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‘Slow it Down’ with Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls

What can you say that hasn’t already been said about a band that’s been around for 28 years? I can go on and on about how timeless their music is, but I’m sure endless of other sources have said that in a good review. So, instead of simply gushing about how great they are, I’m going to tell you about my personal experience with the Goo Goo Dolls. (All photos by Brianne Nemiroff)

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A few weeks ago, I was notified that I was given the opportunity for a phone interview with the lead singer, Johnny Rzeznik. I ended up finding this out on my birthday, so it’s going to be hard to top it next year. (Maybe he can call again?) I am a big fan of their music so I am aware of their repertoire, but I decided to listen to their music chronologically to see if I could learn anything new. I listened to their first two albums, First and Jed, then worked my way into their 90s albums, Hold Me Up, Superstar Car Wash, and A Boy Named Goo. I learned that Rzeznik didn’t sing lead officially until the third album. Their bassist, and other singer, Robby Takac, was the original lead singer, which is why their style was punk-rock, since he has a slightly higher and even raspier voice then Rzeznik. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that they adapted their signature rock sound with likeable pop melodies and eventually made it big with their 1998 release, Dizzy Up The Girl. From then on, they released eight more albums, the most recent, Magnetic, having dropped in June. After listening to their work from the beginning, Magnetic not only fits in perfectly with the rest of their repertoire, but is one of the best records since Dizzy.

When I got on the phone, I was curious as to how smoothly the interview would go since I knew how shy Rzeznik could be. But listening to his voice speaking was just as comforting and normal as listening to him sing. He was such a gentleman, answered every one of my questions with ease, and even invited me to the meet and greet, which I gladly accepted.

The day of the concert, I made my way to the venue in Concord, CA with a dorky grin on my face. Needless to say, I fit right in. Everyone looked as excited as a kid with an extended recess. Sadly, the meet and greet was 60 seconds long, but all three of them, Rzeznik, Takac, and (Mike) Malinin, were all very kind to us.

After an opening act and a set transition, it was finally time for them to go on. The lights dimmed, the crowd silenced and raised their 10,000 phones to record, and the band ran out on stage singing “Last Hot Night”. I stood at the foot of the stage to photograph the show from a potentially scandalous, and most likely uncomfortable, angle for the band. As I tried to capture every moment of the first three songs, I got to watch Rzeznik charm the audience with his coy smile and warm and raspy voice. Over to the right was the head-banging Takac with his overly-decorated black bass guitar, and sadly hiding in the back, was the drummer, Malinin.

When my shooting time was over, I walked back to my seat about 20 rows into the crowd. As I watched the band from afar, I got to see the fans from up close. Swaying to every song with no care in the world, these fans were up for anything and were just as in love with the new songs as they were with the classics. Sure, “Name” and “Iris” got a bigger applause from the nostalgic attendees, but no one seemed disappointed to hear “Rebel Beat” and “Come to Me” off Magnetic.

The Goo Goo Dolls concluded their 70-minute set with fan favorites, “Iris” and “Broadway” and then cleared the stage for their co-headliner, Matchbox Twenty. Needless to say, no matter what you paid for your seat, you got to experience great music for a solid three hours before having to head back to our normal daily lives.
Even a decade after their most popular album, the Goo Goo Dolls still shine just as bright on stage, so much that no one could take their “iris” off them.


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Q&A with John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls

Longevity is what all artists hope for and you all have done it while still keeping true to your sound. Why do you think the Goo Goo Dolls have managed to stay on top?

We just never quit. The other thing was that we accepted the fact that we are never going to be the biggest band out there ever. But, we’ve always been able to make a living, tour, and be on the radio.

In October, “Iris” was named #1 on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop Songs 1992-2012 chart. Taylor Swift has also been performing a cover of “Iris” on her most recent tour. With its revival, are you starting to see younger fans in your fan base?

That’s another statistic that says I should have more money in the bank. (He jokes.) I think she’s definitely introducing [the song] to the next generation of people.
I’m really into it.


As your band has been around years before Twitter took over, do you feel that it has helped you get closer to your fans in the last couple of years?

I hope so, [although] I stay out of the Twitter world. Robbie and Mike [tweet]. I know they tell me every day that I have to start doing it but there’s always going to be someone out there that wants to bash you.
Anonymity makes the biggest cowards brave.
I grew up in Buffalo. If someone said something rude, I’d [defend myself].

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