After almost 30 years together, 24 million records sold and a billion song streams, frontman Gavin Rossdale and his band Shrub have released ‘Loaded: the greatest hits 1994-2023.’ Next to an passion for cooking and his own clothing lineRossdale has tackled the issue of gun violence in America by playing a series of shows to capitalize on it Artists for action – including a combined concert with Sheryl Crow, Billie Eilish and Peter Gabriel. I met Rossdale at Double chicken please in New York, where we discussed what attracted him to this issue, his favorite drinks and why you might want him on your jury if you’re in serious trouble.
What was your first drink?
I had a big night with cider when I was 15 or 16 and I haven’t been able to drink it since. That was not a good trip. Back then in England it was a lot of Stella Artois. I had a leaning towards Jameson. That was my kind of West London: The Clash, Sound Systems and all that, beer and a Jameson in dodgy pubs on Portobello Road.
What are you enjoying now?
Don Julio 1942 or Reposado. I like to drink tequila with a large cube of ice with a very cold Sapporo. I also like sake. I enjoy the way it cheers me up – in a fun way. Always the dry fresh with the floral notes.
I like wine. Brunello, Montepulciano and Bordeaux. I’ve come to realize that I actually don’t like them as much as I thought. When they get really old and appreciated, they make me feel even worse the next day. 15 or 20 years old, it’s fine. I feel the same way about dry-aged meat. It is maximum 28 days.
When you started touring with Bush, did that make you more into food and drink?
No. The money helped me expand what I liked (laughs). Backstage is always as!#tshow more or less. It was more when I wasn’t on tour. I love finding the best restaurants in town.
You are now in New York performing at Artists For Action. Why is this topic important to you?
Well, it’s important as a father and as a human being. There have been 400 mass shootings in America this year, right? This isn’t political, it’s just humanistic. I was asked by Artists for Action to perform. And there’s another organization called Sandy Hook Promise. Mark Barden, his seven-year-old son, was killed in one of these shootings. So he quit being a musician to start this charity. I love doing this.
Being from Britain, what is your perspective on gun violence in the US?
Well, I have three kids here. Four children in total, only three young boys in America. So it’s about the vulnerability of these children at school. And for me it is what is the background that makes people do this? For the victims, the atrocity speaks for itself. But what makes people get to this point? What have they experienced 400 times? They are ignored by their communities. Banned, bullied, harassed, ridiculed.
Like any good artist, I had a traumatic childhood. No one has ever stopped to ask me about my mental health. It was just like ‘Oh, your life has been blown apart? Go to school, live your life, be a good person.‘What I like about both organizations is that they are not political. They talk about: what happened to the perpetrators? So you try to minimize it in the future.
When you play a benefit, do you change your set list or is it best not to think about it too much?
That would mean that I don’t think about it enough on another evening (laughs). That is not the case.
I once read that you recited a Hebrew prayer in protest during a concert in Austria.
There was a politician Jörg Haider who they elected. He had expressed views similar to those of the Nazis. People canceled their shows to Austria in protest. But it was the old Nazis in the country who voted him in. It wasn’t the kids going to shows. So it seemed strangely punishing for the wrong people.
My grandfather was Jewish and he had the Friday night dinners. I didn’t grow up Jewish, but a few times I’ve had the challah and the wine and it was fun. I didn’t have many family traditions by any means, so I learned the prayer for the bread.
And when I was in Austria, I announced that I was shocked that this man had been elected. And then against a background of feedback I sang the prayer for the bread and made my own melody. Although I am not religious, my blood comes from that tribe. So I can’t help but feel defensive. And it felt good to sing it for feedback.
I heard you’re a great cook and you’re even considering doing a cooking show?
We shot two episodes and I tried to get it made. It’s an interview show like ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.’ I like one on one. So basically it’s inviting people to dinner. I cook in the afternoon, photograph the preparation and then the dinner. And that’s actually as simple as it is.
Have you ever had a great dinner with one of your idols?
David Bowie. I toured South America with him. I got to know him there and built up a good understanding and friendship. I learned so much from him, laughed so much with him. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of famous people and it’s so nice when someone isn’t a disappointment. The people with mediocre talent always have the biggest egos. The ones that are really quite spectacular at their work are just a different kind of magic.
Bush finally releases their album ‘Greatest Hits’. Is there one song that you think deserves more attention than it got the first time around?
‘English fire.’ I was so happy to – whatever the sentence is – to write it, to receive it, get it out of the way that when that came, I felt very proud. We played it live once and my manager at the time said, “I don’t think you should play that song again.” (Laughs) And we never did that! And I think he was wrong. It’s wild. It is a wild song.
Does the retrospective take you back to when ‘Sixteen Stone’ first came out and dominated the American airwaves?
(Laughs) God bless these beautiful days when it was me, me, me! Turn on your radio and there I am. What a beautiful time. We’ve had so many successful records, but that one was really in the crazy spirit of the times. However you get it, it’s incredible and so happy. It’s the biggest compliment when people connect with the DNA in those songs.
I’m full of self-doubt and self-loathing, just like the next guy. But I do feel that throughout Bush’s career, we’ve created something that seems like a very personal space. It’s such intense music, you know, you put on headphones and it’s between your ears. It’s in your brain. It’s so personal. I just found out we’ve had over a billion plays on Spotify. (Holds up glass) Let’s toast that!
I don’t take it for granted to have a special place in people’s hearts. ‘My son’s name is Gavin, I grew up listening to you.’ I did some jury work and it was actually a fascinating two days. And at the end, the judge said, “I want to thank Juror Number 36 for providing a soundtrack to my law school studies.”
Do you think you are a good jury member?
Yes, but probably for the wrong reasons. Because I’m really forgiving. So for people in their worst moments that will define their lives – like if they go to prison forever – my default is to go straight to compassion. I’m just connected wrong. But if you’re looking for leniency, I’d have a good seat on the jury.