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Music Q&A Shirley Manson Shirley Manson of Garbage
Shirley Manson of Garbage
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
Published: Sunday, 6/10/2012

Energized Garbage is back on the road

BY GARY GRAFF
NEW YORK TIMES SYNDICATE

By the end of 2005, the members of Garbage figured their band was trashed.

Disgruntled by their record company's feeble support for their third album, the commercially unsuccessful "Bleed Like Me" (2005), the quartet was ready to part ways, possibly forever.

"When you're constantly surrounded by negativity, which we were, that just ends up eating away at the individuals in the band," singer Shirley Manson recalls, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles, "and we began to take it out on one another. Who are you going to snap at? You're going to snap at your family, right? Not the outside world. It's whom you trust and whom you feel safe with that you tend to like to reveal yourself to."

Nearly six years crept by before Garbage returned to active duty, with even its members thinking the band was history.

The present is much brighter, however. Garbage, which also includes Grammy Award-winning producer/drummer Butch Vig, bassist Duke Erikson, and guitarist Steve Marker, has released its fifth album, "Not Your Kind of People," on its own Stunvolume imprint. The first single, "Blood for Poppies," was a Top 20 Modern Rock chart hit, and the group is back on the road for the first time since 2005.

Bygones are apparently bygones, and the latest Garbage music feels so fresh that "Not Your Kind of People's" energy is frequently compared to that of the group's double-platinum debut album, "Garbage" (1995).

"I don't think we were aware of that until we started playing some rough mixes of the record to people last fall," the 56-year-old Vig says, speaking by telephone from his home studio in Silver Lake, Calif. "They said, 'This reminds us of the first album,' and we were like, 'Really?'

"I can understand that, though," he says. "We were excited and jazzed to go in and write songs again. It was sort of the opposite vibe of 'Bleed Like Me.' We made this on our own terms, and we decided early on that we didn't want to reinvent ourselves. We just wanted to embrace exactly who we are and do the things as a band that we love to do."

Garbage was formed in 1994 in Madison, Wis., at the impetus of Vig, already well-known for producing albums by such top bands as Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and Soul Asylum. He recruited Erikson and Marker, but they were short a singer until the three spotted the Scottish-born Manson in a video on MTV's 120 Minutes.

The teaming yielded two consecutive platinum-or-better albums -- "Garbage" and "Version 2.0" (1998) -- as well as hits such as "Only Happy When It Rains" (1995), "Stupid Girl" (1996), "‥1 Crush" (1996), "Push It" (1998), and "I Think I'm Paranoid" (1998). But "Beautiful Garbage" (2001) fell short of expectations, and by "Bleed Like Me" the band was feuding with its label, A&E Records.

"The record label was trying to get us to write tracks with the latest rapper because, you know, it had worked so terribly well with other acts," the 45-year-pld Manson recalls, "and we just didn't want to do that. It had nothing to do with rap. We love rap, but it's incredibly unauthentic for Garbage to do that."

After touring to support "Bleed Like Me," the band members went their separate ways, issuing a statement speaking of "indefinite hiatus" after rumors of a full-fledged breakup began to surface. The group did put together the compilation "Absolute Garbage" (2007), and in 2007 played at a show that Vig organized as a benefit for musician Wally Ingram, who was battling throat cancer. Vig continued to produce, including Green Day's "21st Century Breakdown" (2009) and the Foo Fighters' "Wasting Light" (2011), while Manson hit the studio for a solo album that remains unreleased.

"My record label ... thought it was too obtuse and too dark and that they couldn't get it played on pop radio," she says. "They wanted me to be the kind of artist that wanted to make big pop hits on the radio, and I just wasn't interested.

"I realized right there and then I was kind of trapped," Manson says. "They wouldn't let me make the music I wanted to make, so I was just like, '[Forget] this,' and I went home and got a job as an actress on a TV show for a year and a half."

That show was Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009), and the 45-year-old Manson played a liquid-metal T-1001 terminator pursuing the titular heroine (Lena Headey). She doesn't mind admitting that she had a blast.

"It was just fantasy and escapism, and just a fascinating experience to learn another art form operating under a studio system.

"Once [the show] was done, I was like, 'OK, I'm ready to do [music] again.'"

Vig admits to some apprehension when the four musicians first got back together in the studio.

"I think we weren't sure if the songs would be good, what the vibe would be like, if we'd be able to get along," he recalls. "But enough time had passed. Any sort of weirdness or tension that had arisen between us had all dissipated, so it was easy."

With "Not Your Kind of People" out, Garbage is hitting the road, with an open-ended tour schedule and legitimate curiosity about what awaits them out there.

"We're sort of taking it one step at a time," Manson says. "We don't know what interest, if any, there will be in Garbage in the long run. We booked some very small shows which have sold out really fast. Clearly our fans have all rallied to our side and are excited to see us ... and then, if there's more interest, we'll tour some more in the fall."

"In the past we've gone out for 18 months on tours," Vig adds. "I don't know how long it will be this time, but ... as long as we're having fun and everybody's staying healthy, who knows? It may be a pretty long tour."



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