photo by: Brian Kelly
Talking New Music, Trials and Triumph with BUSH Frontman, Gavin Rossdale
“Even electricity poles need time to rest. It’s all about recharging, this song is really about communication and this is a beautiful time to reach out to everyone in your whole world, even mending any bridges,” a heartfelt Gavin Rossdale said softly, introducing “Letting The Cables Sleep” during his March 26th Instagram Live performance (in partnership with Global Citizen and WHO). But before performing anything, the first thing Rossdale did was thank all those on the front-lines and in healthcare who are real heroes during this unprecedented time, before subtly noting that even at crossroads, love remains the same.
For Rossdale and BUSH, a big part of the approach in dealing with the here and now is to stay positive and ride a spirit of optimism that, together, we will make it through. During these uncertain times, one thing we do know is that music and the arts are the electricity and connection within the quicksand of social distancing. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel and presently – songs, virtual performances and knowing new records like Bush’s The Kingdom (due out July 17th) lie ahead, serve as guiding forces to belief. Aside from providing an excitement, they simply make you feel in touch with both yourself and others when the turning world triggers, “the mind is a playground”.
The day after Rossdale performed his first Instagram session, approximately day 15 of self-isolation/social distancing/quarantine-life, I had the chance to speak with the Bush frontman. From the confides of similar rooms within our own homes on different coasts, we dug deep into the melodies of today’s climate, how The Kingdom relates and ultimately, will be waiting for us all with open arms when our time has come and we meet again at a venue feeling – higher than I’ve ever been.
photo by: Dove Shore
How are you? How is this quarantine, stay at home going for you?
I’m looking out my window as we’re speaking and there’s a beautiful cold sun, it’s a fresh day and it’s almost like the whole planet is relaxing and regenerating, but at the same time, there’s this incredible trauma. There are heroes on the front lines, doctors around the world, nurses and people struggling with this virus. The majority of society is staying home and quarantining and not being irresponsible. It’s a very strange time.
Music is somewhere in between right now, and really helping. It’s there for those who are struggling to make them feel better, serving as a distraction for those in distress and perhaps providing some moments of comfort. You’ve done a few live sets from your living room, correct?
Yeah, I have a little set up at my house where I have my guitars out – it’s more like a small TV studio as opposed to a recording studio, which is funny. I have my amps, but I use my car holder to hold the iphone steady and all these other random things to make it work. I have my original purple Jazz Master guitar here, so that has been really fun to play and show everyone.
The first song I ever played live years ago was your “Letting the Cables Sleep”, I was stoked to see you play it in your home set.
Oh wow, that’s great. It’s such a powerful song. I was going through my catalog and realzing that there’s a beautiful prophesy in writing your feelings down. I don’t necessarily think I’m different from anyone else, I’m sure when other people record their emotions and put them down, it’s funny how tuned in we are to certain things inside of us. There’s this song I did called “Ambulances” with the band I had called Institute, it’s one of my favorite songs I ever wrote. It’s got the best opening line I ever wrote in a song, that I could probably never improve. It goes – “This staying alive can kill you. It’s taken years off my life.” I was thinking that I have to play that song. It’s challenging to play the intricate guitar leads and sing, but I have to figure it out.
This past summer you toured with Live and Our Lady peace and spent some time honoring 25 years of Bush and your debut release Sixteen Stone. Now, you’ve just released some new music with “Flowers On A Grave” and have new record coming out in May. Was has it been like for you lately, straddling a position of reflecting upon the past, while having an eye on the future?
It’s a constant tension between the old and the new. It exactly as you’re saying – knowing where you came from. It all starts with people coming to see us. If I go see a band I love, they must play the songs that I love them for, or I’ll feel shortchanged. For me it’s about trying to be as interesting as possible for the entire time you are on stage. You want – familiar, new, light, dark, tall, short, you want it all. It’s about being dynamic. The main thing I always feel, and what helps me the most throughout the years of doing this, is the more lost I can get, the better. I mean lost in a good way – looking out into the crowd, connecting with people and just loosing my mind. I am then off in my own land. People need both in the show. You can’t be one of the other consistently because that’s also boring. My idea of hell would be to make records that I didn’t really care about because I just needed to make records to fill the space or I’m contractually obliged, and then I go on tour and just play all the old songs. That to me is like moral and creative bankruptcy. You need to find that balance. My dream always, and it happens on every record, especially on our new record, The Kingdom – is that people can hear a song like “Flowers On A Grave” and think that’s a cool sound. Then they play the record and fall in love with it like we did when we were kids. Then they can discover all our other stuff. I of course love all our existing fans, but what I’m saying is that the record should be able to stand on its existing merit.
photo by: Brian Kelly
When I first heard the title of the record, The Kingdom, that was really exciting to me. It just felt like, yes, that is a Bush record.
It’s funny because in the current climate the meaning of “The Kingdom” has taken on another dimension. Thinking back, I was just looking at life as you do, and considering the amount of judgement, self-righteousness, bigotry, exclusion, hierarchies and wanted to instead think of a place where like-minded people could feel safe and not feel judged, misunderstood or underrated. Now of course, it comes into focus that at the end of this current terrible time, I feel there will be an incredible global awakening. There will still be criminals of course, but I think there is going to be a deeper appreciation of life and others. The world will emerge better. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the world suddenly agreed to world peace – it’s like, “What are we doing? We were all fighting and little did we know there was potential for a viral emergency applicable to the entire planet.”
So much pain is inflicted on others because that’s what those people themselves are feeling. So, “The Kingdom” is the concept of being tired of negative energy.
I’ve taken deeply to your interviews with Howard Stern. The last time you were there you were talking intently about this concept of – the only way out is through. I always loved that line in your song “Superman”, but that Stern conversation really changed my perspective on listening to your music in a way in which I now feel it that much deeper, knowing a little bit more about this perspective that you have, that I always subscribe to. “Flowers On A Grave” for example – one of the first things you say is “You gotta get plenty brave to speak up.” All things considered, with where we are in the world right now, and with The Kingdom coming out, what does this new music mean to you?
Thank you. Everything for everybody has taken on a real heightened sense. Just going outside feels like a journey into danger where you are hoping you’re OK. Before any of this, The Kingdom consisted of two years of a hard draft and touring. I was really proud of our last record, Black and White Rainbows, but it was a weird record during a weird time. We ended up changing a lot of things. We got a great new manager a couple of years ago and have been focused on steadying the ship because it had gotten a bit reckless. I didn’t know what we were doing playing so much at times, just going around and around with out affecting things. It was like a carousel in the dark. It didn’t feel like we were penetrating. Then we began playing under this new focus and it felt much more cohesive and coherent. Suddenly, we were playing the right places and things were falling into place. Black and White Rainbows felt very fragile where I felt separated from everyone. Then with The Kingdom, it was very collaborative. Everything was heavier and full. We had done all this groundwork with the entire new team. We got lucky getting to be on the John Wick soundtrack, it was amazing to have “Bullet Holes” on that. Now “Flowers On A Grave” is doing very well.
The world is on this crazy lockdown right now, but in a strange way I think that when society returns to normal and there are large gatherings and people go back to work, there will be such a global triumph and feeling of togetherness that we found a way through. I’m not sure if this is naive or not, but there is a sense that when we come out of this something good has got to come from it all. Nothing is going to be more of a demonstration of that than a crowd of people getting back into who we are. There’s something to be said for where we are going. It almost feels like we are sitting on something that can and will help – where this record is a jet and when we get to come out, we are flying around on this peaceful army jet of good energy, kinship and togetherness.