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Those days, at least for now, are in the past, though drummer Philip Rhodes no longer performs with the band, because of what Wilson describes only as "personal problems." He's been replaced by Scott Kouzmanek. Longtime bassist Bill Leen rounds out the current lineup.
Wilson says the one good thing for him about the hiatus -- he spent several even more tumultuous years as a member of the Gas Giants -- is that he's now an able producer and studio hand. He expanded Mayberry in 1997, and it has served as an experimental lab ever since.
"I realized the whole time I was in the Gin Blossoms, I never paid attention to what John [Hampton] was technically doing as he was recording," he says. "Now, I had all the same equipment that he had told me to go out and buy and I didn't even know what to do. I realized I had really missed an opportunity to get like a big internship with a brilliant producer."
Eventually, the Gin Blossoms hope to record a new album; Johnson and Wilson both say they have enough new material to fill more than half of one. But first, they have four months of touring to wind through. They'll resume their in-and-out, three-day-here, four-day-there itinerary for only a few more weeks. A tour bus awaits them in late June.
"That's the way to do it. That makes sense," Wilson says. "I love it. I love playing. I love touring. I love traveling. I like hotels and rollerblading around amphitheaters. I like playing video games in my bunk."
They'll no doubt be playing "Found Out About You," "Allison Road" and "Hey Jealousy" until their eyes bleed. Wilson and Johnson say they're okay with that. So, too, is the public.
"People will come up with one specific thing or moment on the record that seems to have really touched them -- a particular lyric, or a musical phrase or a guitar solo or some moment that really touched someone," Wilson says.
"I love Neil Young and I don't know why he didn't play Heart of Gold,'" adds Johnson. "He didn't play it for years. I would have loved to hear him play that."
They also have the diehard fans to appease.
"People always say, How come you don't play "29"?'" Johnson says.
"One of these nights, we're going to learn it again, because everybody keeps asking for it," offers Wilson.
"Since we've been playing for about a year now, I think we're going to dig a little deeper into the catalogue," says Johnson, closing the thought.
A few minutes pass, and Johnson needs to resume his day. Wilson reminds him of their early-morning departure, and they arrange to meet at Sky Harbor International Airport. Neither man seems overly thrilled.
"We know the security guards by name down there," Wilson jokes.
"It's a problem when you fly out so early," Johnson says. "I absolutely can't stay up 'til 4 a.m. drinking."
Johnson, though, as he stands to leave the restaurant, makes it clear he's not complaining.
"Six strings, a piece of wood. That's what I do. And I hope it stays in tune," he says with a grin.