Wanna get a famous front man agitated?
Start by telling the Goo Goo Dolls' Johnny Rzeznik he's not just gonna be playing live for 100,000 or so of his fans on Sunday for the July 4 Wawa Welcome America! Festival. That there'll also be many a fan of the co-headlining Roots out on the Ben Franklin Parkway, who may not know any of the Dolls' 17 top 10 hits (tuneful rockers like "Iris," "Slide," "Here Is Gone" and "Big Machine.")
Oh, and don't forget to share that Sunday's soiree will also be perused by a few hundred thousand more viewers watching on television (Channel 6).
And that this is one of those "all weather" events where the show goes on rain or shine, 100 degrees or merely 80.
"Thanks, I needed to hear all that," responded Rzeznik in our recent chat. "I was good before. Now I'm feeling nervous."
Still, Rzeznik will take on the challenge of an outdoor show before a really big crowd any time. "The heat doesn't bother me. That's one way to keep in shape - sweating off a couple pounds. And we've had lots of experience playing in torrential downpours. It's even documented. We did one show in our hometown, recorded for a DVD ["Live in Buffalo"] during the town's biggest rainstorm in 30 years. But the cameras were on, the tape was rolling . . . "
And let's face it, the Goo Goo Dolls need this shot of love right now. Four years have passed since the release of their last album, "Let Love In," and their new (ninth) studio set "Something for the Rest of Us," now due out Aug. 31, was originally set to come out last September.
So we began the conversation in earnest on that account.
Q: Originally you worked on the new album with producer Tim Palmer [U2, Pearl Jam, David Bowie]. Now the credits read "additional production" by Butch Vig [Green Day, Nirvana, Foo Fighters], John Fields [Paul Westerberg, Jimmy Eat World] and you guys, too. So I'm guessing you threw out a lot or started over. How does a band get away with that luxury these days?
A: We took a long hard look at what we'd first done and said, "We can do better." We mostly reworked songs and got some sonically to the place we wanted. I did some new lyrics, new arranging and wrote and recorded a couple new songs. We could have put it out "as is," but we'd overthought some things and not thought enough about others. We wanted to attach the right emotional feel to each song, and some missed the mark.
I think our manager and record company were relieved. The way producers work today, you're dealing with a lot of time pressure. These guys have to get it done in eight weeks to make money. Some are working on two or three albums at the same time. Fortunately I've got my own studio in L.A. and [bandmate] Robby [Takac] has his own in Buffalo. That eliminated a lot of the cost and the pressure. I'm a freak for guitar tones. I have to have the right sound. I have a massive collection of amps, guitars and pedals. I want to try 10 different things. Some producers can't deal with that.
Q: Did you see the film "This Might Get Loud," which brings together Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White? I especially liked the insights about how the Edge never employs the exact same guitar sound twice on U2 recordings.
A: I loved that film. You can go to a Web site and there are videos of the Edge's guitar tech with his rig. It's insane, could take up the entire living room of your house. I love how Jimmy Page called the Edge a "sonic architect." He's had such an impact on so many players, myself included. And Jimmy Page . . . I have every version of "Stairway to Heaven" I can find, all these live versions. I don't listen from the beginning. Just from where his solo starts. To me he is the greatest rock-and-roll guitarist ever.
Q: I haven't heard the whole album yet, but thanks to YouTube have seen concert performances of several new songs - "As I Am," "Home" and "One Night" - and heard an audio recording of "Sweetest Lie" that really grabbed me, recorded on an NBC-TV show called "Improv-Ice" that aired last December. What do you feel about all this bootlegging, and what the heck is "Improv-Ice"?
A: When we're on stage, I actually announce "the next song is new, so take out your camera phones." YouTube is one of the most powerful ways to promote your band, apart from the radio. In five years, the way things are going, we might not even have record companies to still promote us - just iTunes and the Internet.
"Improv-Ice" was this prime-time show where hot girls were skating around us. Times being what they are, you take what you can get.
Q: What do you think of the "360" deals that labels are now demanding of new artists that give the company a share of everything the artist makes for concert tickets, T-shirt sales, video-game soundtrack placements, whatever? And have you ever considered being a mentor on "American Idol?" I'm thinking you'd be good at that.
A: I think some of these new arrangements are a little unfair. When a record company gives you a deal, they're selling you a dream, and it's a lot of hard work. And when the company gives you money to make an album, the truth is that's just a loan, and you're not going to get anything until they've recouped their investment. We're so grateful we could establish a base before this came down. A lot of artists today sign anything.
As for mentoring, we informally do a lot with other musicians sharing bills with us. I don't know about being on "American Idol," but I have worked with [season 7 winner] David Cook. Me and him and Greg Wattenberg wrote a song, "Declaration," that was on his first album, and we're working on a track for his next.
He's the real deal. He plays guitar, writes lyrics, sings his a-- off. And I think he's doing a good job of shaking off the "A.I." thing, kind of like Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson did.
Q: You've said you wanted some of the new material to "address the disillusionment of the difficult period we live in." Tell me more.
A: There are a couple songs on the album - "Soldier" and "Not Broken" - that are really metaphors for anybody who's left an old life and coming back different, whether they went off to war or lost their job and are trying to restructure their life, reframe their existence.
A lot of people are facing that, the impact of living through really hard times, and the foreign policies going on since 9/11 that have practically bankrupted this country. There's this constant ambient fear. You turn on the news, it's nothing but bad news. Then the commercials fill you with more fear. Do you have mesothelioma? Is your prostate enlarged? Can you still get it up? It all creates this background noise, this chronic anxiety. We've got to learn better how to cope.