John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls Has Come a Long Way since Manning a Hot Dog Vending Cart

Categories: Interviews

Chapman Baehler

Although the Goo Goo Dolls gained most of their fame via slick, syrupy ballads such as "Name" and "Iris," the band actually began life as a rather snotty punk/metal outfit way back in 1985. But after drummer Mike Malinin joined in 1995, the music of the Goo Goo Dolls became increasingly pop friendly and massively popular.

Speaking from a tour stop in Baltimore and in anticipation of Wednesday's show with Matchbox Twenty at Gexa Energy Pavilion, John Rzeznik spoke with DC9 about his band's longevity and why he doesn't understand bands that don't play the hits.

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The Goo Goo Dolls have sold over 10 million albums. What does that type of success mean to you?

That's pretty incredible achievement. That's something that I am really proud of, what we have been able to do over the past 20 years.

Haven't you guys been around almost 27 years now?

I actually only start when we finally became professionals. That was when Mike [Malinin] joined the band in 1995. That was we were able to quit our jobs and be a full time band.

What were some of the jobs you had?

I had a hot dog vending cart. I had a job roasting nuts in a factory. I had a job loading books into boxes for shipping. I was a jack hammer operator. That was great. I was a bartender. I was a day laborer, a cook, a dishwasher.

Being in a band is certainly better than most of those jobs.

Being in a band definitely pays better than any of those things, but being a bartender was actually a lot of fun.

From 2000 to 2010, the Goo Goo Dolls scored a record 14 Top 10 hits on the Billboard charts. Does that serve as validation for you as a songwriter?

It's pretty incredible to see that. It's incredible to find that out. A song like "Iris" has cast a huge shadow on our career. It's the biggest song we've ever had. It's a real blessing to have had that song in our lives. It's really helped us have a career.

Do you think your best songs are the softest?

Yes, we are known for writing these ballads. That is fine. Every day, I get a letter. I got a letter yesterday saying that my music really helped them through a difficult period in their lives. I have people come up to me at shows saying this. I got a letter yesterday from this girl saying that her brother had killed himself and that listening to our music helped her get through that. I am blown away. I feel weird about it. I think the music has always served a purpose.

The band did the soundtrack to the animated movie Treasure Planet. I think those songs are some gems that some fans may have missed.

That movie was something. I fell in love with that movie. I was really excited because I got involved in that project when it was nothing but pencil drawings. I thought that movie, for some reason, it didn't do very well. That was a shame, because it was a really fine movie. That was the last hand-drawn Disney film. They went all computer after that.

Seeing that he has Texas connections, does Mike Malinin ask for extra guest list spots when you play here?

Yes, he still has some friends in Texas. His old bandmates come out. Mike went to the University of North Texas. Texas is just one of those states where everybody likes rock music. They love to have a good time. In Texas, everybody works hard and plays hard. It's always fun to play shows there. I love Texas because it's almost like its own country. It's so real, especially compared to Los Angeles.

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Twenty years ago, I interviewed Rzeznik in a bar in Salt Lake City. The Goo Goo Dolls had just started attracting a larger audience and Tori Amos was the big thing of the day. I asked Rzeznik what he thought of Amos. "She's so pathetic, she should marry a Kennedy," was his response. When I asked him about this last month, he said, "Well, I've mellowed since then."

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