Clean, Sober, Happy
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The Goo Goo Dolls have been celebrating three decades of existence in 2016 and more besides.
Lead vocalist and guitarist John Rzeznik got sober and wrote a song about it called “So Alive,” which appears on the band’s eleventh album, Boxes.
“I made some really, really good decisions and some changes over the last 18 months,” Rzeznik told an interviewer in May. “About three months into getting sober for the 50th time, I realized that I had no coping skills because every time I felt something that was uncomfortable, I would just drown it. So sitting there were all these immature, childish, out-of-control emotions and needs that have never been really addressed or taken care of and put aside so that I could actually grow up. They were staring me right in the face. I couldn’t take a drink or take a pill to make it go away. … I kind of flipped out from it … That’s what the song is all about. Being alive is painful. Feeling things is painful.”
The Goo Goo Dolls perform Nov. 10 at the Embassy Theatre.
Boxes is the band’s first album as a duo (drummer Mike Malinin was mysteriously fired in 2013).
Now it’s just Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac.
“It’s always kind of been the two of us since Buffalo (New York) in the 80s,” Takac told the (Suburban Chicago) Daily Herald. “The two of us living in an apartment together, moving around the country together. So it’s a little different, of course, but the heart is in a really good place right now.”
Takac told the Modesto Bee that he and Rzeznik never expected the band to last 30 years.
“I don’t think 20-year-olds think about being 50-year-olds,” he said. “You are lucky to get to the end of that year and reassess things. So I don’t think (going 30 years) was ever on our minds,” he said. “I can just speak personally, but since we started, I have never had anything in my mind except figuring out how to make things work. How to wake up another day and feel good about this. To hang onto a decent group of people who all love what we do.”
Rzeznik gives Takac full credit for the band’s longevity.
“I’m ready to quit every day … like, ‘I’m done,'” he said. “And he’s like, ‘Nah, you’re not done. Just give it another day.’ … He and I appreciate each other a lot more than we did. And we finally manned up and made all the hard decisions that we had to make to continue doing this. There was a point on the last touring cycle on the Magnetic record where we were just in complete freakin’ chaos … Little did I know that I was one of the causes of the chaos.”
Boxes is the first album for which Rzeznik sought outside songwriting collaborators. The reason for this, Rzeznik said, is that he got sick of writing alone.
“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” he said. “I felt isolated and depressed … I needed some influences. I needed someone to sit with and throw ideas back and forth. I started to feel like I was in an echo chamber. So I made a couple of phone calls, and it was so much fun. This was as deep as I have ever gotten.”
Rzeznik told Spokane Spokesman-Review that the band had to “clean house” before Boxes could happen.
“We’re seeing eye to eye more than we have in the past 15 years,” he said. “We understand each other pretty well. We understand the other guy’s boundaries. We understand what topics not to get into.”
Middle age has tamed the band a bit but not too much, Takac told the Fairfax County Times.
“You’re driving around with two sober guys now, so it’s a much different bus than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s still fun but a different sort of fun.”