When Gavin Rossdale set out to write Bush’s eighth studio album, The Kingdom, he had no idea how timely the LP’s theme would become in a pandemic age. “It just taps into the Zeitgeist,” he says of “Flowers on Grave,” the lead single and one of the final tracks written for the record. “The loneliness, the death theme… all my stuff is death-themed, because I’m obsessed with life. And so, therefore, I have a mind obsessed with death as well.”
Interestingly, the album, delayed to a July release date due to the coronavirus’s total disruption of the music industry, was intended to pretend a vision of a utopian world, an ideal society. In an age that now feels dystopian to many, this concept of a “kingdom” certainly strikes a chord.
“When I came across that lyric in ‘The Kingdom,’ I was thinking about it so much — I was just so sick of self-righteous, judgmental people,” says Rossdale via Skype, from lockdown in his Los Angeles home. “I was thinking, ‘Why do we have to suffer all these fools around us the whole time?’ Societies are all seen through the prism of everybody else’s judgment, like everybody else is perfect. We’re all imperfect.
“I had so much, that treatment of me. I experienced that in my life, press-wise and stuff like that. And then you just see other people, the way one person talks about another, and it just was driving me nuts. I had a couple episodes that really made me feel about that, someone I was dealing with just drove me nuts. …And that’s when I thought about the whole thing with the Kingdom: Imagine a place without these fools.”
Along with “Flowers on a Grave,” whose theme of loneliness has suddenly taken on deeper meaning in an era of self-isolation, and the idealism of The Kingdom’s title track, Rossdale says listeners will likely connect with “Our Time Will Come” an “elegiac song about those of us that haven’t found what we’re looking for,” and “Words Are Not Impediments.” Says Rossdale of the latter song, “Words are the basis of everything. Communication is the key to civilization. And we are all starving for connection and starving for understanding and empathy and like-mindedness.”
Whether it was planned or not, the Bush frontman is hoping The Kingdom might spark some self-examination, something he’s trying to focus on himself while in his own self-quarantine. “Maybe this time allows them some self-reflection. I know I have self-reflection at this time. I think about things. I think about how I’ve treated people, how I want to be treated. I miss human interaction; I haven’t done it for three weeks [at the time of this interview]. It’s a funny one. I’m a bit of a loner anyway, so it’s actually not that much of a stretch for me,” says Rossdale, whose three children, after spending some “really beautiful time” with him in L.A. — “very nurturing and connected” — are currently with their mother Gwen Stefani in Oklahoma.
“But the one thing that we can take out of this is that people have had this time now to self-reflect, and have time to just think about what life was beforehand and the restrictions we have on us now. Was it really necessary to have all those fights? Was it necessary to have those wars? When you look at people now, you realize the interconnectedness of society and how we rely on each other, and we’re all a framework, and we can’t exist without that person. … I’m not a hippy, so I don’t feel that everyone’s going to come back together and be like, Om. But there’s got to be a sense of people are going to bring the best part of themselves back to society when we reform.”
Along with self-reflection, Rossdale is using his downtime to polish his guitar skills, though — once again on the subject of others’ judgment — he stresses: “The self-righteousness has slightly crept into this quarantine when people go, ‘Yeah, I learned Russian in the quarantine, what do you do?’ — I don’t like that. I probably side more with people who don’t finish the book, or don’t finish things, because I feel more empathy with that.” So. he’s allowed himself to decompress with lighter at-home pursuits, including the current “tiger nonsense,” a.k.a. Tiger King.
“It’s like watching a car crash,” Rossdale says of the smash-hit Netflix show. “I’ve been seeing snippets of it, so I don’t quite understand what’s going on, but is it just that? These two people, warring factions, this tiger place, this guy who marries all these young handsome dudes, who seem to have drug problems? They’re handsome with drug problems. It’s just like, ‘What is happening?’ I I feel worse for the animals. What’s a f***ing tiger doing in Florida, anyway? That’s not cool.”
On a more serious note, Rossdale, who’s been doing live-streamed home concerts to promote The Kingdom, is of course looking forward to finally getting to play the sheds and arenas Bush are accustomed to, once their tour is eventually rescheduled. “The first shows when we come back, whenever they are in a year’s time, are going to be so triumphant, so beautiful, and so appreciative and appreciated. I think it’s going to be incredible,” he says. But Rossdale makes it clear that he has no reason to complain. “I feel bad when I talk about things like this, because I get excited about it, because I see the light, the positive light at the end of this terrible tunnel. But at the same time, today is going to be allegedly the worst day, the highest rate of deaths. So as we say this, as you and I are talking about this… someone’s fighting to be alive.”
Watch Gavin Rossdale’s extended Yahoo Entertainment interview below: