Gavin Rossdale: “I just go and do a few rock shows and I’ll be right home.”
Gavin Rossdale is the perfect host of this early Berlin evening. With only three hours left until hitting the stage with his band BUSH, the lead singer is obviously in the middle of getting ready for the show but still thoughtfully, he offers a drink and even lowers the curtain as the sun is dazzling its way through his hotel room. Playing the European leg of their current tour with some festivals as well, Berlin is a quick stop for the band.
“Isn’t Berlin beautiful?” he starts the interview and without waiting for an answer he carries on.
“It’s a good cultural center and I mean I had a really nice time driving through the Black Forest but I was looking forward to coming to the city again. Every time I looked out of the window, there were more trees. I think you guys have the most trees in the world – which is beautiful.
We played Eschwege the other day and stayed at a castle. I dropped my iPhone there on the medieval ground. I thought it was an interesting crash of old and new.”
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what questions you prepared as the interview takes a different direction as planned beforehand. This happened with the very first question. As we are already talking about cities asking the BUSH front man, who was born in London, if living in Hollywood affects his British attitude, had been meant in a very innocent way. Mischievously he grinned and asked: “You mean: Am I going faker?” laughing loud by looking at my attempt to row back. But then he admits that he really enjoys living in Los Angeles.
“I love living there. It’s beautiful. It’s really spacious. I grew up in London in a very small house. My bedroom was a regular person’s room, a single bed. When I showed it to Gwen she’d be like ‘Oh my god! You lived in here?’ My kids have dressing rooms bigger than that. One of the things I am quite good at is adapting. I mean obviously I want to be wherever Gwen is.”
Mentioning his wife Gwen Stefani, singer of No Doubt, wasn’t exactly on my questionnaire but as this interview seems to be going in an unexpected direction anyway, I decided to go wherever Gavin’s thoughts may go during this interview.
So has songwriting, the attitude on stage or going on tour changed after becoming a husband and a father?
“I definitely don’t write about them. That’ll be sad, so I’m, not that crazy. The overall effect they had on me is that I realize the consequences now. Everything used to be so selfish in my life before. So everything that I do I have to be able to explain to them. They just make me up my ‘anti’, you know what I mean? I try to be better because I want them to be proud of me. That’s how it affects me.”
Sometimes your interview partner affects you too, by saying something you not only agree but also perfectly matches your inner heart-shaped box. This happened because Gavin Rossdale and I love dogs.
Before heading to the Hotel where the interview took place, I dropped off my golden retriever at home, making sure he’s not alone for the next couple of hours.
While talking about Los Angeles Gavin asked if I have kids as he was trying to explain that this process changed his mind about living in London with his family. I could only throw in my dog Lemmy here – which Gavin surprisingly mentioned immediately as „quite comparable actually”.
Sharing a mutual passion over dogs does not necessarily mean that you connect with your interview partner but these three words seemed to be spoken with stifled feelings and carried an unspoken understanding. Something clicked in that moment and as Gavin was talking about being on tour, it fell into place.
“There also was this other side of it what I used to leave to go on tour all through the time with Bush. To leave my dog was like a knife through my heart. The only thing that would make me cry. I’d leave anyone else. ‘See you later. That’s who I am.’ With my dog I’d be depressed three days before I’d go, I’d lay on the ground with him and I’m talking to him and when I’d leave …you know… I can’t take it and I’d wanted to take him with me so bad. That’s why I had his name tattooed on me. Best when he was alive I had it, just so I’d see it every single day and then when he died I wanted something like a wreathe of flowers something as a memorial for him but Gwen grew up in Long Beach so everyone has tattoos so she’s like ‘Please don’t get tattoos’. So I keep telling myself I will stand up for myself one day. But you know, I’m just the king of the remote in my house. “
Gavin Rossdale met his wife Gwen Stefani while they were on a mutual tour back in the early days of BUSH. So is having a girlfriend/wife who is also happen to be a musician a blessing or a curse?
“I would say having a wife and a girlfriend is a bonus but…Not, that’s just a joke. It’s amazing. It really saved my life. Two things happen… The bad bit is that people who do this job usually have a great partner who supports them and this is a really good kind of backbone for them. There’s a very sexist phrase in English. In England, they say that behind every great man is a great woman. But you know it’s the other way round, too. I hope that behind every great woman is a great man. I went through many years when my career was like…” – Gavin is whistling like a crashing plane accompanied with the proper gesture – “… being there when Gwen was going…” and the Bush singer whistles but this time gesturing a take-off “…and there’s so sexist, you know, they’re going to attack the husband as he’s not a superstar like she is. So that’s the hard thing. I prefer her here – with me and it’s the same for her. When she travels the other three of her band have all their partners go with them. When we travel a lot of the time the three other guys’ girlfriends/wifes come with them. Now it’s hard because she’s busy and needed elsewhere. The good thing is that she understands what it takes. She doesn’t sweat if I say ‘Oh four month of arenas in America right now? Shit’. She’s like ‘Oh you’re gonna love it!’ So it works both ways. I definitely wouldn’t change her for the world so I’ll take what I can get.”
Gavin Rossdale formed BUSH twenty years ago in London. Their debut album “Sixteen Stone” found immediate success, mostly in the US though critic mentioned BUSH sounded too much of a copy of Soundgarden or Nirvana. Nevertheless, “Sixteen Stone” sold more than ten million copies in the states and BUSH became one of the most successful rock bands of the 90ies.
Ten years later the band separated but Gavin Rossdale was far away giving up on music for good. He formed the band INSTITUTE and released “Distort Yourself”, an album he later calls “a solo record”. A solo album officially followed in 2008 when Rossdale released “Wanderlust”, which is well known for the first single “Love Remains The Same”.
In summer 2010 BUSH announced their first show after being on hiatus for eight years and also coming up with the news of releasing a new record.
Talking about his long hiatus and his comeback with BUSH Gavin Rossdale interrupts, shaking with laughter.
“Not as far as for the Metal magazine you are writing for. I’d been dead and now I’ve raised from the tomb. They should bring me up to the front cover coming out of a tomb. That’ll be cool! I like this kind of corpse, weird death metal bands!” and the attempt of getting back with saying something like he’s back on the road now is thrown out with a chuckling singer and his comment: “You mean – back in a band with guitars?”
Ten years after the last studio album BUSH released “Sea Of Memories” in September 2011.
Gavin confessed that his expectations weren’t that high in terms of success.
“They were pretty much basement level. Low expectations. Nothing. Just to making the CD was for me like I already won. That was my victory – just to have it. Finish this thing – I did it. Fuck everyone – and if it fails I know it fails as supposed to ‘Would it fail? Won’t it fail? Should I? Shouldn’t I?’ So I knew it and I’ve been so lucky and the time is being great. I have a great team around me and here we are in this idyllic hotel room on a sunny day in Berlin. Life is good. “
Being asked about his favorite song on the record he continues, “There is “Be Still My Love” which for some reasons really speaks to me and “Mirror Of The Signs” which opens the record. What I like about it – it’s progressive. When I was making the record it was essential I didn’t lose what Bush Fans might expect from the past but I also had to be able to shock people. Some people would be like ‘Wow this is really okay’. That song does that for me. It sets me up, it’s really interesting musically and I’m really proud of it.”
Gavin Rossdale wasn’t able to convince all former band members of BUSH to join the team again so he’s not playing with the original set up.
“I’m not? Oh right, there’s this very tall guy, very handsome with long hair and a beard…” and he’s giggling again. “I asked the others if they wanted to do it and what I should have done was to do the BUSH re-union instead of the solo career. But because I’m loyal to a fault I thought if I just wait out the cycle he’s going to come back.” And as I was mentioning Guns ‘n Roses here where everybody hopes, well apart from the band, they all come back together one day, Gavin Rossdale admits that he feels exactly like all the others.
“We played a show with Slash the other day somewhere. It’s so stupid when bands break up. But we, the public, don’t care if you don’t speak to each other ever again. Just play your fucking songs. Play the songs and shut the fuck up. Get on your own private jets and do whatever it is that makes you happy. But just play ‘Paradise City’. It’s the same thing. Chris is back with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam never stopped. I’m here with BUSH.”
Mentioning the greatest hits of BUSH the audience surely expects to hear songs such as “Swallowed”, “Glycerine” or “The Chemicals Between Us”, all of them being more than ten years old and belong with the pre break-up area of the band. Is it weird to play those songs?
“Everyone takes the lyrics of their favorite song. When the song gets out to the world, when you release it from your studio, put it on a record it belongs to everybody. It’s no longer yours. So they change it and they put it on to their life. You know, most of the times when someone fucks you over and breaks your heart or something is going wrong and you listen to music you’re like ‘Oh this person knows what I’m going through’. You wear that song as a badge of honor and pride, and it becomes the soundtrack to your life. So its no difference for me with those songs, even if I wrote them or not. When I sing ‘Come down tonight’ I am not going to be singing about what I wrote it about because I can’t even remember what I wrote it about. But I wrote it about a feeling of euphoria and happiness and the struggle to get to that happy point. So to come here and play in Berlin is like giving that song as if I wrote it for the first time today. How else could you ever do a show?”
Gavin also confirms that he’s working on the next record. “I have a set of steps to get to where I need to finish a song so I’m just doing some of my preliminary work. A kind of research and it’s going really well. I enjoy it. The hardest part of doing your job is putting your butt on the seat. Sometimes it only takes ten minutes of inspiration but I have to be in the studio for four hours to get things right, trying this guitar, checking things out. I’m pretty focused. There was this street, Tin Pan Alley, where all those songwriters used to work. All day long they were sitting there writing songs for people.
In my first band my best friends Dad used to say to us: ‘If they do that why can’t you guys do that? If you want to be a musician why don’t you actually write songs all the time?’
I didn’t tell him I agreed. I just took it and that’s how I work now. This also takes the pressure from me. I know I can write five songs a week and chuck one out. It doesn’t have to be like ‘This is the one!’“
BUSH are going to rock the stage tonight in Berlin, so what is his favorite part he wants to see from the audience?
“When they get lost. When I go to see a show I don’t jump up and down the whole time like a seventeen year old girl but I move all the time. I never stand still. I’m always with the music because I know what it looks like being out front seeing people who get lost in music. That’s all I care about. If you can change people’s emotion from when they’re coming to the venue to when they leave you’ve done your creative job. Taking people somewhere else. That’s why it’s such a beautiful job, that’s why I feel so lucky. “
Gavin Rossdale is also well known for going off stage to mingle with the audience. How important is this part of the show?
“You know, in my world – cause I hate it when people say ‘Everybody knows’, that’s the worst phrase in the world ‘You know me”. No! I don’t! Who are you?’
So – in my world I’ve often done that and it’s funny because I like the idea of surprising people. Nowadays I think it’s the hardest thing to do. Because we’ve all seen everything, we’ve all heard everything, we all know – well we know less than we think, but we think we know some stuff. The hardest thing is to be surprising. When I go down into the crowd, being face to face with people during a show, it seems that people are so shocked and surprised. They can’t believe that. That’s contagious to me. I don’t plan it. I do it a lot, I can’t help it but I never know what the venue is like, so when I’m going on stage I’m looking where could I go, what could I do. I don’t take the guitar to the crowd because I don’t want to hit someone. I just like it, it’s fun. It makes you feel like you’re all One. You’re all part of the same thing. It’s not this divide anymore. “
Before Gavin had to leave for the venue, I asked him if there are any sacrifices, he has to make for doing what he’s doing.
“The ultimate sacrifice is being away from the people that you love. That’s the hardest thing. You know my children, my wife, my family, and my friends. But these are first world high-class complaints. My heart breaks if I drive away in the car and I watch my wife teaching my son how to use the skateboard. That’s my job. That’s my job show him how to bike and catch him when he falls. That is a great sacrifice and that’s why Nigel is not in the band and I respect that and I understand it. But at the same time the reason why I make these sacrifices is I don’t know what else to do firstly and secondly I love it. And thirdly if you can’t be a complete person and satisfy your work and your vocation what kind of example and what kind of person are you being for your children? It’s so painful when I leave and I have one kid on each leg, begging me not to go and what I’m telling them is: I promise you, I love you and I’m coming home! I just go and do a few rock shows and I’ll be right home.”
Writing this article the deep snoring of my retriever Lemmy is the only noise cutting the dark blue night. I’m pretty sure that Gavin Rossdale would love that sound.
Gavin Rossdale – vocals/guitar
Chris Traynor – guitar
Corey Britz – bass
Robin Goodridge – drums
The Sound Of Winter
The Chemicals Between Us