'Magnetic' attraction: The Goo Goo Dolls
John Rzeznik discusses the life changes and musical
goals behind their new music
By Melinda Newman Special to MSN Music
Sometimes, you have to go through the darkness to get to the light. On 2010's
"Something for the Rest of Us," the Goo Goo Dolls wrestled with some demons, but on
"Magnetic," out June 11, John Rzeznik, Robby Takac and Mike Malinin have come
out the other side and into the sun.
Since forming in 1986 in Buffalo, the Goo Goo Dolls have provided a steady
stream of melodic, textured hits, including "Iris," "Black Balloon," "Slide" and
"Better Days," to lodge more top 10 songs in the history of Billboard's Adult
Contemporary charts than any other artist. The first single off "Magnetic," the
uplifting, anthemic "Rebel Beat," is headed in the same direction.
Rzeznik talked to MSN about giving up drinking, the song he unintentionally
wrote for his fiancée and why some fans may complain about the new album.
MSN Music: You're getting married this summer and Robby's wife recently
had a baby, which helps explain so many songs about being in love and being
John Rzeznik: It's wanting to have these things.
Right. The difference between wanting and actually having allowed you to
keep that bittersweet wistfulness and slight doubt that anchors so many of your
I think that's just a big part of my personality. I can see the cloud in
every silver lining [laughs]. By the time you get to be my age, that means
you've gone through your first round of adulthood and now you're starting the
second round. The thing that struck me the most was I definitely didn't want to
write a bunch of ballads. I wanted more uptempo, more fun. The theme unwound
itself in front of me: "OK, this is your life, you got to get up, you got to get
out, you got to live it because it's going quick."
The lushly romantic "Come to Me" could be a perfect wedding song. Did you
write that for your fiancée?
I didn't intend to, but I guess I did. I was just sort of writing. She's
great. She's really strong, a good person, I know she's got my back. I'm really
happy that we're [getting married], so that song definitely, that's for her.
Are you going to sing it at the wedding?
No, no ... that would be so, just kind of cheesy [laughs] ... Maybe I'll hire
someone else to sing it.
What made you decide to co-write with Gregg Wattenberg and John Shanks
instead of writing the bulk of the material alone, as you have in the past?
The process has become really sort of stagnant. I felt like I needed to go
back to school and learn some more from some other people on what I was doing
and get some different perspective. Anybody starts to repeat themselves over and
over and over again. I figured, we've done 10 records, that's a lot of
This album sounds different sonically from past albums, with a stronger
emphasis on rhythms and harmonies. How intentional was that?
I'm sure some people will criticize it negatively [because of] some of the
things that we did musically. I mean, this is not a heavily guitar-driven
record; there's a lot more keyboards. I wanted to experiment more with rhythms
and things like that, also use a lot more vocals as instruments, building these
big walls of vocals and harmonies. It just freshened up the whole sound of the
You stopped drinking recently. How did that affect your
I don't think I've ever written anything worth using when I've been drinking,
and generally when I work, I never drank. ... It's not when I'm drinking that's
the problem, it's the day after. ... I went through periods in my life where I
was just drinking way too much, and then there's times when I didn't drink at
all, and then I was sort of hitting a period when we were doing "Something for
the Rest of Us" where my drinking was occupying way too much of my time and it
was making me really, really miserable and it was making me ineffective and it
was really making the people around me unhappy.
Did you reach the tipping point?
I'm generally a pretty shy person. I know it doesn't seem like it. I get
really anxious in social situations, so alcohol really worked for a long time.
It was a social lubricant. But it got really a little bit out of control there
and it wasn't working. That's the bottom line: It just stopped working.
As a writer, do you still worry about where the next song is coming from?
Yeah. I still worry about it sometimes: "Is this the end?" I've done this my
entire adult life and it's the only real job I've ever had that's lasted this
long. Sometimes you worry about how am I going to make a living. Sometimes these
kind of fears creep into my head: "How am I going to make a living?" "What if
nobody wants to hear this," you know? I'd be lying if I said I didn't care what
people thought of what I did.
Last fall, Billboard named "Iris" the top song in the 20-year history of
its Pop Songs chart. What was your first thought upon hearing that?
That was an incredible, incredible experience. When I first saw that, I was
shocked and then I saw we had another one in the top 10 and had three on the
list. I was like "Whoa, man, whoa, this is, wow ..." I never would have thought.
And then my second thought, "I thought I'd have more money ... [laughs] I
thought I'd have more dough."
How do you keep that song fresh performing it night after night?
Honestly, I always try to remember to be grateful that I have one song that I
actually was able to connect with people to that level. That's a really cool
feeling, like, "Wow, I actually built this thing, I actually built this song and
people all over the world, like, 15 years later still connect with it." Then I
also remember that people come to see us and that song is really important to a
lot of people, so, you know, I would be an arrogant jerk not to play it.
I think we share a lot of the same kind of audiences. The response has been
really amazing. It's not like a '90s sort of revival tour because both bands are
still putting records out, both bands are still on the radio with current songs.
"Rebel Beat" is on the radio now and they have had two singles off of "North" on
the radio now, and so both bands have these huge long string of hits and we both
have new material out, so it's great for both of us.
Have you thought about writing with Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas?
I would love for me and Rob to write together. He is really talented,
he's a great singer and he knows how to craft a song really, really well. I've
always enjoyed what they represent as a band: just really solid songwriting.
That's the most important thing to me ultimately.
Melinda Newman is the former West Coast bureau chief for Billboard
magazine. She has covered music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times, The
Washington Post, The Associated Press, MSN, AOL Music, Hitfix.com, Variety,
People Country and other outlets. Recent interviews include Taylor Swift, Susan
Sarandon, Pink, Jeff Bridges, Brad Paisley, Foo Fighters, Katy Perry and Carly