Sexy ska princess Gwen Stefani is keeping busy with a year-long world tour to promote her latest album "The Sweet Escape". This month she'll be able to satisfy her fascination for colourful Asian culture with her solo debuts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
It isn't the first time Bangkok has seen Stefani live. Her original visit was in 2003 with ska band No Doubt. This time round BEC Tero Entertainment have spent Bt40 million for the high-tech show on August 19 at Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani. The 90-minute performance will include a light and video show and three big screens, the main one a 48-square-metre giant.
Trailing in the singer's wake will be a 30-strong entourage comprising hairstylists, trainers, wardrobe assistants, security, personal assistants, technicians, management and, of course, her six band members and eight dancers.
Before discovering her talent for music, Stefani was looking forward to a life of marriage, children and white picket fences. But an introduction to ska from her brother started a love affair that eventually led her to stardom, with millions of her records selling worldwide and doors opening to the worlds of film and fashion.
Born and raised in Fullerton, California, Stefani was 17 when she joined her brother Eric Stefani's band No Doubt as lead singer. After an unsuccessful debut and a self-financed follow-up, their third album, "Tragic Kingdom", arrived in 1995. Gwen Stefani wrote most of the songs - tales of her heartbreaks and rebirth. Tracks like "Don't Speak", "Just a Girl" and "Spiderwebs", along with her energetic moves and funky streetwear, earned Gwen Stefani her "Ska Princess" title.
After two more albums - "Return of Saturn" (2000) and "Rock Steady" (2001) - the band took a break leaving Stefani to pursue her solo career. Stressing that No Doubt was still a unit, her solo debut "Love. Angel. Music. Baby" came out in 2004 with a lot of help from long-time band mate Tony Kanal and high-profile collaborators like the Neptunes, Dr Dre, Andre 3000, Nellee Hooper, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The result was the Prince and Madonna inspired album with a string of hits that included "Hollaback Girl", "Cool" and "What You Waiting For?"
Outside of music, Stefani has taken big strides, as the designer of her LAMB line of clothing and as an actress, with a cameo appearance in Scorsese's "Aviator" alongside Leonardo di Caprio.
A mother of one with British rock star husband Gavin Rossdale, Stefani's music career is still going strong. "The Sweet Escape" - also Neptunes-produced - is her second solo album, "Wind It Up" the name of the first single.
Right now, Stefani and her band are performing in Australia. But those iconic red lips and stunning blonde hair will be reigning supreme in Bangkok soon.
On the eve of her world tour last month, Stefani paused long enough for a phone call and a chat with Weekend about her plans and her life.
Where are you now and what are you up to?
Right now we're in LA, actually packing to go to Mexico tomorrow to start the international tour. We just did over 40 shows in America, which were unbelievable, really unbelievable, so much fun and it just went by so fast. It's almost sad how quickly it went by. And now we're about ready to go out and do this international tour, which is really hard to believe - I have fans that don't speak English, that listen to my records and support me around the world. It is gonna be so amazing to be able to go and see them. The reality of that is going to be so rewarding, especially Thailand, which me and my husband [Gavin Rossdale] are huge fans of, so we're really looking forward to coming.
What will the show be like?
Basically it's in the spirit of these two albums ["Love. Angel. Music. Baby" and 'The Sweet Escape"]. The records are just supposed to be fun dance records. So we have me plus four Harajuku girls and four b-boys dancing. I have a whole live band, which is incredible. Gail Ann Dorsey who plays with David Bowie is playing bass; I've got both of the horn players from No Doubt with me; and we have Zachery Alford from the B-52's. He played with Bowie as well. The whole band is incredible, they could just be up there on their own. So it's going to be a lot of fun, lots of costume changes and dancing. Nothing to be taken too seriously.
Will you be wearing the clothes from your line on stage?
The clothes that are on stage are basically designed by me and Andrea Lieberman, who works with me for LAMB. It's basically haute couture custom things; they're like one-of-a-kind pieces that we created just for the show.
Is the third album out soon?
No, I won't be doing another solo record as far as I know. Right now I'm planning to go back and do another No Doubt record after this. I was only ever intending to do one record, and it turned into two. I want to have another baby and I can't tell how long a record will take. We definitely want to do it as soon as we can. And as soon as I get back from touring, get recharged, hang out with my husband a little bit, then I'll just start writing. And you never know, it could come really fast or it could take a long time, so we'll do it as quick as we can.
Do you think the experiences you've had as a solo artist have changed you as a person, and as the singer of No Doubt when you return?
Well, I'm hoping that the experiences I had song writing outside of No Doubt will make me a better songwriter. The separation from them after being best friends and being in a band together nearly half of my life definitely inspired us. We definitely miss each other, we don't take each other for granted. And everyone is just inspired to do a record together again. I think that after you're together for that many years, it's a healthy break that we had. I think it's really exciting now whereas before I was just really inspired to do a certain kind of record. It wasn't that I wanted to be away from No Doubt, but I wanted to make a certain kind of music, a lot of it programmed dance music. And I did it, and it was really amazing and fun. And there's something I could never get that I get with No Doubt. We have chemistry that you can't get anywhere else.
So what are the guys from No Doubt doing now?
They're really just all doing their own projects. Tony [Kanal, bassist] worked a lot with me on both these albums. The current single, "4 in the Morning", is a song I wrote with Tony. Eric [Stefani, keyboardist] is producing, writing, doing a lot of golfing. He has a family and also is doing a lot of studio work playing drums, and touring with Bow Wow Wow. Tom [Dumont, guitarist] produces. He also had a baby. So everybody's been keeping pretty busy. Now, actually, they're in the studio working on No Doubt music, and preparing. When I get back from touring, I can hear what they did and hopefully they can turn into songs.
Would you collaborate with Gavin, your husband?
We actually did play together with No Doubt one time. We did a U2 song together, "The Sweetest Thing". But he is currently about ready to release another album, a solo record that he's been working on. I've sung some background vocals for him and things like that, but I don't know why we've never written together. He's does it all himself - not really a collaborator.
Do you get feedback from him about your work?
Of course I do! Every time I write a new song, I'm like, "can I play it for you?" It's different, he doesn't do that as much but he tells me what he thinks, and the same with the shows. He definitely comes down and gives me his opinion on things. That's one thing that's fun about being with someone who does the same thing as you - we can help each other.
This time both Gavin and your son Kingston will be coming to Thailand with you. Any plans for a family hang-out?
I know we are going to be enjoying some incredible meals. Even on the American tour I would take Kingston everywhere on my days off. We were going to the aquarium or to the park or to the zoo or different places like that. So I would love to take Kingston somewhere that he would enjoy in Thailand. But I don't know exactly where yet. I have to do my research. It's sad about touring, you know? You never have enough time in the places you go; you're always in a rush to go to the next place. I wanted to just come to Thailand last year. I was pregnant and I wanted to come but it was going to be too long of a flight, and I ended up staying home. But I want to come here one time and just not work and just shop, and really get to know the place.
Anything to say to your fans here?
I want to say that I am so excited and honoured to come back and play again and I can promise you that you are going to have fun at the show - because it's a fun show!