Taking the Garbage out
After a series of top-drawer production credits, including Nirvana’s Nevermind album, Butch Vig put his own band together and Edinburgh singer Shirley Manson provided the missing ingredient. Brian Donaldson talks
et’s get one thing straight. Shirley Manson is not a violent person. She has a reputation for inﬂicting pain on awkward band members and uppity journalists. She denies all this while admitting that the odd dead arm may be required to keep the Garbage boys in line. This is rarely necessary. however. The band take pride in a spirit of co-operation and equal input. resulting in one of the top debut LPs of 1995. Garbage’s eponomously-titled release is a fusion of pop thrills. industrial grind, dirty sex and. whisper it. grunge.
On drums. loops. noise and efx I give you Mr Butch Vig. the man responsible for the sound of Seattle. producing Smashing Pumpkins. Sonic Youth and. most notably. Nirvana’s Nevermind. Vig himself could have made his fortune solely through production work. for lucrative offers have continually set his fax machine whirring. ‘A lot of people think I’m crazy. but I didn’t get into production to make a lot of money.‘ he counters. ‘l’m just obsessed with music. It’s healthy for me to be doing this. I think. for all of us.’
Along with fellow remixcrs Duke Erikson and Steve Marker. Vig decided to come out from behind his knobs and put down some tracxs of his own. It went well but something was missing. Unlikely as it might seem the answer was provided through MTV. On the screen was the band Angel Fish fronted by ex-Goodbye Mr Mackenzie chanteuse Shirley Manson. They were struck by her edgy presence. ‘30 many of the rock bands out there. to try and convey intensity. scream.’ Butch explains. ‘Shirley has this way of singing where she cuts under the song. gets this incredible understatement. which makes it a lot more intense and perverse.’ So contact was made and the rest is. well. Garbage.
Leaving and ultimately disbanding Angel Fish was not a difficult decision for Manson to make. further eased by the promise of large scale contribution which is the Garbage ethos. ‘They were offering me things to do musically that I’d never done before.‘ recalls Manson. ‘They asked me to broaden my horizons and also contribute freely to the music writing. which was truly exciting. I knew joining was the right thing to do.’
Glancing at Vig’s production credits. those still grieving for King Kurt may be praying Garbage are a Nirvana for the late 905. The Manson message is. don’t hold your breath.
‘Without a doubt. grunge died a long time ago. There are fuzzy guitar sounds on the record but essentially we’ve made a pop album.’ she says. And notjust any old pop album. but one that has been greeted with ecstatic acclaim. not solely from the usual suspects (NME, Select, Q) but
from some unlikely allies. When did you last see Kerrng and Tar/er snuggle tip together in agreement? Despite the plaudits. the band are taking nothing for granted. ‘Regardless of good things or had written or said about us. we feel a lot of pressure anyway.’ Manson points out.
‘We’re hard critics of ourselves. and we’re just trying to ignore the high expectations and get on with the job in hand.’
With three singles (‘Vow’. ‘Subhuman’ and the chart-conquering ‘Only Happy When It Rains’) and an album in the bag. the next job will be taking to the stage. The prospect of treading the live circuit is making Garbage nervous. ‘Wc start off in a month’s time and we’re all beginning to tear our hair out and look at each other with panic-stricken faces across the rehearsal hall.’ explains Manson. For now. live
performances are confined to a smattering of
dates in America and Europe and then ‘home for Christmas’. while 1996 should herald a full- scale tour.
Working in the States is clearly a blast for the Edinburgher. but it has provoked some unexpected attention. The problem is her surname. taken by some US observers as an inadvisable choice of stage moniker. A simple analogy would involve a Daily Mail editorial foaming at the mouth as a singer called Marcia Ripper arrives on British soil. One American
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Garbage: grunge producer Butch Vlg (right) remixes Shirley Manson’s career
music journalist accused her of creating a Warholian hybrid of Shirley Temple and Charles Manson. ‘I wish I’d thought of that.‘ she chuckles. ‘That would have been a stroke of genius.’ And things got worse. ‘I got a letter the other week from a really upset guy because he was related to the Manson clan. He demanded that I put the record straight and explain to him why I had picked that name. So. yes. they have reacted to it.’
Her cannon may not be as loose as that of her infamous namesake. but try telling that to an outraged parent who strolls into their offspring’s room at the very moment the sound system kicks in with Shirley proclaiming on ‘Vow’. ‘l’m gonna tear you up/l’m gonna track you down’. And on ‘Not My ldea’. we have this heart—warming line: ‘You thought you’d take me by surprise but now I’m here/ . . . burning down your house.’
If Noel Gallagher believes he has penned a record to riot to. then Garbage is surely the soundtrack for stalkers. Not for nowt did Melody Maker describe Manson as ‘a Tasmanian Devil in the body of a supermodel’. She reacts to this tag with a mischievous laugh. ‘lt’s ridiculous. though it sounds good. I might recognise the Tasmanian Devil.’
Garbage is available on Discordarzt/Mas/zroom Records and is in record shops now.
The List 20 Oct-2 Nov I995 13