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Bush returned this month with their first record in 10 years, The Sea of Memories, and a tour of North America and Europe. On Wedneday, the band play Anaheim in what could be considered a homecoming show, as Bush front man Gavin Rossdale's wife, Gwen Stefani, is that city's most famous native. We talked to Rossdale about the return of Bush, his evolution as a songwriter and the stranger aspects of his occasional acting career.
OC Weekly: In the past decade, you've released music under Institute, your own name and twice now with Bush. What keeps you so motivated?
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Gavin Rossdale: I love performing, and it feels surprisingly rejuvenating right now. The way the music world is, I find the only incentive is that it has to be for the right reasons. Before, it could be for different reasons because there was more to be had. Now, it has to be music-driven, and if you find your audience, you find your audience. A lot of people feel the business is upside-down, but I feel it's never been healthier.
Bush were criticized a lot in the 1990s. Yet here it is, 15 years later, and in Chicago last month, people were lined up around the block to see you. How does that make you feel?
Proud, obviously. There were a lot of derogatory comments made about Bush, and it was alarming because, ultimately, you're just trying to make music. I wasn't an arms dealer. It was pretty strenuous, but I understood it as a consequence of a number of factors. Coming along and cleaning up like we did, it was a lot to take for people who felt the band came out of nowhere. People hadn't bothered to think we'd been struggling to get to that point. Also, it was coupled with the untimely passing of Kurt Cobain, so [the music scene] was hallowed ground. You could come out and be something else. But if you were in the rock genre, it was tricky, even though there were many elements of Sixteen Stone, like "Comedown," a song in 12/8, that were clearly not straight-up Mudhoney.
The Sea of Memories has less of the "verse chorus verse" songwriting prevalent in the 1990s. How has your writing changed over the years?
Massively. I used to write on acoustic guitar and a little bit with a drum machine. But now, in the studio, you can create a whole world, so I almost write backwards. I write a lot with drums and bass, then start adding things in, and I'll only add another layer if it's interesting and atmospheric and inspiring.
It's really easy to write a song, but it doesn't mean I'm going to write one that's going to push "Comedown" off the set list. There has to be a reason to it because there are too many songs in the world already, too many records, too many bands, too many people. But it doesn't stop you from trying to get it right. In fact, it forces you to try to get it right.
How did your work on Burn Notice come about?
I've always liked the process and the craft of acting. I love movies, if not so much theater. And please—no musical theater.
Burn Notice came right in the middle [of The Sea of Memories], and I'm like, "Fuck, I haven't got any time!" Then I found myself sitting there in Miami and going, "Well, here I am." It was actually good to take that time off from the studio because when I got back, I was dying to get back in there.
You played a villain?
I always play a villain, but I seem to be going up the casting scale because I didn't get killed, which is always a bonus.
If you live, you're in the higher class of bad guy.
[Laughs] I'm flying up that ladder. I'm three rungs up.
Didn't you get killed on Criminal Minds?
Yeah, didn't I? Or I killed myself or something.
You were an evil singer?
Yeah, an evil pop singer who was killed, and in the soccer film that I first did [The Game of Their Lives], I played a loser. I did a film with Brittany Murphy, I did a whole scene with her, and when they tested the movie, there was too much chemistry and people were confused because the film was about her and Ron Livingston. It just didn't fit, so they cut it out. I've been bloodied; I've hit the editing-room floor.
This article appeared in print as "Gavin Rossdale Makes a Comeback: Anaheim's most famous in-law swings by for a semi-hometown show."