Days of going Bush are over for rocker

By Scott Kara

Bush's Gavin Rossdale is better known these days as Mr Gwen Stefani. He talks music and paparazzi to Scott Kara

Even if you don't like Gavin Rossdale's music you can see what his wife, Gwen Stefani, who's a bit of a looker herself, sees in him.

He's got that tanned British skin rather than the pasty white stuff, a faint covering of stubble, and smouldering model eyes. And with his athletic physique you can see why he's a shining light on the celebrity tennis circuit in his second hometown of Los Angeles.

Lounging in a suite at the city's W Hotel, Rossdale is softly spoken, casual and open, talking about Stefani and the couple's two-year-old son Kingston as freely as his music.

Since marrying Stefani in 2002, he's become best known as Gwen's hubby and that's how many people would like it to stay. You see, his post grunge band Bush, who were defined by Rossdale's overwrought yowl, his stream-of-consciousness lyrics and heavy, dramatic guitars divided opinion.

Due to hits such as Glycerine and Swallowed, the British quartet became one of the biggest bands of the mid-1990s, especially in the United States where they were far more popular than in their homeland. For some though, the songs had the same dreary effect Creed or Nickelback might have had a few years back.

In 2002, after five albums, including 1994 debut Sixteen Stone and follow-up Razorblade Suitcase, Rossdale ended Bush in light of declining record sales and a lack of support from record company Atlantic.

Following that, he reckons, he lost focus.

"After being in Bush it's really hard not to be in a band that you have come to define yourself by and that's probably a good lesson in not defining yourself by your work. So I just didn't know what to do and which direction to go in."

He broke his musical silence in 2005 with a difficult sounding album with band Institute - "Not many people heard about it, apart from U2, who seemed to like it and they took us on tour," he laughs - but it's been a long time between albums for Rossdale who releases his debut solo album, Wanderlust, on Monday.

"No one prepares you for fame and success in the same way as no one prepares you for sliding off and sliding away. My career has had the ups, and the downs, and I took so long to get a record deal because they always blamed my voice, that I couldn't sing.

"But there is something universal about the new record and I think people will be able to relate to it because it does accept defeat in certain areas and it does accept losing in places."

Another weighty distraction for Rossdale has been getting used to living with "a force of nature like Gwen".

"When I first got married and I'd walk into the bedroom at night and I'd be like, `Am I going to be here again tomorrow?'. It's a bit overwhelming really," he laughs.

He also had to deal with the glare of celebrity in the paparazzi mecca of Los Angeles. The day before this interview he was given a book by the paparazzi jam packed with photos of him and his family. That might sound creepy but, he says sounding amused, he got it because he'd been "so cool" to them over the years.

"There's nothing you can do about it. But what is annoying is them taking away from those special little moments you have because it's you, the wife, the boy and seven other geezers."

Surely he must've been used to it with Bush?

"But when Bush were at their height, the best thing about it was that there was a certain etiquette among the paparazzi if you were going to a premiere, a gig, or fancy restaurants like the Ivy or the Roberston. Now you can't go anywhere. And when we go to the beach, just as members of the public, walking the boy on the sand, he's having a great time and, suddenly, there's photographers."

The couple are expecting their second child in August and fatherhood has changed the 40-year-old from a self-obsessed rock star - "I was always into my legacy," he admits - to wanting to make music that he and his kids can be proud of.

"So having kids just ups the ante," he says before heading off on a tangent. "I was a really good dog owner," he smiles, remembering his dog, Winstone. "I took it really seriously. I was always there for him and, if I couldn't be, then I made sure someone was. So I always want to be there for Kingston."

This protectiveness comes through on Wanderlust, with tracks like survival guide song Future World and Frontline. He likens the latter to the 1994 Bush track Bomb, about him growing up in a "heavy Irish area" of London with the threat of an IRA bomb going off.

"I wrote Bomb about a guy who goes shopping and he never comes back to his girlfriend. This time round I write this anti-war song about my wife."

Compared with the brazen emotion of Bush, Rossdale's solo album is more sentimental and sensitive.

"There's less bravado," he agrees. "You know, when you're four blokes and I come in with a song that has a degree of sensitivity and then you get Robin the drummer playing right through it and it toughens up."

In Bush, his lyrics were mostly stream-of-consciousness - "I used to get in trouble for that" - and this time round they are more simple and definite.

"I always thought stream of consciousness was cool in the Bush stuff. I used to think that was what I was there for and I was young enough and arrogant enough that that was interesting."

Even though he dabbles in movies, including roles in Zoolander and Constantine, he says songwriting is his true vocation.

At the moment, he's taken with the gypsy folk music of the band Beirut and he starts singing the lovely Nantes, "It's been a long time, long time since I've seen you smile ..."

"Just like a film, or a piece of art can trigger something in you, and that's what the Beirut record does," he says.

"I like lots of different styles of music but the common link between all of them is there has to be something emotive and heart felt about it because I want someone to understand my happiness or my pain," he smiles.

Who: Gavin Rossdale
New album: Wanderlust, out Monday
Past albums: As Bush - Sixteen Stone (1994); Razorblade Suitcase (1996); Deconstructed (1997); The Science of Things (1999); Golden State (2001), As Institute - Distort Yourself (2005)

- NZ Herald

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