Gavin Rossdale Biography
"The wanderlust I'm talking about isn't that desire to travel and see the world," Rossdale explains with a grin. "It's my overwhelming desire to get out and play music for people. I feel like a racehorse that’s been stuck in the stables a bit too long. The doors are locked and no one can find the key." With WANDERLUST, the doors – and the floodgates – seem wide open, and the result is the most mature, sensual, honest and compelling work of Rossdale's life in music.
After years spent at the top of rock's grungy heap – and then a couple more in a peculiar sort of high-profile musical wilderness – Rossdale has brought it all back home on a vivid, widescreen rock album that found him working closely with famed producer Bob Rock. Now that WANDERLUST is finally completed, Rossdale can hardly wait to get back on the road. "This album is my way of saying 'Let me out,'" Rossdale says. "I'd love to take my family with me, but I do have a burning desire to go out and play for people again. I've felt too corralled for too long, so this deep sort of wanderlust has set in."
From the mid-Nineties into the early 21st century, Rossdale was seeing much of the world from the stage of an ever-changing procession of theaters, arenas and stadiums as the dashingly tortured lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Bush, a band that first came together in London in the early Nineties. Right from their 1994 debut, Sixteen Stone, Bush connected powerfully with post-Grunge America through a series of jagged yet infectious hit songs, including "Everything's Zen", "Little Things", "Comedown", "Glycerine", "Machinehead", "Swallowed", and "The Chemicals Between Us".
The music of Bush successfully married a guitar-driven modern rock with the fantastically twisted lyrics of Rossdale, a poetic sort heavily influenced by the likes of Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, The Fall, and his longstanding musical hero, Tom Waits. If Bush were not exactly the critics darling, they were immediately the people's choice, as 1996's Razorblade Suitcase album hit #1, followed by 1999's The Science of Things, and 2001's Golden State. Still, for all his past experience, there is an emotional and musical depth to WANDERLUST that takes Rossdale far beyond Bush. Here, Rossdale has delivered the most personal and direct set of songs of his life. Like Peter Gabriel after leaving Genesis, Rossdale has moved beyond his past in a massively popular band and used the opportunity of going solo to stop hiding; to more explore his life both lyrically and musically.
"There's such a minefield of people who have gone from bands that had success to the solo thing," says Rossdale. "There's a chasm to get from one to the other. It's like Death Valley and you look down and there's fucking scorched singers."
WANDERLUST is not Rossdale's first post-Bush album. In 2005, he released a hard-edged record with a group he dubbed Institute, produced by Page Hamilton of Helmet fame. "We went on tour with U2," Rossdale recalls. "I loved some of what we did, especially a song called 'Ambulances,' but Institute felt like a really painful left turn. There was one guy who came to a show who had Bush tattooed on one arm and Institute tattooed on the other. I remember thinking, 'I've got to road test this stuff first.'" At the same time, Rossdale was encountering the glare of a whole other level of celebrity. "It's been a challenge for me the last few years because I’ve been lost in how to define myself in the present tense," he says. "With that glare of the publicity on us, how can I not feel like an appendage at times? It takes a tough man to be married to a force of nature like Gwen. It’s challenging and it forces a lot of humility. There are guys who come and photograph me working out at the gym, and I’m like 'Guys, come and shoot me working in the studio – hook a brother up.'" With WANDERLUST – which Rossdale briefly considered recording as a Bush album – he has instead reclaimed not just his own artistic identity, but offered the listener a far more honest and plainspoken picture of who he is and what drives him both as an artist and as a man.
"Really I felt like my life depended on this record," says Rossdale. "There are too many records anyway and not enough outlets, so it had to be everything or there was no point." Rossdale had to wait five months for producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith) to work with him on the album. "As soon as I met Bob, I knew he was the guy. I really wanted experience; I wanted an overview in making the album. I really wanted someone with perspective." Rossdale and Rock recorded WANDERLUST with Josh Freese on drums, Paul Bushnell on bass, Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards, and Chris Traynor on guitar. "We recorded it as a five piece at Ocean Way in Los Angeles," Rossdale recalls. "We recorded everything together, got eighteen songs in five days, and took a week to add guitars from Chris. Then I went to Maui to work with Bob. He thought I would get lonely and go mad, but as a husband and father now, I loved being that selfish for a short time. I’d get up, go for a swim, have a salad, and then work for ten hours until Bob chucked me out." The vocals on WANDERLUST are easily the most affecting of Rossdale's career. "We had a system," Rossdale explains. "I'd come in and do five takes. Then Bob would ask me for one over-the-top, theatrical vocal. After that, I’d go out and play with Bob's miniature pet donkey, his dogs, and his eighteen cats that I'm allergic to. And when I'd come back, Bob would have comped my vocal back together. I'll never know how much he used of what take. I only knew it worked." WANDERLUST works, and Rossdale could hardly be more pleased to be heading out of the stables with an album that means so much to him. "I'm on the gang plank," he says. "Yet the thing is, I feel totally emancipated because there is such a sense now of being able to write myself back into music on my own terms. There's a sense of freedom for me now. When you're tense and needy, you’re going to miss. And when you're free and loose, you're going to hit the ball the furthest."
By those deeply personal standards, WANDERLUST is already Rossdale's biggest hit yet.