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Q&A: Gavin Rossdale

Of all the members of the alternative nation who were chastised for arriving late to the party, no one took more shots to the chin than Bush frontman and bedroom pinup Gavin Rossdale. But rather than back down (or move to Nicaragua), the 38-year-old singer put together Institute, a more aggro, but still arena-ready, version of his previous group. Speaking from Los Angeles while preparing for a U.S. club tour, Rossdale discusses Page Hamilton’s closet, facing critics, and his favorite hollaback girl.

So where have you been for the past ten years?
That’s a good question. A lot of changes — I changed labels, changed bands, got married [to Gwen Stefani]. I should have been sitting on a beach in Nicaragua, but it’s been pretty turbulent. It was a bit uphill, trying to convince people that this is the new band I should have. No one’s more shocked than me by the amount of time it’s taken. I just don’t have a valid excuse, actually.

Page Hamilton [from ’90s alt-thrashers Helmet] produced your new record. I never would have put you two together.
Jimmy Iovine [Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M] was listening to some of the songs I was doing, and he said, “Well, if you want a guitar sound, you gotta get Page!” I was thinking, “Why the fuck would he want to meet me?” But we really did well together. He’s also a great dresser — a very stylish man.

What do you and Gwen listen to at home?
We like reggae and dub. Sometimes she complains that she can get a bit depressed with the things I play.

Do you ever get envious of her massive success?
No, I’m totally happy for her. I’m envious of who’s playing the 10 P.M. slot on the Roskilde [Festival] stage. That’s success in my world.

Any clue why critics love to bash you?
I don’t really understand how I managed to wind so many people up. But there’s a real bone of contention for me, because if rock critics don’t like you, they’ll take lyrics that are stream of consciousness and say they’re rubbish. Everyone would say Patti Smith is one of the great rock poets, and we love her for it, but it’s strange how certain people are allowed to get away with it. I was with a friend of mine the other night, and he was saying, “This critic said that in ‘Machinehead’ you said ‘Breathe in, breathe out’ too many times.”

What is the correct number of times to say it?
Fuck if I know.

Institute tour dates:
8/27, Pittsburgh, PA (Rex Theatre)
8/29, Boston, MA (Paradise Rock Club)
8/30, New York, NY (Bowery Ballroom)