Blonde always. And always in great shape, as well. Although in the last 10 years, having churned out two babies and as many solo albums (not to mention sweaters periwinkle of her clothing line L.A.M.B.), Gwen Stefani is not at all tired of pulling the cart. On the contrary: it has also reformed her old band, No Doubt, coming out in a few days with a new album, Push and Shove. Rolling Stone met with all four in a studio in Los Angeles, and the feeling is that, yes, it’s time for them not to have stopped.
As you get older, the first piece of us to die is the rock & roll. So we have been taught to think. Is not the case of No Doubt, though. Born in 1986 in a garage in Anaheim, a few miles south of Los Angeles, No Doubt are in fact to release a new album – Push And Shove, announced on September 25 – and soon after their tour bus will recover in the street just like the old days. This time, however, there will be nine children that the four band members have brought into the world in the 11 years since the release of their last album together, Rock Steady. “It’s so weird, right?” Smiles Gwen Stefani with that high-pitched voice well known to his millions of fans and an accent that puts it straight right to the heart of Orange County, not coincidentally the home of Disneyland and Mickey Mouse.
We are at the Ocean Way Studios, the legendary recording studio in Hollywood. On the walls there are autographed photos of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson to Green Day, Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Radiohead. Among these was a pair from No Doubt: bringing the discourse on new Push And Shove. “This is really our best album ever!” Mocks you Stefani. Coming from a band that has to its credit a masterpiece like Tragic Kingdom (the album was released in 1995 within which there was also the single “Don’t Speak”), it is a statement rather challenging. Blonde and vibrant today as 43 years when he was 20, Gwen wearing checkered pants, a black silk jacket and his characteristic aggressive lipstick red. Adrian – with blond Mohawk – instead has a red shirt, gray Edwardian jacket and dark trousers, Tom has a peaked cap and plaid shirt black and white. Tony finally – he too with blond Mohawk – casual sports jacket and t-shirt. Famous for their aesthetic sense as well as for music, No Doubt can also be stylish down from the stage, here in the studio, while smanettano each on their iPhones and their music comes spontaneously from the speakers.
“Listen to this,” says Gwen. Push And Shove part, the song that gives the album its title, the result of their collaboration with DJ Diplo of Major Lazer: certosinamente built – like almost all parts of No Doubt – around the buttery, honeyed, sobbing voice of Gwen Stefani. That is destined to become a huge hit on the dance floors around the world is all too easy to predict.
Of course, we are light years away from the band torn between rock, ska and reggae that was taking its first steps in the post-punk scene the late 80′s: the one composed by John Spence, their original front-man with Gwen (the model at that time was Julie Andrews in the musical The Sound of Music) and her brother Eric. That same band that hit so saxophonist and bassist Tony Kanal, the night saw them live at Fender’s Ballroom in Long Beach, to convince him on the spot to join the group (becoming, as well, the new boyfriend of Gwen Stefani). The suicide of John Spence, in December 1987, then took a step away from the band dissolved, but the farewell concert, a few days after the tragedy – the Roxy Sunset Strip, an evening of new talent organized by a record company – the enthusiasm of the audience was that convince them to move forward.
In 1991, finally came the first real contract with a record company, but in the meantime the members of the group had stopped working and going to college: Gwen trying to get a degree in art, Tony in psychology (and both worked part-time in a department store), Adrian was also in psychology (at night was a waiter in a restaurant), and Tom, a student in a music school, ran a music equipment rental service. That same year, the band recorded its first album, 14 songs recorded with a budget of even 13 thousand dollars. Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope, had bet that within 5 years, No Doubt would become a star. But 1992 was the year of grunge and No Doubt – the debut album – ended up selling only 30 thousand copies, even though they had embarked on a grueling tour of two months and a half in the United States, aboard battered van, performing in local and remote opening for bands like Public Enemy. Two and a half years later, the No Doubt finally came out with what was to become their most successful album of all time, Tragic Kingdom: a disc whose lyrics were crossed from top to bottom from the pain of separation between Gwen and Tony. Kanal has often recalled the work of that album in terms of a battlefield and one of the victims on the ground was the brother of Stefani, Eric, who left the band to go to work as a draftsman for the Simpsons. Towards the end of 1995, when Just A Girl began to be broadcast on local radio stations in Los Angeles, No Doubt began to be noticed at the national level, mainly due to the blond hair Stefani and her flat stomach.
Finally, “Don’t Speak” was now a global hit, Tragic Kingdom had reached a state of platinum and Gwen Stefani was the undisputed queen on the covers of fashion magazines and magazine for teenagers. The next one was the decade of No Doubt: The band seemed to be everywhere, and Tragic Kingdom exceeded 15 million copies. Of those years, No Doubt preserve the beautiful memories and a rich anecdotes, including an incident in Italy. There was this great summer festival, just outside Milan, and they – not yet at the height of success in Europe – touched a slot in conjunction with a concert by Rage Against The Machine. Moral: the entire audience crushed under the stage of RATM, and they played in front of just a few dozen spectators. As if that were not enough, Adrian was devoured by giant mosquitoes Milan and took the train to a later date, in Germany, delirious fever insect bite. Amongst the memories, however, Tom and Adrian quote me a historic concert in Tel Aviv in 1997, where the audience were both Jewish and Arab Israelis, and all were of love and harmony, dancing and singing with the music of No Doubt.
It’s been eleven years since Rock Steady and No Doubt have been busy with their families and newborn children. During the 2009 tour, the children to look after already amounted to 6: “So ended that, rather than the address of the post-concert party, the promoter asked what was the nearest park in which to go the next morning to play our children!”, jokes Adrian, who in addition to playing drums with No Doubt is an accomplished golfer, loves the ocean and – just like Tom – lives in Long Beach. Tony Kanal was the last to have children. He and his wife have had problems conceiving. Gwen remembers that time when “We came in the studio, and the first thing we did was to ask Tony,” So? Were you pregnant? “. But now, the child of Tony, Coco, has little more than a year. “The children really take you on another planet,” he says. Gwen, married since September 2002 with Gavin Rossdale of Bush, has instead two boys, Kingston and Zuma. It is the only group to openly admit that the lifestyle of R & R at times in conflict with the role of parent. The first time Gwen discovered she was pregnant has happened in the middle of a tour. Then was born the son, is divided on tour for six months, with a total of 106 concerts beauty while nursing. “And when I got home, I was pregnant again.”
Sandwiched between the band and the family, having to overlook something in terms of time, Gwen has therefore sacrificed his activities as director of the clothing line L.A.M.B. “I’ve missed out on Fashion Week in New York because the children began school,” she says. But this does not mean that you feel less involved. Entry into this comparatively late, Gwen had to learn from scratch the fundamentals of what people around the fashion market called the rags. She adds, “In addition, keep in mind that I arrived from OC, Orange County, a place known throughout the world for its elegance and style”. Gwen Stefani went to her first show after 30 years. Was the presentation of a collection of Vivienne Westwood, fashion incona English, as well as her personal idol. In one of the first video Gwen was wearing just a corset Westwood. Meeting her was like “an Englishman to meet the queen,” she confided to a magazine at that time. Other magazines at the time then willingly lingered on its outputs more about the world of fashion, such as when he declared that he literally cried the first time I received an invitation for a fashion show of Christian Dior. Before the House of the discharges the result of his anti-Semitic utterances, John Galliano – then chief designer of Dior – was little short of a genius in the eyes of Gwen, and finally see his creations on the catwalk seems to have been almost unbearable emotion.
Last year, Gwen Stefani has donated their wedding dress pink (just designed by Galliano) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She explained to ELLE UK “Because it is a work of art to be admired.” The marriage between Stefani and Gavin, celebrated in 2002 with the Anglican rite in the church of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden, had received so much attention from the media all over the world thanks to the elegance of the bride. And still on the subject of fashion, Gwen is currently ambassador of L’Oreal, the cosmetics of multinational which the blonde singer prefers especially a certain lipstick shades bluish red, “although this time I’m also exploring the orange” she says.
From the house of Bevery Hills where she lives with Gavin – and where last August has organized an event to raise money for the re-election of President Obama, first lady Michelle with special guest – three days a week, at eight in the morning, Gwen Stefani takes her car and drive up to the recording studio in Hollywood where the band has its own rehearsal room and work there until 4 in the afternoon. Often the band will meet directly at the home of Tony, in Los Feliz, not far from the Ocean Way Studios. Turn on tour – now with all the families in tow – is a decidedly different than in the past. Tony joked “I would call it a tribal experience! With children there is little to do, are the focus of the exact minute when they wake up until they go to sleep.
“Partthe first single from Push And Shove or Settle Down, introduced by an Indian sitar tabla and percussion. Influences are of South Asian origins of Tony? “It was actually an idea of Sophie Muller,” says Kanal, alluding to the director who shot almost all the video of the group. The atmosphere refers unceremoniously to the classic films of Bollywood.
Stefani confirms that the band is finally back together, and after two solo albums (LAMB and The Sweet Escape), the Hollaback Girl has no intention of running alone. Explains, “But mine was not a true solo career, I just wanted to have some fun! ‘ Disguise, to experiment, to play dance music 80s “. The last concert alone Stefani was in 2007, Irvine Meadows, Orange County practically next door of No Doubt. That evening, the group took the stage to play the encores. Together again after a long time, have redone Just A Girl and It’s My Life, according to Kanal has been an exciting and revealing so much for the public and for the same band: “If you look on YouTube, I still get goosebumps”.
“thestereo of the study begin to spread the notes of Gravity. The words of the piece says, “I do not know where is it all the time / too many times we went too close / all of them are destined to fall.” It sounds like a song dedicated to the survival (and to make it to the skin of our teeth), which seems to be able to No Doubt particularly well. The best part, though, from my point of view, is One More Summer. “I’ve wasted all this time / but I can not go / but I got used to all of your mistakes.” Stefani singing voice sipping on a strong pulsating rhythm. His words seem to cling to the past, but at the same time move towards the future. As their sound, for that matter. “We never committed to a single genre, we always do something new,” says Adrian. Perhaps this is why the No Doubt never grow old?