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Goo Goo Dolls Working Hard To Stay Hot

Of the Oakland Press

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The winter chill does not bother Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik — who retains his Buffalo, N.Y.-bred stamina even though he’s been living in Los Angeles for a decade.

“Y’know what — I love winter,” Rzeznik, 41, says. “I don’t like hanging around in 5-degree weather when it’s windy, but there’s still something good about it.

“That’s one of the things I kinda realized about Los Angeles — nobody there has an appreciation that people from back East have because they never experience winter. They don’t know what it feels like to have a beautiful spring day.”

Rzeznik and his fellow Goos — founding bassist Robby Takac and longtime drummer Mike Malinin — certainly know what it means to come in from the cold. Launched in 1985, the group soldiered through some lean years on the underground rock circuit before the atypically mellow 1995 single “Name” launched them into the pop mainstream and platinum stratosphere.

Since then, the trio has become a hit machine, and with the title track of its latest album, “Let Love In,” the band set a record for the most Top 10 hits at the Hot Adult-Contemporary radio format — including the likes of “Iris,” “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” “Broadway,” “Here is Gone,” “Stay With You” and a remake of Supertramp’s “Give a Little Bit.”

Despite the success, however, Rzeznik doesn’t feel like he’s fully arrived, especially as a songwriter.

“I’m getting closer to something I want to say,” he explains. “As far as being a writer and all that, each time out I just feel like, ‘All right, you took a step. You’re getting closer. You learned a lot of new things from a lot of new people and, y’know, we’ll dig deeper next time.’ ”

So what’s he looking for?

“It moves,” Rzeznik says. “Sometimes it can get really easy to get sort of complacent and kinda make the same record over and over and over. You really have to push yourself to break out of that.

“I read two books that really blew me away in the past month or two. I read Miles Davis’ autobiography and Bob Dylan’s ‘Chronicles Vol. 1.’ Those guys, the most important thing for them, that I got out of those books, was finding your real voice and just keep digging and keep trying and keep working at it and really push yourself.

“That really spoke to me, man. I just really want to challenge myself without worrying about the outcome.”

Rzeznik branched out in a couple of different ways on “Let Love In,” which debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart when it was released 10 months ago. An expanded edition of the album with a live show on DVD was released last week. He went back to Buffalo to write and demo many of the tracks, then worked with Glen Ballard, an exacting producer whose multiplatinum credits include Alanis Morissette, Aerosmith, the Dave Mathews Band and No Doubt.

Going home, in fact, was so resonant that Rzeznik and Takac decided to purchase the old Trackmaster studios in Buffalo — where Rzeznik used to “scrub the toilets” and Takac duplicated tapes — and create their own facility.

“We’re fixing it all up and putting a bunch of really beautiful old equipment in it, and some beautiful new equipment,” Rzeznik says. “You go to a recording studio in Los Angeles or New York and they hand you the bill and it’s like, ‘Are you out of your mind?! I could’ve spent this much money and owned everything!’

“So that was the conversation me and Robby had, and the nice thing about it is, you spent two- or three-hundred thousand dollars doing all this stuff, and then the parting gift is, after you make the record, you get to keep the stuff.”

They don’t plan for the Goos to be the only band using the studio, either, though Rzeznik adds that “I don’t really want it to be a business. We’re just gonna find people we really think are talented and deserve a shot to make a record that sounds like a real record, because the budgets just don’t exist anymore for people to go in the studio and be creative. The object is to keep the lights and the heat on and pay the kid that works there.”

Rzeznik and Takac hope to have the as-yet-unnamed facility up and running by June, though they won’t be using it themselves until fall at the earliest, as they have touring commitments that take them to Europe and Japan, followed by a summer swing playing amphitheaters in North America. They’re also contemplating a third single from “Let Love In” — “Without You Here” or “Become,” if Rzeznik has his way.

The next Goos album also is looming in their heads. Rzeznik says he has some “concrete ideas” — including possibly working with Gil Norton, who produced albums for the Pixies, Foo Fighters, Counting Crows and Jimmy Eat World. It will be a while before any details are nailed down, but Rzeznik — who’s also doing some writing for films — says that sometimes the no-man’s-land time between albums has its perks, too.

“It’s actually been really fun,” he reports. “The two guys that play with us on the road — (guitarist) Brad Fernquist and the keyboard player, Korel (Tunador) — we just went into a studio in Louisville, and it was great, man. It was one of those beat-up, ’70s kind of studios, and we just went in and cut a track, something we’ve been working on.

“So I’ve been occupying my days off like that, just doing stuff and getting stuff together but in a relaxed kind of way. We’re really just having fun with it, no pressure — yet.”

The Goo Goo Dolls and Augustana perform 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday (Marchs 6th and 7th) at the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tuesday’s show is sold out; tickets for Wednesday are $36.50. Call (313) 961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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