is the provocative title for the intriguing first solo album by Gavin Rossdale
– an inspired song cycle by the former leader of Bush
that turns out to be a trip in its own right.
"The wanderlust I'm talking about isn't that desire to travel and see the world, Rossdale explains with a grin. "It's my overwhelming desire to get out and play music for people. I feel like a racehorse that's been stuck in the stables a bit too long. The doors are locked and no one can find the key -- worse I'm not sure who's looking for it." With Wanderlust, the doors - and the floodgates - seem wide open and the result is the most mature, sensual, honest and compelling work of Rossdale's life in music.
After years spent at the top of rock's grungy heap -- and then a couple more in a peculiar sort of high-profile musical wilderness -- Rossdale has brought it all back home on a vivid, widescreen rock album that found him working closely with famed producer Bob Rock. Now that Wanderlust is finally completed, Rossdale can hardly wait to get back on the road. "This album is my way of saying `Let me out,'" Rossdale says. "I'd love to take my family with me, but I do have a burning desire to go out and play for people again. I've felt too corralled for too long so this deep sort of wanderlust has set in."
From the mid-Nineties into the early 21st century, Rossdale was seeing much the world from the stage of an ever-changing procession of theaters, arenas and stadiums as the dashingly tortured lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Bush, a band that first came together in Shepard's Bush area of London in the early Nineties. Right from their 1994 debut Sixteen Stone
, Bush connected powerfully with post-Grunge America through a series of jagged yet infectious hits songs including "Everything's Zen," "Little Things," "Comedown," "Glycerine," "Machine Head" "Swallowed" and "The Chemicals Between Us."
The music of Bush successfully married a guitar-driven modern rock with the fantastically twisted lyrics of Rossdale, a poetic sort heavily influenced by the likes of Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg and his longstanding musical hero Tom Waits. If Bush were not exactly the critics darling, they were immediately the people's choice as 1996's Razorblade Suitcase
album hit #1, followed by 1999's The Science of Things
and 2001's Golden State
Still for all his past experience, there is an emotional and musical depth to Wanderlust that takes Rossdale far beyond Bush. Here Rossdale has delivered the most personal and direct set of songs of his life. Like Peter Gabriel
after leaving Genesis
, Rossdale has moved beyond his past in a massively popular band and used the opportunity of going solo to stop hiding and more explore his life lyrically and musically.
"There's such a minefield of people who have gone from bands that had success to the solo thing," says Rossdale. "There's a chasm to get from one to the other --it's like Death Valley and you look down and there's f--king scorched singers." Wanderlust
is not Rossdale's first post-Bush album. In 2005, he released a hard-edged album with a group he dubbed Institute
, produced by Page Hamilton of Helmet
fame. "We went on tour with U2
and I think those were Institute's four fans right there," Rossdale recalls with a laugh. "I loved some of what we did, especially a song called `Ambulances,' but Institute felt like a really painful left turn. It scared all the chicks away. My goal wasn't to get one hundred of Tool
's audience. The expectation was quite high but the reaction was just confused and confusing. There was one guy who came to a show and he had Bush tattooed on one arm and Institute tattooed on the other, and remember thinking, `I've got to road test this stuff first."
At the same time -- as the perceived lucky bastard who got to marry Gwen Stefani
-- Rossdale was encountering the glare of a whole other level of celebrity. "It's been a challenge because it's been a tough few years for me because I've been lost in how to define myself in the present tense. With that glare of the publicity on us, how can I not feel like an appendage at times? It takes a tough man to be married to a force of nature like Gwen. 'Rocker hubby' if I ever see that phrase again . . . I'm not sure I didn't prefer it when people were just writing, "These guys suck." It's challenging and it forces a lot of humility. There are guys who come and photograph me working out at the gym, and I'm liked guys come and shoot me working in the studio – hook a brother up.
"Love Remains The Same" music video:
-- which Rossdale briefly considered recording as a Bush album -- he has instead reclaimed not just his own artistic identity, but offered the listener a far most honest and plainspoken picture of who he is and what drives him both as an artist and a man.
"Really I felt like my life depended on this record," says Rossdale. "There are too many records anyway and not enough outlets, so it had to be everything or there was no point." Rossdale has to wait five months for producer Bob Rock (Metallica
, Motley Crue
) to work with him on the album. "As soon as I met Bob, I knew he was the guy, "says Rossdale. "I really wanted experience; I wanted an overview in the old school way of making album. I really wanted someone with perspective."
Rossdale and Rock cut the tracks for Wanderlust
with Josh Freese on drums, Paul Bushnell on bass, Jamie Muhoberac on keyboards and Chris Traynor on guitar. "We recorded it old school as a five piece at Ocean Way in Los Angeles," Rossdale recalls. "We recorded everything together and got down eighteen songs in five days, took a week to add guitars from Chris. Then I went to Maui to work with Bob. Bob thought I would get lonely and go mad, but as a husband and father now, I loved being that selfish for a short time. I'd get up, go for a swim, have a salad, and then work for ten hours until Bob chucked me out.
The vocals on Wanderlust
are easily the most effecting of Rossdale's career. "We had a system," Rossdale explains. "Bob's used to handholding, but I'm quite clear about what I want. I'd always come in and do five takes. Then Bob would ask me for one over the top theatrical vocal. After that, I'd go out and play with Bob's miniature pet donkey, his dogs and eighteen cats I'm allergic to. And when I'd come back Bob would have comped my vocal back together. I'll never know how much he used of what take. I only knew it worked."Wanderlust
works, and Rossdale could hardly be pleased to be heading out of the stables with an album that means so much to him. "I'm on the gang plank," he says. "One more f--k up and I'll never be allowed to record again, but I won't be alone. Yet the thing is I feel totally emancipated because there is such a sense now of being able to write myself back into music on my own terms. There's a sense of freedom for me now. When you're tense and needy, you're going to miss. And when you're free and loose, you're going to hit the ball the furthest."
By those deeply personal standards, Wanderlust
is already Rossdale's biggest hit yet. -by David Wild
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