Rock Bushman / Grudgefest

by Murray Engleheart
Drum Media (Sydney, Australia)
September 1997

It’s a funny old world. Englishmen, Bush have taken the coveted American stadium circuit by the balls. These guys are serious rock stars in a deal sealed by their second album, the Steve Albini produce, Razorblade Suitcase. But when it comes time to get off that touring cloud and go home for some downtime what does guitarist and co-founding Bushman, Nigel Pulsford do? Head back to the U.S. to see his sister of course.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride of limos and five star hotels. The dreaded Bush backlash saw the band carved to ribbons in their homeland for daring to succeedabroad in the first instance. But that attitude seems to have dissipated somewhat.

“When we played the Reading Festival here in England,” says Pulsford. “It was really nice to see a huge bunch of people came to see us. That was one of those things you dream of doing – Reading and going down really well.”

Others however have picked up the anti-Bush torch and are running hard with it. The band were amazed when the Foo Fighters took to wearing Bu$h t-shirts at an event they played together. The genuinely puzzled Bushsters took it on the chin – publicly anyway.

“They did it a couple of times. We actually did a show in the States, a festival with them and we had loads of t-shirts printed up and gave them to everyone. Dave Grohl’s got a few problems. I’m not quite sure why, but he’s taking them out on us. I don’t quite understand the negative thing. He can go f..k himself and” he laughs. “I’m sure he will if he goes on. Good luck to him, we’re fine where we are.”

For some even the band’s work with Steve Albini on the Suitcase album hasn’t done the legitimacy trick.

“I don’t think it did actually, I think it put an even bigger target on us because we dared to do that. But if we hadn’t done it it would have been even worse because it would have meant we were worried about what people thought about us.”

“I thought they gave him a hard time for doing it. I wasn’t sure he had such a good reputation after that.” he laughs. “It was like suddenly the knives came out for Steve. But I think in lots of people’s eyes (working with Albini) made a difference.”

The Bush camp were familiar with Albini via his groundbreaking noise noise noise work firstly with Big Black through Rapeman and on to Shellac. In fact Pulsford sees something of a lineage from those acts to elements of what Bush are doing.

“Yeah definitely in the most extreme noisy stuff we do and just the sort of passion that we do it with. I always thought that we approached the music from that side because that’s where all our influences come from.”

And most of that extreme music has roots in jazz in the same way that Neil Young playing electric is John Coltrane with frets instead of a reed.

“I’ve seen him a couple of times and I’d definitely call him that, just pulling stuff out of nowhere. I was just listening to a record by Duanne, the guitarist from the Jesus Lizard. He has a jazz band, like a trio and he does a lot of really cool stuff. It’s a realy good album, quite Coltraney. There’s definitely a huge link to rock or there can be. I don’t really hear it in a lot of music. I try to bring it in with string arrangements and the guitar even in my limited way.”

man’s being a bit too humble. Joe Walsh doesn’t turn up at Bush shows just to get a beer (but then again…) and ZZ Top’s master axeman, Billy Gibbons doesn’t have to give goodies to everyone he meets.

“Joe Walsh was quite a thrill. Billy Gibbons came to an early show actually and I met him again a couple of months ago. He invited me on his bus and he gave me an old fuzz box and some other effects.”

So is the greatest misconception about Bush, that they’re a pure MTV product when actually the base they draw from is very broad?

“I think the biggest misconception about musicians generally is that people forget that musicians are music fans. All the musicians I know love music so there’s a huge canvas that you can draw on.”