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Garbage: Shirley Manson talks cold, hard reality; spectacular dream

by jmaloni
Wed, Jul 19th 2017 07:00 am
Garbage performs July 25 at Artpark. (Photo by Joseph Cultice)
Garbage performs July 25 at Artpark. (Photo by Joseph Cultice)
Band performs July 25 at Artpark
By Joshua Maloni
Managing Editor
Twenty-two years ago, Shirley Manson famously sang, "I'm only happy when it rains. I'm only happy when it's complicated."
Good thing, because, in 2017, the process of making and releasing albums is plenty complex. In fact, it's so thorny that Garbage opted to begin the process of writing 2016's "Strange Little Birds" as far away from a major label studio as possible.
Like, in drummer and super-producer Butch Vig's basement.
"You know, I'll be brutally frank: It's basically the hard, cold reality of economics. Bands nowadays, in order to survive, really have to knuckle down and record in the most economic fashion they can," Manson said in a recent phone interview. "We didn't want to spend a lot of money on a studio. We wanted to save our budget for the actual recording process. So, it just made sense that we started to write in Butch's home studio.
"We're very pragmatic that way."
Though she said, "The freedom is enjoyable," Manson admitted, "When you're not working with one of the major record labels in the world, your distribution suffers spectacularly, and your ability to get played on radio and appear on streaming playlists and so on, so forth, gets diminished quite considerably. Because, you know, these high-profile outlets for bands are dominated by major labels. So you invite a whole host of other problems into your life."
Unfortunately, that is life today for musical acts not named Swift, Perry or Gaga.
Of course, in "Only Happy When it Rains," Manson also sang, "I feel good when things are goin' wrong."
On stage, Garbage is in high demand - so much so that a pop-rock icon reached out to join forces with Manson, Vig and guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker.
"It seems to me in some ways like a spectacular dream. We are co-headlining with the legendary - truly legendary and iconic - Blondie, a band that has influenced our band considerably over the years, and we have often noted Blondie as being an influence on us," Manson said. "And to get this opportunity to tour North America during the summer is extraordinary.
"The call really came out of the blue. It came through Blondie's agent, and it was an opportunity we leapt at.
"I still have to pinch myself that it's going to happen; it just seems too good to be true!"
The "Rage and Rapture" Tour comes to Artpark on July 25. The "Tuesdays in the Park" double-bill is set to kick-off at 6:30 p.m. in the Outdoor Amphitheater, 450 S. Fourth St., Lewiston. Tickets are available at the box office and online at www.artpark.net.
"I think, at this point in our career, we know that we can put on a really great show. We wouldn't still be here if we couldn't, you know?" Manson said. "We've endured an awful lot in our career, and we are still in the lucky position to be able to release records and tour the world.
"I think we have a certain kind of confidence that we can put a show on, in front of any audience, whether they know who we are or not, and to do a good job.
"We tend to please ourselves at this point. And there will be songs from our current record, 'Strange Little Birds,' which we released last year, and there will also be tracks from all of our studio records - all six of our records - going back as far as 1995. I think there will be something there, pretty much, for every Garbage fan, and possibly we'll turn some people onto us that have never heard of us before."
Manson said her stagecraft has advanced significantly over the years.
"I think, you know, again as I've gotten older, my attitude toward performing has changed a lot. When I first emerged as a teenager playing in local bands in Edinburgh, Scotland, I just wanted to show off - if the truth be told. You know? And I just wanted to be - like most teenagers - heard. And I just wanted to be paid attention to," she said. "Of course, that's a really tedious approach (laughs), and, luckily for me over the course of my career, I've learned - through a lot of trial and error - what really my job is up there.
"As far as I'm concerned, my job is there to connect with people, and to touch them, and to, perhaps, articulate for them things that they struggle to articulate themself.
"And, certainly, again, over the course of our 22-year career, through letters and messages and meeting fans, I think we understand that our music provides the soundtrack to their life. And they gravitate to us because we have written a song, or a body of work, that has resonated with them, and has provided a lot of comfort for them.
"And so, yeah, I get up there now and I feel more like a nurse than anything (laughs). I'm there to make people feel like they're not moving through the world by themself.
"There's a whole bunch of weirdo's out there that feel exactly the same way as I do!"
Watching Garbage videos on YouTube, and seeing highlights of live performances, it's no surprise the foursome is a solid live act. What is shocking, startling and unexpected is that the band has recently chronicled two decades of touring ... in a coffee table book?
Garbage, known for aggressive, danceable, idealistic sci-fi pop-rock, and songs such as "Stupid Girl," "Cherry Lips" and "Not Your Kind of People," has fashioned a rather dignified keepsake.
Manson, laughing, said the idea "does sound like a strange anomaly, indeed.
"We just decided that we've had this incredible career. We had just come off a 20-year anniversary, and we thought that, perhaps, it'd be a good idea for the children in our lives to put together a little sort of (token) for them. When they grow up, they can understand what it was that we did with our lives.
"Right now, a lot of the kids in our life are too young. They genuinely are. My niece is 6, and she doesn't really care about what I do, nor does she particularly understand what I do for a living. Butch's daughter is 10 years old. So, we thought we would put something together for all the kids, and then it just grew into something bigger, because we realized we had so much content.
"Our managers were like, 'Fans would be interested in this, too.' So, it just grew into something much more substantial than we initially anticipated."
True to form for Garbage, the book is titled "THIS IS THE NOISE THAT KEEPS ME AWAKE," which is a lyric from the band's 1998 hit "Push It."

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