Duke Erikson , April 21, 2002

 

Written and photos by: Jason Perlman

 

It seems that Beautiful Garbage, the new record, was a definite departure from the last record. Did that have to do with the long hiatus between records?
Well I think version 2.0 is an extension of the first record in a way. We kind of went electronic with version 2.0 but basically it was a lot of the same approach. Mainly though the layering of the music and the sonic lens cases we created on those two records we tried to simplify things. And we also felt liberated after doing a couple of records and touring for 20 months. We felt kind of free to try anything we wanted as far as experimenting with musical genre the way we did with feel spectra to contemporary R&B kind of stuff. So we just felt a bit more carefree. We found some more paths.

Touring for 20 months is about as long as any band can tour with one record. When you were done with the tour, could you even think about writing?
I think one thing we discovered on the tour, after that ridiculously long trek around the world, playing over 250 shows, is we took about five to six days off toward the end of that tour and went into the studio and wrote, recorded and nearly completed “Silence is Golden” and “Until the Day I Die.” Those kind of just arose out of us just from jamming. It happened so quickly and so spontaneously that we kind of wanted to keep that chemistry going into the studio. That was one thing that we discovered along the way, was a bit more liberated way of writing. Before, we were just setting up our instruments and jamming and Shirley just sort of free styling over these ridiculous improvisations that we were doing. Of course then we came up with about 30- 35 song ideas that we are working on basically simultaneously for the first nine months of the recording. It wasn’t until the ninth month that we started to pair them down to the ones that are on the record. That’s one excuse for our ridiculously long, umm

Hiatus?
(Laugning) Umm, album project. And we are really happy with it. It is a bit of a strange animal. The songs are so different and so varied and quite jarring. When you listen to the entire CD all the way through, that no two songs are the same and for us, somehow, that just makes sense and it holds together. It represents a body of work, to us. Some people look at it as this kind of bizarre collection of songs, but I suppose we’re bizarre in thinking…

That it all makes sense in your heads?
(Lauging) Yea. But, you know that’s us. So I don’t even know if “sense” is the right word for how we think.

The one thing about Garbage and having Shirley Manson in the band is you could have gone the way of No Doubt and having Shirley be your Gwen Stefani and take center stage. It seems there has been effort put forth by both Shirley and the band to not have Shirley become the main focus on the band and it seems anyway, that she isn’t put on the pedestal the same as Gwen.
I think I have to disagree with you a little bit, because it has happened to this band to a degree. I can’t speak of the No Doubt situation I’m not close enough or near it. I can only speak of us and it is kind of natural evolution for the lead singer and obviously the most outspoken one and probably the most articulate one to kind of capture the limelight. Shirley is a very charismatic and amazing performer and I think the three of us are happy for all that to happen. I don’t know about No Doubt’s situation and how they work, but I think one thing that has kept us represented, even given the fact that Shirley does stand out, is that the media perspective and public perspective of this band has changed so many times over the course of the last seven years. Very interestingly is that we were first perceived as three producers and a singer. It took a long time for people to figure out that Shirley was just as much as a producer and a writer and everything. Just as much as the three men in the band. She still wrestles with that believe it or not. Because there are still some people who think because she is very outgoing and outspoken that she doesn’t have a talented bone in her body except for her singing, which is so not true. So there has been many preconceptions. Of course with Butch, given his notoriety, is perceived as being the producer and he is an amazing one, but we all produce in this band. We are perceived in so many ways and in the end we just kind of ignore it. We just have to be happy with what you know. And you have to be content knowing that we all four do share just about everything. Shirley has blossomed as a lyricist and singer and this last record is the very testament of that.

You can listen to the radio and find Garbage on alternative stations, Top 40 stations and even the older material is played on some hard rock stations. Garbage never seemed to find its niche in the cliches of music. Is that something you strive for and wanted?
Well, that is both a blessing and a curse. My favorite bands over the years have been bands that have created their own tension and we not a part of anyone particular style or genre. They were very difficult to pigeonhole. I think that just really comes out of us not striving to be that but just being interested in a lot of different kinds of music, and being interested in working in a lot of different mediums that way and that’s just where we come from. We all have a very wide talent and we like to draw from that. That’s the reason for it. The effect of that of course is not being able to find your place on certain radio formats sometimes. And you constantly get questions like, ‘What is Garbage?” And we just call ourselves a pop band, because to us that means free to try what we want. Some people connotate pop as being like Britney Spears, but to us its people like the Beatles and Frank Sinatra and anyone before or since who has concentrated on trying to write songs and doing something interesting with them in the studio.

Your first tour on the record was opening for U2 in the United States. They are a band who maybe fits with Garbage pretty well because they also are viewed as this strange entity of music that is played all over the radio. What was it like touring with a band like U2, who even though sounds different than Garbage, has a lot in common as far as perceptions go.
It was one of our most memorable experiences to date. They are some of the warmest people we have ever met and maybe the most passionate people we have ever met, and true dedicated musicians. They are very friendly and warm people who take what they do very seriously and go out of their way to make whoever else is on board feel very comfortable. And of course it was very moving for us to play with them in Madison Square Garden given what had just happened in New York City. That was like a spiritual gathering it went beyond a rock concert, as all their concerts do, but that evening took on a very incredible whole new feeling that night. People were dancing and crying at the same time. It was amazing and I’m a huge fan of theirs. I think that they have taken a lot of flack here for being maybe a bit preachy, perhaps because they speak of the big issues. And all of a sudden this happens and people are kind of looking to what kind of music they listen to and trying to find meaning in it. Meaning it does address the big issues or music that says absolutely nothing but you can escape to for awhile.

I’ve seen Garbage a few times, and always headlining smaller venues here in America. But overseas and with U2, you played in front of tens of thousands of people. Would you rather play in front of all those bodies or do you feel more comfortable playing in front of Garbage fans at a sold out venue.
There is kind of overwhelming sense of wonderment when you play in front of a crowd that huge. We are about to embark on a European Tour we will be playing in front of 50,000 to 75,000 people on our summer festival run. There has been an awesome feeling that is almost indigestible and incomprehensible, that the crowd becomes some huge animal. Its no longer this person, that person and that person and how you try to relate to it but it becomes more difficult. But it is indeed an incredible experience and I enjoy it very much. I think we all do. But there is something about a more intimate setting where there’s a smaller room and all the energy is compact in to a smaller stage and it all becomes more tangible the molecules start bouncing off one another in the air. You can sort of feel the electricity more rather than being bombarded by some sort of huge wave.

You mentioned the last tour being 20 months. That is a long time to be away from home, from family and a very long time to be with the band. But Garbage is also a very international band with fans all over the world in large numbers. Do you think the band suffered at all for touring so long and can you fathom touring that long again?
You’re making me feel a little depressed at this point. Yeah we suffered during the end and we swore that we would never do that again and here we are doing thirty-two shows and not many more days in America. I think we are going to try and do more here. We have no choice and I don’t think we could survive another 2.0 tour. That again is a mixed blessing because we are thrilled to be on the radio in Portugal and South Africa and Israel, Brazil and Mexico City. I mean it’s mind-boggling. And that is been a problem and a frustration, to figure out how to get to all those places. It’s a logistical impossibility in some cases. But we do our best.

Obviously it’s too early to really dive into the next record for Garbage, but is there a plan to have it recorded at a certain time once this tour is over?
Well, our fans know that we have never had a master plan in the first place. It’s premature to talk about, but we hope to have a new approach to this new record and hopefully that new approach will also include speed, and I am not talking about the drug. We wanted to make the last record faster too, but I think we became too prolific for our own good. We came up with all these ideas, and we kind of got lost in trying to work on too many things at once.

It was also nice the Interscope, your label here, allowed you the time to get the record out the way you wanted. Maybe they did come after you a few times.
There were a couple of knocks on the door, but not very loud ones. And maybe a deadline will do us some good.

Well, you are getting great reaction, both from fans and critics, so hopefully whatever formula you used on Beautiful Garbage will be used in the future. There seemed to be much more creativity and freedom on this record than the first two.
Well, I appreciate that and I think this is the first record that all four of us are happy with all the way through. And that’s good, it’s always good to hear comments like that. I think we shocked people and I don’t know if we lost any of our fans, but we like to think that Garbage fans are pretty open minded, so I think once they kind of sunk into the record, they started to enjoy it. And our shows are selling out on this North American tour, and have had amazing crowds, absolutely amazing. We are very excited, and we are playing pretty well, too, which helps.