Ahead of the album release, Rzeznik answered Billboard’s 20 Questions about the Christmas LP, his humble beginnings and the Netflix show he’s binge-watched multiple times.
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
It was a 45 RPM of “Fox On The Run,” by the band Sweet.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
Van Halen. I was 12 years old, so it scared the hell out of me at the time.
3. How did your parents shape your musical taste?
My dad liked jazz records, and my mother loved singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King. I also had 4 older sisters, so I was constantly hearing what they were listening to.
4. Who made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
That’d probably be Robby [Takac, Goo Goo Dolls bassist]. But we weren’t full-time artists until the song “Name” came out. We always had odd little jobs to make ends meet until 1995.
5. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
To play "Baba O'Riley" with Pete Townsend.
6. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
Buffalo is a city of sharp-minded, gritty people. Their tenacity and work ethic is so engrained from the time they're born. There is no quitting, just doing. That’s an idea Robby and I have carried with us forever.
7. What’s the last song you listened to?
"Levi Stubbs’ Tears" by Billy Bragg.
8. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
That’d have to be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
9. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
We played a radio festival with Korn one time in Arizona. About halfway though our set, people started burning everything on the lawn. I believe we were asked to exit soon after.
10. How has the pandemic affected your creativity in 2020?
A lot of my creativity has been focused on the Christmas album, which has been so fun to make. It’s been a seriously cool learning experience both as a producer and an artist.
11. What convinced you that now was the right time for a holiday album?
2020 is without a doubt the sh--tiest year ever, in my opinion. Too many people died needlessly from COVID-19, the real economy sucks and we are plagued with uncertainty about the future. The outcry for social justice can’t be ignored any longer. With that said, I just wanted to bring something unexpected from my band to everyone; a 33-minute respite from the current s--t show we are living in.
12. How did you go about selecting which Christmas classics to cover?
All of the songs featured on the record we grew up with. We’ve loved them all our lives.
13. Describe the process of writing the album’s two original songs, including the single “This Is Christmas.”
We kept it pretty simple: Write something a bit sentimental and something funny. I love Nat King Cole and I also love Spike Jones and His City Slickers, so it all adds up (lol).
14. What were your favorite Christmas songs growing up, and do you have any newer Christmas songs in heavy rotation?
I love the classics: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (the Nat King Cole Version), all of Dean Martin's Christmas songs. It really depends on the versions of the songs I think. Everyone has really covered the same songs over and over, so for me it’s all about who’s singing it.
15. What’s your karaoke go-to?
I get too self-conscious to do karaoke.
16. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
The film Dancer in the Dark. It destroys me every time.
17. What TV series have you watched all the way through multiple times?
18. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
Something I don’t want them to know.
19. If you were not a musician, what would you be?
Likely a teacher and/or a bartender.
20. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Be more fair to yourself and stop worrying about failing.