Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Interview: Garbage

| June 28, 2012

In retrospect, it was an ideal thing for her to do, chuckles Scottish chanteuse Shirley Manson with obvious delight – “morphing out of a urinal and killing a guy who had underestimated me. It was really subversive and really dangerous, and I loved it!” You see, the swaggering sexist executive had it coming, she adds. Well, at least in the first official scene she filmed for the recent TV series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” in which she played tech-company CEO Catherine Weaver, who also just happened to be a shape-shifting T-1001 cyborg capable of some creepy men’s room camouflage.

Appearing: 8/7 at Metro (3730 N. Clark) in Chicago.

Garbage frontwoman Manson – whose huge doe eyes and chiseled cheekbones give her an almost otherworldly appearance already – is still stunned that the show’s producer Josh Friedmann cast her in the futuristic role, while she was struggling to piece together her first solo album during a band sabbatical. “But I got a really lucky break, for sure, because that was a whole other world, a sci-fi subculture world that could not have come along at a better time,” she swears. “It really presented opportunities to me that I just couldn’t find for myself, or carve out for myself in the music business all of a sudden. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I’m sure I would’ve just fallen into the abyss of despair.”

Manson, 45, isn’t joking. When asked who called whom for the new Garbage reunion album, Not Your Kind Of People (Stun Volume) – she or her longtime cohort, producer Butch Vig – she boomerangs, “Who do you think called who? Take a guess! Who do you think did it?” She pauses for a response. Vig? No, guess again, she sighs. “Of course I did it! I have to work for every scrap I get from those boys! Butch was actually in the middle of making a Foo Fighters album, and I said, ‘I want to make another record.’ And he said, ‘So do I!’ It was that simple. I mean, really simple.”

And the flame-haired vixen actually was kidding about her bandmates – Steve Marker and Duke Erikson. It’s been seven years since the last Garbage set, Bleed Like Me, but everything perfectly fell into place for the People sessions, which whelped Joy-Division-dark new dirges like “Felt,” “Control,” “Beloved Freak,” and kickoff single “Blood For Poppies,” which employ the Afghanistan drug trade as symbolic of something much more frightening. “It’s actually about my band and being a musician and feeling frustrated in the midst of what I view as complete craziness,” Manson. “So I use Afghanistan as a metaphor for a battleground, for sight-taking. For taking a stance.”

Unsurprisingly, Garbage is no longer on its old major imprint Geffen. It’s launched its own label, Stun Volume, to issue Not Your Kind Of People. “We are not your kind of people/You seem kind of phony, everything’s a lie,” Manson trills in the Link-Wray-waltz-from-hell title track, and you can practically hear the venom dripping from her blood-tipped fangs. Just how angry is this chanteuse? She laughs, deeply and wickedly. “Well, as you know, I have a very short fuse,” she says. “But I don’t think I am angry, actually – I think I’m passionate. And I think sometimes my passion gets misread as anger. I just shout a lot, and I spew out everything out – I spew out my feelings, I spew out my rage. I mean, I sing for a living, so everything in me comes out, and as a result, I don’t really have much anger left.” She pauses again.

Truth be told, Manson has good reason to be furious. As in If only I were a urinal-shaped Terminator furious. The bathroom stalls would be splattered with the freshly shredded entrails of countless music industry execs. To start with, any fan who’s followed her career for any length of time, back to her brilliant pre-Garbage outfit Angelfish (whose “Suffocate Me” MTV video first caught the eye of Vig back in 1994) knows this: the gal is dark. Raven-quoting, catacomb-creaking, Nosferatu-at-your-castle-window dark. Naturally, it follows that the solo foray she was plotting, post-Bleed, would sound equally gothic – Manson musically unfettered at last, like Lazarus rising from the tomb.

— Tom Lanham

For the full feature, click on the issue cover or grab a copy of Illinois Entertainer, available free throughout Chicagoland.

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