BUSH’S fourth all-new studio recording and Atlantic Records debut, “GOLDEN STATE” is the band’s boldest, most combustible collection to date – a dozen full-throttle tracks fit to burst with aggro guitars, relentless rhythms, and vocalist/guitarist Gavin Rossdale’s raw, plaintive vocals. The British quartet has returned to its hard-edged roots with high-velocity cuts like the cathartic “Solutions” and the first single, “The People That We Love.” At the same time, such atmospheric tracks as “Out Of This World” and “Headful Of Ghosts” display Rossdale’s ever-growing gifts as an emotive and compelling songwriter. Kerrang! has already hailed the album as Bush’s “most important record yet. The guitars sound giganticý Rossdale is singing like a man possessed.” Simply put, the invigorating “GOLDEN STATE” is Bush at its best.
“It’s a very naked record,” says Rossdale. “Definitely a real rock record. It’s such a rock record it even surprised us. The songs speak for themselves, I think. The album is very empowering and uplifting, though I’m not really sure what its contemporaries are. That’s the weird thing about it. It’s like the record exists in its own space.”
The process that led to Bush’s “GOLDEN STATE” began in August 2000, as the band wrapped up the European tour in support of their RIAA platinum-certified third album, 1999’s “THE SCIENCE OF THINGS.” Rossdale spent October writing songs, and in November, Bush reconvened in a North London studio space to begin putting flesh on the bones of Rossdale’s nascent material.
“That’s where the shape of the songs came from,” says guitarist Nigel Pulsford, “the ideas and the riffs and the solos and so forth. They all came from playing around and coming up with stuff. Dave was coming up with all sorts of different bass lines which would change the feel of the songs, then Gavin would go off and redo lyrics or change the melodies. There was a nice flow between us all, which I think comes out on the record.”
“We were enjoying rehearsals together and getting a sort of harmony physically,” drummer Robin Goodridge says. “We play very well together and I think that set everything up. You just remain much more attached to the songs that way, even though they changed somewhat in the studio. But that’s a part of the process, you know.”
The band took a Christmas break, coming together for further rehearsals in January. The following month, Bush moved into London’s renowned Olympic Studios where they began recording initial tracks with co-producer D. Sardy (Marilyn Manson, System of a Down) and engineer Gregg Fidelman (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer). “I love Dave Sardy,” enthuses Rossdale. “To me it was a really rewarding time. He’s really strong and would beat me up about the lyrics. And I was like, ýWell, I’ve never talked about lyrics with a producer before, but I’m open.’ I already had met Dave one night at someone’s house, so when I went to have a meeting with him I just offered him the job there and then.”
An experienced hard music producer, Sardy pushed Bush to play with a unique combination of intensity and precision, driving the band to what they believe are their most energized and inspired performances to date.
“He made us play in a way no one had ever asked us to play before,” says bassist Dave Parsons. “Being English musicians, we tend to record in a slightly more English way, where you just enjoy the recording, you make the songs sound good and you’re finished. Working with Dave, he made us pay a bit more attention to some of the details, the sound of the bass, the guitar, the drums, everything. It was a different way of recording, and it sounds the better for it.”
“Everything sounds great,” says Pulsford. “The drums sound better than they ever sounded, and the guitars have a certain tone that just has a magical quality to it. You can hear that everyone’s excited, I think.
“I’m sure the hours and hours of rehearsal enabled us to create that rawness,” Pulsford adds with a grin. “It’s a little bit of a contradiction in terms but that’s the idea.”
As spring arrived, Bush decided that a slight change of scenery would offer new perspectives on the music they were making. They packed their road kits and the sessions wrapped up 6,000 miles west of London at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles.
“We had never worked on a record outside of London,” Goodridge says, “and it was just like, ýWhy don’t we finish the record in LA? Why don’t we go and listen to the radio in LA?’ I mean, so much of our work has been in the US and it seems quite peculiar that we really never allowed the US to influence us in any way.”
“GOLDEN STATE” received its multi-textured moniker late one evening as Rossdale took the wheel after a 10-hour day in the studio.
“It came to me as I was driving through downtown on the 101 at like 1 in the morning,” he recalls, “which always made me think of Blade Runner. I love that feeling, driving through the night. It was a very intense time in making the record, so it was nice to have this total space at the end of the day to think about it.
“Plus I like the idea of a state of euphoria,” Rossdale adds, “a state of bliss. It’s nice.”
The taut musicality and the sheer aggressiveness of “GOLDEN STATE” may reflect the small but insistent friction that had built up between the bandmates. In the years since Bush’s 6x platinum-certified 1994 debut, “SIXTEEN STONE,” their interpersonal connections had become somewhat frayed, though in many ways that very same stress led to the four musicians playing more harmoniously than ever before.
“The weirdest thing about being successful is you sort of move further away from each other and just come together when you have to,” Pulsford says. “Whereas when we first started, there was hardly a day when we weren’t together, working or doing something.”
“I think in every band, tension is essential,” Rossdale says. “Especially if you’re making music that is confrontational in some way. I suppose there’s tension in any eight- year relationship. But the good times are great, you know.”
“To be a tight band by definition requires an amount of tension,” Goodridge notes. “Speak to any engineer about bridges and they’ll tell you all about it. To span long spaces you need a certain amount of tension.”
Lyrically, Rossdale was driven by both the personal – his family, his friends – and the political (“speed kills” was partially inspired by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ classic Clinton/Gore campaign documentary, The War Room). Throughout “GOLDEN STATE” lurks a haunting dissatisfaction, a sense of bottled-up emotions bubbling under the surface, feelings that detonate on songs like the 16-horsepower “My Engine Is With You” and the gripping “Headful Of Ghosts.”
“I think that most people generally have degrees of frustration in their lives,” Rossdale says. “So a song like ýSolutions,’ it’s all temptation, split personality, sexual yearning. It’s this weird struggle, in a very human kind of way. And owning up to it. I think if I always try to be as honest as possible the songs translate more than not.”
In a great many ways, “GOLDEN STATE” marks the turning of a page in Bush’s brilliant career. Part of this feeling comes from the band’s new relationship with Atlantic Records. Inveterate music fans – noting such Atlantic heroes as Buffalo Springfield, Charles Mingus, and John Coltrane – Bush are thrilled about being part of the label’s extraordinary legacy.
“It’s exciting,” Pulsford says. “You know, it’s a piece of history. Atlantic was like the first independent record label. It’s incredible.”
“We’re happy to have finally found a home and a platform that is perfect for the band,” says Rossdale.
The band are now beginning to feel the familiar itch which comes just after finishing an album. Always known as one of rock’s hardest-touring bands, Bush are already anxious to bring their “GOLDEN STATE” to the people.
“When you make a record, it’s definitely in the back of your mind what it’s going to be like playing the songs live,” Pulsford says.
“There’s definitely two halves to this life,” Parsons says. “There’s the recording, studio life where you’re home a lot and then the fruit of it all is going and playing it live.”
“This album was all about throwing the baggage away and making great rock music that we’re going to enjoy playing live,” Goodridge says, “that we can be looking over at each other onstage smiling when we’re doing it, watching all those heads leap up and down.”
Rock n’ roll may have undergone significant changes in recent years, but Bush’s no-holds-barred brand of dramatic guitar music remains vivid, vibrant, and vital. Fuelled by a ceaseless spirit of forward motion, the emphatic “GOLDEN STATE” is the sound of one of our most potent and distinctive bands operating on all cylinders.
“Where do we fit?,” Goodridge wonders. “I think we just fit where we left off. You could say the same about U2. Where do U2 fit? They don’t. They’re just U2. I’m not comparing us to them, I just think that good rock bands keep coming back.”
“It’s just down to being good at what you do and being humble and open enough to appreciate the fact that there’s so much more to do,” Rossdale says.
“I think this is a really interesting position to be in,” he adds, “because we’re free from any constraints. At the end of the day, the best thing that we can do is just be fucking great.”
Dave Parsons: Bass * Nigel Pulsford: Guitar * Robin Goodridge: Drums * Gavin Rossdale: Guitar, Vocals