Ten years is a long time to wait between records, but Bush‘s Gavin Rossdale has been rather patient. He’s also been incredibly busy. Since the breakup of the highly successful post-grunge quartet, Rossdale, 45, has formed a side project (2004’s Institute), released a solo album (2008’s Wanderlust), and appeared in various films (2005’s Constantine, 2008’s How to Rob a Bank). But now he’s ready to return to his original outfit with the release of The Sea of Memories, Bush’s fifth LP and their long awaited follow up to 2001’s Golden State.
But a lot has changed since 2001. Most obvious of all is that it’s not the same band. While Rossdale will continue to pummel out chords in front of drummer Robin Goodridge, he’ll also be sharing the stage with recent collaborator Chris Traynor, who fills in for longtime guitarist Nigel Pulsford, in addition to bassist Corey Britz. As for the new LP, it won’t be out on any major label. Instead, Rossdale has shifted over to his own imprint, Zuma Rock Records, which means, yes, Bush is now an independent act.
Still, regardless of the changes, Rossdale feels as if he’s picking up where he left off, and he’s rather excited about it, too. Recently, the multi-tasking frontman took some time to chat with Consequence of Sound about the reunion, the new LP, living in America, and, naturally, Ray Kurzweil.
Feature photo by Brad Bretz.
When did the idea for Bush to reunite come to mind?
I began writing, and I must have done six or 10 songs, and I was thinking that the weakest link was that they were coming out under my name and not Bush. I just rationalized. I just kept asking why. Why would I rationalize it? If Nigel [Pulsford] wasn’t coming back, then so be it. I also created that band. I was the first one there, so therefore, why would I say, “You don’t want to do it, so let’s not do it.” It just seemed ridiculous. I thought of bands like The Cure and I just figured, let’s just do it. And, you know what, it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. It’s one of those decisions where you go, Why did it take so long? Well, that’s just the way it went, and if you live a forward leaning life, those sort of questions don’t have any meaning or merit. They’re just frustrating.
Now that you’re back, you’re having some fun with the old back catalogue. Any effort you’ve grown fond of, particularly?
We’ve been playing “Land of the Living”, which is off Golden State, and it’s been phenomenal live. We also sometimes play “Superman”. Golden State was a very unfortunate record. It came out right around the time the twin towers fell, and it was difficult for anyone to come out with anything at that point. It was just totally irrelevant in the scheme of life. So, there are certain songs on that record like “Inflatable” that didn’t get the proper light, so we like to play it now, and it’s exciting to see people discover them.
You recently played at home at the Sunset Strip Festival – how’d that go?
It was so weird, playing on Sunset, where you drive everyday. I literally live 10 minutes down the road from there. So, it was kind of funny. But before we played, the crowd was a bit sporadic; normally at festivals, you get the traffic, not necessarily for you, but it kind of makes you feel good. It was getting sparse, and I was thinking, Oh fuck, but when we played you couldn’t see the street and on the sides, next to the hill, near the Key Club, the carpark, the Bank of America, the VIP area, it was just packed as far as you can see. And people were hanging out of windows and on top of buildings – so you couldn’t have scripted it better.
You primarily live out in LA?
Yeah, for the most part. We still have a place in London and I go there about three or four times a year.
Do you feel that the city’s changed your personality over the years?
I’ve only been living here full time for like five years, and before that I was in London. But, yeah, I learned a lot about personal space. In England – and Europe, actually – some people call it the Euro barge, there’s no sense of personal space. You cut people off while crossing the street – it’s rude. And here, in America, there’s much better manners, so no one really does that, and if they do, they say, “Excuse me.” In Los Angeles, if you’re crossing the street, you can easily say hello to someone – hello, good morning, it doesn’t matter. In New York, people think your nuts to do that. In England, they’ll probably tell you to fuck off. So, sometimes I forget where I am, and I try to adopt the attitude. So, like in England, they drive much better. Here, no one even thanks you when you let them through. So, sometimes culturally, you have to figure out the differences. But, I don’t really mind where I am – I’m nomadic. I love setting up shop wherever I am, but I’m happy anywhere now, especially having a family close by.
What about the band now? With only two English members, would you consider yourself a UK act anymore?
It’s all global. It’s ironic. What’s even more ironic is that I’ve married an American girl, I have an American family, with American children, who also happen to be English. So the walls just came down so long ago for me that I don’t really see it. America gave me life. I’m like the Pixies in reverse. We’re seeing where it grows.
You issued “Afterlife” over a year ago, and The Sea of Memories is only being released now. Why did it take so long to set off?
It came to pass that the major label syndrome was a dead duck – especially for us. There was no point in being there, and really, the brand of Bush doesn’t need to be on a sort of antiquated label concept. It can be in full gear in one world, and that’s it. It just appeared that it wasn’t the place to be. So, we took a five month leave. But at the same time, I got two new managers added to my other two managers – my management team partnered up with another management team – so those guys came in and started to work with me. While that was going on, we asked, When would we put the record out? As always, the greatest weapon I could ever have is to make pretty good music, you know? It’s not to make high demands or to assume that I’m worth this or not worth that.
So, I was looking at my record and wondering why [Interscope] was not jumping all over this. I thought, Maybe I need to put some real fireworks in the record. So, I went into the studio and just continued to work. I met these guys and we worked on six songs that went on the record – three of them are going to be singles. It just sort of felt like the right time to do all that background work and the record took on a different hue, and then we figured when we wanted to [deliver it], and obviously, we wanted the two or three months to bring it out, and there’s your year. It’s so weird because I work all of the time and yet it’s very different now. On Interscope, it took a very long time to put out records, long time to get it green lit, everything… It’s like a really drawn out process, and now with our label, it moves a lot quicker. Once we decided on the record, and that these were the songs, it’s just been all action. It just seems like a more modern life, a more ninja style…
Do you plan on signing any artist’s on your label?
I was really thinking about that a lot. I figured the best thing to do is really get this going. There’s so much ahead of us. We’re right at the beginning of the curve of possibly an 18 month extravaganza. But, if someone signed with us, I’m not sure what the logic would be; it’s a very, very different world. The whole thing about bringing out my own stuff like that – I personally take the view that the internet is pretty phenomenal. It’s so exciting the way that technology is accelerating, and moving so fast. I saw this great documentary on [Raymond] Kurzweil the other day, about the acceleration of technology and how its improvements go exponentially faster. It’s an incredible time.
We’re in this sort of small speck of time when we’ve gone through the file sharing, and I think that in a way it’ll correct itself. There will be ways to get remunerated without having to go on tour for three years. Because not everyone can tour or they’re not able to and I don’t think we should punish people who craft records in the studios but can’t deliver live. There’s a middle ground. People were charged $18 for albums five years ago; it’s so punitive, that of course there’s a revolt, of course there’s a rebellion, of course people were fed up with it. But maybe the kids now, in five or 10 years time, they won’t think they’re ripping off anyone, when they get jobs, and their lives start to work a certain way. They might come around to thinking, Well, maybe it’s worth three bucks or five bucks. It’s just a passage of time. The whole Spotify thing, the idea of no ownership, it’s a little egalitarian.
If you watch the documentary on Kurzweil, I can’t recommend it enough…
The guy’s just an absolute genius.
It’s just amazing what he’s saying. I want to borrow his brain for a week.
Hey, you never know, he might actually create something where you can do that.
[laughs] He’s very, very smart.
Have you read his book The Age of Spiritual Machines?
No, I want to because I’m just mesmerized by this guy. What’s weird, you know, a long time ago, Kurzweil created a piano for Stevie Wonder [Kurzweil K250], an electronic piano, and growing up, when they were first made, we couldn’t believe the keyboard sound. We had this crappy keyboard stuff – Roland sounds – that was like poop on a stick. But then you heard this Kurzweil, with its heavy keys, and it had a sound like a piano, as well – before all the sampling. As a kid, I just couldn’t believe it. It was unbelievable. It was weird because I always thought Kurzweil was this company who did pianos, I didn’t realize it was this guy who did all of these things, and that he was an inventor.
I just think we’re in such a transitional time – and it continues to be even more transitional. [Kurzweil’s] point is that technology accelerates, and that’s so exciting. Therefore, to be in that situation now, to be in a band, doing it ourselves, having all these things you can offer, we were so removed from that before. Now it’s like everyone has a storefront and you can do anything you want to do and whatever you want to filter through your world. To me, it’s like, don’t limit me.
Had this sort of movement, or this era of technology, existed 10 years ago, do you think things would have fared different for Bush?
The thing about [Bush’s breakup] goes down to Nigel [Pulsford] not wanting to tour anymore. I know we sort of had some issues and we burnt out a bit, but we never really had any major fall out. We just sort of had misunderstood emails, people upset, but no specifics. It all came down to one guy not wanting to travel anymore. [Nigel] missed the birth of his first kid, and he missed out on all these precious years, and he had a second child and he just didn’t want to leave.
And then me doing Institute was always just a side project, because I always wished I was on Matador, or Domino, and I could do my side project for six months and then just go back to Bush. But what happens when you’re on a major label is that it becomes a major thing, like a three year cycle. So I finished the record, but then I got held back for a year because there wasn’t a single on it. So I was like, Oh my god, this is not the idea I had… So I did that and then toured it for a year. That’s three years. Three years I spent of my life on a side project, which wasn’t my intention, but I’m really proud of that record.
Then I was like, Maybe I’ll do the band again. When I began to write more for the next record [2008’s Wanderlust], I offered it up to the band, and for three months it was a Bush record. I felt like I was tripping on air – it just felt so good. Creatively, I was completely satisfied with Institute, but it was really difficult to face up to the fact that I was synonymous with Bush and that’s what I was really supposed to be doing. But then [Nigel] rationalized that he felt really bad about leaving, his kids didn’t want to see him leave, so I respected that and felt that if I just gave him a couple of years, he for sure would be like, What was I thinking, of course I’ve got to work, what example am I setting?
But, you did give him some time.
I really thought there was no way that time would do anything but bring us back. But it didn’t happen. Another dilemma I was in was that Chris [Traynor] is such a good friend of mine. I thought, Oh man, what’s gonna happen if Nigel wants to come back? Chris had given me eight to 10 years of his life, so I felt very awkward about that. But sometimes it’s cool to let things fall as they may. We nearly had three guitar players because I’m not a very good person at telling people they can’t do it.
And Chris was already a part of the Bush family, having played with you since the Golden State-era.
How about studio work? Did Nigel entertain that idea?
He did want to do studio stuff. But I always felt like we all had a front tooth missing. I’ll sing from home, what’s the difference? If you’re in this [industry], or you do this band, and this is the truth for anybody who’s doing it, you have to give so much. You waive so much, it’s such a sacrifice. It’s like when I was doing movies…I have respect now for even the shittiest movies. They work hard. Even if the movie is crap, you gotta be there at six am ’til seven pm everyday, and I was thinking, Oh my god, who wants to be an actor, these guys have to work hard? There’s no glamour in being on a movie set. The glamour they get is on the red carpet, and seeing who they work with.
You were just on Burn Notice.
Yeah, but it was really hot, and you’re wearing a suit.
Well, you’re down in Miami.
I could see the sea, but I couldn’t go anywhere near it. I was hanging out, I was baking. On Burn Notice, I was there for one episode, and for one episode it takes eight days, and the pace is relentless. It’s actually very inspiring, because you only get two takes, unless you really fuck up. Film is just a series of rehearsals that they edit together, so you can really try six to seven to eight times, but it’s not like this on a TV show. They’d go to me, and say, “How do you feel?” And I’d say, “Good, I think I’m really going to nail it next time.” “Cool, change the camera.” Fuck.
Do you still want to do more film?
Yeah, I really enjoy the process. I really love when they say, “Action”, but I don’t know why I get such a thrill. I’m not a bungee jumper, I just don’t get why anyone would do that. It’s the dumbest thing I could imagine – even sky diving. I know it’s supposed to be incredible, but way too close to death. Anyways, I do like having a pressured life. I like singing live on a TV show, I like a live audience, and I like that it comes down to that moment they say “Action” that you have to deliver. For some reason, that turns me on. For me, how you make words come off the page… I watch movies all the time and generally I love people that know how to act and can create situations and arcs. You basically see movies that don’t make you feel so alone – like music.
It’s an escape. Movies take you to different places, make you feel different things, which is why you want to return there sometimes.
Right. I do that, too. I love it. The wife never understands it. “Why are you watching that again?” Because it’s so detailed. You see things, then you gauge performances, and you understand rhythms and stuff, so I love that.
Bush’s longtime followup The Sea of Memories hits stores next Tuesday, September 13th. Pre-order it now via Amazon, and see if the band’s heading to your town in the near future.