Garbage Album Reviews
Critiques de l'album Garbage
pays magazine: USA
date: 21 septembre 1995
by James Hunter
Apprenticing in cheap and fast sessions during the '80s in Madison, Wis., at his Smart Studios, producer Butch Vig helped give structure and lucidity to the music of young bands such Killdozer, Tad and Urge Overkill. Then he rewrote the pop book on distortion with Nirvana's epocha Nevermind. Quickly he became current rock's best shaper, a quietly logical guy who could navigate the complicated corners of, say, Sonic Youth and still remember the big beat, chewy tunes and adolescent aggression that make pop fly. Now, Vig has formed Garbage with Shirley Manson of the indifferent Angelfish and his longtime associates Steve Marker (Smart's co-owner) and Duke Erikson. Together, this unshy Scottish female singer and guitarist and these three ingenious Midwesterners – who provide percussion, guitars, samples, bass and keyboards – compose a studio band that makes up its own drama and kicks as it goes along.
Garbage screw around with dance pulses and guitar tones, pop concision and 12-inch madness, highly flown confessions and teenage thrills. Their basic attack comes from a known yet infrequently considered road: the rock remix. In the studio-driven world of hip-hop and its millions of track versions, this aspect of Garbage would seem unremarkable. But in rock, where the standard of live performance rules, remixes have been dicier affairs. Still, a few bands explore them, developing parallel sonic landscapes often denser and knottier than dance music's or hip-hop's. Vig, Marker and Erikson have themselves reconfigured sonics for U2, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, House of Pain and others, so this unpredictable remix sensibility arrives intact in Garbage. The rest of the shock comes from Manson, who hardly lounges around in these soundscapes like a pop singer content with her settings. This creates a jumpy, unsettled blur of scrupulously dear music and jarring mixed messages.
Immediately, as the mangy riffs of "Supervixen" begin to chum through space, Garbage drags you someplace else. As Manson's violet throatiness offers to create "a whole new religion," beats chatter, and delicate acoustic guitar notes and those opening riffs float in and out of the songs gently pounding rhythmic foundations. At times the main riff pauses to halt the music altogether. From there, Garbage ease into "Queer," a more roundly shaped tune orchestrated with this same love of junk and command of finesse. Acting as a sensual guide, Manson promises to "dirty up your mind," forecasting a black-and-white path through the strange and the lame as the music makes stringy transitions in ironic technicolor. On the next song, "Only Happy When It Rains," she and Garbage rock righteously as though Manson is running for the presidency of the Robert Smith Fan Club. Just as you think she has won by a landslide, the band swings in with rhythms and riffs whose complex demeanor recolor the whole song.
"As Heaven Is Wide" rides cool grooves high in focus and fiber, locomoting toward unknown dance-floor destinations. "Not My Idea," another querulous high-speed track, patiently explains its depressed circumstances, then bangs its silverware on the plate, insisting that "this is not my idea of a good time" Warm Euro-style balladry shows up with "A Stroke of Luck," but Manson shivers. "Here comes the cold again," she sings with regret. On "Vow," the current single, she's throwing fits again, threatening to tear somebody's world apart to the tune of industrialized guitar noise.
Near the end of Garbage, Manson affects a kind of peace with her own ravings. On "Stupid Girl" she marches along to a funky bass, indicting someone – herself? – for not believing in fear, pain or people she can't control. "All you had," she sings, seething, "you wasted." After another tuneful near-metal tantrum called "Dog New Tricks," she and Garbage crest on "My Lover's Box." On this great piece, arranged with those mangy riffs but reframed with syncopations from the Spinners and outbreaks from Bad Brains, Manson fears she'll never get to heaven and pleads, "Send me an angel to love." The album ends on a lovely two-song coda comprising "Fix Me Now," a wracked appeal for togetherness, and the lush "Milk," a ballad in which Manson and Garbage go grunge torch, and she explains her previous moments of cruelty in terms of having been "lost." Oh, was that it? Garbage teems with such disjunctions of tragedy and junk. Like so much fun and important rock & roll, it's the product of brilliant misunderstandings.
Garbage Album Reviews
Critiques de l'album Garbage
pays magazine: Angleterre
date: 23 septembre 1995
by Natty Dreggs
the album is
"a reminder of how sweet angst can be in the hands of talented players".
Garbage Album Reviews
Critiques de l'album Garbage
pays magazine: Angleterre
date: 30 septembre 1995
Le disque de pop rock le plus proche de la perfection qu'aucun autre.
Garbage Album Reviews
Critiques de l'album Garbage
Addicted To Noise
magazine en ligne: USA
date: septembre 1995
Garbage Rise From The House That Grunge Built
Gil Kaufman Heads To Madison To Get the Skinny On The Band
That Could Turn Mega-Producer Butch Vig And His Pals Into Stars
by Gil Kaufman
The House That Grunge Built is nestled quietly in-between muffler shops, adult bookstores and dry cleaners, and sits firmly in the shadow of the Capitol rotunda, the visual marker by which all direction is measured in Madison, Wisconsin. A nondescript brick building on the working class, east side of town, with a shoddy red paint job over the front half and a shakily scrawled address over the door, the windowless first floor of superstar producer Butch Vig's studio does more to suggest a chop shop than a rock shop.
Vig, who sat behind the board and produced Nirvana's breakthrough Nevermind, is also responsible for producing the Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Siamese Dream, and a host of other stars in the alternarock universe including Urge Overkill, Gumball, L7, The Fluid, Tad, and the Poster Children. But these days, Vig has other things on his mind than producing somebody else's smash album.
Lately, Butch Vig has been thinking about garbage. Well, actually he's been thinking about Garbage, with a capital G. Garbage is the band Vig has formed with his partner in the studio (and long-time friend), Steve Marker, Duke Erikson, and a mysterious young singer from Scotland named Shirley Manson.
Butch Vig wants his own platinum record.
Already, Garbage has scored a hit single in England with the radio-friendly "Vow," released last year on a whim as a part of the Volume compilation. That song earned them an avalanche of European interest, before anyone had even heard of them stateside.
The Garbage album, released last month, is being greeted with critical praise. And for good reason. What the group has recorded, considering Vig's pedigree, is a surprisingly non-guitar rock mix of ambient noise, shifting trip-hop beats, grinding jungle rhythms and an ocean-size chunk of buzzing noise that, somehow, gels and rises above the din thanks to catchy hooks and killer song construction.
The sound of Garbage is akin to a Jackson Pollock painting, thick layers upon layers of sound that have been stripped down, torn apart, pasted together and then stripped again, until the result is a dizzying soundscape that reveals fresh nuances upon repeated listening. It's the sound of Portishead's bus smashing into Siouxsie Sioux's limousine and starting a chain-reaction accident involving everybody from Roxy Music to Echo and the Bunnymen (with Trent Reznor ending up in the hospital after falling off his scooter). Or as Vig will put it, "a killer pop album," but with a decidedly dark side.
Coincidentally, I meet up with Garbage, the band, the day before Garbage, the album, hits the streets. Also coincidentally, heaps of trash line the curbs, for tomorrow is moving day for the 35,000 students at the University of Wisconsin. The members of Garbage hope they outlast the junk man.
"Sorry I'm late, they're doing construction and it took me, like, an hour to get over here," Vig says as he blows into Smart Studios. He rushes to extend a pink-fingernailed hand in greeting, then makes a beeline for the phone to return some messages. While he dials, he asks Steve Marker where the rest of the troops are. Vig wants to make sure right away that this is going to be a group effort, not a trip down the memory lane of his greatest (producing) hits. And for someone who has done so much for the flannel nation, he's looking like one of the Three Musketeers today, what with a shoulder-length page boy haircut, swashbuckling goatee with unattached mustache and black jeans. No plaid or flannel in sight.
"This is only our second interview in the States for this record," says Vig. Then, with mock earnestness he adds. "I guess after tomorrow we'll know if we even need to do any more."
Before Vig can get too self-conscious, Erikson, also sporting pink nail polish and Manson, modeling a more subdued mix of deep red with gold flecks, amble into the studio. Asked what happened to his nail polish, Maker mumbles something about removing it because "pink isn't my shade."
Smart Studios, where Vig (drums, loops, noise), Marker (guitars, samples, more noise), Duke Erikson (guitars, bass, keyboards, a little more noise), and Shirley Manson (vocals, guitars), recorded Garbage, is about as unflash a rock & roll location as you could conjure, short of, say, Marker's basement, where the music for four of the twelve songs on the album were recorded. This low-key atmosphere is in tune with the lingering (moldy?) hippie-vibe that still hovers around Madison years after it was tagged with the "Berkeley of the Midwest" and "Third Coast" nicknames.
In fact, the best measure of how well the sound of Smart Studios fits in with the patchouli and pot culture of Madison, is to compare it to the guy who now owns the Loose Juice beverage cart on the campus quad. Twenty years ago, he was marching in the streets and plotting to blow up the math building to protest the Vietnam war. Now he spends his days mashing fruit and pouring smoothies for the kids. Ten years ago Vig and Marker were recording every punk band in sight, priming their talents for the flannel revolution. Today, they are half of a quartet that is hoping to usher in the new age of new pop music.
With the exception of Manson, the trio of men in Garbage have known each other for over a decade. Since the early 80's, when Vig and Erikson played together in the local band, Spooner, and Vig and Marker began producing punk bands on the cheap in a tiny space across the street from their current digs with only egg cartons on the walls and a cheap four-track recorder for equipment, the seeds for what has emerged as the Garbage sound have been taking root.
In 1993, after years of screwing around in their spare time, avoiding work, drinking beer, driving cabs, and banging around on instruments in Marker's basement discovering new sounds, Marker says the trio finally decided that they wanted to form a band. "I'm a musician first," says the mild-mannered Marker, who, with his well-kept, curly blond hair, Lennon glasses and dingy Chucks looks more like a University of Wisconsin philosophy teaching assistant than a rock guy. "We were always so busy producing before this that we never really had the time to record our own stuff."
They had already started working on their "own stuff" when Marker turned on MTV one night to watch "120 Minutes" and caught a video for "Suffocate Me" by a group called Angelfish (apparently, the video was shown only once on MTV). It was the singer, Shirley Manson, that caught Maker's attention. The three men had discussed bringing in a female vocalist, but hadn't found anyone that had the qualities they were after. "We knew we didn't want some trippy, happy girlie voice without any depth," says Vig. "Shirley had a sort of darkness to her that we immediately liked."
The fact that the four had never met and that she didn't even know who they were (yes, not even Vig), provided some real fireworks when the trio went to meet and greet Manson at an Angelfish gig at the Metro in Chicago last year. They had only spoken on the phone and were all nervous about the first meeting. Manson was growing increasingly unhappy with her position in Angelfish and had entertained thoughts of leaving them behind (since only she, not the band, was signed to a contract on the American label, Radioactive records). "We played the gig at Metro and afterwards I was wheeling Vic Chestnutt really fast down the sidewalk outside and I suddenly stopped and he went flying out of his wheelchair and to deliberately make me feel really awful, he let out this horrible wail, I thought, 'Fuck, they must think I'm so vile.' I tried not to make a really big scene about it, but I was dying a horrible death," says Manson in her punky Scottish burr.
Erikson, who has been standing behind Manson, kneading her shoulders since he walked in after finishing a cigarette, says, "Actually, we did think that was pretty vile," and then bursts into a subdued laugh, revealing a hint of the intimate, loose rapport these four have developed in less than a year together.
"Little did I know that Vic does that all the time," Manson continues. "After that we went to a dance club together and got drunk and stayed out until five in the morning at which point we decided we would try and work together."
Vig says the boys thought Manson was "kind of feisty." And that they "enjoyed hanging out together, which was a good sign. You hear someone's voice or see a picture, you may get a pre-conception of what they'll be like, but if you're going to work with them it's the chemistry of your personalities that's more important."
Now, instead of the awkwardness of those first few months, many of them spent arguing about lyrics that Manson said she "absolutely couldn't sing," there are quick-fire casual insults (most amusingly when Manson calls some of Vig's ideas "shite") and inside jokes. At one point, Manson and Marker burst into uncontrolled laughter, forcing Manson out of the room, much to the chagrin of Vig, who is confused and a little thrown off by the outburst. Upon her return, Manson puts Vig's mind at ease by explaining that she had caught Marker's eye and through an unspoken, dual remembrance of the pig movie, Babe, which everyone except Vig had seen the night before, she had lost control and had to excuse herself. Vig shrugs and tries to re-trace his train of thought as Manson dubs the porcine pic "a fucking brilliant human movie."
THE GIRL U WANT
Dressed all in black, from her tank top to her shoes, Manson's ivory, almost translucent skin and flaming red hair are the outward signals of an internal fire that comes through in her sometimes ferocious, sometimes deceptively sweet delivery. At once lithely feminine and delicate and also square-shouldered enough to knock your block off if she feels like being one of the guys, she sits with her feet up on a black swivel chair in the studio, her perfect eyebrows seemingly locked in a "yeah, fuck off" arch.
Manson, 26 (Vig coyly refuses to give the ages of the others, but suggests they are in their late thirties and not exactly pin-up boy material), saddled with an unfortunate surname shrouded in a darkness that's perhaps not as infamous in her native Scotland, says she was overjoyed to find three men that she could feel comfortable enough to work with in a band. Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Manson, who will say only that she had a "fucking miserable" childhood, wherein she fancied herself the ugliest little girl in the world, joined her first rock band at 16 and has played in at least a half a dozen since.
At 17 she joined the band Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie as a backing vocalist and keyboard player and released a few albums that didn't go very far beyond their native land. Eventually, she joined the band Angelfish as lead singer, recording one 1994 album with them. Interestingly enough, the straighter pop of that album does hint at the sound Manson and the rest of Garbage have concocted, only it's a much more traditional album. Manson doesn't want to talk about her former band. "Angelfish was just a band from Scotland," she says curtly. "There's nothing to say, really."
At the time when Vig and the boys called her, Angelfish had just had a college hit; Manson recalls that time as a "stifling" one. She says the major difference between her situation then and now is this: "Now I work with men, before I was working with boys."
She says Angelfish was described in the Scottish press as New Wave or "Blondie-meets Patti Smith," but she disagrees, "it was just pop, and not very good at that."
She is self-effacing, and whether she believes it or not, tells me that she doesn't think she's much of a singer. "Your vocal style is dictated by your actual abilities and I'm not the world's greatest singer, so I suppose I've learned to develop some kind of..." at which point, Erikson, who is wont to finish the others' sentences, or supply the precise word they are seeking (myself included), whispers, "style." And after a pause and a wry grin, "No style is too good for you."
Vig, as he is also wont to do, breaks in and says, "We didn't know what we would do with the songs before we met Shirley. We had four or five songs that were initially pretty pretentious and lyrically very simple, maybe a little bit too literal. We didn't want Duke to sing, even though he's a good singer, because Steve and I thought it would sound too much like Spooner. But Steve and I were so uncomfortable with our vocals that we tried to bury them deep in the mix or totally distort them with effects.
According to Vig, before Manson's arrival, they had wanted to concoct a sound, "way more fucked up and experimental. More hardcore than Nine Inch Nails, more rhythmically groovy than a hip-hop record, more guitars than My Bloody Valentine. I actually wanted," he says, "to saturate the guitars ten times more than MBV and add tons of manipulated sounds that were twisted up until they became indistinguishable. But ultimately, a lot of that doesn't work when your trying to write a song and put it in a context that works. So we threw most of that shit out the window and tried to make the songs work on their own.
"Once Shirley came in," Vig continues, "and started singing them and writing lyrics, the songs went more in the direction that we think is better for a pop song, which is to be a little bit more ambiguous and let the listener make up his or her own mind what the song is about and not give it all away. On 'Queer' I had a scratch vocal where I just screamed all the way through and Shirley heard that and did the total opposite. She sang it with this total understatement, which makes it much more intense. You think that by screaming it's going to be intense, but a lot of times its just the opposite, it makes it more subversive."
Praise notwithstanding, Manson soon dredges up a still-sore point between herself and Vig about her original vocals on the song "Supervixen." The song, the first on the CD, is distinguished by a heart-stopping guitar riff that drives you up an aural mountain, only to stop at the very top and leave you hanging for a split second before a wave of sound comes crashing back in. Manson talks about one of the epic battles during the making of the record, where she argued for a vocal, a rappy, tossed-off bit she was particularly fond of, that made it onto the record, but is barely perceptible at the end of the song, buried under a pile of clashing sounds constructed by Vig.
Erikson, a droll, quietly intense figure who prefers to hover near the doorway and let the others do the talking, (he can't smoke near the mixing console, which, it is interesting to note, once belonged to the Osmond Family and still bears an Osmond sticker on the back) speaks sporadically, often in sarcastic bursts, jumps in to defend the amount of sound on the record. He says that even though they were interested in well-structured songs, they also wanted to amass layers of noise and sound that, while in-your-face, wouldn't get in the way of the melodies of the songs. Manson rolls her eyes at this backwards defense of Vig and sticks out her tongue at Erikson, mumbling "cunt" under her breath, vaguely in Vig's direction.
KURT STOOD HERE
"That's about where he stood," says Vig, somewhat reluctantly. We are standing in the basement of Smart Studios and Vig is pointing up at the moldy ceiling, approximating where Kurt Cobain stood when he laid down the vocals for "Polly," which appeared on Nevermind. We are underneath the main studio on the first floor because there is currently a band recording in there and Vig is not willing to interrupt them for a morbidity tour. Prior to this Vig took me on a mini-tour of the studio, which he cautioned is not nearly on the scale of other rock studios in L.A. or New York.
"This place is only 2,500 square feet or something, so you can't really get a huge drum sound here like you might in a bigger room at a bigger studio," he says, less as a cop-out than as a affirmation that this is the place to get a nice, warm, personal sound. He is understandably hesitant about the inevitable Nirvana questions, not wanting to seem like a grave dancer or an opportunist. He mimics a German journalist, giving a hint of the type of questions the rest of the band had to endure while promoting the record overseas, by saying "Zo, tell me about vorking vith Kurt Cobain?" Vig seems not so much reluctant as shyly protective.
Underneath Smart is an endless series of racks of equipment and a maze of iron shelving units crammed with reel-to-reel tapes, masters and DATs representing a mini-history of modern rock. As fans and humidifiers buzz in the background, Vig, prompted again to share a little more Nirvana lore, is slowly overcome by a detached look. He reluctantly talks about the need to keep moving. "I'll never make a record as critically or commercially important as Nevermind," he says quietly. "But that doesn't mean I should just retire and give it up. I am proud and lucky to have been a part of making that record, it was definitely a once in a lifetime thing."
When pressed further about how Cobain acted, what type of person he was, how he treated Vig, he mulls it over a bit and says, "There's a sort of doctor-patient confidentiality that goes along with that relationship and when you work with somebody they bare a part of their persona to you and it's not fair to give that up."
He looks me straight in the eye, as if to say, "Get it?" Yeah, I get it. Vig seems to be saying this not just for my benefit, but maybe for his own, to again remind himself that even though those were exciting, maybe charmed times, to share them with everybody else would cheapen them and make him somewhat of a traitor.
I press on, and after a little (I think subtle) prompting, he points to another spot above us, a little to the left of the Cobain spot and motions to where Chad Smith sat, or rather stood, while Cobain tried to show him how he wanted the drums to sound. Vig gets a little bit of joy out of pantomiming Cobain's frustration at Smith's inability to get the drums to sound the right way. He then happily remembers the day when Cobain called him to tell him that he had just gotten the greatest drummer in the world, Dave Grohl. After that, Vig, without a word or a gesture, makes it clear that there will be no more Nirvana questions, and even though there are a million more, that seems okay.
THE ODD LITTLE MISTAKE
Upstairs again, Vig shows off the platinum and gold records from Nevermind Siamese Dream and three or four other albums high up on the walls in the cramped front office. He makes no apologies for the music he has helped create, least of all for Garbage. "Listen, this is a pop record. And while the three of us are too old to be pop starswe're no Boyz II Men, certainly not teen idolsI think we have made a really good record. If nothing else, the name is fitting. Garbage. Here today, gone tomorrow. But, really, I hope it's more than that. I hope it's not that disposable. Of course, we have certainly left ourselves open for the ultimate one word record review, 'Garbage...Indeed.'"
The three guys in Garbage are, understandably, most comfortable talking about recording, songwriting, the making of 'records.' They've have spent much of their adult lives holed up in recording studios. "A lot of what ended up on the record," says Duke Erikson, "were sounds that we found accidentally, like Steve's sample of a tape deck backing up, or the bit in 'Stupid Girl' that was initially a mistake, but when we slowed it down, actually fit the timbre and pace of the song and became the hook."
"You can find something like that that is non-musical and by incorporating it into the song it can actually become the hook, through either repetition or dropping other things out and focusing on that somehow," says Vig.
Manson, getting up to take a phone call, adds, "I don't think we've done anything weird. There's a lot more bands doing wilder things, that's just what bands do when they get in the studio. I think we've basically just made a pop record with the odd little mistake in it that we kept."
The "record it today and erase it all tomorrow" attitude the group adopted helped them figure out what to do with the tracks that pre-dated Manson's arrival. "A lot of the songs, because some of the rhythm tracks were recorded before Shirley joined us, went through a series of evolutions," says Vig. "When we were working on 'As Heaven is Wide,' it started out more as a big rock track. Steve had all these guitars on it, Duke had fuzz bass, I had a live, big room drum sound on it and Shirley sang and we kind of put it away for a while. Then, one day Duke and Steve came in and erased everything and put all these techno elements on it."
Phone call completed, Manson seamlessly jumps in. "Do you remember when that was?" she asks Erikson. "That's when we heard Tom Jones on the radio and I said that's what we should do, we should make it more electronic. That's what was wrong with it, it lacked a sort of power. And taking away the really mental guitars, it made it weirder and then you two..."
Erikson, again, finishes her thought: "We started messing around with different beats and at one point Shirley comes running into the room and yells, 'That's it, do that!'"
Vig recalls that because he was out of town, he hadn't heard the track since the original mental guitar version and when he'd heard what they'd done he thought it was "supercool." "Even though Shirley had sung to this vocal rock track, her vocal was way more intense being sung over this electronic techno groove track. The only thing left from that original recording is Duke's fuzz bass and Shirley's vocal. We erased everything else. And it really worked."
Manson, again jumping in, quips, "And it's weird, because it makes the track much harder sounding by taking away the guitars. They were really loud and crunchy and we put a little inoffensive keyboards on it and it ROCKS!," she squeals in her best pseudo-American accent. "It's so weird."
Keeping up the united front, the band takes collective credit for the lyrics. They describe the words as a collaborative psycho-therapy session wherein personal demons of various sizes and importance are exorcised, vilified, taken revenge upon and laid to rest. It is, however, the slippery voice of Manson that anchors the entire affair. Her vocals, which soar, dip and crawl over the course of the CD, are executed more like mini-performances, each with barely perceptible nuances that create not just a sonic texture, but a sonic character.
Manson says that although the writing was a collaborative effort, the words obviously had to travel through her body. "Because there are two sexes in the band, there are certain things that wouldn't be appropriate maybe, or that I would want to sing about, but that the boys didn't really give a (Americanized accent) rats ass about. I'd want to sing about my periods, but I don't think the boys would be particularly interested in working all day in the studio on that kind of thing. We try to find a common ground."
Erikson looks up under a furrowed brow and says in a surprised dead-pan, "You'd love to sing about your periods?"
"If you asked us about the themes on the record, we'd probably all give you different answers," says Vig, steering the conversation in a different direction as he unconsciously twists the gold band on his ring finger. "My personal life is somewhat of a mess. There are certain lines in the songs that I relate to because they mean something to me in a way that only makes sense to me. There are things that we touch on, like voyeurism, hedonism, perversion, obsession and the art of self-destruction, these dark themes that I think a lot of people can relate to, like Shirley said, universally, in some way or another."
Although themes of personal strength and spirituality, in the body of angels, gods, demons and spirits, saturate the lyrics, Vig says there are quite a few songs where, "God didn't bother to show up, or maybe he showed up and it wasn't quite what you expected, or he was late."
Whether it is the tongue-in-cheek homage to Russ Meyer in "Supervixen," where Manson purrs, "We'll make a whole new religion/ A falling star that you cannot live without," or her hidden razor-in-the-mouth verse, "You thought I was a little girl/ You thought I was a little mouse/ You thought you'd take me by surprise/ Now I'm burning down your house," from "Not My Idea," the CD certainly does wallow in a seemingly, salvation-less darkness.
But Manson is quick to point out the difference between the darkness on the record and what she describes, perhaps in a dig at her old bandmates, as the self-involved angst of "hormonally-driven sixteen year-olds." She says the band is "interested in lending some depth to what we do. We hope that they are pop songs that work on one level and as you listen to them, you glean other things from either what's going on sonically or lyrically."
One of the things Garbage realized half-way through the recording process was that all their angst- and misery-bearing was turning the record into a somewhat somber, vaguely depressing affair. Enter, "Only Happy When it Rains." Set to a grinding beat and sung in a bored-to-tears deadpan by Manson, the lyrics to the song, "I'm only happy when it rains/ I feel good when things are goin' wrong/ I only listen to sad, sad songs/ Pour your misery down on me/ My only comfort is the night gone black" (you get the point), shows the lighthearted side of Garbage, even if it is hidden beneath a black-eyeliner goth veneer. "It's really just us poking fun at ourselves," says Marker. "We're poking fun at the alternarock angst, wearing your heart on your sleeve thing and at ourselves for writing such dark songs."
THE FIRST HIT
After a few hours the band members start to drift out of the room to make more preparations for tomorrow's CD release party. Vig repairs to the upstairs lounge area to do a phone interview, while Erikson removes his shirt, pops open a Sierra Nevada and plops down in a chair on the wooden deck where he says many beers were had during the recording of Garbage. Looking out over the balcony, watching a Madisonian scrape fistfuls of gunk out of his rain gutter, I'm reminded of why Vig said Madison is a great place for him, and Garbage, to make music. "I stayed here because I didn't want to get a real job," he said earlier in the day. "Plus, it's a fairly liberal town with decent restaurants. It's a nice city and because its a college town, there's plenty of good bands."
And, as he also told me earlier, he believes that Madison will continue to provide something of a reality check for him and his mates. "Ultimately, it's a small town and we're living in a fishbowl, which helps keep me grounded," he said. "I don't really see how you could be pretentious and get away with it here. If we started going around acting like pop stars, people would call us on it in a minute."
A half hour after heading upstairs, Vig returns, phone interview completed, and asks if I want to hear a few b-sides that they just finished for the European single of "Only Happy When It Rains." Manson also wanders back in. The songs, "Girl Don't Come," a grinding, beautiful mess of hard techno beats and "Sleep" a narcotic drone that sounds like phonetically-correct ear candy, produce a far-away look in both Vig and Manson's eyes as they concentrate hard on the music pounding out of the massive speakers, each tapping their feet to the beat.
As she munches on crackers and sips mineral water, a sliver of a smile crosses Manson's face, suggesting that, maybe, just maybe, she is actually happy with how the mix on the songs sounds. After "Sleep" fades, Vig pops the DAT out of the player and looks at Manson. "'Don't Come' needs more guitars," he says in a half-question.
"Yeah, you're right," she says, dead-pan. Then with a sneer she ads, "And the fucking vocals need to be further up."
After spending much of the day with the group, I decide it's time to ask Vig how he feels about sharing the spotlight that's been aimed at him due to the hits he's produced, with his three bandmates. He says it was never really a concern. He also says that, to some extent, he's burned out on producing indie-nation bands. "If anything, we didn't want to have to be a band that is two guitars, bass and drums, plays in the basement, then go and record yourself au natural in the studio," says Vig, not afraid to shoot himself in his gilded foot. "That kind of alternarock scene, I think, to a certain extent, is getting stale."
The bands Vig says he is excited about are ones that are making more eclectic pop records, like Tricky, Portishead, and Bjork, to name a few. The band says they hope they're a hit on the dance floor. In fact, they say they've talked to a number of re-mixers in the hope that they can find someone to come in and Garbageize the songs, i.e., erase everything except for the vocals and totally re-invent the songs.
Garbage never intended to release their first single at all. In November of last year their British manager called and said they had a chance to submit a song for Volume, a well-respected CD compilation/booklet, the only catch was that they had to have it ready within three days. They quickly finished the song "Vow," the only one they felt was close to being done. Before they knew it, British radio picked up the song. Within a few months KROQ (FM) in LA and a Modern Rock station in Seattle also picked it up.
This screwed the band up a little, because they realized that they didn't necessarily want "Vow" to be their first single, or a single at all. Not only that, but the song doesn't really best represent the Garbage sound. Like those unfortunate masses who were suckered into Beck's excellent debut thinking they would get a dozen "Loser" re-treads, anyone who picks up Garbage expecting twelve alternative guitar hits with chick vocals will be disappointed. In fact, "Vow" is surely the exception on the record, the only hint that one of the members is known more for cock rock than club hits. "Actually I've begun to think that it's quite fortunate that 'Vow' was the first single," says Manson, ever contrary. "Because had we done one of the more clubby tunes we would have been pigeonholed as a dance band and that's a hard tag to shake. Now we can do whatever and people won't know what to expect."
Manson tells me that a few nights ago at their favorite local bar, Cafe Montmarte, the owner, a friend of theirs, played a few tracks off an advance of Garbage and she was both excited and horrified. "It occurred to me that as of tomorrow, people in the States will be able to slag us off for the first time," she says. "Before this we've never sold a single record in this country. That's a bit scary."
Even as Marker laughs a little at the suggestion that this record might make them rock stars, Manson is quick to say, "I don't really care if we become rock stars. I just want to sell enough records so that we can tour the world. I've never been to Thailand, I'd like to go. Just so long as we sell that many, that would be okay with me."
Garbage Album Reviews
Critiques de l'album Garbage
pays magazine: USA
date: 11 août 1995
Current Status: In Season
Producers: Almo Sounds, Geffen
You expect great guitar and drum sounds from producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins); the surprise is that the songs on this stunning self-titled debut album, Garbage, are just as good. With their menacing sexuality, sonic playfulness, inventive guitar treatments, and cool vocals by Shirley Manson, Garbage comes off like a punkier, less cerebral Golden Palominos.
pays magazine: Angleterre
date décembre 1994
CD de 18 chansons + livret 192 pages
Article de 8 pages sur Garbage: la première interview du groupe
1. Olivine – Node
2 .Good times – Spiritualized
3. Foetus – Goya Dress
4. Vow – Garbage
5. Visa for violet and van – Prolapse
6. Girl meets girl – Shriek
7. Son of John Doe – Pet Lamb
8. What love – Moby
9. Tomorrow night – G. Love & Special Sauce
10. Karma coma – Massive Attack
11. Space theme (Tribute to John Cage in C A G and E) – Experimental Audio Research
12. Lower than stars – Laika
13. Only now – Ride
14. Dream on – Catatonia
15. Wake up – Love Spit Love
16. Pond life – Novocaine
17. Days – Flinch
18. In decline – Nitzer Ebb
words by Ann Scanlon
"Is grunge dead over there, too?" asks Butch Vig who, as the producer of everything from early Killdozer records to 1991's mainstream-smashing 'Nevermind', played a major role in creating the whole genre. "I guess it probably is. Grunge died before it was even really born - may it rest in peace."
Currently holed up in their Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin, Vig has just finished recording an album of his own, with a band who have given themselves the ultimate post-grunge name of Garbage.
"This friend came to the studio to play some percussion on the remix of a Nine Inch Nails track," Vig says, by way of explanation, "and when he saw all the loops that I had going around the desk he said, Man, this fuckin' shit looks like garbage to me, do you know what you're doing? So I said, I'm not sure, but we're gonna turn this garbage into a song at some point. We kind of liked the name because it could just be a blend of all sorts of trash and stuff."
Trash is definitely a key element in the dark, industrial pop songs that Garbage intend to release as their debut album in 1995. The idea behind the group dates back to 1984 when Vig and fellow University of Wisconsin film student Steve Marker set up Smart Studios and decided that they wanted to record their own material as well as local punk bands.
"Unfortunately," Vig explains, "when you build your own studio you basically work your ass off just to pay the bill and buy more gear and so we ended up doing any project that we were offered."
The phenomenal success of Nirvana's 'Nevermind' changed all that, and not only did Vig find himself working with increasingly successful bands like Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins but he was also offered big bucks to remix singles by the likes of U2 and Depeche Mode. Having completed albums by Sonic Youth and Freedy Johnston at the beginning of 1994, Vig and Marker (who is a successful producer and remixer in his own right) formed Garbage with Duke Erikson, who frequently co-produces with Vig and also played in Spooner and Firetown with him in the early '80s.
"We decided that although I would play drums," Vig says, "Steve would be on guitar and Duke on bass, we'd fuck around with all of them and try to incorporate different styles and genres, throw it all into a big melting pot and see what would happen."
"Basically," Steve Marker adds, "we're trying to get real trashy, lo-fi guitar sounds. We want to take pop music and make it as horrible sounding as we can."
Although the combination of Vig, Marker and Erikson makes Garbage something of a producer supergroup, the three of them had long since decided that they wanted a woman to front the band and that production skills weren't a particular requisite.
"I really enjoyed working with women like L7," says Vig, who produced the band's 1992 'Bricks Are Heavy' LP. "There's a different kind of psychology going on in the studio when you're working with women. We also thought it would really be cool to have all these different elements of pop and noise, and trash and groovy rhythms, but have it coming from more of a woman's perspective."
Garbage found the woman they were looking for when they saw a clip of Scottish singer Shirley Manson fronting a band called Angelfish on MTV.
"To me," Steve Marker explains, "Shirley had a darkness and a depth to her that you don't get out of many bands that are around right now - it really, really struck me the first time I heard her."
Manson, who had previously played in Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, was impressed by Vig, Marker and Erikson's production CVs and didn't need much persuading to put Angelfish on the backburner and work with Garbage.
"It sounds kind of moronic," she says, "but everything that I've heard that they've done, I love, so working with them was an honour - although I don't think I would have got involved if I hadn't felt they were like-minded people when I met them."
During her three months in Vig and Steve's Madison studio, Manson adapted the songs that had already been written to suit herself.
"When we started writing lyrics," Vig explains, "we tried to write a lot of them from a woman's perspective and I think, initially, some of them were a little pretentious. But as soon as Shirley came on board she simplified the lyrics so that they were a lot more subtle and worked better as songs.
"We all throw ideas around and yell and argue about stuff and Shirley is very feisty - she's got a mean right hook. When she gets pissed off she goes, Fuck you, you deserve a dead arm!, so both my arms are black and blue. Duke and Steve are the same, we're all bruised up!"
The ability to deliver a mean right hook is probably an advantage for someone who sings dark, vengeful pop songs like the featured Volume track, 'Vow'.
"That was one of the first tracks that we had musically," Vig says. "The idea for it came from a newspaper article that I read about a woman who had gone back to get revenge on an abusive husband, so we thought it would be cool to get a bit of retribution in there."
Although tracks like 'Only Happy When It Rains' and 'Subhuman', which will appear on the band's untitled debut album, share 'Vow''s dark sensibility and bouts of Trent Reznoresque depression, Garbage definitely beat with a pop heart.
"I played Billy (Corgan) from Smashing Pumpkins a few rough mixes and he said that it was pretty poppy," Vig says, "which didn't surprise him at all, because he knows that I'm a pop geek. I love pop music. I like hooks mixed up with noise and if you listen to the Pumpkins or Nirvana or even Sonic Youth you can hear that dichotomy of noise and melody blended together. That's the kind of thing that I hope we're doing in Garbage - although it's hard for me to keep a perspective on it right now because we're still working on it."
Billy Corgan formally thanked Vig on the sleeve of Smashing Pumpkins' debut album, 'Gish', for his patience, which had made that record and its arduous follow-up, 'Siamese Dream', possible. With two other people to share production duties in Garbage, Vig found that recording his own album was actually less intense than doing other people's.
"It's been interesting and fun for me to be able to become part of a band versus having to be the main dude and making all the decisions," Vig says. "Although in some ways, early on, it was kind of hard because I'm used to overseeing everything and getting my own way and I had to deliberately force myself to take a back seat and go, This is okay. I can't be so verbal about things and be a dickhead, I have to let everybody get in on this."
Garbage are currently very much a studio band, but Vig says: "While we rely on loops and samples, we are looking at the possibilities of translating it on a live front, should the opportunity arrive."
Both Erikson and Vig have previously toured with Spooner and Firetown and have a burning desire, says Vig, to see if the Holiday Inns have changed their decor.
As yet, Vig hasn't lined up any projects for 1995 (though he may work with Soul Asylum and Veruca Salt), but he's relieved that very few bands still ask him to make them "sound like Nirvana".
"I still get a lot of tapes coming in, but I never wanted to just make rock records," Vig says. "I like guitar, bass and drums kind of records but I grew up listening to everything from pop radio and opera to country music and polka, so I really though that Garbage would be an interesting and eclectic thing to do.
"It wasn't that I wanted to make some kind of statement, I just really wanted to have fun in the studio and collaborate with Steve and Duke. What would I like people to get from Garbage's music?
"I guess that I could be kind of crass and say that I hope it's good music to fuck to, but that's probably not appropriate. I mean, I don't think it would be a good idea for someone to fuck to a vengeful little song like 'Vow'."
(track 4 on accompanying compact disc)
produced by Garbage
mastered by Howie Weinberg at Smart Studios, Madison, Wisconsin.
Shirley Manson - vocals
Steve Marker - acoustic & electric guitar, loops, samples
Duke Erikson - electric guitar, bass, keyboards
Butch Vig - drums, loops, sound processing
pays magazine: Angleterre
date décembre 1996
Couverture Kula Shaker
Article: de 1 page "The Think Tank"
pays magazine: Angleterre
date avril 1996
Couverture Red Hot Chili Peppers
Article: de 3 pages "More than a Woman"
Photographies de Christian Witkin
pays magazine: Etats-Unis
date 03 juin 1996
Couverture "Feminism Rocks"
Article: "Feminism Amplified".
pays journal: France
date 3 avril 1996
Garbage, âge tendre et grabuge. Réponse ricaine à la «fast-pop» anglaise, Shirley et sa bande jouent à Paris. Garbage, en concert ce soir à l'Elysée-Montmartre, Paris; album: «Garbage», BMG.
Le fantasme pop a failli tourner au cauchemar. A l'automne dernier, Butch Vig, fameux producteur du Nevermind de Nirvana, était en carafe dans sa retraite du Wisconsin. «Au bord de la dépression nerveuse», précise-t-il. Les crises succédaient aux crises, plus rien ne tournait rond. Garbage, le groupe formé avec deux complices producteurs du Midwest, Duke Erickson et Steve Marker, et une fille d'Ecosse, Shirley Manson, menaçait de n'être que ce qu'on pouvait en attendre: un rêve inerte d'ingénieur du son.
Après quelques mois de tensions devant la console et l'accueil bienveillant réservé au disque, la perspective des concerts ébranlait l'édifice. «A l'origine, Steve, Bruce et moi-même n'avions pas pensé que nous monterions un jour sur scène, raconte Vig. Nous voulions juste former notre propre groupe pour aller au bout des idées qu'on ne pouvait réaliser en travaillant pour les autres, mélanger des idées de tous bords techno, hip hop, grunge, funk, ambient dans le contexte d'une chanson pop. Nous avons multiplié les expériences en studio pour trouver une texture particulière mais quand nous avons voulu prouver au monde que nous étions un bon groupe, c'est devenu une autre histoire.» Premières répétitions catastrophiques; «nul et banal», concède le producteur.
Pour sa première visite française, lors des Transmusicales de Rennes en décembre, Garbage commençait toutefois à sortir du moule. Le son compact, la densité mélodique, la voix et l'abattage d'une Shirley Manson aussi culottée que ses modèles (Chrissie Hynde, Siouxsie) produisaient leur effet dans le palais des sports bétonné où Nirvana s'était imposé. Les trois cerveaux du Midwest et leur imprévisible compagne sont depuis retournés à Madison. Trois semaines de répétition, une mise au point technique et technologique. Et des progrès annoncés: «Nous avons maintenant des instruments qui nous permettent de réutiliser et de réarranger sur scène les boucles et les samples du disque et de prolonger l'expérience, dit Butch Vig. La maîtrise de cette technologie nous permet de jouer en toute décontraction. Enfin presque...»
Le cas Garbage n'a jamais été simple. Il prend sa source dans la frustration de trois malins («Smart» est le nom de leur studio) persuadés de pouvoir trouver la parfaite équation pop en croisant leur formation de musiciens et leur expérience de producteurs.
Butch Vig, fils d'une professeur de musique et batteur branché sur Keith Moon depuis les années lycée, s'est forgé une réputation en apurant et canalisant les tentations bruitistes de la vague grunge (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins...), ses deux compères-guitaristes ont bossé sur des remixes de U2, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode. «Quand on nous demandait ce genre de travail, raconte l'homme de Nevermind, on ne pouvait s'empêcher d'effacer les pistes pour réenregistrer les instruments. On réécrivait les chansons.» L'envie de composer est venue naturellement. Le trio a repris le fil d'une passion qui les tenait depuis l'adolescence. Ils étaient alors tellement impressionnés par la pop expérimentale du Roxy Music première formule qu'ils avaient formé un genre de fan-club. Ils ont suivi cette piste. Ne leur manquait qu'une voix pour asseoir leur idée. Pas de crooner en vue: ils ont cherché une femme.
La première rencontre avec Shirley Manson, starlette underground au passé corbeau-gothique, a tourné au désastre. Après une prometteuse conversation, l'ex-chanteuse de Goodbye Mr McKenzie et d'Angel Fish, repérée sur MTV, s'est révélée sans voix ni idées lors de l'audition. «On était déçus, raconte Butch Vig. On cherchait une personnalité, capable d'apporter sa patte aux compositions. On voulait éviter le piège évident, la faute que tout le monde guettait: enrôler une créature qui mettrait sa voix au service de nos idées. Mais après le premier essai, elle nous a rappelés, elle avait des propositions à faire et l'envie de nous convaincre. La plupart des textes que nous avons enregistrés ce jour-là ont tenu jusqu'au dernier mix de l'album.» Shirley Manson existe à présent. Au-delà de leurs espérances. La brunette donne corps au groupe sur les planches et en coulisses. Mi-louve, mi-virago. La presse anglaise se régale de ses déclarations à l'emporte-pièce, de ses accès lubriques et de ses aventures scato-rocambolesques. Parfois, elle stoppe net le cinéma et la provocation: «Ma mère m'a prévenue que j'allais finir par passer pour une vraie crétine!»
«A vrai dire, on ne s'attendait pas à un tel personnage, dit Butch Vig. Elle ne nous correspond pas du tout. Elle est caractérielle, elle réagit au quart de tour, alors que nous sommes très pragamatiques, que nous réfléchissons des heures avant de prendre la moindre décision.» Aux premiers jours, l'équipage menaçait d'imploser. Les trois alchimistes brouillaient les pistes à loisir, traquaient tous les accidents possibles, mélangaient trente pistes de guitares pour n'en faire qu'une. Ils avaient tous une idée assez tranchée (et rarement consensuelle) sur les directions à suivre. La chanteuse avançait à l'instinct avec des bribes de mélodies classiques.
L'incompréhension et l'impatience ont accouché de séances électriques, menaces de rupture et pugilats à peine contrôlés. Vig: «Nous carburons à la tension.» Ils en ont tiré quelque chose: un disque taillé pour le succès; une simplicité de façade, minée de l'intérieur. Pretenders ou Cranberries revisités par un Spector des 90's: «L'assurance de la voix de Shirley, son penchant pour une musique et des textes plus universels nous ont permis de pousser les expériences sur le son. Pour l'album suivant, nous prendrons sans doute plus de risques.» Ils parlent du producteur idéal: Spector, Eno, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits... Galéjade? «Je ne vois pas comment cohabiter. Mais travailler avec Eno serait un rêve.»
Vig ne veut pas reprendre son job de producteur. Les propositions affluent toujours («Maintenant, on me demande du Garbage, plus du Nirvana!»); mais le plan de carrière est fixé: tournée jusqu'à l'automne, puis compositions et enregistrement pour l'été 1997. Garbage est là, semble-t-il, pour un moment: «Si j'entendais parler d'un groupe de producteur, disait Butch Vig au Melody Maker, je me dirais: quel putain d'egomaniaque! Mais Garbage n'est pas mon projet. C'est une collaboration psychotique et dysfonctionnelle.»