Garbage star Shirley Manson talks ahead of gig at Digbeth Arena
Shirley Manson didn’t imagine her band would be around 20 years after its formation. In truth, she didn’t really think beyond two years.
But Scottish-American alternative rock band Garbage have proved to be one of the most enduring bands of the 1990s.
Formed in 1994 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, the band comprised Manson (vocals, guitars) with Steve Marker (guitars, keyboards), Duke Erikson (guitars, keyboards, bass), and Butch Vig (drums, percussion). Erikson, Marker and Vig were also producers and remixers (Vig is best known for producing Nevermind by Nirvana).
Shirley, whose band play Digbeth Arena tomorrow as part of the Skyline Series of gigs, had chance to reflect on the band’s career when she published a book chronicling her 20-year journey; This Is The Noise That Keeps Me Awake.
The coffee table volume looked back at a remarkable era for the band and popular culture.
“It was pretty much a group decision (to do the book) but it has macabre origins in that we had been talking a lot about our heroes dying. I think it was shortly after Bowie died and we were like, ‘It’s going to be our generation next’.
“We really wanted to put together a book for all the children in our lives – everyone in the band, besides myself, has children. We don’t really talk about it much in front of the kids. We wanted to leave something behind for when we’re dead that they could sort of immerse themselves in and understand what it was that we did for a living. I insisted that everyone in the band bring in boxes from their attics or their basements. I started going through all the stuff and sorted for our designer. He was the person that went through everything and selected what you now see in the book.”
The book tells a remarkable story. Garbage have sold more than 17 million albums worldwide, having initially been put together as an informal jam session between the three producers.
Steve Marker saw the music video of Suffocate Me by Angelfish on MTV, recorded it and showcased it to his band mates. They invited the Scottish vocalist Shirley to join Garbage, she accepted, and soon Angelfish disbanded. According to Vig, Garbage was named before Shirley joined the band, after the percussionist Pauli Ryan walked in while Vig was working on a remix for Nine Inch Nails and said it sounded like ‘garbage’. Shirley says it took her a long time to feel as though she was a part of the band – because it had been put together by her producer friends.
“I had a very strange mental attitude towards it, because I hadn’t been a founding member. Butch and Duke (Erikson) and Steve (Marker) were what I considered a boy band – it was their thing, and I always felt a bit like a big fat cuckoo who came in and sort of ended up taking up far too much attention. I always felt a little uncomfortable and a bit guilty in a funny way, but then I came to realise if people were seeing the band from my sort of perspective then I was doing my job. I earned my spot on the team. A lead singer is called a lead singer for a reason. I think bands that don’t have strong figureheads tend to falter in the end.”
In August 1995, the group released their debut album Garbage, preceded by their first single Vow in March 1995. This album was an unexpected smash, selling more than five million copies and reaching double platinum status in the UK, USA and Australia. Also it received great reviews from critics and featured on the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. They released five singles from this album: Vow, Only Happy When It Rains, Queer, Stupid Girl, and Milk.
A non-album single entitled Subhuman was issued in August 1995. In 1996, the band released a short-form VHS and Video CD entitled Garbage Video.
In the same year, the remixed version of Crush (original version released in 1996) was included on the multi-platinum movie soundtrack William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. Also it was nominated for Best Song From a Movie at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. They spent over an year working on their follow-up album Version 2.0, which was released on May 1998 and hit in the UK and number 13 in the US. It was supported by six singles: Push It, I Think I’m Paranoid, Special, When I Grow Up, The Trick Is to Keep Breathing and You Look So Fine.