Shirley Manson is best known as the down to earth, straight-talking vocalist of alt rock band Garbage. This year, instead of sending her a card, or heaven forbid, constructing a punk cake and trying to guess where to post it (Garbage are currently on a US tour) we thought instead we’d post a taste of the interview we did with Shirley that was originally published in Blogzine 6.
Growing up in Edinburgh and cutting her musical teeth with the band Goodbye Mr MacKenzie, in the mid 1990s Shirley took a massive leap of faith. In 1994, when musicians and producers Duke Erikson, Burch Vig and Steve Marker were looking for a singer to front their mooted band, their high tide reference points included Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde. They wanted someone understated, yet totally in control. They found Shirley. As the owner of a voice that falls somewhere between a snarl and a purr, the foursome went on to become one of the biggest bands on the planet, to date selling upwards of 17 million albums worldwide.
Talking to her during the most recent lockdown we wanted to know how she was coping, how the new Garbage album was shaping up and how her rock star day was going – as we apologise for being, well a bit ordinary in comparison, but Shirley was having none of it –
‘What, pray tell is an ordinary person? Knock it off ladies; knock it off! I certainly don’t have any kind of a rock star day – I’m sorry to disappoint you; there’s no glamour here. I’m as ordinary as a blade of grass … as I think everybody is … which I think is one of the reasons why I was so attracted to the punk philosophy, where there was no elitism and nobody above anybody else. That’s how I’ve always lived my life and how I view the world. I don’t think that if you make music for a living it makes you very special at all; it’s just something you happen to be quite good at.‘
In the hour we have, we cover her formative years in Edinburgh, record shops, David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, androgeny, The Jump podcast and we don’t stop until we reach the subject of Garbage’s most recent album. No Gods No Masters is according to Shirley, ‘not a pop record, not really, although there are some pop tunes on it‘. The album of course is another creative juggernaut of one good idea layered upon another, and all centred by Shirley’s incisive lyrics and vocals, it is unmistakably Garbage.
Before we finish, we return to being a bit star struck and wonder whether that starstruck-ness has ever affected Shirley?
‘I met Debbie [Harry] when I was young in my very first band, Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. We supported Debbie on her solo tour of the UK in the 80s. To meet Debbie at that age was firstly mind-blowing, but also, by the time I’d got into my second band, she would come to our shows. I remember opening for The Ramones at The Academy in New York during New Music Seminar and Debbie was down in the mosh pit with all the kids … I mean how the f*ck does that happen? That says everything you need to know about Debbie Harry in that she’s so generous and so kind; treats everybody the same. I can’t say enough good things about her as a human being’.
As luck would have it, Shirley and Debbie will have plenty of opportunities to say good things to and about each other later on in the year when Blondie and Garbage hit the road together for an arena tour around the UK. Exciting huh?!!
Nov 06 M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Nov 08 Utilita Arena, Birmingham
Nov 09 AO Arena, Manchester
Nov 11 Bonus Arena, Hull
Nov 12 Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Nov 14 The Brighton Centre, Brighton
Nov 16 Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Nov 18 The O2 Arena, London
Nov 20 The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Nov 21 First Direct Arena, Leeds