Founded in 1993, Garbage played a key role in shaping the music of the post-grunge era with their mix of hard guitar riffs and electronic influences. The reason for this was next to Butch Vig, who previously worked as a producer for bands like Nirvana, the Irish front woman Shirley Manson. The band from Madison, Wisconsin, landed hits like “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl” and has since sold more than 17 million albums.
With “No Gods No Masters” the seventh long player is now ready on which Garbage present himself more politically than ever. In their texts they rebel against racism, sexism, capitalism and the domination of old white men. ntv.de talks to Shirley Manson about her hopefully crumbling power and the current lack of appreciation for young artists.
Shirley, what place do you have interviews about the album promo?
Shirley Manson: Somewhere in the middle if I’m honest. Often it is a privilege, but sometimes it is also very exhausting. It depends who you’re talking to. (laughs)
Then I should probably ask the question at the end – or better not at all.
Exactly. (laughs) No seriously. It’s really a privilege that there are people like you who, after 20 years, still want to talk to you and give us the opportunity to reach an audience. And I am grateful for that.
You have had your own podcast with “The Jump with Shirley Manson” for two years and you know both sides. What do you prefer to ask questions or answer questions?
I find it very stressful to interview other people, but I also like it. For me it is more relaxed to be interviewed. But every time I am blown away by how much the artists I speak to inspire me in the interviews. I learn from them and absorb their energy. After recording the podcast, I’m always thrilled.
With Juliette Lewis, Peaches or Perfume Genius there are great people there. They all present a song from their own work that is important to them. Which would it be in your case?
In a long career, you actually have more than one song that is important to you. But right now I would choose “Waiting For God” from the new album.
It’s an important song. For me it was a new approach to writing, a kind of creative advancement.
A good transition to the album. You already worked on “No Gods No Masters” in 2018. Has the pandemic delayed the process?
The pandemic cost us a full year. The album was supposed to be out last year.
The first single and the album’s opener is the song “The Men Who Rule The World” – about the male white elite. Was it important to you to come back with a real statement after five years?
Well, we live in really intense times as long as you are a person who is interested in the things around you. It would have been difficult for me to separate my private thoughts from the record we’re making. It’s hard not to feel betrayed by these patriarchal leaders, or to overlook the dire effects of capitalism. Those thoughts set the mood of the album, but it wasn’t planned in any way. We finished the record very shortly before the first lockdown and were surprised ourselves how topical it became in the course of the past year.
Do you think the pandemic has exacerbated the problems that existed before – so it works like a burning glass? Or are you optimistic that she will straighten out a lot?
I definitely believe that something will change for the better. This has always been the case over the centuries. My lifestyle is so much better than my mother’s, for example. Even if we still have big problems on this planet, I think that the generations after us deal with them much more consciously than we do. They take care of the problems that we didn’t get solved. And I look forward to more women, people of color, non-binary people, etc. finally having their say instead of the governments around the world, which are currently mainly led by old white men. Men who have been offering the same old ideas for a century. It is time for new ideas, we urgently need them.
Do these ideas come in time – for example in terms of climate protection?
Yes, I believe that too. If your survival depends on it, you must, and do, take care of the problems. The younger generations must tackle them more forcefully than previous ones. But of course I’m not a scientist. But we have a rough idea of what happens if we don’t change anything. Humans have proven over centuries that they are able to adapt and change. There is no reason for me to think that they will stop doing this. All of this has to happen quickly now, of course.
How did you experience the last year? Has the pandemic hit you harder on a personal or professional level?
I’m a 54 year old woman and the business doesn’t tolerate older women that much. Being torn from your professional life for a year is pretty frustrating. But it can’t be changed. And because of the career I’ve had so far, I’m not in a position to complain. I have a roof over my head, I have enough to eat, I am happily married. But it’s still frustrating, of course.
Garbage has been around for almost 30 years. Do you think that it is more difficult for young artists to gain such a foothold in the business today?
It’s a little easier for solo artists, because record companies don’t want bands anymore, that’s just too expensive for them. They don’t earn that much from that. I think that’s why we see fewer and fewer bands. It’s easier to become a musician, but it’s almost impossible to make a living from. Or you have to go mainstream, something that reaches the masses. If you are too loud or too aggressive, if you are not being played on the radio, then it is almost impossible to make it big.
You earn money as a band by touring, because streaming brings in next to nothing at first. If many smaller clubs may no longer be able to open after Corona, the young musicians will not have a place to play. Is that also a problem in the US and UK?
The music and events scene has been completely ignored by the government here too, and that makes my blood boil. This endangers the development of a whole generation of new, young artists. The small shops cannot survive the lockdown on their own. It creates a huge problem, it makes me so angry. Anyone who had a job before the pandemic got 80 percent of their salary in the UK for at least a year. Musicians don’t. As if they were worthless, they meant nothing. I have no answer to it, it drives me crazy.
Are there any post-pandemic plans for touring at Garbage?
This late summer we’re playing here in North America with Alanis Morrisette and Liz Phair. And then it’s off to the UK with Blondie. Next year we would of course like to tour alone again and come to Europe.
Nicole Ankelmann spoke to Shirley Manson