Interview: Gavin Rossdale of Bush
Thu, 22 Jul 2010 09:05:01
Bush have created timeless music from the get-go.
The first time you hear a song like "Glycerine," "Swallowed" or "Letting the Cables Sleep," you never forget it. Even though the band's been gone for eight years, their influence has permeated pop culture since Sixteen Stone dropped in 1994. Given the stale state of rock 'n' roll, Bush couldn't have chosen a better time to come back.
They're also armed with the most transcendent album of their career, Everything Always Now. Due out this October, the record maintains the experimental edge of The Science of Things, but it also preserves the heavy fire that the band conjured on Razorblade Suitcase. In essence, it's the perfect Bush album.
The first single "Afterlife" thrusts an ethereal tale of love-after-death into the landscape of a pure rock anthem, while "Mirror of the Signs" opens the gateway into a sonic realm that's as dark as it is inviting. Frontman Gavin Rossdale sounds pristinely powerful and poetic too.
Bush are back tenfold, and Rossdale couldn't be more excited…
While putting the finishing touches on Everything Always Now at a North Hollywood studio, Bush's Gavin Rossdale sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about the album, his favorite authors, Stanley Kubrick, the band's first show at Epicenter and so much more.
The new material taps into the ethereal sensibility of The Science of Things, but there's still an edge reminiscent of Razorblade Suitcase. For you, does Everything Always Now sit at a crossroads between all of these styles?
Yeah, I think so. Having done the WANDERlust record, which I loved doing, it was nice to get a little heavier and just turn it up for Everything Always Now. That was the main thing about this album. Every record you make is, on one hand, an antidote to what you made before and, on the other hand, the sum of what you've made before. We've managed to create a collection of songs that have a lot of energy and people can really relate to.
You pick up where WANDERlust left off, but you also venture into new territory.
It's a learning curve. As a musician or a songwriter, if you ever think you're complete, then it's the time to quit. For me, it's always still a voyage of discovery and trying to get better all the time. That's it.
How has the creative process changed for you? Do you feel like you approach songwriting differently?
Absolutely! When I first began, I'd mainly play acoustic guitar badly and write songs over that. Then I'd turn them into rock songs. Over the last few years, I got much more into writing from a vibe. Maybe that's more of a hip hop thing, but I like to sing on atmosphere not just against an E-minor.
Your lyrics have always had a distinct literary sensibility. Were you reading a lot while you were writing this album?
I read all the time. Part of my job is words and how they connect. I love to read books and other people's lyrics. The trick is to sing or write about common experiences and, in some way, offer a different angle on them. Then it's a common feeling, but it's a unique way of describing it.
Which authors do you come back to?
Paul Oster is my out-and-out favorite. To me, he's probably America's finest writer. He's unbelievable. I've been reading Stieg Larsson's books a lot. Then there's this English guy Jake Arnott who I love. I like anything that's good quality. I find that if I read a good book, it makes me want to read five more. Then if I read a dud book, I just leave it alone for like four months and I think, "Man, I haven't read a book! I need to get one!" A good book inspires me to get another.
Would you ever want to write a book?
Well, writing a book is a lot of work [Laughs]. I've always thought that would be good though. They say that everyone's got one book in them, so maybe…I don't know exactly when, but I do like the idea of doing that. In a way, creatively, I'd love to do music for a film first. That's what I'd really like to do.
What's the story behind "Afterlife?"
I just wanted to write a song about love in another dimension, how that works and following somebody into the afterlife. I began "Afterlife" with the drums because I really wanted something uplifting and powerful at a different tempo than I'd sung before. It really opened up different sides of my voice in a weird way. I muscle or finesse my way through. It's funny because when I hear the songs done, I'm always a bit shocked. I'm like, "Wow, that's so cool. How could I ever top that?" Then you find a way to do another song, and it comes together.
If Everything Always Now were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
2001: A Space Odyssey or something…I would hope that Stanley Kubrick would be involved. He'd be the king. Christopher Nolan is the new king, but Kubrick's the original king. The parallels involve just trying to push things forward while having elements that are familiar. When you're evolving, it's always like walking a tightrope between not losing what you intrinsically have and still pushing the boundaries. I always wanted to do a song on a crazy guitar loop. The first song on the album "Mirror of the Signs" began from that, for instance. It's about finding different ways to come at a song. Musically, "Mirror of the Signs" was really experimental because it didn't have a traditional beginning. It was down to this guitar piece, and I put a song around it. That big guitar is the linchpin of the song. The lyrics have to do with looking back at the best times of your life and wondering if you miss them as much as you think. "Mirror of the Signs" is looking back at this world of paradise. Maybe things weren't so great at the time, but they sure seem great now.
To look back at Razorblade Suitcase, does "Straight No Chaser" still resonate with you?
For sure! One of the joys about doing Bush again is it allows all of these songs to be reawakened. I was talking to somebody about "Straight No Chaser" just yesterday. It's funny. Normally when you record a ballad, you set up a click, then you play a guitar and you sing it. You replace the guitar, and you replace the voice. [Producer] Steve Albini was like, "The string players are coming here at 1pm so whenever you're ready…" I had to sit with four amazing London Philharmonic Orchestra string players and sing "Straight No Chaser" live alongside them. Steve really pushed me there. He said, "You've got to really feel it and be right in there with them." When I showed Nigel [Pulsford] the demo, he was listening to the lyrics and he goes, "That is one depressing song!" [Laughs] I just said, "Cool!" It was like Beavis [Laughs]. It felt really good to be that depressing!
It's dark, but it's very vulnerable at the same time.
Right, I always like to have the big songs and then one or two quite introverted songs. What was weird about WANDERlust is it never was that vulnerable of a record. However, when "Love Remains the Same" came out, the perception was that it's a singer-songwriter record. That was just one song on there though [Laughs].
Was the vibe instant when you got back in a room with Bush?
It was weird because the amazing run we had meant that all of us are forever linked with Bush. In a way, we never got away from it. It was no different. Whether you're in Bush or not, the band was still what defined my career. As a person, I learned so much through that band. If anything, it feels eerily normal and just like back home. It's like I went on this mad odyssey away, but really I'm back where I belong.
As a Deftones fan, did you dig Diamond Eyes?
Absolutely! I like it a lot. They're a fantastic band. I hope to catch them soon because they're so great.
You and Chino Moreno should do a song together.
I'd love to! We spoke about that actually. He's got Team Sleep and they have different people come and sing with them. I'll have to chase him about that because he's a fantastic musician and a great singer.
Who are you listening to right now?
Mainly Liars, their record is really out there. They're crazy! I'm waiting for Grinderman 2. That's coming out soon. I can't stop playing The National record right now. It's maudlin, down and crazy. I really enjoy The Dirty Projectors. That Bitte Orca record was fantastic. I played that a lot, so I'm giving it a little bit of a break. The new Unkle is amazing. The first song with Rachel Williams is really good. I'm also listening to Massive Attack.
We're getting the artwork and video together. Then we're going into rehearsals. Epicenter is a great way to start. We're looking to really be on fire that night.
Video of this interview coming soon!
Have you heard "Afterlife?" Are you excited Bush is back?
Photo Credit: Chris Phelps