Let's cut to the chase. As open minded as we'd like to be, there are some phenomena (I use that word a lot, but for once it's justified) that interfere with our faculty of fair play, and interviewing a band MASSIVE in the States and insignificant here is one. It's like those bands that are 'Big In Germany,' 'Big In Japan,' 'Big In Norway'; big somewhere, but not that you'd noticed: only different. They're big where it matters and big where the inbred snob in you insists they have no taste. So when we began to research the story, the chip on the block suggested the following outline:
1. Fame: Isn't it weird Bush being famous over there and nothing here? (Subtext: no matter how successful you are, you've failed). 2. Music: No questions; concentrate on the 'lightweight MTV' stigma. (Subtext: We haven't heard it but we decided your music's crap) 3. Attitude: What type of British band makes tea-bag grunge? Where's the integrity? (Subtext: You can't have come through unscathed)
I might have exaggerated a little, but there's no escaping the subject of an interview was to be the 'phenomenon' of the Bush situation, it's subtext, poor Bush can't get it up. And then they turned out to be everything we'd least expected (but secretly hoped): modest, sincere...all those words you don't use too often as a rule you use words to describe people who are full of shit. The interview soon took on a different subtext: Having built a solid fanbase, aren't Bush in a better position than most to surprise us all.
FAME: Bush are very famous, more so Gavin. (It's not hard to see why). Magazine covers (Rolling Stone, Details), MTV and College Radio have made them so.
Don't Tell It: How quickly did your fame dawn on you?
Nigel: It took me awhile to realize, actually. I remember sitting in a hotel in San Francisco. Eight months into it (July '95) thinking 'wow, this is going off the rails'. I can't remember which hotel it was, some noncy hotel. It was the first time I'd sat down on my own and thought about it and it all suddenly crystallized. I clearly remember that moment, thinking 'wow'.
Gavin: Definitely the first gig in New York at CBGB's, that was 2 years ago. It felt like something was going off. We'd been playing in clubs doing pretty alright in London but nothing special. CBGB's was ridiculous, that was like completely sold out, people climbing the walls...it was really out of control and that's when I felt something was going on. That was the very first time we played in New York. Basically, Alternative Radio had given us a hit record, so people were coming, just intrigued to see what was going on. The next day we went on tour.
Nigel: But we've been back to CBGB's. We had a night off and we did a charity/secret gig which was fun, people know the songs! It's not just our friends singing along.
DTI: Are you big everywhere in the States?
Gavin: Well, we did what most bands, especially English bands, don't do, tour the Midwest and the heartland of America. We've been everywhere except Hawaii and Alaska. Lots of places we've played, people haven't played for years. We did a gig in the freezing snow...was that Reno? Anyways, they queued for 6 hours in the snow to get tickets and it was minus 40 degrees.
>DTI: Sounds like 'Fargo'.
Gavin: Actually, we saw the film before we played Fargo. It was like 'what film shall we see tonight, then?'
DTI: They should have it on all year round.
Gavin: My favourite character in it is the husband of the policewoman, he's always cooking something up: "Do you want some eggs before you go, honey?" and he cooks all these eggs, and then he's always left eating the food. Every scene he's in, he's cooked too much food, she's had to go and he's left chewing bacon or whatever...t hat's the only disappointment in America, bacon, it's really fatty.
Nigel: (holds up the stalk from a bunch of grapes) This would be the amount of meat on a piece of bacon...Actually, no, this would be 2 pieces of bacon.
DTI: How does the attention feel? Can you make sense of it?
Gavin: The most surprising thing is how we're received. Sometimes I look at it and I don't know how it happened or why. I just wonder if it's all gonna fall apart...But it's been pretty consistent and now we've got the second album out, Razorblade Suitcase. That's like a milestone. When our first single came out it was like, "Oh well, we've only got one off the album, whatever, we got lucky and then the second single did well. Then the third....Soon we had five off that album...you know, they really milk it over there. So now that the second album has done really well, it's just good to know that all the work we'd done and the chances we'd taken, which were pretty massive, you know, recording the album with Steve Albini (hard-core indie producer, PJ Harvey, Pixies...), haven't been in vain. In fact, Jimmy Ivey, who owns Interscope, when we completed the record he said, "I don't care what anyone tells you, what anyone says, but we were all wrong: It was a great idea to work with Steve Albini." His reputation does tend to precede him, for those that know him"
Nigel: We're still new. We're still trying to establish who we are. Perhaps who we are. It's only our second album.
DTI: Do you worry about the fame coming to an end? What do you fear?
Gavin: Having to go back on the dole.
Nigel: I think you can be quite fatalistic about it. And if you make records with continued success in mind you're shooting yourself in the foot. There was some bad press on the second album, but you just try to ignore it.
Gavin: The nature of being in a band is to do with the fact that you can always disappear. You're only as good as your last record or show.
MUSIC: Their music isn't that dull after all. It doesn't inspire me (but then, not many 'heavy' guitar-based bands do right now) but it is inspired by some great American bands and I'm keeping my ears open for when the conformity gets replaced overnight by ingenuity. I'm thinking Radiohead, here.
DTI: You were both big fans of the Pixies, that's how you chose to work together, what else are you into?
Gavin: Jesus Lizard (hard-core Chicago meta-grunge) are still my favourite. If I have to think of a band that I really like and that I think are scary and stuff, I think of Jesus Lizard. They're just such a muscular, mad outfit of a band, a 3 piece that sound as big as a house. And My Bloody Valentine, they're different.
DTI: Jesus Lizard's singer is rather wild stage, would you rather be him or the guy from My Bloody Valentine?
Gavin: Oh, definitely, I'd rather be him.
DTI: But you're not going to start getting your cock out?
Gavin: Well, I play guitar so you wouldn't see it. All those things have been done. He's a very naughty boy.
DTI: He's old and he should know better.
Gavin: I still think he's the best lyricist. He's my favourite lyricist in a band.
DTI: Anything more recent, British?
>Gavin: It's weird because people ask us what we think of the English music scene and we can't answer we've been away. The best thing about playing festivals is seeing bands we wouldn't see otherwise. I just saw Tricky in Germany, that was great. We saw Underworld at Ross Kilder.
Nigel: 'Kitchen Implement', great band. We try and out do each other in finding obscure bands. That's all there is to do...shop, when you've got time off.
DTI: Did you ever feel part of the British indie scene?
Nigel: Not really. It's such a narrow little world, you can be a king with 75,000 records sold and often you take less risks being in an indie band than trying to sell records.
DTI: I'd say you're on another level to indie anyway, even American indie, musically you're 'rock'.
Nigel: Definitely, yeah. The bands I liked...well, I never really liked rock bands actually. I'm just getting used to being in a "Rock" band.
DTI: I think you'd better get used to it.
Gavin: Quick, tell him.
Nigel: We're sometimes called a hard rock band.
DTI: (Tentatively) Do you like all your songs then?
Nigel: Yeah! I wouldn't play the way I do. I don't necessarily think we sound like a rock band. So compare us at your peril.
I think Nigel was grinning, but I can't be sure. I can't be sure how much he's in denial about the music he's playing: It's rock. I have a feeling Bush are hearing different music in their heads when they're playing, something more alternative, more extreme; groundbreaking, even. Perhaps they are bedroom rockers got lucky (it happens). There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, for now, they're better off playing bland alt. rock to the United States of Bland Rock, waiting for creativity to happen. They're getting paid. Better than striving away on the periphery and losing patience before your creativity is recognized it could be worse. We all know it could be much worse: They could be playing alt. rock on the suburban pub circuit. They could be playing The Orange in West Kensington.
ATTITUDE: If anything, Bush suffer from a lack of attitude. Some of the nicest (Gavin himself said what a crass word that is, but there you go) band members you could hope to meet. Evidence to support this as follows:
1: Gavin's Hungarian sheepdog, Winston. It looks like the Don't Tell It's cleaning woman's mop, except it's black with a tongue hanging out and has bags more charisma.
Nigel: He's cool, he's a good friend. I've known him as long as I've known Gavin. I feel I know the dog better.
2: Gavin doesn't sing about hating being famous.
DTI: But do you feel that way?
Gavin: No, not at all.
DTI: Well, then.
3: Gavin and Nigel like hot toddies (whiskey with hot water and milk or spices).
Gavin: I had them a lot in Ireland. I was on tour with my first band in Ireland and it would just rain the whole fucking time. I was as sick as a dog. And everyday in these pubs I'd be sitting there going "Can I have a hot toddy?"
The album, Razorblade Suitcase, is out now but I'm looking forward to
the next one.