How Garbage got their fire back

22:52, Feb 18 2013

They were one of the biggest rock bands of the 90s, selling millions of records, penning the title song of 1999 James Bond movie The World is Not Enough, and winning scores of awards.

Alternative band Garbage - comprising charismatic Scottish singer Shirley Manson and American musicians Duke Erikson (bass), Steve Marker (guitar) and Butch Vig (drums) - released two genre-defining albums, Garbage (1995) and Version 2.0 (1998), then two more in the early-2000s.

They then quietly put the project "on indefinite hiatus" in 2005.

In the meantime Vig, who is responsible for producing grunge milestones like The Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Nirvana's Nevermind, went on to work with Green Day, The Foo Fighters and Muse, while Manson considered leaving the music industry for good and turned to acting, taking on the role of liquid metal terminator T-1001 in TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

It took a sad event for the band members to realise there was still life in Garbage.

Vig and Manson went to the funeral of their good friends' young son in 2010.

"Shirley sang at the memorial and I think it made us realise how short and precious life can be, and we kind of felt that we have more music to make," Vig says.

Playing together for the first time after seven years was like putting on a glove that fit.

"We had a long enough break to feel revitalised," Manson adds.

For their latest album the band has cut ties with all music labels and has formed their own label, Stunvolume, instead.

"One reason that we stopped playing is because we got embroiled in the whole music biz thing and it wore us down and took all the fun out of it," Vig says.

While it was a lot of work, it was also empowering to take control of their own career and be responsible for all artistic decisions.

In 2001 Manson was the first musician to have their own blog, chronicling the recording of their third album Beautiful Garbage and more than 10 years later, she's still a keen user of social media.

But although she's an active Facebook user with a following of more than 150,000, it's sometimes a bit of a love-hate relationship.

"On the one hand it's something you have to do when you are a band like us, because there is a demand for it, and it counteracts what the press writes about you," she says.

"So many inaccuracies have been written about us and we had no way to address that.

"But now if somebody writes that or it gets posted somewhere, within 24 hours we have the ability, in some cases even to a bigger audience than the publication itself, to say, 'see, that did not actually happen' and that to me is an incredible tool.

"But I do like communicating and I am always looking for a connection in my life - that's something I have realised. I am probably quite good at it."

Manson's gutsy style and aggressive demeanour has made her one of the stand-out female artists of the 90s.

Singers like Katy Perry, Peaches, and Lana del Rey have named her as an inspiration and role model, a title Manson happily accepts.

"It's f***ing awesome," she laughs.

"It is really touching when you see a young artist starting to live the life they want to live . . . and our band played a role in that. That is gratifying."

Manson says comparing the role of women in the music industry almost 20 years ago to today is depressing.

"I think the problem is for any woman who isn't prepared to dress up and act nice and sit in the corner and just do the dancing and the singing, there's a big problem," she says.

"It's very difficult to get out there and be encouraged by the media and given time."

Manson said there was a real lack of coverage of aggressive women who disagreed with the mainstream, "and that disappoints me".

"Because when we came out there were so many agitators - female agitators who were getting coverage - and that is not happening anymore," she says.

But right now they're just enjoying touring.

"Walking on stage and getting that feedback from our fans - that is a massive adrenaline rush," Vig says.

And now that they're finally back together, Garbage are not planning to go separate ways anytime soon.

"We are going to make another album," Vig says.

"And then we'll see."

Garbage play Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington today and The Civic, Auckland, tomorrow.