Goo Goo Dolls Experience Growing Pains

They hope their newest music will bring better days and a clearer identity.

Goo Goo Dolls' chief songwriter and guitarist Johnny Rzeznik has some simple words of advice for young bands looking to get signed -- "Be careful."

He's speaking from experience.

Although it's nice to have offers, it's better to know what you're getting yourself into, Rzeznik warned after speaking briefly about the band's own troubles with its old label Metal Blade. The band's breakthrough fifth album, A Boy Named Goo, like its predecessors, 1993's Superstar Car Wash and 1991's Hold Me Up were issued on Metal Blade, which Rzeznik claimed did a poor job promoting and supporting the band.

Although A Boy yielded the #1 hit "Name" and introduced the Goo Goo Dolls to millions who had never heard their unusual name and edgy power-pop sound, conditions were not ideal there, he added.

"I want to tell all those bands out there to be careful," said Rzeznik, who didn't elaborate on what led to the band's leaving its label. Rzeznik said the band has recently signed with parent company Warner Brothers, which he is optimistic should get the band better support for its next album, due this spring.

"Our (old) record label give us a web site? Our label market the album?" asked Rzeznik, 31, sarcastically. To avoid such hassles as the Goo Goos have seen, he suggested that aspiring bands read a book called All You Need To Know About The Music Business, by entertainment lawyer Don Passman, for advice on maneuvering through the murky industry waters.

In the meantime, Rzeznik and crew are hard at work on their next album.

The upcoming album marks an important step for the Buffalo, N.Y. band, which needs to establish a stronger identity following the success of its acoustic ballad "Name." The atypical-sounding Goo Goo song, their first big hit, failed to communicate the band's more raucous Replacements-style sound to the public. While there's no guarantee there won't be another "Name" on the still untitled disc, the Goo Goo Dolls' hearts have always been in their distortion-driven power pop.

Bassist RobbyTakac said that the album will most likely sound like a "natural progression" from their earlier works. The Goo Goo's last recording was the moody-rock song "Lazy Eye" from the Batman and Robin soundtrack, which they wrote in New York and recorded at Ocean Way Studios in California.

On the new album, fans can expect songs more along the lines of the pumped up "Long Way Down," which besides appearing on the last LP also made an appearance in the '96 hit movie Twister and its soundtrack. The tunes are still being written and, according to the 33-year-old Takac, the band is looking at a "bunch of producers."

Though the new tunes have no names as yet, for now Rzeznik said he refers to each song as "Number 1" and "This Doesn't Suck." The album has been in the seminal stages for about two years while the band finished touring. "Being on the road makes your brain a little soft," Takac said.

The Goo Goo Dolls are expected to enter the studio any day to record their version of Fleetwood Mac's classic "I Don't Want To Know" for an upcoming Rumours tribute CD (Atlantic/Lava/Fleetwood Mac) which will also feature Elton John, the Cranberries, No Doubt, Sarah McLachlan, Matchbox 20, Tonic and Jewel, among others, putting their spins on the classic album's 11 tracks.

The band will probably head right into the studio without rehearsing the Stevie Nicks-penned tune, Rzeznik said, in the hopes of bringing "new energy" to the track.

In addition to the Rolling Stones, whose classic "Gimme Shelter" the Goo Goos covered on 1989's Jed album, Rzeznik also cites late IRS era R.E.M. as major influences in their sound. He included among those bands that inspired him early on as the Clash, the Damned, the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, Devo, Cheap Trick and The Replacements. (The Goo Goos toured with The Replacements and collaborated with Paul Westerberg on their last album.)

As for recent influences, both rockers said they greatly admire Ani DiFranco, whom they crossed paths with during their early years in Upstate New York. Takac says they also ran into Rochester, N.Y.'s own 10,000 Maniacs quite often back then, though Rzeznik is quick to add he doesn't think departed-Maniac Natalie Merchant is now a Goo Goo Dolls listener.

While the band members say they are looking forward to the reaction to their next record, which will be the first with new drummer Mike Malinin (they had a parting of ways with original drummer George Tutuska after the last record), they added that they are most interested in "seeing where radio goes" with it.

Something has got to give, Takac said, since alternative radio has become top 40 radio.

"Someone's gonna get brave," he added. [Wed., Sept. 24, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]