For rock band Bush, change has become a way of life
What people are saying about lead Bush man Gavin Rossdale
By John Serba
The Grand Rapids Press
March 03, 2002
Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale has been in the news a lot lately, and it has nothing to do with his band.
Unless you’ve been camping on Jupiter for several months, you probably already know the English rocker with the chiseled, pretty-boy good looks is engaged to No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani — a relationship often chronicled in the news (and, quite possibly, in both songwriters’ lyrics).
So it’s not surprising Bush’s new record, “Golden State” — which used to sport a silhouette of an airplane on its cover but was changed after Sept. 11 — was kind of buried under the gossip. Which is too bad, considering it’s the band’s best album to date.
The group — filled out by guitarist Nigel Pulsford (who won’t be on the band’s current tour for personal reasons and will be replaced temporarily by ex-Helmet six-stringer Chris Traynor), drummer Robin Goodridge and bassist Dave Parsons — set aside its techno-industrial experimentation of 1999’s “The Science of Things” for a more straight-ahead rock album.
“Golden State” is a return to the band’s grunge-rock roots, albeit more focused, wise and world-weary than Bush’s debut, “Sixteen Stone,” which sold six million copies after its December 1994 release.
It’s a logical progression for the London-based band, part of the band’s “new era” after moving to Atlantic Records last year.
The group is selling out clubs and small theaters across the country on its first major U.S. tour in two years. The Press caught up with Rossdale at his London home prior to the tour kickoff to chat about the changing face of Bush and how seeing his personal life in the spotlight affects Rossman.
Q: Do you see this as a fresh start for Bush, having a new album on a new label, a new tour and a different perspective on the music business?
A: It definitely is an interesting time — there’s been a lot of changes. People just don’t seem to go out as much since Sept. 11. We’re playing smaller places, 1,500 to 3,000 people, then we’re going to tour longer and harder in the summer. …
It’s really powerful, being on tour and being on stage. That’s what I get off on, thinking about that. I’m giving 5,000 per cent, whether we’re in front of 300 people or 30,000 — I’ve done loads of both (he laughs). I like playing live.
Generally, rock can get really boring, and there are a lot of times when I don’t want to listen to rock. For a live experience, there’s nothing like it; it kills everything else live.
Q: The new album is more straight-ahead rock than the previous one, which had more electronic experimentation on it. Did you change that so it would reproduce better live?
A: No, the band really wanted to make a rock record. Before, there were other elements I wanted to bleed into it, but this time, we just did it from a rehearsal room, and did it old-school style. We’re trying to make a pleasant-sounding rock record in a way — the opposite of abrasive. For me, it makes me grin, because it frees me up for the next record; I wouldn’t want to make another straight-ahead rock record.
Q: It’s a warm-sounding record, too — it fits right in with the title, I think.
A: It’s such a topical record as well. After Sept. 11, the way everyone looks at things has changed, to a degree. It makes certain things more poignant. It felt like a true record — it made it intuitive. These have been fractured times, long before Sept. 11. There’s a sense in there not of foreboding but that you can’t change the world but you can change what’s to come. These sort of developments make you realize it’s about if people could just be cooler to each other.
It’s ironic, because there’s always been a sense, in the rock-rap stuff, a sense of aggression, and somehow, (Sept. 11) makes such aggression seem so futile. You realize how catastrophic it is. It’s about going all the way and finding solutions, and it’s ironic that “Solutions” is the first track on the record.
Q: Do you think you’ve grown as a lyricist? The songs seem to have more poetry in them; they’re more cryptic than before.
A: I don’t know. I sometimes think it’s the other way around, that it’s pretty straightforward. Sometimes, there are things which are much more stream-of-consciousness … Leonard Cohen is a really amazing writer — it’s very clear. Somehow, I’m messier than that as a person. I don’t know myself at times — my reactions to things or whatever mood I may be in.
Whenever I go to sanitize a lyric, to leave it completely clear without any allegory or whatever, I just get bored. I need a bit of color — a smudge on it. Nothing is that clear. I don’t have a train of thought on one thing for 41/2 minutes for a song. A song is 41/2 minutes, but it’s a whole entity, it has an indiscriminate amount of time in your attention span, depending on how long you concentrate on it.
I like the idea that it goes shadowy, and you have to pick stuff up yourself. Songs are sometimes so personal, but they don’t belong to me. You put it on a record, it isn’t even yours anymore. It belongs to whoever is listening to it, and their life. Certain things can be really understandable and poignant to someone and the complete opposite for someone else.
Q: How do you deal with being in the spotlight all the time? Is it odd seeing personal things, such as your engagement, on TV or in newspapers?
A: It’s kind of trippy, really. For the most part, I don’t think about that stuff. I don’t think it’s abnormal to have such a public (persona).
Some people behind the scenes were trying to get me to do a statement, and I was like, “What statement? What am I, some statesman? Who cares?” And they’re like, “Of course people care.” And then I had to read this statement … and I was like, “This sounds so weird. Is this stuck up?” (he laughs). I felt like one of those people who ring the press up to tell them where you’re going for dinner (he laughs again).
Q: Is doing that stuff kind of a necessary evil?
A: It just seems to be part of it. If I write an amazing song and an amazing record, that’s what matters to me. The rest, I just can’t work it out — it’s just strange.
Q: I understand you have a very close relationship with your dog. Do you ever take him on the road with you?
A: I take him out on tour with me a little bit. Generally, it’s too tiring for him, and he gets a little frisky. He’s a sheepdog, so — he would be fine, but he’s a gentleman now. If he was 4 or 5, I’d take him out, but in the dressing room, it gets a bit hectic. He really loves my dad … if it hadn’t been for that, I would have moved to America. Seriously.