Modern Renaissance Man Gavin Rossdale on New Music, New Fashion Label and New Eats
PHOTOGRAPHY by SHANE MCCAULEY
STYLING by DAMIAN COLLINS
GROOMING by CRYSTAL LOZADA
Gavin Rossdale has his hands full. The Bush frontman, actor, and father of four just wrapped a whirlwind double-tour across 50 cities, coinciding with the release of his band’s ninth studio album, The Art of Survival. And yet, at the risk of revealing just what a Renaissance man he’s been this whole time, Rossdale’s got a clothing line and cooking show on the way, too. “I really like all the jobs that I have,” the Brit says of his ever-growing CV. “The movies make me want to go back and make a record. Then when I do a record, it makes me want to go and work on a bit of clothing. And then, if I’ve done a bit of clothing, I want to go back to the studio. Everything bounces back to the studio, to be honest.”
As is to be expected for the multi-platinum, singer-songwriter, whose music career—and subsequent fame—predates the new millennium. Soon after Bush formed, a young Rossdale penned tracks like “Glycerine,” “Comedown,” and “Machinehead,” which were promptly and vociferously inhaled by the grunge-hungry listener base of the 90s. Unusually, the London-grown band landed an American record deal first, bringing Rossdale’s career across the pond to Los Angeles, where he still resides today. “I wanted to be like Pixies. They went to England and they signed in England. And when I got the opportunity to sign in America…I took it, thinking ‘fuck it, it worked for Pixies,’” the guitarist/vocalist describes of his decision-making at the time.
Rossdale’s place in the zeitgeist of the 90s came back into focus recently thanks to new documentaries about the infamous Woodstock ‘99. Both Netflix’s Trainwreck: Woodstock ‘99 and HBO’s Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage chronicle concert promoters’ attempts to recapture the spirit of the original 1969 Woodstock with a redux 30 years later. The resulting 3-day festival—where Bush performed—was marred by controversy. Overpriced concessions, poor sanitation, sexual harassment and rapes, looting, vandalism, arson, and three tragic deaths make 2017’s Fyre Festival seem quaint.
For Bush’s part, they were to perform Friday night’s closing set to an audience of 250,000. The problem was, nu metal band Korn had just left an already-aggressive crowd even more amped up. Mass chaos loomed as Bush took the stage. But in what proceeds as a sort of heroic taming of the beast, Rossdale—armed with a deep reverence for the original Woodstock ethos—managed to keep the crowd’s testosterone-fueled rage from percolating much further. “Someone said to me the other day, ‘it was amazing the way you brought the crowd down after Korn,’” recalls Rossdale, though he doesn’t quite take it as a compliment.
“I felt a bit patronized [when I saw the documentary],” he admits, citing the film’s implication that his set was more peace, love and “Kumbaya, My Lord” than hard rock. Though Netflix’s program is edited to seem like a shirtless, doe-eyed Rossdale happened upon a booing crowd and decided to play one of his sadder songs, he actually put on a damn intense show, opening with the frenetic “Machinehead” and (for better or worse) only
undressing after a half an hour’s worth of heavy stage performance. “I was tuned into the brilliance of Woodstock 69,” Rossdale explains, “[and] I still wanted [the crowd] to have a great time.”
If Bush’s recent summer tour is any indication, concertgoers are indeed still having a great time. The four-piece band hit Europe this June, before joining forces with Alice in Chains and Breaking Benjamin for an American tour that ended in October. “I think I’m better live now…on a performance level, when I see footage now, I feel more compelling as a band,” Rossdale says of the progression of their stage act since the pre-Y2K days.
As for his own showmanship, which seems wholly at odds with the gentle-dispositioned, soon-to-be-grandfather (shh, call him by his original G-name for now though) that’s sitting here now, Rossdale likens it to martial arts. A form of attack he’s learned to control. He retains his mellow until he gets onstage. “That’s when I can just be unbridled and let that rage out.”
And there’s a lot to rage about. Bush’s latest album, The Art of Survival, simmers with the lyricist’s hot-blooded convictions, particularly in regard to the current state of the world. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, for example, inspired a line in the opening verse of one of the album’s singles, “More Than Machines”: Girls, you’re in control/Not the government, not the government.
The lyrics feel particularly poignant now, amid ongoing women-led protests in Iran. “That’s what’s interesting about words,” notes Rossdale of the song’s continuing resonance. “If I don’t put too much of a story on it and I don’t laden it with my genesis, of course it’s also about Iran. It’s applicable to any situation where women’s rights are compromised.” For Rossdale, writing is a byproduct of having such an active interior world; his ideas might as well pour onto the page. When it comes to acting, though, “I like it because somebody else has the idea,” he specifies. “It’s really magical to create [so] much…off of a page.”
Most recently, Rossdale worked his magic as a washed-up Hollywood star in Janell Shirtcliff’s nuns-and-drugs dramedy Habit. Looking ahead, cult followers of the 2005 comic book film Constantine are dying to know: will Rossdale’s demon Balthazar appear in its just-announced, long-longed-for sequel. “I’m really hoping,” he confesses, having already written to director Francis Lawrence and writer Akiva Goldsman to say so. “Doing that was amazing.”
In the meantime, though, Rossdale has a more imminent creative project: his clothing line, Sea of Sound. Though perennial provocateur Courtney Love has gone on record insisting Rossdale was the brains behind former wife Gwen Stefani’s massively successful fashion empire, this is his first official foray into fashion. Though he actually started Sea of Sound three years ago, pre-pandemic and post-divorce. His collection was called Broken, an obvious theme in his life at the time. Sea of Sound was sold at Fred Segal in the US and Japan, but didn’t go much further than that. “I made incredible, beautiful clothes and people loved them. Then I just tapped out,” the designer explains of the line’s abrupt hiatus.
But then, through his eldest daughter, the English fashion model Daisy Lowe, Rossdale met Damian Collins. A seasoned stylist and creative consultant. Collins
took an instant interest in Rossdale’s vision. Together, the two decided to resurrect and refine Sea of Sound. First order of business? Fixing what was Broken. “Damian asked me to write a new manifesto,” recounts Rossdale, in a lighter state of mind now than he’d been when starting the project. “I’m on a different path in my life, a different stage.”
Renamed Together, the current collection melds inspiration from some of Rossdale’s favorite designers like Issey Miyake and COMME des GARÇONS. “I’ve always loved fashion. I’m a proud metrosexual. I come from London and [grew] up around very fashion-forward people…so to a certain extent it’s in my DNA,” he describes. “Whatever your chosen intent for the day is, it’s easier when you feel good about how you look.”
And Rossdale knows about looking good. Besides long resembling something of an Adonis, he’s always been obsessed with aesthetics. “[It] goes through the Sea of Sound, goes through the music, goes through everything. It’s the thread of my life.”
His cooking show is no different. The program, which Rossdale started around the same time as his clothing line and is imminently finishing a deal for, is called E.A.T. with Gavin Rossdale (standing for Everything, Always, Tonight). It’s a lifestyle and interview show in the vein of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or Jon Favreau’s Dinner for Five. The two episodes he’s shot so far feature Rossdale cooking for legendary musician Tom Jones and 30 Rock’s iconic Jack McBrayer. The show is about trying to better understand fascinating people through dinnertime conversation.
But cooking? For this rock star? You only have to look as far as his side Instagram account, @eatwithgavinrossdale, to find out. “This is for my boys and those I love. Food is an act of love” the bio reads, before launching into a Ratatouille-esque explosion of culinary adventures in the Rossdale kitchen. Between the croque monsieur with Parisian ham and fontina-Gruyere bechamel he made for son Kingston, or “late night sirloin” for other son Zuma, and other butter-poached this and thats, Rossdale’s chops undoubtedly continue to impress. “I’ve always been able to cook…it’s a natural process for me. I’m quick to say I’m a home cook and I’m not doing it [for critics],” he clarifies about the show. “I’m a singer-musician, but I can make you a nice plate of food.”
Has Gavin Rossdale always been multi-talented, and we’ve just been too preoccupied by his band’s or partner’s fame to notice? Maybe. Then again, he’s always been more focused on artisanship than stardom anyway, rich in creative output whether tapes are rolling or not. If the breadth and staying power of his career are any indication, Rossdale will always be like this, working on whatever’s next, whenever it’s meant to be released into the world, forever remaining as interesting as possible. @gavinrossdale