Their electronica phase behind them, the members of Bush talk about their hard-edged new album.
by Kevin Raub, CDNOW Contributing Writer
November 13, 2001
Bush’s Gavin Rossdale is as surprised as anyone that for the first time in the band’s career, a work of recorded art authored by he and his bandmates has been initially well received by critics. And rightfully so: Golden State (read the CDNOW review), the band’s fourth effort and first for Atlantic Records, marks a return to form for the English alt-rockers. Gone is the electronic wizardry that clouded 1999’s The Science of Things, yanked in favor of a minimalist arsenal of loud, brash guitars, mind-numbing percussion, and a pack of earnest, honestly sung rock anthems.
As a result, Golden State is more of a bookend to the band’s smash debut, 1994’s Sixteen Stone, than any of that record’s subsequent follow-ups. CDNOW sat down with Rossdale and drummer Robin Goodridge to talk about their band’s newest sonic grenade.
CDNOW: Are you surprised at all, given the somewhat negative treatment in the press the band has previously received, that early reviews of Golden State have been favorable?
Gavin Rossdale: It’s been really scarily good, to the point where you keep thinking someone’s gonna turn around and say, “Actually, no sorry. It’s a pile of shit.” I’m not used to it. I feel like an abused child that is now being treated nicely. I’m a bit [wary] of it. I think the record deserves it, but I think some of the others did, too. Success is probably the worst ingredient for a fair trial, so to speak. It doesn’t really help. Everyone knows that if the first record sold a tenth of what it had sold, life would been a lot easier critically, but not necessarily
Robin Goodridge: — from a cuisine point of view. We’d be eating dog food right now if we still wanted to make albums.
With Golden State, many of the electronic bells and whistles seen on The Science of Things are gone in favor of a more raw, back-to-basics rock sound. In retrospect, do you regret the doodling?
Rossdale: I was just doing this German interview [dons bad German accent], “So, ze sounds and weird noises have gone.” That’s brilliant. That was some serious work in the studio, with everyone really carefully sculpting these things, and they are [reduced to] weird sounds and noises. It was only textures, and it was only on a few tracks.
Goodridge: But we loved it. It gives you a vocabulary. If we had just made four albums that sounded like Sixteen Stone, when you start writing a live set, you realize that you are just exchanging one track for another track, and the sound has not moved on. We’ve been playing sets in London, and it feels great to play “The Chemicals Between Us” when you’ve done these quite muscular rock songs off of the new record. In the studio recording Golden State, did you find yourselves having to force yourselves not to fiddle with the tunes too much?
Goodridge: The primary objective was to come in with a great song and then just turn ourselves on with it in a room with just the four of us, some amps, and vocal PA, and just play until we thought, “Fuck me, you know what? We can play this song amongst our hits and songs that we already have established, and feel comfortable with it.” If that was the case, then there wasn’t much more for us to do with that song.
The result feels much more raw.
Rossdale: On the last one, I wanted to do more of a hi-fi record than a live-sounding record, and on this record, I was trying to pull down lots of ambiance, but I didn’t want it to sound like garage stuff. So you try and get that balance of excitement and having a great-sounding record. But the funny thing is, a record has an integral power to it that’s stronger than the individuals making it or the producer, and things started to just sound a certain way and come together. It’s undeniable.
The band has always record in London in the past. How did the partial recording of this album in Los Angeles affect it sonically?
Rossdale: For me, once you’re in a studio, the battle is with the song. There is an amazing book by Rainer Maria Rilke called Letters to a Young Poet, and there’s this guy that wants to be a poet is writing to this old poet and asking advice. [The poet is] saying, “You should be able to write wherever you are. If you’re sitting in a prison with four blank walls, it should make no difference.” So I find that in the studio. Granted, here in L.A., the order book for the restaurants was like [makes six-inch pile with hands] that thick. In London, there was two Indian and a Thai [restaurant], and that was it. So that was a nightmare.
If that’s the case, then why did you hide away in Ireland to write the last record?
Rossdale: Because I’d never been to the countryside. I just wanted isolation, but not necessarily just to write, also from traveling for two to three years, and I just wanted to find a place to put the brakes on.
How much did the label battle with Trauma Records and the managerial change take a toll on the band over the past two years or so?
Goodridge: It brought us closer together. It made this album. We were in a washing machine of fucking shit going on, trying to divorce ourselves from the record label, realizing the manager would have to go as well in order for us to really get a grip on our business completely. What could we do? We had to keep going. So we shrunk in the four of us in a room, closed the door, and had instruments, and we played. And the record reflects that.
Producer Dave Sardy’s resume is a little harder than your past producers. What did he bring to the table?
Rossdale: Definitely a history and a knowledge of making rock records. We wanted to make an unashamed rock record, and he has such a history in that. I’d listened to Helmet’s Aftertaste and never even thought about Dave Sardy in terms of that record, I just thought Helmet were great and really enjoyed the cycle repetitions. So I had lunch with him in New York, and I thought he was cool. It has to be instinctive. When you meet people, you can tell in an instant if you want to be in a room with them for four to five months.
Goodridge: And you have to respect the person in order to allow them to tell you what to do even though you’re the one who’s sold 14 million albums, and he hasn’t. Especially Sardy. He’s hasn’t had a massive record. He has a massive opinion, but he hasn’t got a massive record. But he’s great, and he will make massive records, hopefully this one.
Reportedly, he questioned your lyrics.
Rossdale: He just told me he was a big stickler on lyrics. He asked me to change basically one word. It was on “Float” with the line, “It’s a beautiful world, and everyone’s insane, either you swim’ and then I’d written, ‘either you jail.’ I was like, “Yeah man. Using jail as a verb.” And he’s like, “Naw ‘I’m not feeling that.” So I was like, “Well, fade?” and of course I sang it for the record, and it sings slightly better.
To that end, you’ve always been a stream-of-consciousness songwriter. Do you ever stop and think, “That just doesn’t make sense?”
Rossdale: Definitely. You should see the stuff I don’t use.