Interview with Shirley Manson of Garbage

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Interview with Shirley Manson of Garbage (MPR)
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Interview Transcript

Edited for clarity and length.

JILL RILEY: I am very excited to be joined by--at this point, somebody who feels like an old friend, she's done a number of features for The Current, The Morning Show, a Theft of the Dial. We've checked in just doing interviews throughout the years. Gosh, it was a few years ago, that we got to talk to the entire band Garbage out at Mystic Lake. That was a lot of fun when it was the Blondie, and Garbage, and X show going on. Now I get the opportunity to talk to her once again, as there is a new record from Garbage, 'No Gods No Masters'. Shirley Manson, how are you doing?

SHIRLEY MANSON: I'm good. Thank you. That was quite a talk up, quite an introduction.

Well, I gotta for you! I've got to talk you up! Just to start, over the past--gosh, it just seems like 10 years, but over the past year, with everything that people have been going through all over the world with this pandemic. How are you feeling today? What is your state of mind at this point?

I don't even know what my state of mind is. I'm relieved that I'm double vaxxed. I'm relieved that I can start to live my life again. I feel blue, I think we're all a little surprised that as we start to see things shift and change for the better we're all a bit surprised that we're not more jubilant, you know? But I think we're probably all a little weary. We don't know where this is going to really end and and I'm scared everything gets locked down again and I have to go back to the house. I'm cautiously optimistic I guess.

Yeah, I think I'm feeling that way, too. I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. I want to keep a little bit of that caution. But at the same time, when it comes to the world of music, here in the Twin Cities, there are so many shows being announced. And just the excitement that venues are going to be opening up again this summer, and so many major tours coming through in the fall. So I think that's giving a lot of people hope is that there's a little bit of the return to normalcy, which is feeling pretty good. I'd have to assume for a band that releasing a new record has to feel like a return to normalcy. So the new record is No Gods No Masters. Can you kind of take us back to the beginning of when did you start writing for the record? When did you start recording it?

We started writing in 2018 and we did two weeks of writing in 2018, then that was basically it. Duke, our guitarist, he took all the gems home to Madison, Wisconsin, and he selected about 16 ideas that provided the springboard for the rest of the record. We took all those songs that he picked out from the jamming sessions down to our studio in Los Angeles and worked basically all the way through 2019.

So then 2019, things are looking good like, "Hey, look at this, we're gonna have this new record," and then it was the new year, and then it was 2020. How did the pandemic affect the work that you were doing?

Well, it was a disaster, as it was for the rest of the world. We had amazing plans in place and we had a record about to come out and a tour to go on, and then another amazing tour to go on. And it all just hit the fan and we got sent home, and it was disappointing and frustrating. Then we were sitting on a brand new record for a whole year and a half basically. That has been like torture because you think "Well, maybe the world will have changed by the time this comes out and it will no longer be relevant." But as it turns out, I think we've been surprised by how prescient the record continues to be.

Well, I would certainly say the word relevant is right on because when we heard that there was a new Garbage record coming out. I think the first song I ran into was "The Men Who Rule the World". And I thought, "Well, I love this title," because I just feel like I know where it's going. Then I looked at the lyrics and had a listen and I went, "Oh, okay, this one's gonna need an edit for the radio. I'm not quite ready for this one." But yeah, that was kind of my first taste of what the new record was going to sound like. And I'm like, "Ooh, ooh, Shirley Manson is not holding back." Not that you ever have.

Yeah, I'm not holding back on this record. Yeah, I just feel like you--we're all code and nervous about offending. Everybody, and there's all this canceled culture. I think it's not good for creativity when we're also scared to say anything for fear that we get punished for it. And I just thought, you know what, I've got nothing to lose here. I know there are certain things I want to get off my chest, and I'm going to get them off my chest and and try and do it in as kind of way as possible. But tell the truth, from my perspective, like, I'm not telling anyone I'm right. I'm just saying, This is how I feel like you can be in agreement or disagreement with it. I'm not lecturing you or telling you what to think I'm just saying, This is what I think. And I think I'm perfectly within my rights to do that, you know, and I'm lucky that I work with a band to feel the same way as I do, you know?

The new Garbage album is called No Gods No Masters. Album number seven, do you have you have like a lucky number seven? Do you have a little bit of superstition on that?

No, not really well, I mean, I was thinking about the number seven and I felt gleeful that we finally got to lucky number seven. I mean it seems like a momentous occasion for a band. We've been together for 25 years and it felt like the numerology was perfect. Not in any really serious sense but for fun, I'm always looking for pleasurable little additions and fantasies and imaginings to make life more enjoyable. I was excited by hitting our seventh record, I still am. I think it's really wonderful and I'm very grateful and I'm amazed that we're still here. I think everybody is, I mean, it's just really kind of extraordinary.

Yeah, I think it was, gosh, maybe three or four, probably four years ago. I remember coming out to to Mystic Lake, and it was Blondie, it was you guys, it was Garbage, and then John Doe and Exene Cervenka were opening up the show and we had the opportunity to sit down with all of you, Butch Vig, Steve Marker, Duke Erickson, and you. You guys were talking about your longevity and it is really impressive that a band can go for 25 years plus.

Yeah, it doesn't happen very often anymore for a lot of different reasons, but not least being the fact that bands are not in favor currently in culture, and record companies in particular are kind of loath to sign a band because bands are expensive. They're expensive to have on your roster. It's so much easier to send your young ingenue off on the road with the backing track and a minder and bingo you've got your promotion done for you for nothing. Whereas as bands are costly. If you want the whole band to play, you have to take the whole circus on the road. Record companies are really not very enthusiastic, really about bands currently. That's why I think you see so few bands sustain really healthy careers. It's very, very difficult and all the great bands that we know, they're all holding down day jobs as well as as their remarkable musical career. So it's very moving, I find it really moving when I talk about young bands. I feel like they just can't catch a break.

You mentioned the longevity of the band and being together for 25+ years now, when you were going to hit the road with Alanis Morissette, who was certainly celebrating a big anniversary with just that monster record Jagged Little Pill and you're gonna go on the road with Liz Phair and then everything came to a halt. But it's nice to hear that that tour is actually going to happen. I'm sure you guys are excited to get back on the road. I hope you are anyway.

Oh, we're very excited. I mean, we're so lucky that this is a tour that--Alanis is so successful, the gigs are big, and so they're all outdoors. So I feel like this is a gift, a real gift because to spend yet another year at my age on the sidelines, and my band's age--it's a disaster. I mean, we'll be dead soon. We have to get going. So we're very grateful that we get to go out on the road this year. Then we follow up the Alanis/Liz Phair tour with going out and opening for our beloved Blondie in the UK. So we've got a great year planned and I can't believe my luck. I just feel so grateful.

Shirley, do you know Alanis Morissette? Do you know her personally?

I mean, we toured together in the 90s, so I don't know. Yes, I do know her. It sounds so pompous but yes, I do know her and I'm very grateful to her to be so generous as to invite us back, you know? 25 years or 20 years later is like a huge act of generosity on her part. To go out with her and have Liz Phair come along, it just is kind of a dream come true for me, you know, cuz I don't get to tour with a lot of women all the time.

Especially Alanis Morissette, I feel like she's come back around in popularity, maybe because of the anniversary of Jagged Little Pill but she's also releasing new music which is really cool to kind of see her back at it in that way. I wish that one of the dates was coming to the Twin Cities because the idea of Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair, two solo artists that were coming up at the same time in the alternative music scene. But one kind of got the--maybe the record companies had something to do with this--that like, "We only have room for one solo alternative act and it's going to be Alanis Morissette." Then I feel like Liz Phair kind of got left behind or Liz Phair should have been as big as Alanis Morissette is my point, I think.

Well hey, we should all be as successful as Alanis Morissette, thank you very much. It's just the way the cookie crumbles. Alanis made a record that touched people in an enormous way. I think it's the fastest selling biggest record released by a woman ever. That's huge. She had a singular vision, and it caught the public's imagination, and she was well rewarded for it. That's how it goes. Some of us thrive and some of us don't, and there's no explanation for it has nothing to do with talent, or how good the songs are. I mean, that's not fair. It does have a little to do with that. But it also, you're in the right place at the right time making the right record with the right messaging with the right imaging. It's like when everything comes together, right at the perfect time. That's when you have these explosive records like a Billie Eilish, it's exactly the same situation. It's just impossible to fathom how these records become so big, but they do and they speak they speak for a generation.

Well, I would certainly say that more than one Garbage record has spoken to a generation, because I'm a part of that. I was a teenager in the mid 90s. It was Garbage. It was Alanis Morissette. The thing is, I didn't come to Liz Phair until I started doing college radio, because I didn't have any exposure to her music. I'm grateful to the ones I was able to come up with as a fan, but then those that I'm able to kind of figure out as I go along. You know what, there's one that I have you to thank when it comes to bands that are up and coming. When you did a Theft of the Dial for The Current you were the one that told us about the band Deap Vally, and I still listen to that song "Smile More". And I'm still like, "Aghh!" Even the idea of taking off my mask after a year and thinking like, "Oh, is this gonna be a thing again?" Where I don't have like a pleasant enough sort of face when I'm dealing with men. And yeah, I just I have to thank you for introducing us to that band, because they are just awesome.

They are indeed. In fact, we went on tour with them a few months later. So yeah, I have a lot of love for those two girls. They are very, very talented, and they make great records.

Well, No Gods No Masters, the new album from Garbage. We mentioned the other members of Garbage, Butch, Steve, and Duke, how is everybody else doing?

I don't know. You'd have to ask them, I have no idea. We haven't seen each other, you know? We are as socially distanced everybody else is, which is slightly awkward when you're trying to put out a record. It's been somewhat devastating that we're putting a record out, none of us are together. That we finished the record, none of us were there to, you know, I finished my final vocal--there was no band. It's just me and my husband. I mean that's weird and somewhat sad, but you have to adapt to the times you find yourself in and here we are.

Yeah, I bet that was--this is very Minnesotan of me to say, that's different. But I would imagine for you to cut a vocal and then there's nobody there, you're like, "Should I do that again? Was that--is that what we're looking for?" Just to not have that feedback from the other band members.

Yes, really, really surreal.

"Well, just write a message. Let me know if that was okay." That's how I feel.

I think I can make that decision on my own. I'm a big girl now.

I think you can too. All right. Well, Shirley Manson, hey, before I let you go. You have a podcast and I just found out about it. I'm sorry that I've only just found out about it. But I've subscribed to it. The Jump with Shirley Manson. I can't wait to dig into this. You have interviewed a lot of people.

I just can't believe this happened to me. It's like one of the most extraordinary gifts of my entire career. I didn't think--I didn't want to do it. When I first got asked to do it I didn't really want to do it. I didn't feel like I had your kind of talent, you know? Speaking to people and being kind of--I don't know what I expected myself. But anyway, my manager insisted that I do it. He's like, "You'll be really good at this. You're really good at this kind of thing." And I was like, "I don't know how he knows this." Anyway, I ended up doing it. The first season was very stressful. But I loved it. I loved it. I loved sitting with other artists and learning from them. They gave me so much inspiration at a time in my life when I really needed it, like I needed an injection of something and the podcast has given that to me. I'm so grateful to all the incredible people I've sat down with, and we're about to release our third season. The guests are off the charts. They've influenced me directly on our new record, you know, George Clinton? What an incredible human being. Liz Phair, those two artists directly influenced songs on my record. Just because I was filled with their spirit when I went back from doing recording the podcast, I went back to the studio, the boys were working on songs, and I just was like, on fire. I felt like my veins were hot from sitting with them. So yeah, it's very exciting. It's a great privilege for me.

That's really cool. I can't wait to dig into it. It's called The Jump with Shirley Manson. I like talking to people and I think--I'm not a person who has made records or you know, I can play an instrument, but I'm certainly not a band or I don't have a contract. I've never gone on tour. So I think I can sort of bring like a fan's perspective when I ask questions, but what I really like is the fact that you are an artist as well, you can also bring your experience to initiate these conversations with people. It's just a different way of having that conversation. But yeah, that's a really cool thing. I'm so glad that you took the chance and you did it because it sounds like it really had a big impact on you.

Yeah, it's like going to school, you know? Sitting with masters at what they do. It's wild.
Ahead of their seventh studio album out June 11, No Gods No Masters, Jill Riley caught up with Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson about hitting the road with Alanis Morisette, starting a podcast, and not holding back on the new record.

Mm hmm. And then you can say, "Oh you know what I'm gonna be busy today. I got George Clinton on the line today."

Yes, exactly. "Sorry."

Yeah. That's always my favorite thing to be like, "I'm busy tomorrow. I can't do lunch. I got Ringo tomorrow." Those are still really surreal when it's Ringo on the phone saying, "Peace and love." No Gods No Masters, the new record from Garbage. Shirley Manson it is always a pleasure, and I'm so glad to see your face.

You too Jill, lots of love.

External Links

Garbage - official site
Podcast - The Jump with Shirley Manson

Credits


Host - Jill Riley
Producer - Anna Weggel
Digital Producer - Jesse Wiza
Technical Director - Eric Romani, Veronica Rodriguez

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