Kerrang! Magazine
October 23, 1999
"The Chemical Brother"
Written by Ben Myers

"It's like that Red Indian thing, isn't it?" says Bush's Gavin Rossdale as he walks away from the stylist who has just finsihed smoothing down his recently-dyed shock of red hair and slumps down in one of the old leather sofas that line this North London photo studio's walls. "They believe that the more times you have your picture taken, the more your spirit suffers. If I was a Red Indian, my spirit would be soaring off over Highgate Hill right now. I feel that in having my picture taken all the time I'm going through, like I'm stepping outside of myself. I mean, I don't even know how to stand normally anymore."

The vocalist pats the thick dreadlocked hide of Winston, his pet dog and faithful companion who is idly mooching around among the chaos of another day in the life of Bush.

Rossdale is steeling himself for the release of his band's thrid studio album, "The Science Of Things". First single "The Chemicals Between Us" has been added to the playlists of every alternative radio station in America--a feat never before achieved by any band, British or American. It's a good omen for the future.

"I've just found out what I'm going to be doing every day for the next 13 months, so I'm a little bit overwhelmed by everything," Rossdale smiles awkwardly. "I keep having cold-sweat panic attacks and thinking that I've got to get on a plane and go somewhere. It's also really good, though, because I think this next year is going to be really fulfilling. I only know how to live and play at 1,000 miles an hour, but at least I'm getting better at this whole thing."

As drummer, Robin Goodridge, bassist Dave Parsons and guitarist Nigel Pulsford line up for individual photos, the singer admits that he is still getting to grips with the idea of the close scrutiny that is going to follow him for the next year of his life.

"The reaction already to this new record has been so good," he explains, "that it means things are even busier than before and we have to be in more places than ever before. It's good for the split-personality aspect of my character, but not good for the physical one-ness of my body."

And how is your one-ness these days?

"I don't feel so good at the moment, but generally I'm alright and feeling cleaner than I've ever been."

The journey that began in the smoky back rooms of North London and which has taken in the arenas and stadiums of the world, celebrity girlfriends, millions of pounds and the greatest British success story of the '90s has certainly been a strange on for Bush.

"Ironically, it's ended up here today in a cold photo studio within pissing distance of Gavin's home and, perhaps more importantly, the Camden Monarch, the spit 'n' sawdust toilet venue which was Rossdale's second home for a number of years.

Only now, instead of having to hawk his demo tape at such places, the only thing he has to worry about is the impending madness that will surround the release of "The Science Of Things".

"I've just got to make a quick call," says the singer, whipping out his mobile phone while fiddling with a battered old Fender and making animal-like noises at Winston, who snores on. "Actually, a couple. Okay, so I've got to make four quick phone calls, but I won't be long..."

"It was a complete accident" is the opening line to the story that charts Rossdale's rise from public schoolboy to the cracked voice of a pissed-off generation. It's a tale of sheer determination and fighting spirit, of which Rossdale is justifiably proud.

"I couldn't play any instruments and I couldn't really sing either," laughs the singer, finally turning his phone off and cringing at old memories. "It just seemed that the quickest way forward was to be up there at the front. I remember my first gig at the Half Moon pub in Herne Hill and I just thought, 'Why the fuck am I doing this? I hate this!'."

The band Rossdale refers to is Midnight, the INXS-style act he fronted while barely out of his teens--a time he now sees as a valuable but ultimately frustrating trial by fire. Their first single was a Rossdale-penned ditty called "Run With You", inspired by a slogan written on late Doors leader Jim Morrison's tombstone that the singer saw after a visit to the erstwhile Lizard King's Parisian resting place.

"Six months after I'd started I had a publishing deal, and then I got signed to Epic soon after--but it was all too quick, too '80s, and too disposable," he explains, shaking his head. "Maybe someone saw some potential lingering in the darker recesses, and I do think we had some really weird and interesting ideas for artwork and photos, but it all went wrong when the label made us do this shitty photo shoot with a complete tosser where we were made to look perfect. It was just...disgusting."

"I'd known Gavin for a while, just seeing him out and about," explains Dave Parsons, as Gavin takes his place in front of the camera one more time. "I've always thought that it's important to have faith in your frontman. They have to have the charisma to get away with being the focal point--and if you meet one, you know one. When I met him I knew he was the right person to work with."

From awkward singer of a no-hope '80s pop band to international success story--somewhere along the line, things started going right for Gavin Rossdale.

"Basically I was too stubborn to actually change," he explains, back on the couch. "I thought it was going to be money, fame, and girls. At the time, I actually had the lifestyle and the girls, but I needed the release of it all. I used to be quite a quiet, mute person, yet music allowed me to rail against things in my life because I've always written in the same way. I've always had isolationist lyrics and I've always felt that I had a better answer when people had left the room, so songwriting gave me that voice. I was always way cooler when I ran things over in my head as opposed to messing up during conversation. Before that, I was a misfit."

Devouring the works of Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg and the early work of Patti Smith and The Fall, Rossdale dug his heels in and began to slowly build himself up for another crack at success. Where his previous band failed, the singer insists that Bush were always going to succeed.

"I've been searching for this holy grail of the most rhythmic, sexy, troubled, guitar-oriented, spacious songs all of my life," he explains. "I used to write songs with other people, which is why I now have this self-sufficiency problem."

How do you mean?

"I have to be self-sufficient because everyone I ever worked with left. They all abandoned me. The best line that Trent Reznor ever wrote was 'Everyone I have ever loved goes away in the end', and I think that also applies to me. But you can't be egotistical and think that you'll be fine without everyone else. This band drives me along. We piss each other off sometimes, but so does your family, so does your girlfriend. That's the way it all goes. I live for the chaos of it all."

If Rossdale if the archtypical driven, passionate frontman, then his bandmates are the perfect people to help him articulate his feelings and ward off would-be detractors.

"By definition, the job of the lead singer is to take all the limelight," explains Robin Goodridge, a man who Gavin admits is a genius in handling the criticism and pressure that the singer often struggles to comprehend. "We're lucky because we've never been put on a pedestal in Britain. I mean, we're not Robbie Williams. If his next album is shit, he'll be ripped to pieces and probably get caught in bed with a hooker and four grammes of coke. We've never been a part of that game, so they can't really get to us."

There's absolutely no argument that Gavin Rossdale is a star. It's clear that he's been shaped in some indefinable way by the success that he has achieved with Bush, perticularly their well-documented American triumphs. You can tell by his impeccable manners. You can tell by the way he thoughtfully muses over himself and his work, picking at his own personality as if he were on a $150-an-hour analyst's couch. And you can tell by the way in which, when Kerrang! caught up with Rossdale 18 months ago, he was busy embracing the solitude of rural Ireland and enjoying the whole artist-in-retreat lifestyle that he can now afford.

"Hindsight often changes perspective more than it changes horizons," he says cryptically. "Some of the writing process was easy, some was difficult, but in Ireland I had fuck all else to do, so I could indulge myself and take my time. I fell in love with Ireland."

Then there is, of course, the small matter of some guest backing vocals by Gavin's other half, the equally famous Gwen Stefani, on the album track "Spacetravel". You wouldn't find, say, Groop Dogdrill doing that.

"Gwen came to visit me in Ireland a few times because I needed a lover," laughs Rossdale, flashing a devilish grin. "Solitude is fine, but I can't be a complete fucking monk all the time. I had my red wine and once or twice a week I'd go to the pub in blistering weather, but I think it's sexy having your girlfriend there singing on a couple of your own songs. I was like,'Sing on this-- please make it sound nicer'.

"People have this idea that we were staying in some mansion, but it was actually a hunting lodge that was built in 1867. It was really rural and hardcore, not a fancy pants house. I mean, I only got a chef so that I didn't have to worry about things like shopping and other such earthly concerns."

If the stripped-down 'Razorblade Suitcase' proved that Bush were no one-trick ponies after their seven-million-selling debut 'Sixteen Stone', then 'The Science Of Things' will cement their position as Britain's biggest musical export. Sound-wise, it's an ambitious and darkly melodic album that perfectly captures the anxieties of 1999 and beyond.

"The record looks both forwards and backwards," explains Robin. "It's definitely representative of the state of mind of people today, what with train crashes and America flooded and blown away, and all these feelings of Armageddon. Everyone is hypersensitive at the moment, and maybe Gavin was too when he wrote the record. It's a Polaroid snapshot of an era."

Significantly, it's also a record that shuns the lure of Tinseltown. Something this dark and angry could only have been made on this side of the Atlantic.

"It's probably detrimental to your songwriting if you move somewhere specifically for your music," laughs Robin in his unadulterated Cockney brogue. "Like when Gavin went to Jamaica he didn't pick up a guitar or write a song for two weeks--he just wanted to go swimming instead. I think you really need to be somewhere cold, wet and annoying to get your work done. We'll never go to a studio in Jamaica because all we'd do is drink Red Stripe, whereas here in London you get things done. In this city you get a pace going, do the work and then fuck off to the pub instead of swanning around in a pair of silly shorts."

"Going to the Caribbean was my first flash rock star holiday, and it was great," says Gavin. "It took me a week to wind down, and after that I had the office back in London organising loads of different flight options."

Do you ever get annoyed when band-related matters are taken out of your hands?

"Yeah. Yesterday I realised that we had an 8.15 am flight to Germany for a publicity trip, and I admit that I spat the dummy out and went (raising voice), 'Who the fuck said this was alright?!'. They said it was so that we could have the evening free, and I was like, 'I'll be on my own in a hotel room in fucking Germany, for fuck's sake!'. So yeah, the dummy was well and truly spat. I'm really quite a homebody, so whenever I go away my stomach turns over with nerves and I become a bit moany. I mean, I can't operate the whole band from The Monarch these days."

"We have such brilliant lives, so the whole thing about complaining is weird," the singer continues, scratching his three-day stubble. "It's all relative, because your life can still get fucked up in every way humanly possible. Your life gets torn apart by bring on tour, but it almost becomes poetic because I can get onstage and scream my head off. I guess that's why all the songs come out like big primal screams. I never have the apathy onstage that I sometimes feel during the day."

Rossdale will be lucky if he has time to feel apathetic over the next 12 months. After next month's UK tour, Bush head off to Europe and then on to America for a four-month, 80-date US jaunt.

"You've got to be careful of what I call the 'David Cassidy Syndrome'," smiles the vocalist, referring to the fresh-faced '70s pop moppet. "There'll be thousands of screaming people in the hotel and tension and pressure, but when you get to your room you'll be all by yourself. I have massive phone bills, which I never even see and which are probably a hell of a lot more than I used to earn when I worked for the government."

Do you ever ctahc yourself acting like a rock star?

"Of course," he concludes. "I can fly anywhere I want in the world, but that's tempered by the fact that I'm busy. I also collect paintings. I like the idea of putting money back into creative mediums like books, music, or art. I don't have freedom of time, but I do have a good life. Most importantly, I have freedom of music, and I can buy as many sandwiches as I want these days."

And with that, Winston yawns, the mobile starts ringing again and Gavin Rossdale gets ready to move into the future.