Gavin Rossdale's impromptu meet n greet - (Photo: Amy Harris)
Bush was the peak of Alternative music success in the mid and late ’90s. After an eight year break, the band reformed with as fresh a sound as they ever have provided. From its first No. 1 album, Razorblade Suitcase, Bush was an unstoppable force until its split in 2002. In 2010, lead singer Gavin Rossdale put the band back together and Bush recently released its fifth studio album, The Sea of Memories. CityBeat caught up with Rossdale to preview the band’s concert with Chevelle and Filter this Friday at Riverbend's PNC Pavilion. We discussed the process of putting the band back together, the current tour. R.E.M.'s breakup and how his turbulent upbringing impacts his songwriting.
CityBeat: I’ve been listening to the new album and I wanted to talk about it first. One of my favorite songs on the album is “All Night Doctors.” I also like “All My Life.” I wanted to ask specifically about “All Night Doctors.” Can you tell me the story behind that song?
Gavin Rossdale: I wanted to write autobiographical songs and I also like to write the observational songs. Clearly, there are both of these qualities in the song. It is just observing two separate characters, a girl and a boy and how they find their way through the challenges that are presented to them. It is just about human concerns that everybody has. The girl is wondering about what effects the decisions she has made will be. Sometimes you look back at your life and you have to assess what impact you had.
For some reason, my whole life, I have been obsessed about making sure that I give back. Where I grew up was super rough and I grew up around people who were so aggressive and taking. Even when I was a kid, I was so shocked by the people around my neighborhood. I didn’t understand how you could be that conniving. With this girl in the song singing about how she loves him and seeing whether she made a difference, it is one of those human concerns that any regular person might think about.
The male character is the one soldier of misfortune which is most of us. The happy endings are there and the happy days are in there, but a lot of it is struggling and a lot of it is uphill. That is what I was thinking about. The chorus “All Night Doctors” is all the remedies we have in life. We all self-medicate. We all find our separate remedies. That’s what that song is about.
CB: You spoke a little bit about where you came from. I know you have young children. How do you talk to them about your upbringing or have you got to the point you can discuss that with them at all yet?
GR: The main thing is being aware of the people and being cognizant of other people, being respectful of other people and learning how to co-exist. So much of life is divine theater. You do see people growing up and being taught things about how things are wrong, people are wrong, very judgment based. I’m still learning as I go along, they are 5 and 3, I don’t know that much. I keep thinking if I can make them cool people that can really contribute to society then they are welcome. The world is too full but it is not too full of people with the right intentions. I just always keep mindful of if I can keep them where they give and don’t take, then that is the right job.
CB: I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the band coming back together. Was it a hard decision for you to move forward with Bush without (original guitarist) Nigel (Pulsford)?
GR: It was up until the point I decided to do it. I did a solo record in lieu of doing Bush because Nigel wasn’t ready. He changed his mind. So yes, I wanted to be as respectful as possible to everyone involved, to the band and the fans, because I thought we deserved it.
He left a large window of re-affirmation in there; when that clearly was not happening, I was like, “Fuck it.” I was going to do what I was going to do. Bush is, professionally speaking, my entire life. It is my vocation. Music is everything that I love and am inspired by. Bush is my complete.
CB: Are you still friends?
GR: Yeah. Are we friends? Do I see him socially? I’ve probably seen him once in the last couple years. We got together before the solo record. We play. I love him. We went through so much together and we will be linked together forever. There is no getting away from it. Are we friends in the sense of do we hang out all the time? No, but do I love him forever? Of course. He gave me … what he gave me is life. His contribution, same with the other two, what they did and what they went through, has got me to this point. Again, I’d have to be a pig to not to appreciate what they did for me.
CB: I still have the April 18, 1996 cover of Rolling Stone that I got in college with you on the cover. If you could go back and give advice to yourself knowing what you know now, what would it be?
GR: I would say, instead of trying to appease my critics, just to continue to be there for the people that love me. I think that sometimes with the small things I corrected on this record, my muse is the audience I have seen over the years, my muse is the audience I missed. I think that sometimes when you are young and being attacked, you want to stay in the fight, you want to stay in there and duke it out. In fact, what you should be doing is going to the bar where they love you.
I would change my interview style. For some reason I started out on a bad foot with some of the interviews I did. I think I was a bit green. I was too open. I think that kind of cost me. But again it is me delving too deeply into it. My whole thing now is that the world is too fragmented, you are an idiot if you try to appease your critics. I think what you have to do is to fly toward the love, fly toward the people that want you to be there. That’s all that we try to do. It is a learning curve and there is a sense you could have this massive success … it means that you have to perform under pressure and constraint. You have to grow up ridiculously in the limelight because no one is really ready for that in a sense. It twists everyone’s nose out of joint, the people in it and the people watching. But it’s an incredible ride, so many great things, that I must say I’m moved.
CB: What has been your greatest Rock Star moment over the years?
GR: I think the greatest Rock Star moments are all the encores and the sweat around the shows. Sure it is really fun things when you get to fly on a jet, which is the greatest luxury in the world, or you are given this fantastic hotel or something like that. Those experiences are meaningless in comparison to having a crowd on your side, controlling a real large crowd. Those kinds of things, when people sing songs and you realize how far you have gone with the music. Especially now, with this reformation, people are so kind and appreciative. When you think about when bands or when couples break up in the public eye, there is a certain sense that everybody loses. There is a certain sense where you go, “Oh well, Love fades. That’s how it goes.” When people get back together or stay together, there is a certain triumph in that.
The whole announcement of R.E.M. breaking up has really upset me. How can we not hear “Everybody Hurts” anymore? Just play less. Nobody wants artists to break up. It somehow, in a world of change, in a search for resistance to change, putting a band back together is sort of life-affirming somehow. It is like good things can happen for the fans, I’m talking about people that like the band obviously. It is a good thing opposed to a negative thing. If you look at everyone’s life, there is so much negativity everywhere. It is so great to go the other way and do something surprising.
CB: You guys have your families and I know you have just gotten back on the road the past few months for the first time in a while. How do you stay connected with the family and the relationships while you are on the road?
GR: That’s a real challenge. That is a real difficult part that is very painful. It is most acute with the kids because they are 5 and 3. A month is an eternity to them at that age, and to me too. I’d rather be around them than not. It is really challenging. It is further proof that in life there is no free lunch and there is sacrifice to be made.
It is funny because someone just recently said to me, “You look so happy.” I said, “Of course I am happy. We have the new record. There is fantastic reaction to the beginning of this journey. I am back where I belong. It is incredible. How can I not be grateful?” It is tinted with the fact that I am not going to see my kids until the end of October, and then only for four or five days. Then I have to go to Europe for a month. That’s not complaining, it’s just reality in everything you do. Anyone with a kid and a job knows what I am talking about. It’s like you have to do what you have to do. It’s very self-serving and very self-nourishing to do your work that keeps you you. Who wouldn’t rather be with the people they love and not doing their work? No one really wants to go to work. But you do, we all just do. It is a requirement.
It is unfortunate that in this life you are away. That is the roughest thing. I had panic attacks at the beginning of it all thinking about being away from them, just the idea that I am away a lot is challenging.
CB: What can we expect from the show in Cincinnati?
GR: A combination. It is totally essential that this record stands on its own, totally essential that this record is not a stepping stone to playing the hits. Or else we would be viewed like a nostalgia act. So, in order to keep it current, we did the best record we could, as anyone should, and that allows us to really be able to play any of those songs with the songs people are familiar with.
Really, it is a mixture of songs you are familiar with, some deeper tracks off older Bush records that are good for us to play and fun for us to play, and throw in a cover here and there. There is a lull at most concerts — about 45 minutes in is when people are like, “Hey, want to get a drink?” We are aware of that so you just try to find the show that stays mesmerizing. Whether or not we achieve that is the audience member’s opinion. Really, we just made the most dynamic, interesting, cool, surprising show we could come up with each night.
CB: How did you choose Chevelle and Filter to go out with?
GR: Chevelle just came up and suggested to us. We know them. Chris knows them. I know their hits. I knew they were a cool band. I like the fact they are a three piece. I’ve always been a fan of three pieces because it is inspiring.
We have some shows with Filter. I know Richard very well. I know their material better. I just like him. He is re-doing Filter. His life is in the same position as me. It felt natural to tour with them. He said, “If you guys are going out, we’d love to play with you.” It was a natural thing.
Usually I like to sing and have girl singers on the road with us as well because I like girl singers and I think it is a really healthy compliment for the audience that you have a girl singing with a guy singing. It’s cool. This is like going in the face of it. But it was a bit irrefutable — when the opportunity to have Chevelle and have Filter came up, it was a bit of a no brainer. It was such a nice thing. So many decisions in life, you overthink. It is such a relief when you get an opportunity to go out and do shows like this one.