Interview: Goo Goo Dolls — "I got a beer mug from Ted Kennedy"
Mon, 19 Apr 2010 11:26:50
"I'm starting to feel like a pregnant woman who's in her tenth month," laughs Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik. "Just get this record out of me!"
The Goo Goo Dolls' ninth studio album, Something For the Rest of Us, will be properly out of Rzeznik and on store shelves everywhere on June 8th, 2010. The album's comprised of a pastiche of stories that Rzeznik tells in classic Goo Goo Dolls fashion while stepping into the shoes of various characters. Of course, Rzeznik examines everything from the wars we're mired in politically and socially to all kinds of personal relationships. Rzeznik's able to cover a variety of perspectives lyrically and musically and truly give the world, Something for the Rest of Us.
The Goo Goo Dolls' frontman Johnny Rzeznik sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the band's ninth offering, Something for the Rest of Us, why rap is the new punk and the beer mug Ted Kennedy gave him.
Do you feel like your new album continues the storytelling tradition of earlier albums?
Actually, I think it continues that tradition even more than the last records did just because I wanted to tell other people's stories this time around—but from their perspectives. The album's a bit more topical in a way.
So you feel like you were getting into different headspaces for each song?
On the album, I'm talking more about everyday people and what they're going through now—the emotional impact of living in a society where we're involved in two wars that look like they're never going to end and really tough times. It covers the anxiety and the paradigm shift that we're going through as a country and as a society.
That’s a really great fodder for music, so you feel like you were pushed to write some of your deepest stuff in some ways?
There's one song on the album that I keep thinking about. It's called "Not Broken," and it's based on some communication I had with a woman whose husband was a soldier in Iraq. He's paralyzed now, and he doesn't want to come home because he's afraid that she's not going to see him the way he was. He has a huge amount of anxiety and he's been hiding out from her because he's afraid she's not going to think he's the man that he was. She loves him very, very much, and her letter really moved me. I wanted to write a love letter for her to him, you know, that, "I'm here, I love you and nothing's going to change." I was imagining the anxiety that this guy's feeling. He's a kid like 26 or 27. You've got your whole life ahead of you and you're doing the right thing and then all of a sudden— boom. In an instant, your life completely changes. Life will always come at you on its own terms and we have to learn how to face that and adapt. I just wanted to speak for other people, more so than myself, on this album.
In speaking for other people you probably get a better understanding of yourself too because you see how far you'll go in someone else's shoes.
It's interesting because it makes you walk in someone else's shoes. It makes me appreciate my life and gives me more gratitude for the things I've been given and the opportunities I have. I think everybody is going to come out on top of this whole thing and be okay—not in a financial way or any of that stuff, but I think we're being forced into reevaluating what our priorities are. The race to have the most stuff is not as important as it was. It's the security of having people around you that love you and care about you and having friends and having family and sticking together. That makes for a better society. It certainly made me reevaluate my own relationship with people and my own life and the way I've lived my life.
Do you tend to read a lot when you’re writing lyrics?
Yeah, I do a lot of reading when I'm writing. I love reading all the time anyway. I gave up on politics, I really did. I was becoming this real like political kind of wonk. I was like really getting super in depth into politics and I just got burnt out on it. The last thing I read was this awesome book by Chuck Palahniuk called Pygmy. For some reason, it made me want to go back and read all the old Tom Robbins books that I loved so much. I'm just kind of digging into some of that. I just finished reading this book about Ted Kennedy. It's called True Colors. I was a big fan of Ted Kennedy. I had the opportunity a few years ago to follow him around Washington for a day and interview him for MTV. I swear to God that was one of the most fun days I've ever had in my life. It was really a lot fun. I followed him around to all the meetings and the committees that he had to go to. And everything he was working on—and he's one of the richest people in the country—was for people who were disadvantaged and I was so impressed by that. He let me go out on the balcony of his office and smoke a cigarette. He was like, "Oh, that's my staff. All the kids go out there and smoke; you can go out there and have a cigarette."He was really an intense guy. He gave me a set of beer mugs that said "United States Senate." I broke three of them, but I still have one left! That’s my memory of Ted Kennedy; I got a beer mug from him.
If this album were a movie, what would you compare it to?
I would have to say a less corny version of Meet John Doe or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. On this record, I wanted to speak for other people to a degree. I admire Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart. I got sick of wallowing in my own misery. That's why the album is titled Something For the Rest of Us. There's an enormous swell of elitism in this country and it seems like the people at the top are grabbing and grabbing. What about the rest of us? What's going to be left for the rest of us? It seems like there's a huge disintegration of the middle class and we're all being squeezed really hard—just the fact that there are less opportunities for people who even have college degrees in this country because our government has been sold out to the highest bidder. You can't have a vibrant, thriving economy without a functioning, productive middle class.
Thankfully, music can still speak for the people.
That's why I dig the concept of a lot of hip-hop music because to me, a lot of hip hop is kind of the punk rock of the 21st century.
What's your take in the industry these days?
We can go out and make a living playing music live and that's amazing to me. Even if you win American Idol, that's no guarantee that you're going to be a big star. The smart artists are taking the process back into their own hands. You ain't going to be able to buy a mansion on the hill, but you're going to be able to really speak your mind without being debited, censored and manipulated. So in that respect, it's really good.