All Gavin Rossdale wants to do is take his band, Institute, out on tour.
Normally this would be a no-brainer. After all, Rossdale's former band, Bush, sold more than 11 million albums during their late-'90s heyday, and he is married to that Gwen something-or-other from No Doubt. Plus, his new band features members of influential alterna-rock acts Orange 9mm and CIV, and their debut album, Distort Yourself, was produced by Helmet's Page Hamilton.
But it's not that easy. After all, Rossdale's been off the scene for almost five years now, and during that time he's watched his wife's career eclipse his. And Helmet, though they released an album just last year, haven't been a viable force since 1994's Betty. So basically, with Institute, Rossdale is starting over at square one — though with considerably more clout than your average new band. Which puts him and his group in a rather unique position: They're sort of a headlining act and sort of an opening act, though they can't be both.
"Right now, we're looking at several different scenarios and deciding whether or not we are going to do our own thing or take a slot opening for someone," Rossdale said. "Sometimes I think that the best way to build up a fanbase for Institute is to do what Bush did: just tour our asses off. But then I don't think that we'd want to open for a lot of acts today.
"Of course, there are a few acts I'd consider opening for, like Depeche Mode on their world tour or some sort of band like that," he continued. "But I also think that the idea of us opening for someone like My Chemical Romance — who I actually like very much — would obviously be kind of sad."
So that's where Institute find themselves today, with a record on the shelves (Distort debuted at #81 on this week's Billboard albums chart) and no tour to speak of. But Rossdale hopes that will all change, especially with the band's first single, "Bullet Proof Skin," rising up the rock radio charts like, um, a bullet.
"It's good that radio has been playing the song, because it's my one chance to leap back into the public consciousness, to tell them, yeah, I'm back," Rossdale said. "And it's kind of an interesting song to be played on so-called 'modern' rock stations because it's a song about modern life as a treacherous jungle. It's about survival in 2005, about the pressures of life in the city and how you need bulletproof skin to make it out alive. It's a really primal song about survival."
The whole primal theme is alive and well on Distort Yourself, from the thundering herd of stallions that grace the album's cover to the song "When Animals Attack" to the guttural, growling guitars and pounding drums that sound like a saber-toothed tiger battling a woolly mammoth in a fireworks factory. It's a running theme that Rossdale fully acknowledges (he even dedicates the album to his bulldog Winston, who died last year).
"Well, yeah, we're a primal band, with power and strength. When I listen to our music, I get this vision in my head of rust. I think we're a rust-colored, powerful, modern rock band," he laughed. "We're primordial, we're primates, it all sounds like a massive primal scream. And I can't be happier with it."
Hopefully his fans will be able to witness the primal rock and roll circus in the near future. Rossdale's instinct tells him it will happen soon, and — much like an animal — he's choosing to go with that. He's always taken pride in living his life based on his instincts, and from his success with Bush, his marriage to Stefani and his new opportunities with Institute, it seems to have paid off.
"It's funny because people think I'm some sort of cardboard cutout, some celebrity. And while I do live in the spotlight, I try everything to avoid falling into that mindset," he said. "I always tell people to go with their gut feeling. Instinct is everything. It's basically how I've lived my life, and it's pretty much worked for me."