Details: While you were waiting for Bush's first album to be released in 1994, you worked a string of crappy jobs.
Gavin Rossdale: After we'd finished Sixteen Stone, Hollywood Records told us it had no singles, and no album tracks either. It was just a mess of sound. They dropped Bush before the album even came out. So I did painting jobs in London: I had to paint 12 identical dentists' offices with this nasty peach color. It was total Kafka. That was crushing. Interscope finally picked us up, and I was still painting dentists' offices when the album hit.
Details: Your ancestral surname is Rosenthal. What's the most Jewish thing about you?
Gavin Rossdale: My father was a lapsed Jew, but my grandfather was practicing, so he used to do the Friday-night thing. I love the culture of it, the tradition, the theatricality, the funny outfits, the buildings, the history. I'm half Jewish, half Scottish, so I have a bizarre obsession with being generous, because one of the stereotypes leveled at Scots and Jews is the inability to share. I'm fighting the good fight.
Details: You met your wife, Gwen Stefani, while touring with No Doubt in 1995. Do you remember your first date?
Gavin Rossdale: I threw a party in New Orleans just as an excuse to hang out with her. We drank a bunch of hurricanes and went around the French Quarter. We had our first kiss that night, just walking around, being careful to step over the puddles of pee. The next day we had that sort of cute, embarrassed, sober meet-up.
Details: You have two sons together—Kingston, 4, and Zuma, 2. Who's on diaper duty at home?
Gavin Rossdale: Whoever's nearest, really. We have good people around us. If there's no one there, I can do it, but otherwise I sort of slide away—I get very interested in my BlackBerry at that point. A friend once told me, "By the way, they never thank you for changing their diapers when they grow up, so don't sweat it." I thought it was good advice.
Details: Is it true you and Gwen bathe together to conserve water?
Gavin Rossdale: The first half is true, maybe not the latter. Or, the ecological benefits are a healthy consequence.
Details: Keep your romance alive, save the planet?
Gavin Rossdale: Exactly! And stay clean! But no, we don't stage bath-ins.
Details: How do you explain the paparazzi to Kingston now that he's old enough to understand?
Gavin Rossdale: We haven't found the words to explain it. I'll want to take my kid to the beach, and there's six grown men chasing us. He's running around in his underwear as every child should, and I have to go up to them and say, "Can you not photograph my son running around in his underwear?" The pictures show up anyway. He went through a really angry stage. He'd scream at them, "Get away! Don't take a picture of my mom!" They'd say, "Wow, Kingston's really moody." You're a fucking grown man running after a 4-year-old! What do you want him to do?
Details: In 2004, you learned you have a daughter, the now 21-year-old model Daisy Lowe. How do you shift from being a dad to toddlers to being a dad to an adult?
Gavin Rossdale: With the boys it's traditional: I'm all they know, and I'm with them all the time. With Daisy, I don't know her in that context. The way I nurture those boys, I never got a chance with Daisy. I love my connection with her, but I don't have any say in who she is. With the boys it's my job to correct them and shape them. With Daisy, I just have to be respectful. I suppose it's more like a friendship.
Details: Last year, the cross-dressing pop singer Marilyn revealed that he was romantically involved with you in your teens—an assertion Boy George first made in 1995. Why haven't you talked about those claims?
Gavin Rossdale: I think at the outset there was a sort of fear—that was right at the beginning of Bush, and I didn't want it to be part of it. It felt like a cheap shot, so I was like, "I'm not getting involved." I've never wanted to appear closed about it. It's not something I've talked about really because it's always been in the glare of a tabloid world. It's just one of those things: Move on. When you're 17, Jesus Christ. I don't think there's anything strange about any form of—you're learning about life. It's a part of growing up. That's it. No more, no less.
Details: So it was just a one-time experimentation?
Gavin Rossdale: Yeah. That was it. You have to know what you like, and I know what I like.
Details: You play tennis regularly with your friend Roger Federer. Ever come close to beating him?
Gavin Rossdale: No, it doesn't really work like that! With Roger, my fun is just to hit with him enough so it's a workout for him. That's my Wimbledon: to hit with Roger and not waste his time. I've scored points on him, of course. If you hit a good serve, you could take out anyone in the world. But can you do it over five sets? Probably not.
Details: The music industry is in a tailspin, and rock sales are especially grim. Why on earth did you think this would be a good time to reunite Bush?
Gavin Rossdale: I'm a creative person—I need to be doing this. I don't think I'll scale the giddy heights of before. The market's not there, the outlets aren't there. But I think there'll be an audience for it. It's nerve-racking because I'm not expecting anyone to care; I have no sense of entitlement. But I do know I'm a better singer, a way better guitar player, and a better songwriter. It just comes down to "How good can you be?"
Details: Did you have any reservations about reviving the Bush name when only two original members—you and drummer Robin Goodridge—returned?
Gavin Rossdale: I had to offer the album to those guys. I rang them up and said, "I really want to do this. I've waited patiently for seven years, and now I realize I'm forsaking my own potential. I have to do it. I can't survive making music under my solo name." And I got two blessings and one acceptance. I can't believe they didn't want to do it. I just don't get it. But sometimes it's hard to see outside the prism of your own vision.