x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Garbage are back with a fresh sound

The rock group Garbage are back after seven years. We talk to their singer Shirley Manson about their decision to return.

Garbage's frontwoman Shirley Manson performs at the KROQ Weenie Roast Y Fiesta, in California earlier this month. Katy Winn / AP Photo
Garbage's frontwoman Shirley Manson performs at the KROQ Weenie Roast Y Fiesta, in California earlier this month. Katy Winn / AP Photo

Why did Garbage shut down last time around?

Because we found ourselves in a position we never wanted to be in. We were surrounded by people who had zero enthusiasm for us as a band, zero enthusiasm for music, zero enthusiasm for anything but making money. It was really disheartening and robbed us of any joy we had as musicians. So we just gave up and went home, and it took this long for us to rediscover why we wanted to be musicians in the first place. We just got to this point where we knew we should just do this record ourselves, start our own label – and that’s what we’ve done.

Not Your Kind of People is a stroppy, sulky, sarcastic celebration of outsider attitude – is this the new Garbage manifesto?

It’s a sort of mission statement for the record. We got to the point where we realised we didn’t fit in anywhere. A few years ago we probably felt that was some kind of failing, but now we feel it’s our biggest asset. You hear a Garbage record, love it or hate it, you know it’s us.

You are often described as fiery and moody in interviews – is that accurate or a media caricature?

I think people project a certain thing on to me. Red-haired women, historically, have always been stigmatised. I’m really enthusiastic, really passionate, and I think people misread that sometimes as aggression. To be fair, when I was younger, I was scared a lot of the time. And like an animal, when it is scared, it becomes aggressive. In the early days of the band I felt very defensive.

After 15 years of commuting from Edinburgh to the US, you have now married an American and settled full-time in Los Angeles. Do you still feel Scottish?

Of course. In some ways I’ve felt more at home here in Los Angeles, but I will always feel really Scottish. I don’t think you can get rid of that, and I wouldn’t want to. The weird thing is I do miss all the seasons – I’m being a cliché of myself here but I do miss the rain. Scotland is an amazing country, outrageously beautiful and totally underpopulated, which is its greatest charm.

After Garbage went on hiatus you made a solo album that was never released. Why?

Geffen Records wanted me to be a pop success. I was already exhausted by those kinds of expectations being laid on Garbage, I wanted to get away from that rat race so I made a very dark, non-radio-friendly record. I’m not interested in writing nursery rhymes for the masses. That’s when I realised I needed to do something different.

So instead you played a robot in the Terminator TV series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles?

Yeah, it was brilliant. No pressure, really good fun. I would definitely like to do more acting. Actually, the day I got hired for the TV show I got dropped by Geffen Records. So then I was free – and that’s when I started to get the itch to make music again.

The alt-rock boom that launched Garbage is over and shiny pop is dominant. Is there still room for moody, grown-up rock bands in 2012?

There will obviously always be an alternative. I meet young kids all the time who have started bands – they don’t want to be pop, they want raging guitars and sonic noise, they’re really enthusiastic and not jaded.

Garbage are now touring with this new album. Does the band have a long-term future?

I don’t think we see anything on a long-term basis any more. This is the record we made, we’re proud of it, we’re excited by it – but beyond going out and playing some shows, we’ve not really thought much about it.