'Chaos in Bloom' flourishes for Goo Goo Dolls during pandemic
For the first time in 35 years, Goo Goo Dolls was not able to play live shows, so they did what many bands did during the pandemic: They made an album.
In fact, they released three albums in the last two years. In October 2020, Goo Goo Dolls gifted fans a holiday album called “It’s Christmas All Over.” In May 2021, the multi-platinum alternative rock band released “Rarities,” a double compilation of rare and unreleased songs.
Goo Goo Dolls members, singer/guitarist John Rzeznik and bassist/singer Robby Takac assembled a group of musicians in a very remote area near Woodstock, N.Y., and recorded the band’s 14th studio album, “Chaos in Bloom,” with Rzeznik producing the band for the first time.
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“We were looking for opportunities to do things,” Rzeznik says of making the album. “We managed to work around the pandemic. All of us got COVID a couple of times. We just created our own bubble and worked. It was really fun. We got to experiment. I don't know if any of this is going to be a hit, but I like it.”
Goo Goo Dolls have had numerous Top 10 singles, including their biggest hit, “Iris,” which just passed a billion streams on Spotify.
In a recent phone interview from his home in New Jersey, Rzeznik talked about the new album and his decades-long friendship with Takac in advance of the band's concert Nov. 7 at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend.
Let's talk about the new album, “Chaos in Bloom.” What's the title mean to you?
It's just some observations on the world going insane in a million different directions. That was just a reflection of those anxieties, I suppose, with the pandemic. Politics, society, faith, everything. There's a lot of things to be anxious about. It just feels we're living in a pretty precarious time. I guess I was just naturally inclined to reflect on that. I was trying to be a bit oblique, not so obvious. I don't know. Sometimes I think I'm being clever and I'm not.
Would you consider this your pandemic album?
More than the pandemic record, it was more like where I decided to take more control over the production and the sound of everything. Listen, I'm a guy of certain age and my band has had a huge string of hits. We've done really well, but times change, tastes change.
This album was about that kind of freedom, about having to not really worry so much about getting a single on the radio. That is a concern, and anybody who says they don't think about those things is lying. I don't care how cool they are or how indie or hip they are, we all want to be successful. We all want people to love our music. We all want to make a dent in the culture.
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This album was very much like I didn't feel any constraints. All I know is I had a good time making it and I felt like I allowed myself to be as gritty and as idiosyncratic as I wanted to be. I could do something wrong on purpose on this record because that's what I wanted to do. I'm not bagging on anybody that I've worked with, but I have just enough education in music and record production, and I've been making records for 35 years. I know just enough to get myself into trouble.
You used vintage equipment and pre-digital stuff, is that right?
I have a really cool collection. I have this enormous collection of old microphones and old guitars, old amps, old pedals and old, old recording equipment. Compressors, mixing consoles, things like that. All that dorky stuff that no one cares about.
But I love it. I really love that it influences the sound and the vibe and the tone of the songs. It's like, “Wow, this really sounds cool through that microphone, this guitar going through that old amp going through that microphone going on to that tape machine. It sounds unbelievably cool.”
Past performances:Onstage at the Morris
It influenced the songwriting. I would change things in the middle of recording. We got in the room and played together because I was trying to capture performances. I wanted it to be a little tougher. It's definitely like live. It's like everything is a little bit more in your face, a little more aggressive, a little quicker.
Why, after 35 years, did you want to produce the album? You've had some great producers in the past: Butch Vig, Rob Cavallo, Glenn Ballard, Gregg Wattenberg.
I love all of those guys. Those guys are all pretty amazing producers. I felt like I knew I had a clearer idea of what I wanted. After a lot of conversations with Chris (Syczech), the engineer, we just felt like we could do it, we felt like we could pull it off. We said to Robby, “Look, if it doesn't work, let's go get a producer and we'll have them redo the album.” You got to take chances. I love the record. I think it turned out really great. I don't know if I'm in love with it because I made it. That tends to happen. Part of being a “artist” is having a touch of narcissism, so you are susceptible to falling in love with your own reflection. But I'm also hypercritical of myself. Nine years of Catholic school will do that to you.
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How is yours and Robby’s relationship? It's very rare to have musicians in a band last over 35 years. You still doing good? Other than a song here and there, you have never released anything solo.
It's just not my thing. I just haven't felt the need to go out on my own. I’m a band guy. I mean, I’ve got a bunch of songs. Maybe someday I'll release them, maybe I won't. I like my band. Except for that horrible name. … It’s like any marriage. Good days and bad days, you know. Just count the good days and, hopefully, there's more of those than bad days. We get along. I think there's always a bit of distance that forms to keep the relationship together. I can't see myself playing without him and he can't see himself playing without me.
• Who: Goo Goo Dolls
• When: 7 p.m. Nov. 7
• Where: Morris Performing Arts Center, 211 N. Michigan St., South Bend
• Cost: $119.50-$49.50; VIP packages also available
• For more information: Call 574-235-9190 or visit morriscenter.org.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Q&A: Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik talks 'Chaos' before South Bend show