Gavin Rossdale, gravel-voiced dad to two-year-old Kingston James McGregor Rossdale and three-month-old Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale, is not only husband to a rock star but also something of a badass musician himself: “Love Remains the Same,” the first single from this summer’s WANDERlust (Interscope), has re-elevated the forty-three-year-old former Bush frontman. The song provides mood music for everything from The Biggest Loser to a handful of sitcoms and teen flicks. The high-cheekboned heartthrob called Babble from the home he shares with Gwen Stefani in Los Angeles, and discussed everything from home-schooling to haggis to kung-fu. – Tammy La Gorce
The new album is awesome – so far it’s reached No. 27 on The Billboard 200. Are you happy?
Yeah, it’s been pretty shocking. I’m still in a state of shock about it. The last record I made [Distort Yourself] had some terrible marketing behind it, so my expectations were pretty low for this one. It’s good to just get a record out in a world where people won’t buy a record anymore. Now I’m looking forward to going out and playing.
Your tour starts next year. How will that work out for the family? Your kids are so little. It must be hard leaving them.
Yeah, but I’m enjoying the time I get to spend with them now, here and in London [Rossdale and Stefani split their time between London and L.A.]. Wherever Gwen and I go, we try to take them with us so we don’t have to be away from them too long.
I’ve read some reviews that say the record is a return to the Bush sound. Is that true?
No. It’s a weird, strange position to be in – if I do too much guitar work, they say it sounds like Bush, but there’s a lot of the album that’s not heavy guitar. But I’ve been reading some of the reviews too. For a while I was on Google alert, and I’d read everything, and I’d just want to go and murder some people. Everyone’s a published critic now. I got to to the point where I’d had enough of getting slammed in everything from college newspapers to local rags, even though it was great to read the good stuff. I had to just turn it off.
Because you can’t trust what you read on the Internet, I want to confirm some things about your family . . .
Yeah, good. The stuff you read on Wikipedia especially is such rubbish. They have some stranger as my mother and the family names are all wrong. I’d like to complain to Mr. Wikipedia. How do you do that?
So the boys’ names are Kingston James McGregor and Zuma Nesta Rock, right? One name sounds kind of traditional, and the other, Zuma, sounds very rock star. Why is that?
Well Kingston is named for Kingston, Jamaica, not Kingston Ferry. So it’s really not that traditional. At least I don’t think there are a lot of kids named for Kingston, Jamaica. But those were just the names that sort of came up and I thought to agree with them.
Do you raise the kids mostly in L.A.? Is L.A. a good place to raise kids?
“I probably went to the wrong school, because I used to hate getting up and going.” Yeah, we do spend a lot of time in L.A. And I’m finding out as I go along that it can be fantastic. Obviously, I get nervous sometimes, because it can be a bit Beverly Hills. I don’t like it when everyone’s so privileged. But for the most part, people are really well balanced and smart and interesting and cool. I definitely don’t heed the idea that the people here are all fake jerk-offs. You find cool people everywhere you go. I don’t like the idea of, “Oh, you’re from Kansas, you must be brilliant,” or whatever.
What about preschool for Kingston? Are you enmeshed in the drama over which school you’ll send him to, that whole scene?
I don’t feel that much pressure about it yet. I want to home-school him. I feel so bad for him, because school is just so relentless. When you’re two or three, the idea that you have twenty years of being told you have to get up and go to school . . . I probably went to the wrong school, because I used to hate getting up and going.
Are you kidding about home-schooling him? Or are you really considering it?
No, I probably wouldn’t home-school him. I think social interaction with other kids is probably essential.
How do you feel about nannies and help inside the home? You must need a lot of it, given your schedule and Gwen’s.
We’re pretty hands-on. We have some excellent nannies who help us, but for the most part our attitude is, it’s fun to have them around. We don’t want them to go off to boarding schools ever. We think they’re tiring but fun.
What kind of music does Kingston listen to?
He likes anything with a good beat. He’s big into drums. He likes my record. He likes Gwen’s record. He plays some Pharrell and Snoop. Anything that’s good for head-bobbing. He’s a good head-bobber.
Do you and Gwen have date night? It must be hard to keep the romance up with two little ones around.
We just try and spend time together. When we’re not touring it’s a lot easier. Most music happens after five o’clock, so we find time to spend together, to do stuff together.
You’re part Scottish. Are there any Scottish traditions that are important to you in your child-rearing?
“It would be a disappointment if the kids were cookie-cutter.” Yeah - to enjoy haggis [laughs]. No, I didn’t really grow up Scottish, even though our family name is McGregor. That’s my Scottish tribe.
Are there any cultural differences you and Gwen have to stare down in raising Kingston and Zuma? Any sore spots?
It’s really not too difficult to latch onto the American way of life, so no, not really. I mean, I love all the American holidays and everything. On Thanksgiving and Christmas I don’t say, “It’s goose or nothing.”
But British kids always seem so much more polite than American kids, don’t you think?
I don’t know - it’s hard to put kids into two categories, because it goes from kid to kid. Different types of parents raise them differently. For example, our guitar player, Chris [Traynor], who’s an American, has this amazing kid. She’s got a really smart mom and a really smart dad and they’re really progressive parents. I look at her – her name’s Puma – and I say, “What did you do?” If my kids could be like her, that’s great.
You have two boys. Any desire for a girl?
Yeah. I don’t know. I just have the desire to be nice to everyone.
You’ve done some film work recently. Would you steer the kids toward careers in entertainment? You’re also big into sports, aren’t you?
I like tennis and kung-fu. I’d like to that with the kids, that and anything else sports-related. Maybe American football.
I read on the internet that as a teen, you were a self-proclaimed punk who put egg whites in your hair and glitter on your stomach. Do you foresee this kind of rebelliousness in the lives of Kingston and/or Zuma?
Well, that’s the internet for you. Glitter? What the fuck is that? I definitely did the egg whites in the hair, though. It’s the best way to make your hair super-spiky. But if you keep it in too long, it ends up looking like dandruff. I do think the Sex Pistols are the coolest band ever, and I didn’t like the Commodores. It’s good to have fire in your belly. To me, it would be a disappointment if the kids were cookie-cutter. So I want them to be rebellious in a way that doesn’t mean spitting at people or being bratty, but being individuals who question things. I want them to have input, to be smart and have an angle on things, to not be intimidated. Punk gave me a powerful thing, which was not feeling intimidated. It made you feel like you don’t have to agree with everything you’re told.
I also read that you didn’t speak until you were four. Any truth to that?
Actually, that’s true. I had an older sister who was quite protective and helped me fill in all the gaps, though.
Does that make you pay extra attention to the boys’ speech development?
Nah. Kingston is two and a half - he’s chatting away like a maniac.