By Andy Secher
As he was strolling through a palatial Hollywood Hills estate, moving from location to location as part of a high profile photo shoot, Gavin Rossdale bent down to pat a small dog on the head. “What’s her name?” Bush’s charismatic vocalist asked. “It’s Zen,” came the reply from the dogs owner. Suddenly Rossdale’s handsome face burst into an ear-to-ear grin. “Oh, that must mean that everything’s Zen,” he blurted, making reference to the break-through song that first catapulted this London-based hard rock band to fame back in 1994. Since that first brush with rock and roll stardom, life has been a series of artistic highs- missed with a few minor lows- for frontman Rossdale and bandmates Nigel Pulsford (guitar), Dave Parson (bass) and Robin Goodridge (drums). The historic success of their initial effort, Sixteen Stone, was quickly mirrored by the platinum-selling status of that disc’s follow-up, Razorblade Suitcase. A minor commercial misstep was taken with their powerful 1999 release The Science of Things, an album that due to a variety of record label problems never caught the commercial fire that the band- and their fans- had come to expect. But now with a change in record labels and a somewhat revitalized attitude about their careers, this eclectic, hard rocking quartet has returned to the scene with Golden State, perhaps the most intriguing and satisfying song collection of their career. Recently we sat down with Rossdale to garner the inside scoop about what the band’s been up to over the last two years, and what we might all expect from Bush in the weeks and months ahead.
Hit Parader: It often seems that there are dual meanings- or even hidden meanings- behind Bush’s album titles. is that true with Golden State?
Gavin Rossdale: Well, I imagine it can be interpreted any number of ways if you’d like. The fact is that we did write this entire album in a beautiful, hill-top location in Los Angeles. It was the kind of place where you could look out at night and almost feel like your were sitting atop the world. It was really quite magical, almost ethereal. Since California is the Golden State, then the title does make reference to where much of the creative process for the album took place. But there’s also a stat of mind that is golden, where you see things clearly and are at peace with yourself and your surroundings. That is truly a golden state.
HP: Would you say that Bush is in a golden state of mind these days?
GR: It has been an interesting time for us. We feel as if we have been handed a very exciting opportunity in our career with this album. We have gone from what was basically an independent label to one of the most powerful record companies around. In many ways what we accomplished earlier in our career was quite amazing die to the fact that we always has somewhat limited resources behind us. Now there seem to be limitless resources. Our previous album, The Science of Things, seemed to move rather quietly through the music world, and we’re anxious to make a bit more noise with Golden State.
HR: Tell us more about the creative process that went into the album.
GR: As I mentioned, I wrote most of the songs over about a six week period in Los Angeles. At that point I got together with the rest of the band and we started working on finishing up those songs. I tend to write a lot of them to a reggae beat- it’s just the way I set up the drum machine when I’m writing. That’s the way I hear many of those songs in my head. But I know once we get them into a band environment, things are going to change quite radially. Nigel will bring a heavier guitar sound into the songs, and Dave and Robin will bring out elements that I haven’t even imagined. It’s very much a collaborative effort.
HP: Does it ever bother you to have your creations turned inside-out that way?
GR: That’s what being in a band is all about. If I wanted to control everything and have total control of every note on the album, then I would just make a different kind of record. Maybe all the songs would keep their reggae feel to them, or go in an entirely different direction. I don’t know. But that wouldn’t be Bush, I believe that everyone else in the bands feels to the same way. They have to make compromises too. They’re stepping into a recording situation where most of the material is already written. They have the freedom to do a lot with that material, but it’s still perhaps a somewhat limited creative process. But that’s what makes this band work- it is very much a team.
HP: The rock world has changed a great deal since Bush first came along. ho do you feel you fit into the 2001 hard rock scene?
GR: I really don’t know- but I imagine we’ll find out as we get more and more response to this album. I am quite excited about music these days, and about the tole we can play in the current rock environment. There are some excellent bands out there, ranging from some very obscure things- like Icelandic folk music- that I particularly enjoy, to major bands like Tool and the Deftones that i find very entertaining. The new Tool album is just incredible- what an amazing band.
HP: What are Bush’s tour plans for the year ahead?
GR: We’re very much looking forward to getting out there and playing everywhere. There is nothing quite like the sensation of being on stage and hearing thousands of voices joining together to sing along to one of your songs. We now have four albums worth of material from which we can construct a stage set, and while I do occassionaly enjoy presenting some of our more obscure tunes, I know what the fans want to hear… and I know it’s our job to give those songs to them.
HP: Unlike many of today’s performers, it always seems like you enjoy being in the public eye and being a “rock star”- is it still as much fun as it’s always been?
GR: It depends how you mean that, I’ve never been one to cause much of a ruckus and I’ve also never been much of a carouser. Much of the attention that’s been focused upon me has been through the media. That has been their choice, and I certainly have little problem with it. In fact, it seems to me that Bush has maintained a very low profile in the media over the last last year or so. Up until the release of the album, I didn’t see our names being mentioned anywhere. That’s good in that it provides something of a fresh start. Perhaps people are wondering where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to. Now they have the answer.