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Garbage's Shirley Manson on new CD, being an outsider
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2012-08-01

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Garbage's Shirley Manson. Photo by Autumn de Wilde


The rock band Garbage was originally formed in Madison, Wis. Made up of Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, the group has had massive success over the years, releasing five studio albums. The band's latest, Not Your Kind of People, returns the act to its original rocking roots. Garbage will play live at the Metro for a 30th-anniversary date at the venue.

Manson talked Nunn on One about the new album and how he's a longtime fan making him "the queerest of the Queer."

Windy City Times: Hey, Shirley. You are not going to believe this.

Shirley Manson: Uh, oh.

WCT: I met you years ago at a Tower Records signing in Chicago.

Shirley Manson: Oh my God. Did I have a small child on my lap by any chance?

WCT: No, you didn't.

Shirley Manson: Aw that's a shame. [Laughs] What the hell were you doing there?

WCT: I was getting my CD signed. I had been a big fan for a long time.

Shirley Manson: That is so cute I can't stand it!

WCT: You and the guys were so nice I couldn't get over it.

Shirley Manson: We are nice! It's nice to be nice, no?

WCT: Of course. I even listened to your band before [the side project] Angelfish on cassette.

Shirley Manson: That is amazing. I feel I owe you a great thanks, then, for sticking by us.

WCT: I am excited about you coming to the Metro.

Shirley Manson: We are, too. I love the Metro.

WCT: The show sold out in 20 minutes. Did you know that?

Shirley Manson: I [did] know that. That's incredible. The Metro is a very special place for us because that was, more or less, where our band began. Being Midwesterners, it is practically a hometown show for my band. We are very excited.

WCT: You opened for The Smashing Pumpkins there a long time ago.

Shirley Manson: We did, yeah.

WCT: So let's talk about this new album, Not Your Kind of People. What does the title refer to?

Shirley Manson: For us, it is a war cry and an inversion of feeling left out and, instead, standing still and inviting listeners who relate to what we are saying to come and join us.

WCT: The song "Felt" sounds like a classic Garbage song. I love that song.

Shirley Manson: I love that song, too. It is divine.

WCT: Is there a certain track you like to play live yet?

Shirley Manson: To be honest and not to be glib, but being able to play live all the new songs is really exciting. We are playing to the record and feel very proud of the songwriting—the fact that new songs seem to go down as well as some of the old songs—which is incredible because the album has only been out for a few weeks. To get the kind of response that we are getting to the new material is really gratifying and exciting to us.

The one song that stands out for me on the new record is "Battle in Me" because that was the first song we wrote when we reunited basically after being six years apart. I remember when we were jamming the first day "Battle In Me" presented itself as sometimes ideas do—they sometimes come out of the ether. I remember as the words were spilling out of my mouth, I remember thinking, "This is exactly how we should sound right now. If we can keep this kind of energy and intent throughout the whole recording process we are going to make a great record."

WCT: I like "Beloved Freak" a lot.

Shirley Manson: That song is a message to ourselves, in a funny way. I think we have all felt, in the course of our lives, a little misunderstood. We, as a band, have been guilty of being hard on ourselves and not feeling good enough. Now I think we have gotten to that point of just accepting who we are as a band and who we are as individuals. Realizing all the things that make us different actually are real strengths.

WCT: I know you have been bullied in the past, driving you to being depressed and cutting.

Shirley Manson: I have always felt like an outsider, to be honest—being a middle child, being a redhead, being the only female in an all-male band my entire life, even before Garbage, being a Scot living in America. So I have always been a little bit of an outsider.

WCT: I think many of your LGBT listeners can relate to that.

Shirley Manson: I hope so. As a result I think I really relate to outsider status and people that don't always fit in with the mainstream. People who weren't the cheerleaders and the first to be picked for slow dances or to be on football team. I think our listeners share that feeling. We have enjoyed a huge gay following our entire career; from the very beginning, the gay community has been incredibly supportive of us. I don't know if it is because some of our songs deal with sexual curiosity and experimentation.

WCT: There's the song "Androgyny."

Shirley Manson: "Androgyny," "Queer," "Sex is Not the Enemy"—and "Cherry Lips" is about a transsexual. Those are a lot of songs. So I don't know if that is the reason or if gay people still feel like they are treated like outsiders. I don't know; I can't answer that question but all I know is any band that has a gay following is a lucky band because the gay community is incredibly loyal and passionate. Also, [they're] always willing to have a great time a show, which makes for a great show with any band.

WCT: I just like your boots!

Shirley Manson: [Laughs] Hilarious!

WCT: My favorite Garbage story is the one where the label was trying to get rights to use part of a Pretenders song called "Talk of the Town" on the track "Special," and Chrissie Hynde faxed you saying you can use her sound, voice or her ass!

Shirley Manson: That's right. She did do that. She's amazing. I love her dearly. She's been so generous to us as a band and to me personally. She is one of my musical heroes so it was a great experience for me.

WCT: You did a huge tour with U2 so that must have been a big deal for you as well.

Shirley Manson: Yeah, we have toured with almost every big act at this point in the music industry. You mentioned The Smashing Pumpkins earlier. That was an incredible tour right at the beginning of our career. The Pumpkins took us all over North America. That was our first experience at a stadium tour, which was fucking mind-blowing for us. We have played with No Doubt, Alanis Morissette and the U2 tour, where we traveled in a private jet. We saw how the real rock stars live!

WCT: Do you want to do more acting? I know you did [the TV show] Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles not too long ago.

Shirley Manson: I would love to do more acting, definitely. Right now I certainly don't have the time but it is something that I would love to do more often. I found it really inspiring. Life is short; you should do whatever you can get away with.

WCT: You worked on a solo album for a while that wasn't finished. Was that a frustrating experience?

Shirley Manson: I feel very grateful that I had the experience. Yes, it was frustrating at times and, ultimately, was a doomed experiment but I think it really helped to develop my songwriting and help me develop some confidence. It helped me to polarize what I wanted to do with my life as a musician.

WCT: I am looking forward to this show. It will be a madhouse.

Shirley Manson: I hope so. We always have great shows in Chicago so we are looking forward to it immensely.

Take in the Garbage Tuesday, Aug. 7, at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St. Visit www.metrochicago.com . See www.garbage.com for more on the group.


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