Exclusive Interview: No Doubt Part 2
"No matter how fucked up, whatever we end up doing always ends up sounding like No Doubt."
Last week, we were pretty stoked to bring you part one of our exclusive interview with No Doubt. Having one of our favourite writers The Coquette (of advice column Dear Coquette and Notes to My Future Husband) talk to the ever-amazing Gwen Stefani and the guys about topics like having kids, performing post–September 11 and re-uniting after a ten-year hiatus led to enlightening and funny results. In the final installment of the interview we talk group dynamics, signature sounds and having balls.
The Coquette: Okay, back to the music. You've said that the inspiration for Return to Saturn was more to probe your serious musical ability, and then with Rock Steady you wanted to make something fun that people can dance to. Was there an inspiration behind this album?
Adrian: I think that collectively, we've all gotten better at our craft as musicians. Just by doing it longer. There was definitely less, "hey, let's show our musical chops" on this record. It was more about, "let's do something really cool that's not like anything else on the radio right now."
I loved it. I felt like it was a return to your roots. The horn hooks were amazing.
Adrian: Cool. I don't think we're gonna be getting any awards for our individual instrumentation, but that's okay.
You don't need awards.
Tom: The whole thing about being in a band is it's a collective effort. What's great for the song, and what makes the song touch people isn't showing off. It's about supporting the emotion of what's happening in the lyrics, and I think that's something we've gotten better at as the years go on. The idea at the end of the day is to touch people in here. [He points to his heart.]
You mentioned that being in a band is a collective effort. Do you feel that each one of you brings something different to the table?
Gwen: That's interesting. You know, it's always evolving, and everybody definitely has roles that they play and everybody brings something special.
Tom: We have common ground, and different influences. Adrian is like the energy, you know? I don't want to pigeon hole you as being, like, a punk rocker or rock dude, but Adrian's got... spunk. Spunk? Is that the right word? You have, like, balls.
Adrian: I do have balls. This is true. Not just one. I have two.
Tom: I have a friend who had cancer and lost one. [Tom blinks a few times, then realises he's actually speaking out loud.] Sorry. We don't have to talk about that.
Okay. [The room erupts in nervous laughter]
Tom: But Adrian's got balls, and without him it wouldn't be right. We're so lucky that the four of us are still the core group that we've always been.
So, Adrian has the balls. You? [to Tom]
Tom: What do I have?
Adrian: He has a vagina. [More laughter] Just kidding. You served that up.
I set 'em up, you knock 'em down.
Tom: We do all have really different personalities. Tony is a really thoughtful, conscientious person, you know, and Gwen is hyper-creative. Not hyper. Hyper-creative. She has amazing instincts. I don't know what I have. Ask them.
Adrian, what does he have?
Adrian: He's our dad.
Tom: I'm the dad. "Hey you kids!"
You're the responsible one?
Adrian: He's the real musician in the band.
Adrian: He knows the most.
Gwen: He knows how to break down a song and why it works and what's happening. We have no idea what's going on.
Tony: He'll go, "Okay, that note right there is the perfect note over a G diminished 7th chord," and we'll be like, "What?" and he'll be like, "That's why it sounds really good. That's why it feels so good." and we'll be like, "Okay!"
Gwen: Or he'll be like, "There's something off right there," and it's technically wrong, but we're like, "but it feels really good, so it can't be off," even though we don't know what's actually technically wrong with it, so it's kind of a nice balance, and at the end of the day once the songs are written, Adrian comes in and he always sounds like himself, so him sounding like himself makes us sound like ourselves, and so it all kind of comes together. I thought there'd be a lot more fighting at the end of this whole process, but it's weird, we were all on the same page about how we wanted it to sound, and it just was really weird. That's actually blowing my mind. I was actually looking forward to —
Tony: — maybe we were just so busy?
Tony: No, with everything else, that there wasn't time to fight about it.
Tony: It was just like, "Okay. Sounds great. Let's go!"
Gwen: I think by that point we'd kind of forgotten about what was going on. There's so much in the tracks, so I feel like that's sort of the way worked. I mean, it's different nowadays, because my roll, I think in the past, was always creative. I'd get the first idea for something, but this time, Tony came up with the idea for the video, which hasn't happened that many times before. Everything's kind of changing, and it's rad how everyone contributes.
Of course. If anything you guys are eclectic. That's the one word I'd use to describe you.
Tom: It's true. That's really true.
And this new record is so cohesive. I think that's a very difficult thing to accomplish, so congratulations.
Gwen: Thank you.
Adrian: That's interesting that you say cohesive, because stylistically the record is so broad.
It is broad, but listening to it all the way through, the elements all blend together.
Adrian: I'm glad to hear you say that.
Tony: No matter how fucked up, whatever we end up doing always ends up sounding like No Doubt.
Tony: If you put the four of us on a song, whatever kind of song we're trying to do, it always sounds like us.
Gwen: We try to be everyone else the whole time. We're like, "can't we just be The Cure today? Depeche Mode?" But we can't get away from ourselves. [Everyone laughs.]
Tom: The hard part is writing and recording the songs. It's coming up with something from nothing. I'm proud to be in a band with folks who really want it to be great. Everybody's been so awesome about working so hard to get there, not trying to rush it just to get an album out. Everybody had the same goal, which was let's make something we're proud of, and not half-ass it, and not mail it in. Now that we've done that, this is the easy part. The reward is to go out and perform. We just started rehearsing this week, and it feels so fun to be in that mode, and let's get these songs rockin' live.
The hard part's over now.
Introduction: Jerico Mandybur
Interview: The Coquette