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Goo Goo Dolls on gaining new, younger fans 25 Years after 'Dizzy Up the Girl'

Transcript

Geoff Bennett: The band the Goo Goo Dolls is on tour again, playing favorites and some new songs, all while celebrating the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough album, "Dizzy Up the Girl."

I spoke with the lead band members about innovating while preserving their classic sound for our arts and culture series, Canvas.

"Iris," the enduring power ballad off the Goo Goo Dolls 1998 album, "Dizzy Up the Girl." The song skyrocketed the band to fame. The album sold over four million copies and produced three additional top 40 hits.

Now, 25 years later the band's lead singer and guitar player, Johnny Rzeznik, and bass guitar player, Robby Takac, are still performing to sold-out crowds.

It's the 25th anniversary of "Dizzy Up the Girl." How does that strike you?

John Rzeznik, Goo Goo Dolls: It's kind of like, wow, where did a quarter-of-a-century ago? And I think we lost sight of how fast we were moving, because as soon as "Dizzy Up the Girl" came out, that was when we, boom, a big explosion of sort of success.

And we're from Buffalo, New York. So you have pragmatism sort of in your DNA. So it was like keep your head down. You get the ball. Just keep running until they take it from you. And they haven't taken it from us yet. So, I'm not saying.

Robby Takac, Goo Goo Dolls: Still running.

Geoff Bennett: Yes. Yes.

John Rzeznik: Still running. Yes, still doing this.

Geoff Bennett: Rzeznik and Takac formed what started off as a punk band under a different name in the late 1980s in their hometown of Buffalo, New York.

By the late '90s, their unique sound and anthemic rock hits made the Goo Goo Dolls a household name. Now the band is back in a big way with their Out All Night Tour, hitting 45 cities in support of their newest album, Chaos in Bloom, here at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and debuting a new song.

Your new song, "Run All Night," which is about trying to escape your circumstances and not giving up hope, tell me about it.

John Rzeznik: I think you pretty much nailed it, though.

That song is very much about not giving up and not letting the terror of the world stop you from being human. I feel as though there's there's this — this rush to make human beings obsolete. And it bothers me. I don't think it's going to work.

As much as A.I., automation and all this kind of stuff, I just — I just believe that the human spirit will win in the end.

Geoff Bennett: Despite drastic changes in the music industry, with streaming and new technology, the Goo Goo Dolls say they are still writing songs they same way they always have.

Robby Takac: We slid under the door of a closing door on the music industry.

John Rzeznik: We have the luxury of being able to go out and play live and having a big catalog of songs. And that's still great.

But, like, I work in a studio in Manhattan a lot. And there's just writing rooms in there. And so these young writers who are great, they will get together with these TikTok kids. And it just looks exhausting, because it's like they constantly have to have GoPro cameras on them.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

John Rzeznik: And we got to find a viral moment, and all this nonsense. It's like, no, man, you need to — you need to make an emotional connection.

Like, this is all superficial. This nonsense is just — this is all superficial. It's like, what do you got to say? Like, when you're not pretty anymore?

(crosstalk)

John Rzeznik: It's like you better have something to say. And making that emotional connection is the most important thing.

Geoff Bennett: And now they're connecting their old favorites with a new audience.

When you look out into your audience, who do you see?

John Rzeznik: There's a lot of younger kids, 20-somethings out there, which is, like, all right, that's cool, and people our age and older.

It's pretty much like a couple of generations of people coming out to see it now. And the tours have been getting, like, incrementally bigger despite that break during COVID. It's been really gratifying.

And it's like — it's fun to see, like, a young kid singing your song. The other night, we pulled this kid. I think he was 19.

What is your name?

Jake, Audience Member: Jake.

John Rzeznik: Jake!

He held up this big sign. Can I play guitar on "Name"?

Robby Takac: Which is tuned in a crazy way.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

John Rzeznik: I use a lot of alternate tunings on my instruments.

Geoff Bennett: I was going to ask you about that. Yes.

John Rzeznik: Yes.

So I play my guitar on a lot of alternate tunings. People with Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills and Jimmy Page and Ry Cooder and all these people have done this. A lot of blues players have done a lot of that. And I was like, wow, I can write songs with one finger. And this is amazing. That's why I do that, you know?

And later I came up with that phony-baloney story about being influenced by Joni Mitchell and Jimmy Page.

(laughter)

John Rzeznik: But we were a three-piece band at first. So, I started tuning the guitar because I had to play a solo and keep the rhythm going at the same time.

Geoff Bennett: Oh.

John Rzeznik: So, it was a way to fill it up so it didn't drop out when I was playing guitar solo.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

John Rzeznik: So I would have all these droney strings playing while I was like…

Geoff Bennett: An approach that resulted in a string of megahits with memorable opening chords.

A number of the songs open with a really simple guitar riff. And then and then the beat drops in.

John Rzeznik: Yes.

Geoff Bennett: Was that intentional?

John Rzeznik: Yes.

Robby Takac: I guess that's a little bit of a coincidence too. The songs that we know, like "Slide" does that, "Name," does that like. "Iris" does that. Holy cow, I think you have recognized the trend.

(crosstalk)

Geoff Bennett: I'm a bit of fan. I know a little bit about your music.

John Rzeznik: Well, it's — I never noticed that.

But I am a guitar player. So I like to start songs with like a top line, some signature thing that just is like a little hook that says, oh, I know this song. Here comes that song.

Geoff Bennett: Yes.

John Rzeznik: And that's kind of our "Iris" is at the beginning and all those other songs that you mentioned. I have to look into this now.

Geoff Bennett: Is there any songs that when you perform, you're in a groove, and it just feels — it just feels right?

Robby Takac: Yes.

John Rzeznik: Sometimes.

(crosstalk)

Robby Takac: I mean, to me, "Slide" is always when. We always play that kind of early. And the first song everybody knows is that one. It always feels great to play that song.

John Rzeznik: Yes I still love that.

You start playing the guitar riff at the top of the song, which, apparently, we do in every song, but…

Robby Takac: But maybe this is why. I know where you're going.

(laughter)

John Rzeznik: This is why.

Because you play ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

Geoff Bennett: Yes. Yes.

(crosstalk)

John Rzeznik: Yes!

I never get sick of, like, turning the microphone around and listening to them sing it. I sat on my sofa at like 2:00 in the morning with a guitar and a pen and a piece of paper and, like, wrote this song. And, like, to connect like that, that's an amazing thing.

That's something A.I. can't recreate yet. Yet.

(laughter)

Geoff Bennett: Did you envision that for yourself 25 years ago, that you would reach this level of success and that it would be enduring?

Robby Takac: It's like any relationship. Like, it's going to do what it does.

But if it's important enough, you're going to figure out how to get to the next day. And people ask how you get a band to stay together for decades like this. I can't answer that. But I can tell you how to do it for a few days. And then you just need to keep doing that. Like, you can't stop doing that.

John Rzeznik: It's definitely….

Robby Takac: And then, all of a sudden, it's 40 years. It's crazy.

John Rzeznik: Yes, it's definitely a day at a time.

Robby Takac: Yes.

John Rzeznik: If you're focused on the work, on the work, which is the creative part of it, learning the idea of do what's best for the song, I'm just lucky that we have been able to last so long.

And I think it's just being consistent and just working.

Geoff Bennett: When people think of the Goo Goo Dolls, what do you want them to think that your ultimate message is?

John Rzeznik: I think the overarching message in all the songs is, wow, everything is really screwed up. But it's going to be OK.

(laughter)

(music)

Geoff Bennett: They're the best.

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