Bush's Head Scientist Speaks


Gavin Rossdale chats candidly about his musical loves, his new album and the pressure of past success
Posted Oct 22, 1999 at 12:00am
The three years that have passed since Bush's last album, Razorblade Suitcase, may not have turned the band into a critic's darling, but their prolonged absence certainly hasn't dampened their fans' enthusiasm. Earlier this week, the band taped their appearance for an upcoming episode of VH1's Hard Rock Live, playing for a roomful of rabid Bush lovers who somehow knew all of the words to songs from an album that hasn't even been released yet.

That album, The Science of Things, is due out next Tuesday (Oct. 26), and the looming question is whether it will match the band's previous platinum-selling successes. Can Science's sexy, high-sheen rock & roll still hold sway over audiences who lately demand that their hard rock be mixed with hip-hop? Regardless, frontman Gavin Rossdale isn't losing too much sleep over it. "The only thing I think we can try to do is make a really good record," he said in his recent interview with RollingStone.com. "And you get yourself around and get yourself heard. That's all you can do."

How was the songwriting process different for this record?

I've always been the only songwriter in the band, so in that way it hasn't really ever changed. What the difference was I didn't really make demos on my own before. I would take songs in that were pretty complete, from what I was doing on guitar and singing. And then everyone would add to them. But this was fully-fledged, finished songs and stuff.

How many songs did you bring to the rest of the band?

Twenty-four songs all done. I pressed them at Abbey Road. I had two CDs, it's really cute. And then they chose seventeen they wanted to do. Obviously more of the rock songs.

I had loads of weirder songs. Slow, really slow. Sort of like Low songs, you know? The tempos like that. I'm really into that. I love really mellow, and really energetic and hard.

So what's going to happen to those other songs?

I was thinking at one stage that I wouldn't mind...[breaking off] Because I love like Mark Lanegan and I love what he does. And he's pretty inspiring how he does Screaming Trees, but he does his own really mellow stuff. Of course, Elliott Smith is great, and all his records are really mellow, top to bottom. And I thought about maybe I'd just like to just do the tour and then do my own mellow solo record kind of thing. But then I write a song and I think, 'Oh I really love that song.' And I think, 'Oh, it'd be really good to have Nigel playing on it.' And I thought, 'Well, you know, what if I do my record then I can't play those songs live, like at a proper Bush show. So I don't really know about that right now.

But then I want to do drum 'n' bass stuff. I might do it with Goldie, I might do a record with Tricky. I'd love to do a record with... I'm so excitable about things. I want to do loads of records. I think it's stifling how people every eighteen months they sort of bring out a record. And go, 'Oh please get on the radio.' What they should f---ing do is just bring out records and make music and bring it out, which I guess is the really great thing about the Internet.

How much did drum 'n' bass influence the new album?

I would've done more, I would've gone crazy with it, but my band wanted to pull me back from that a bit, which is probably quite good. But I love all the drum 'n' bass stuff. The only problem that I don't like about certain things to do with drum 'n' bass or hip-hop is, like, that's the defining factor when I'm much more of a fan of songs. Like, if you have to choose a really good song, like some of those Lamb tracks. You know, they're beautiful songs and they would really sound great if they were done any way. Everything But the Girl, when they came out with that Todd Terry stuff, and that was all the breakbeats. And I love that, but what was most important about it was the songs. I like those songs. You know, my favorite Goldie tracks are the ones where he has a chorus in there and someone singing after ten minutes.

I wish sometimes there weren't the names for things and it would just be like certain styles would suit songs, because I still think the song is the most important thing. Everyone gets so paranoid about, 'Oh, this month this is in and next month that's out. You're not Brit-pop and you shouldn't be this.' And how 'bout, 'Rock is dead.' And 'Boy bands are awake and alive and kicking.' And it's just all bull----. It's all bull----. It's all about is it a good song and are you communicating a good collection of words. Are you communicating something and does it mean something? And I want to use all those influences. I love Bob Marley and I love the Jesus Lizard. I wanna do all of it together. I love Beenie Man and I love, I don't know, Beenie Woman.

Has drum 'n' bass always been an influence?

I always loved it. Because the radio in England is so shitty. The only radio stations that I could ever listen to apart from certain shows on Radio One at night time was all the pirate stuff. I mean the best radio stations that operate from some tower block somewhere and you tune in. Because I didn't understand house music. I hated it. It was the end of me going out a lot really. I just hated it because I just thought it was so insensitive. And then, it's only people like the Aphex Twin and Underworld who got me back into it.

Other than incorporating those influences, how is the new record different?

It's just more textured, more time taken, and maybe the subject matter is more varied. I mean, there's songs about pollution, there's a song about the stigma of HIV. There are songs about communication. There are songs about sexual love, lost love, all those kind of human things. There's a song about travel. I just tried to have a rounded record. I wanted to do Rumours. That was my basis for this album.

Do you ever feel like the media focuses too much on insignificant aspects of your career?

I think they focus on the inevitable ones. I think it's naïve to think that they wouldn't want to know who you're dating and the sort of salacious things that go on. And it's a bit self-righteous to turn around and say, 'Why don't you listen to the music, man?' It's such a boring turnaround. No, ask me about my love life, that's fine. I might not tell you, but I understand that. I'm not a genius, I'm not Einstein, but I'm not that dumb.

Nothing really bothers me anymore. I kind of went through it all and I learned some hard lessons and sometimes it was a bit tough because at first you do take it personally. But then you realize that you just kind of have to separate yourself a bit. But, then again, a good review is always nice to hear. [laughs] My new motto is I don't care now what they say. I'd do interviews and I'd wanna qualify myself of justify things. Now, I don't care. Well, I do care, but I'm just more guarded now.

What would you say is the short term goal for Bush?

The plan really is to give the record the status it deserves and work it the degree we have to work it in order for it to be heard. There's such competition, there's such traffic culturally on every level. It was so cool to have a band in the Sixties because there was nothing else for people to do. It was either that or go to a soda fountain shop and sit there and eat ice cream and if there was a cool rock and roll band, that was it. Now everyone's so jaded, and so, 'Oh god, oh I'd much rather watch my DVDs or play on my Nintendo or go to a great gallery or go on the Internet. There's so many other things, forgetting the fact that there's also ten thousand million squillion bands. So I think the short term plan will be to give the record The Science of Things the illumination it deserves.

Do you feel like you're a person who has a lot of songs in you?

I feel like a person with a lot of opinions when I bother to ask myself the questions. I'm not one of those burning, like I asked Elvis Costello, and I was like, "you really piss me off. What is it like to wake up and just have to write a song? How does that work?" and he was like, "No, no, I have to work really hard on my songs."

I just like writing songs. It's like, sometimes every now and again I really like to go on a run and sweat and I feel like I need that cathartic thing. Sometimes it's really good to write a song because you just feel like, if you're a songwriter then you're not faking it, you're not coasting.

But you're happy with how this record turned out?

Yeah. Your records could always be better. I'm not usually satisfied with things and I always think we could do better with things. But I guess the day you think you're really great is the day you start bringing out the turkeys. Like, here's another Thanksgiving Dinner. So I like that sort of forward thinking thing. And it's just a challenge. I'm not a good enough musician so that when I write a song it comes a place of discovery more than a place of "Hmm, I'll try plan J today." It's sort of a voyage of finding things out. And that's how I like it.

Written by JENNY ELISCU for RollingStone.com News

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