by Victoria Durham
In the calm after the storm that was nu-metal,Bush are back to remind us that there was indeed life before Fred Durst. But, armed with their “most direct album yet”, can the Brit heroes still cut it in a world of baggy pants and baseball caps?Gavin Rossdale tells Rock Sound “We’ll have to wait and see”.
“Our music has always existed on an outside ledge” admits the Bush frontman, “we’re not on top of the world right now, but we’re on top of London.” His claim is both literal and metaphoric, as Rossdale and bandmate Robin Goodridge speak before the backdrop of the city skyline, relaxing in the plush surroundings of a Hyde Park hotel suite with the former’s mop-haired dog, Winston. Certainly, if such luxuries are anything to go by, the blow from America’s homeboys has been a soft one.
“It’s a different style of music, nu-metal. I mean, I’d never want to make any kind of music that’s spelt ‘nu’! So I don’t think there’s any sense of isolation about what’s happened,” Rossdale considers.
“A lot has changed in Britain” adds Goodridge. “I mean, who would have thought that Limp Bizkit would go to number one? Or Slipknot, for God’s sake? We always knew that this kind of following existed, because we were selling 4,000 tickets for London shows two nights running! It’s just that now everyone else is perceiving it as mainstream.”
So, whilst the pair, along with absentees Nigel Pulsford (guitar) and Dave Parsons (bass), are unruffled and really rather polite about the appearance of bands such as Creed and Staind (“I’d rather they were successful than not” -Gavin), recent developments and trends in rock have meant that, as Goodridge himself puts it, “the field posts have been moved to pull in more people.” For Bush, this has also heralded a return to old ways as new release “Golden State” employed the kind of back-to-basics methods and collaboration not seen since the days of their debut effort, “Sixteen Stone”.
“We huddled to create something to smash through with,” explains Rossdale. “That’s why this album feels so cohesive and just so…right. It was the right time to do a ‘band’ record.”
THE SCIENCE OF “SCIENCE”
For the last two years at least, there’s no little doubt that the words “plain sailing” have only been spoken in tones of envy in the Bush confines. On the dawn of ’94’s Sixteen Stone release, they were perceived as an overnight success by those who latched on to hits like “Glycerine” and “Comedown”. However, such progress in itself became a heavy cross to bear, not least due to the misconceptions it fueled.
“For us as people, it wasn’t instant success,” argues Goodridge, “but everyone else just perceived the album’s popularity as instant.” Quite obviously,it still frustrates them.
“The first record did good, that’s for sure,” admits Rossdale. “But we were all in bands previously, and as Bush we were around for at least a year before we got a record deal…” interrupts Goodridge, “I mean, there was an 18-month tour to promote that album!”
Not only that, but it also triggered the trend for “setting the bar high” for future releases, a factor that came back to haunt them when they released “The Science of Things” in ’99.
“It’s a hard one to sustain,” he says. “We sold two-and-a-half million with that album – you put that out there and that’s a lot of people! But Sixteen Stone sold around 7 million, so it was considered a turkey for us.”
According to Rossdale, “The Science of Things” thus became Bush’s “quiet record”.
“Everything was just more acute then,” he proceeds. “We hadn’t been around for a bit and we had a lot of issues going on – we were being sued by our record company,and that kind of stuff just turns everyone off, the fans don’t want to hear about it.”
It was also a time when nu-metal made its one and only successful strike. “All that stuff was just taking off,” he recalls, “so all the kids wanted Korn and the de-tuned bass. For us to come out with a more experimental album with loops, beats and samples probably wasn’t mass mainstream, so we had to contend with all that. But it outsold a thousand other bands – and no one ever asks them why they’ve done so disastrously!”
STATE OF CONFIDENCE
Thankfully, Rossdale & co. are now in a more secure position, with the supportive new record deal that they’ve yearned after finally in place.
“We’ve always managed to exist in adversity,” says Rossdale proudly, “but whether you’re a big band or a small band, you need record company support and we had none until now. Half of the reason the last album didn’t sell so well is because of bad marketing – we were never prioritized. We never had any hype, any posters, any big store displays, so we’ve always existed as an independent band, which is kind of ironic because we’ve always been successful in spite of it.
“Now we’ll see what happens – we’re probably in the more luxurious position we’ve ever been in, because we’ve got worldwide attention. We’ve got shinier shoes and we’re allowed to stand at the front – we’re not the stepchildren at the back anymore!”
It’s such unperturbed confidence that confirms the renewed sense of focus behind “Golden State”, one that even managed to drag Rossdale away from the temptations of Hollywood. Wasn’t there ever a point where the awards shows and star-studded parties seemed a more lucrative option than the hard slog of making another album?
“I was just going out with my girlfriend,” he reasons. “I don’t take it seriously enough to let it infiltrate me beyond what it is – just a night out with free vodka! It was actually nice to get back and do something realistic. Fuck the parties and fuck the vodka – we can buy vodka!”
Fighting talk aside, at this point in time a more appropriate album title would be hard to find. As Rossdale details.
“It did first occur to me on the Golden State Freeway – but it’s actually about a state of bliss and harmony, and the pursuit of that state”. Indeed, with ambition still thriving and control finally re-established, it’s time for positive thinking and something of a new beginning for the foursome.
“We’re still in pursuit of that perfect record and that perfect show – of course we haven’t got there yet, but we’re still trying to push the boundaries of ourselves. We want to have a big record, we like that! Success makes you smile – and the you go mad! But we want that insanity back again!”.
Whether “Golden State” will be the album to drive the boys in a state of contented delirium remains to be seen – however superstitious typer would take heart in tha fact that its making echoed much of “Sixteen Stone.” “It was recorded in similar tense circumstances, starting a new record deal and all that”, begins Goodridge.
“What struck me with this album is that when you write new songs, there’s no point in writing them unless they nudge a few of the old ones off the set list,” continues Rossdale, “otherwise it’s just vanity-writing around a couple of singles. The first pressure that I feel is that the songs should have a clarity about them that makes them strident, they had to be that way to work with just a guitar and a voice, and to an extent that was true of the first record.”
Apart from the distinct similarity of tracks such as “Solutions” and “Fugitive” to their debut offering, the band have also continued to expose the love of experimentation witnessed on “The Science of Things”.
“My Engine Is With You” is really a love song done fast, and yeah, it is quite punky”, reveals Rossdale of one of the album’s two most unusual tracks, one that Goodridge also cites als “reminding me of Motorhead”. The other track noted by Rossdale is “Out Of This World”, a dreamy, atmospheric number which he remembers as “the only one that I was actually allowed to experiment on.”
“It’s really trippy and out there – you write songs from the subconscious and that’s definitely one that flowed out.I wrote it looking out over the whole of LA from a space I rented there. It originally began as a Fugazi-style constant guitar, and when we played it as a band I wanted it to be orchestral and weird – like a wave of sound. It’s probably my favourite track on the album”.
Optimism was also enhanced by the relative ease with which “Golden State” came together.
“It came to a natural conclusion and the 12 songs became obvious, it was a more comfortable process than before,” says Goodridge.
“We’ve been together long enough now to play to our strengths,” chips in Rossdale. “We’ve been trying to work as a band and I think this record is a testament to that!”
REACH OUT AND TOUCH
So, will Bush finally be able to look at the future and render the tiresome ‘G’ word a distant memory? They can but hope.
“Little things’ was the only grunge-esque song we made on the first album. Songs with slide guitars and double basslines – what other grunge act has done that? Let me think, none,” snarls an annoyed Rossdale. “I fuck one sheep, you know? One grunge moment and people are still asking about it. We decided the best way to deal with it was to keep going and outlive the accusations and distrust, just keep being good.”
In fact, these days “being good” could well include collaboration with famed Slipknot producer Ross Robinson. “We did actually talk about it, believe it or not,” Goodridge acknowledges.
“I had a really good conversation with him,” enthuses Rossdale. “He said he works with people who put themselves on the line and he respects me as one of those people. I don’t see how it’s jumping on the bandwagon – you can’t expect to get a producer out of thin air.”
And so, resilient as ever, with producer Dave Sardy in tow and a frontman who can now put past dreams of becoming a footballer to one side (“maybe in another life…”),it’s all hands on the deck once more.
“We don’t just want to live this life so we can become fat bastards living on an estate! What would be the point?” he laughs. “This life to me is vital – to keep connected and to contribute to the cultural landscape. If you’re writing songs that reach people and touch people, then that’s how relevant you are – and I think this album has enough poignancy to only increase where we left off.” Goodridge agrees : “Circumstances, fashion and musical tastes move around, but we just keep trying to make music that makes sense. It might not be on all the front pages, or on the radio every minute – but it’s always there”. We never doubted it.