Since 1986 Buffalo, New York’s favorite sons The Goo Goo Dolls have been rocking. Composed of singer/guitarist John Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac and revolving cast of drummers, the trio has sold over 10 million albums on the back of a slew of hits including “We Are the Normal,” “Slide,” “Name” and the No. 1 smash “Iris.”
For their latest CD, “Boxes,” The Goos stepped out of their comfort zone and enlisted other songwriters to help craft the album. The forward-sounding result may just be the best album they’ve released in years.
Singer/guitarist/songwriter Mr. Rzeznik discussed the bond that keeps them together and the blessing (not curse) that is a huge hit song.
Question: Can you believe it’s really been 30 years of Goo Goo Dolls?
Answer: No, no I can’t. But it’s looking like it has.
Q: What is the thing that keeps you and Robby together?
A: We’re family. We really are. You have times with your family where you really don’t want to talk to each other. Then you have times with your family where you are really close. We’ve managed to keep it together. That’s the biggest part. Robby and I have always been the heart of this band. And especially in the past couple of years, it’s been really good. We have made a lot of really hard decisions — hard decisions about ourselves as individuals too.
Q: Have there ever been moments where the band has thought of hanging it up?
A: Me? All the time. Robby? Never. He says, “Yeah, you always say that.” He’s the reason the band is still together. I quit in my mind every day.
A: Just being terrified to fail. I think, “I’d rather quit than fail.” Robby is like, “Stop being a [loser]! Let’s go!”
Q: With all the success you have had, why do you think you might fail?
A: It’s a stupid, irrational, egotistical thing. Getting past that is where it’s at. It’s weird because this is the first record we have ever made where Robby and I sat down in my studio listening to it. I said to him, “You know what, dude? No matter what happens with this record, we’ve already won.”
Q: Why is there more collaborations on “Boxes” than any other Goo Goo Dolls album?
A: On this album I said to myself, “I’m gonna open up my mind as much as possible and really sort of take in the experience of what other people’s opinion was.” Time to leave the ego at the door.
We would go in and bat ideas back and forth. I wanted to work with people who loved making music, who wanted to be in the room, who aren’t so concerned about the outcome and the splits. We all had the attitude of, “Let’s just make something valuable.”
Q: Was this the easiest album to make in your career?
A: Yeah, it was the most fun. Robby and I and everybody who played on the record were excited. Everybody wanted to be there. Everybody had a great time. We would get together in a room and laugh all day long and write a song somewhere in the process.
Before this record I felt like I had been sitting in a room by myself for so many years writing. I just wanted to see how other people did it. Because it’s so easy to get caught up in your own thing. I wanted to try something new, something fresh.
Q: Since you mostly wrote on your own, were you able this time to take criticism if something didn’t work?
A: The thing was with this, you can spread the blame around a little bit. [laughs] When you spread the failure around the room a little bit thinner, it doesn’t hurt as much. It keeps me from falling in love with my own reflection. And that’s important.
There were times where I had to take a walk because I disagreed with their opinion. As I was walking, I would think, “You know what? They’re right.” It was a great exercise in keeping an open mind. And really being a student.
Q: When you write a song like “Iris” and it becomes this huge hit, is that both a blessing and a curse?
A: There is a nervousness writing songs after that. Because that song cast such a long shadow. But it’s a blessing. It’s always gonna be a blessing because you know why: I had one. Most people don’t get one.
I’ve always hated that thing where bands, artists, they start to have contempt for their biggest hit. They don’t want to play it anymore. They leave it out of the set list. That is such a disservice to the people. My attitude is, “That is this guy and his girl’s song. They have spent a couple hundred bucks to see us. And I’m not gonna play it because I’m up my own a**? And I think I’m important?” No. No. You gotta be there for your audience.
Q: When you are writing a song, how do you decide if it’s a ballad or rocker?
A: Generally, at the beginning, I’ll know what it is. When I pick up a guitar, it depends on how fast I’m strumming. [laughs] There’s not a lot of ballads on this record.
Q: How have the Goo Goo Dolls managed to remain relevant over 30 years?
A: You change your haircut every few years. [laughs] I’m kidding. I’m kidding!
You know what it is? You write what you mean. You sing in your own voice. When I talk and then I start singing, it’s in my own voice. That’s the only voice I know how to have. I don’t believe I have the skills to fake it. I know people who can sound like anybody. And they can write a song like anybody. But then it’s like, “Well, who are you?”
The Goo Goo Dolls play The Filene Center at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, August 23. For tickets go to WolfTrap.org.