February 2000

Seated in the corner bar of New York City's Soho Grande Hotel, Bush vocalist and guitarist Gavin Rossdale appeared a bit pre-occupied as he fidgeted with the straw poking from his glass of mineral water. The problem wasn't his concern with how the public would greet Bush's new album The Science of Things; he was pretty confident that he'd written a winner. No, at that moment, Rossdale was worried about the band's upcoming headline performance at Woodstock. See, Bush hadn't played a stadium gig in over two years, and Rossdale was planning to perform an abundance of material from the group's new album, which the crowd was, at the time, unfamiliar with. "I'm sorry. I'm really just thinking about the gig," he admitted while trying to answer a question about guitar technique.

Rossdale's nervousness and the band's decision to perform without adequate rehearsal epitomize Bush. As filled with angst as ever, the band is jumping in the fire with The Science of Things -- tossing the goods to the public at a time when grunge is dead and alternative is, at best, unfashionable. In addition, Bush have thrown some new electronic twists and experimental flourishes into their music, which could displease old fans. But as usual for the band that emerged from England playing American-fed rock 'n' roll, the risk is paying off. Not only was the Woodstock performance a tremendous success, Bush's new album is being met with some of their warmest praise yet. With an upcoming tour and a string of music videos yet to come, everything seems to be Zen, indeed. Was The Science of Things an easy album to make?

Gavin Rossdale: I don't think any records are easy. But I think that it's just a case of step-by-step and piece-by-piece. You just create something, and at certain times it feels like a disaster, and at other times it feels as though it's working. And when you've finished, you say the record is done. You can always keep reworking bits, but when you accept that's the best you can do for that period in time, you move on. So, yeah, they're all difficult. Everything's difficult, but that's the way it is and it's nothing to complain about. You recorded the album in a remote location near Cork, Ireland. Why?

Rossdale: I wanted to be away from my home in London because I knew if I was in London there would be were too many distractions since I hadn't been home in a long time. This was a specific time to write songs and write the record, and I wanted isolation so I could get it done. Was it a healthful set up or was it crazy and hedonistic?

Rossdale: Oh, it was completely hedonistic. It was just whatever I wanted. It's that thing where if you're a rock singer, you should have great women and great wine, and there weren't women for me out there, so I guess we made up for it with the wine. I think we drank well. Sometimes I went overboard on the Murphy's and sometimes I went overboard on watching Jerry Springer. Was recording out in the country therapeutic?

Rossdale: Yeah, it was the first time I ever had that luxury of just being able to write songs. I never did that before. I used to be working jobs and doing club shows and writing songs all at once. Then once the career took off, it was just little snippets between arena gigs. So, yeah, it was very therapeutic. What kind of equipment did you have with you when you were writing these songs in Ireland?

Rossdale: I had a computer in there and a bunch of outboard gear, and I felt insane trying to operate it myself. So what I did is I would have all this studio stuff -- 8-Track, ADAT, QBASE, and all that nonsense -- and I'd set my little walkman and my little drum machine on top of everything, and that's how I'd write the songs. And I found a local engineer who would come in once about every 10 days. I'd write for about a week, and once I had amassed three or four songs, he'd come in and record them. And I'd mix them with his supervision of making sure I'd plugged in the right ins and outs. I wouldn't trust myself to do that, but I did know how I wanted it balanced and sounding. So, it was just really instructive, and on a musical level it was enjoyable for me because I'm so far away from understanding music. It's still such a mystery to me that it was great playing keyboards and bass and doing drum programming. It taught me everything.

Guitar: You did all the instrumentation yourself?

Rossdale: Yeah, and I I really loved playing bass. It was so fun. I just had a bunch of amps, a bunch of guitars and a bunch of keyboards, and it was really instructive. There's not enough time sometimes when you're working to sit and learn what it is you work out. You're so busy working it that you're not thinking about what makes it work. So I think there are a few songs on this new album that I couldn't have written before. I just had the time and the environment to chart everything out in my head and figure out what I was doing and why it worked or didn't work. How many songs did you have before you hooked back up with the rest of Bush?

Rossdale: I had about 25 songs going into this record, and we just recorded 17. We're have a few b-sides, extra tracks, maybe stuff for films. There are only 12 songs on the record because I really don't want to fucking go on and on. I love our last record, but one thing I learned from that was it was just too long. I loved it and I'm really proud of it, but I just hate long records. They piss me off. People feel obligated to put 74 minutes of music on a CD just because it will hold that much material.

Rossdale: I like it to be over in 48 minutes. I like that because that way you miss it when it's gone. Long records, I start getting a headache. You can always press start again. You seem to be a creature of habit. Is that something that's been beneficial for you, and how has that manifested itself in your music?

Rossdale: I think that's come across in the choice of producers we've used. Every time we've chosen someone to work with, it's just been based on instinct. The first time, it had to do with the fact that Clive Langer was English. We already sounded enough like an American band. It's hilarious now when you think of the backlash that we got for sounding supposedly not English and having heavy guitars -- the fact was we were trying not to sound American. Imagine if we hadn't used him. And then Steve Albini [who produced Razorblade Suitcase], we just chose because of who he'd worked with (Pixies, Jesus Lizard, Nirvana). I had a meal with him in Chicago, and then off of that decided to make the album with him. We wanted to do a live-sounding record, and he seemed perfect. Every move that we make is pretty instinctual. A lot of artists labor over things and agonize over every move.

Rossdale: Well, I have spent plenty of times agonizing about things, but generally the instinct wins. Its like Kerouac said, "First thought, best thought," which is so great. It lets you off the hook so you don't have to think too hard. Are you very conscious of the way people perceive you? Are you extremely careful not to do anything that might make you come across as a rock star asshole?

Rossdale: I can be an asshole, I just don't want to be a rock star asshole. I'm perfectly prepared to be an asshole to people who deserve it. To some degree, as an artist you're presenting yourself with everything you do, and there is a danger of overthinking that. I think the best way through that is just not thinking about it. Just going with it. What's the worst thing about being in the position you're in?

Rossdale: What I really hate is the whole structure of the music business. With our record, we finished it in Christmas and it comes out in November. And since then, I've written a load of material. I could do another record. But we have to put this one out and tour for it, and we won't get to the new stuff now for a long time. Right now, I think I could do a much weirder, non-rock record. I've got much trippier, weirder, slower stuff. But I don't know when the fuck I'm going to do that. I've demoed loads of stuff, and I have it all sitting there. It's really frustrating. Why don't you do a side project as Nigel did?

Rossdale: Side projects, on the one hand, are really enticing for me. But I think that playing with Bush just gives such a power with it. And it means I can incorporate all the new songs that I love into what we play live. Whereas, if I did a project on my own, I'd be scared I couldn't perform them live. The downside is, I got a couple of wicked tracks that I think are better than anything I've ever written. And it's a shame, because now I have to wait until the next Bush record.