Living in the Big Machine with Goo Goo Dolls’ Robby Tanak

The bassist and co-founder of the alt-rock band shares the origins of their biggest hit and how the industry has changed these last 30 years.

by Jonty Cruz


It’s surreal to think your biggest hit came from a Nicholas Cage movie but that’s exactly what the Goo Goo Dolls had after their song Iris swept the world and became everyone’s new favorite song. It all started with a random phone call says Goo Goo Dolls bassist and co-founder Robby Tanak. “The director of City of Angels, [Brad Silbering] called John [Rzeznik, guitarist, lead vocals, and co-founder of the Goo Goo Dolls] and asked him for a song to put in the movie. John wrote something up and sent it to them and the next thing you know we got a studio to record.” It turned out to be a fast yet huge endeavor with the band hiring an orchestra for the production of the song. The band felt something special after recording Iris but the director opted another take on it and chose to have a subtler version of Iris play in the movie with Rzeznik and an acoustic guitar. Yet despite the change, the original version made it into the soundtrack and managed to outshine every other song in the OST that included U2, Alanis Morissette, and Eric Clapton.

The success of Iris was nothing short of “magical” as Tanak put it. The band went from performing in small underground venues to house hold names almost instantly. “We started out playing in small clubs and then after Iris everything changed.”

Despite what seems like an overnight success with Iris, it took the band years to fully establish themselves in the industry so much so that the band’s first several years were spent trying to book gigs primarily around their home in Buffalo, New York and changing their name from The Sex Maggots to the more marquee-friendly Goo Goo Dolls. It was only after their first true hit Name from 1995’s “A Boy Named Goo” when the band was able to cast a wider reach and out of the underground music scene.


After their massive breakout with Iris and breaking records for most top 10 hits on the adult-rock charts, the band in one form or another been performing for almost 30 years and has seen the tidal wave of change in the music scene.

“It’s easier now—well it’s harder,” says Tanak. While social media and technology has allowed millions more to hear their music, the rapid changes and easy access has affected how the band does things. “It used to be that we would spend months recording and planning songs before it would even be released but now with things like YouTube it just happens so fast and you can wake up the next day and it’s already out there. “ Creatively, music’s digital revolution have forced the band to hone and focus more on that kind of music they really want to do.

With their 11th studio album released this year, “Boxes”, and a decades-spanning career to their name, Tanak does share difficult tightrope of success that Iris has afforded them. “It’s tough to get out of that shadow,” says Tanak. “But sometimes it’s good to be under it too before the sun gets too hot.”

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The Goo Goo Dolls is set to perform in Manila this February 11 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

For ticket information and other inquires visit