John Rzeznik, <EM>The Next Great American Band</EM> John Rzeznik, The Next Great American Band
American Idol producers Simon Fuller and

Nigel Lythgoe will plug in the amps tonight for their new music-reality competition on Fox (8 pm/ET). Manifestly titled The Next Great American Band, the series features undiscovered groups of all genres performing tunes and vying for a record deal. Adjudicating the jams will be pop artist Sheila E., Australian Idol's Ian "Dicko" Dickson and Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik. recently got Rzeznik's take on this big-time battle of the bands. What do you look for in a great band?
John Rzeznik:
I'm looking for some sincerity and the ability to own a song if it's not yours. If you didn't write it, you've got to make it your own. I'm looking for people that are actually listening to each other play, who aren't too high on their own egos. Will the show involve mostly covers, or can we expect some original tunes?
Rzeznik: That's still up in the air. They had to play originals in the audition, so I hope we'll get to hear some of their original music in the show. Ultimately, you can't be a great band unless you have an identity of your own. You have your heroes you emulate. Mine was Paul Westerberg. The Replacements was all I'd listen to. Slowly, though, you come around and find your own style and your own musical identity. How did the audition process work?
Rzeznik: We watched 60 bands over a three-day period. That was really the hardest part, because you had to whittle that down to 12. It's so difficult to say no, because you're screwing with somebody's dream. At the same time, it doesn't mean that they're a bad band and they couldn't get a record deal if they didn't get picked. It just meant that it didn't feel right. Also, there are great performers in lousy bands, so that also made it difficult. How closely does the show mimic the American Idol format?
Rzeznik: It's the same thing. There are three judges and people vote on the bands. But you can see these bands in local bars around the country. They're not manufactured for the show. There are some genuinely talented people in the bunch. So are you more the Randy- or Simon-type judge?
Rzeznik: Well, Ian is very funny. He's pretty acerbic, but he's not flat-out mean. I've been in a band for 20 years, so I'm just there to give some constructive advice. All I've got to share with anybody is my own experience. I'm not there to bash anybody or sway public opinion. People are going to decide for themselves. Did the Goo Goo Dolls ever participate in a battle-of-the-bands competition?
Rzeznik: Sure, we did those types of things in local bars. You had to get out in front of people. We did a couple, but we really came up out of this underground scene in Buffalo. There was a really vibrant musical underground at the time that we were part of, but we took the initiative and started throwing our own shows. We rented halls and did our own thing and eventually started doing well. Would you guys have done a show like The Next Great American Band when you were starting out?
Rzeznik: It's really difficult to say, because the world is so different now than when we started our band. People aren't into rock stars the way they used to be. Now you have 500 TV channels, video games, DVDs — it's really difficult to get noticed now. So this is a big opportunity for the bands participating in the show. What's the easiest way a band can get in John Rzeznik's good graces?
Rzeznik: In my "good graces"? [Laughs] You know what — be yourself, play well together, don't be an egomaniac, and try your best to make a real visceral connection with your audience. That's the most important thing. Whether the band looks good, that's secondary stuff. Having your own identity is more than just putting the right clothes on. You have to have an honest idea and honest vision of what you want to do musically. I find that the most interesting. So you're looking for a band with identity?
Rzeznik: Definitely. Even when they're playing covers. Frank Sinatra didn't write his songs, but he made them his own.

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