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Wednesday
Nov022011

[Interview] Garbage Lead Singer Shirley Manson Talks Struggle, Loss, Renewal

For six long years, there has been a void in the rock music community. After releasing Bleed Like Me and announcing that they were taking an “indefinite hiatus”, it was hard to believe that we would ever hear from the likes of female-fronted rock outfit Garbage again. While most bands praise being signed to a label as a means of gaining exposure for their music, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson explained in an interview with Some Kind of Awesome that it was actually all of the “really greedy expectations” and getting caught up in “working to fulfill a corporate fantasy” that caused the massive break. With the band happily shedding their corporate skin and announcing that they will be releasing album number five in Spring 2012, Manson dishes how the break could not have come a better time in her life and how it also gave the band the chance to celebrate their uniqueness.

In 2008, Manson went from “feeling powerless” about the contracts that the band was tied up in to being as she put it, “an almighty powerful robot that got to kill every asshole that she came across” in her role as the liquid-metal Terminator impersonating Catherine Weaver in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Although the experience for Manson was “absolutely liberating” because she didn’t have to feel any of the pressures or being a lead singer, she noted, “The one thing that I learned on the TV show was that I really missed my band. Really missed making music. Really missed playing."

"When I lost her I was like 'Oh my god. I have to go back to who I really [am]…'"

This was intensified later that year at the end of November when her mother passed away due to complications of dementia.“When you lose a mother it changes your whole life and changes your outlook on everything,” she said, ”when I lost her I was like 'Oh my god. I have to go back to who I really [am]… I've been a musician since I was 15. I really don't know anything else. I think I felt like I needed to get back there to regroup myself, so I said ‘It’s time to go back and start making music again. It’ll make me feel a bit better' And it did.”

She wasn’t the only one who was feeling a sense of loss that year. As she explained to us, “A lot of crazy shit had started to happen the year that I lost my mother. Friends of mine also lost their six year old child, one of my best friends lost their husbands and was left with an 18 month child and two other kids. It was a really crazy year. It was terrifying. It's like watching your friends get swept up in this cyclone of horror. It definitely propelled me [toward making music again]”. In fact, while performing at the funeral of six-year-old Pablo Castelaz, son of her close friend and Dangerbird Records co-founder Jeff Castelaz she ran into fellow Garbage member and producer extraordinaire Butch Vig. It was there that the two of them started talking about making music again.

According to Manson, recording this new album was actually a pleasant experience this time around, which she partially attributes to the fact that they are free of all of their corporate deals. They’ve had their masters reverted back to them, they are out of their publishing deal. She noted, “For the first time in a long time we have felt no external pressure. We’re free and clear to do whatever we want and how we want to do it. We have no record company A&R douchebag coming into the studio and proffering their opinions. That is amazing.”

It clearly was affecting the overall morale in the studio because she was very outspoken on the subject, adding, “You have no idea how that rains on your parade when a fucking idiot who you don't even want in the room in the first place comes in sits, listens to your music and proffers some opinions upon you know that aren't welcome. But you know you have to be polite so you're kind, you know, tolerant, but you want to take this person and throw their head down the toilet. Not that we have to listen to these people but having that vibe cross into your world all of a sudden it stops anything fun ‘cause all of a sudden you're aware that there's people who have expectations and they want certain things form you and they expect certain things at certain times."

"To be unique in a world that has an infinite sea of music is something that we value."

Although it’s been six years since their last studio album, Manson isn’t worried about competing with the buzz bands of the week. As she explained, “We’ve looked back after six years of not doing anything and realized that no one was sitting in our seat. We realize that we are unique. For better or worse we make records that don’t sound like anybody else. To be unique in a world that has an infinite sea of music is something that we value. We’re proud of it.”

While Garbage fans far and wide anxiously await signs of studio album number five, which Manson considers to be their “strongest collection of songs” to date, she is looking forward to touring more than anything else. “We just want to go out and play some shows and actually reconnect with something in ourselves,” she said, “it’s not really about record sales or ‘Wow are we gonna get A listed on Radio One in the UK?’ We don’t really give a shit. It would be nice, but we don’t really give a shit.”

Be sure to follow along with us in the coming months for Garbage updates. Garbage is on Twitter and Facebook. You can also see what Shirley Manson is up to on her Facebook page.

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