was in a bad spot”: the darkness behind the Goo Goo Dolls’ new album

Robby Takac and John Rzeznik of rock band Goo Goo Dolls
Goo Goo Dolls: Robby Takac and John Rzeznik release new album Boxes

Goo Goo Dolls formed in Buffalo, New York in 1986 by singer-guitarist John Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac, but it wasn’t until their two-million-selling fifth album, 1995’s A Boy Named Goo, that the band broke through. The follow-up, 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl, did even better and yielded their best-known song, the Rzeznik-written hit Iris. New album Boxes, their eleventh, marks a return to tuneful blue-collar rock after a number of fallow years.

You turned fifty last December and the band are now in their thirtieth-anniversary year. What has stood out for you?

John Rzeznik: When we first got a record deal, Robby and I were so blown away that we actually pulled it off. But right now what amazes me the most is that the two of us have managed to hold it together for this long. And the fact we haven’t had to have day jobs in quite a while is a big plus.

I think the big thing that’s kept us going is that neither of us had a brother growing up, and right off we felt this kinship with each other. We’ve stuck like family. I attribute us enjoying each other’s company more now to the fact that both of us have finally quit drinking.

When have you been at your best, and when at your worst?

I could pinpoint times where I’ve been at my worst much more easily. We put out an album in 2010 called Something For The Rest Of Us. The time leading up to that was a really bad spot for me in every way imaginable. There was so much negativity, burn-out and problems. Robby and I seemed to be working at cross purposes but didn’t understand why. But I do think that alcohol had a big role in us being so tired and so sick of the record business and of each other. The thing I regret most is that I checked out during that period and didn’t give a fuck about anything or anyone. That’s no way to live.

What of the new album?

The last record, Magnetic, was the beginning of us getting back on track. This one is sort of us hitting the next gear and picking up momentum. I got my shit together personally and Robby and I got our shit together as a group. We collaborated on everything and it was fun to do.

Does songwriting get easier or harder the longer you’ve been at it?

Harder. It’s amazing the amount of courage that someone needs to have to write their first record, but you have all this pent-up energy just waiting to explode. At this stage of the game it’s very easy to get used to doing things a certain way and to start to repeat yourself.

July 4, 2004 was declared Goo Goo Dolls Day in your native Buffalo. Has it become an annual event?

Yes it has. And we’ve got two of them now! The new mayor hated his predecessor, so he declared his own Goo Goo Dolls Day. Not much happens. I think they play all of our albums in chronological order on a jukebox in some bar or other in South Buffalo.

What’s the most interesting pronunciation of your surname you’ve heard?

Rzezzzzz. People get as far as the second ‘z’ and then just give up.