Goo Goo Dolls bring a fresh, new sound to Tivoli Theatre.
‘ So Alive’ is personal anthem for frontman Rzeznik
Early in his career, Goo Goo Dolls frontman/guitarist John Rzeznik used drugs and alcohol, like a lot of artists who are just starting out.
“At the beginning of all of our careers, we are very self- conscious and we don’t have an awareness of where the real stuff comes from, so you smoke a little, take a few pills or drink a little to ease the self-consciousness about being laughed at,” he says. “And it works. Then it’s not you taking the drugs; it’s the drugs taking you.”
As he got deeper into his addiction, he would “hit the panic button” and turn to drink or drugs when things weren’t going his way. That seemed to happen a lot, he says, and the frequency increased. So he was often either drunk or hung over and, either way, he says he was not fun to be around. Even he didn’t like being around himself.
“I would get surly. Never violent, but I had a very, very dark side, even when I was sober. The alcohol and everything was coloring my world so darkly.”
He says he knew it and even wrote about it in many of his songs, though it maybe wasn’t always so obvious.
“A song like ‘Sympathy,’ everyone thinks it’s this pretty little song, but it’s amazing because no one’s really listened to the lyrics of that song,” he says. “Addiction and co-dependency have been big topics in a lot of my songs, but I became very adept at hiding the message in a happy little melody.”
“Stranger than your sympathy And this is my apology I’m killing myself from the inside out
And all my fears have pushed you out”
The drugs and alcohol continued for 15 years until he found himself in a New York hotel room two years ago and decided it had to end. He didn’t like what he was doing to himself, to his family, to his friends or to the people he worked with, especially Robby Takac, with whom he co-founded the band in 1995 in Buffalo, N.Y.
So Rzeznik went sober and to his utter amazement, he says, he soon realized the people around him did care. In many ways, learning that both elated him and hurt him deeply, knowing what he’d put them through.
On the day we spoke, he had been sober two years and one day, and the more he talked about the support he found, the more the weight of it could be heard in his voice.
“It broke my heart open … the support and the love I got from people around me. Not just my wife and family.
“It broke my heart open, because when I was loaded I was positive everyone hated me and found me distasteful. I was an obnoxious drunk. I was an a———. But just to see Robby and to have him without me reminding him, congratulating me and telling me how happy he is for me was huge. To save that friendship of 30 years and to have my wife say, ‘You haven’t made me cry in two years’ … that was just huge. So what, to catch a buzz after hearing that … it’s not worth it.”
Rzeznik and Takac are back on the road, touring in support of a new album, “Boxes,” which contains the single “So Alive” — a song that once again deals with his addiction but from the other side.
“That’s straight-up ‘Hey, man, this is what it’s like to get sober.’”
And he says he likes performing that way a lot better than the other way.
“It’s awesome. I’m present. I’m in the moment. I don’t have a hangover. I’m not acting like an a——— because I’m hung over. It’s fun. I feel good.
“Listen, I’m still scared, but I have some tools that help me deal with it.”
One of those tools, obviously, is writing and performing. Rzeznik says he wanted to take a cue from artists like David Bowie who reinvented himself with each record. For “Boxes,” he wanted to collaborate with some of the people he respects, and he worked with people like Sydney Sierota of Echosmith and producers Gregg Wattenberg, Derek Fuhrmann and Drew Pearson to help on the new record.
The result is an album that sounds new and fresh but also very much a Goo Goo Dolls record.
“I wasn’t trying to imitate anything that is currently out there, but I did work with a lot of people that are younger than me,” he says. “I needed to do what I felt like was going back to school. To find the right people and to trust them to help me see something new.”
“I needed to do what I felt like was going back to school. To find the right people and to trust them to help me see something new.” —JOHN RZEZNIK
Robby Takac, left, and John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls will perform Saturday night, Nov. 26, at the Tivoli Theatre.