Imagine you're a scarcely known singer and you get a call out of the blue from some producers, who ask you to come and try singing for a group they want to put together.
Except they aren’t ordinary producers. They run the studio responsible for some of the biggest albums in alternative music from bands like Nirvava, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and L7.
Shirley Manson was rightfully intimidated when this happened to her. She was also pretty skint and far away from home when she made it to Smart Studios in the American mid-west. This was before portable technology made dealing with homesickness as easy as making a Skype call.
But perhaps that was a good thing. The isolation meant she was forced to focus on the people around her; Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson.
Marker had seen Shirley’s previous band Angelfish on MTV, when their video got a single run in the dead of the night. He got Butch and Duke to join him at an Angelfish gig and they all agreed she had something special.
But they didn’t want to get in over their heads, the plan was to have her sing on one track. Shirley was equally anxious about whether the project could get off the ground. But they soon realized they loved a lot of the same bands like The Clash (who’s ‘Train In Vain’ drum rhythm provides the backbone to ‘Stupid Girl’), Siouxsie and The Banshees and Roxy Music.
It was while Butch and Steve were working on remixes for bands like Nine Inch Nails, House Of Pain, The Cult and Depeche Mode that the vision of their own band took shape. They wanted to form a band that could synthesize the sounds and energy of hip hop, punk, dance and pop.
They weren’t the first to try and cross musical genres but they did come up with something uniquely their own, something that others tried to cash in on. Manson referred to these copyists as "Garbage clones" during their first interview on triple j.
Manson was "psyched" to be in Australia and interviewed on triple j, saying the station was the first in the world to play ‘Vow’, the first single from their debut album. The band knew about our local scene too, using a sample from Sydney’s Single Gun Theory in another standout album track.
That song was ‘Queer’, a word not widely used nor heard in the mid 90s. ‘Queer’ also has the particular distinction of featuring James Brown drummer Clyde Stubblefield laying on some of his percussive prowess.
For a band that had a shaky start, the foursome knew they had something worth pursuing. With their debut album, they showed the world that they were stayers.
It was whilst they were in the studio last year working on their latest and upcoming album, Strange Little Birds, that Garbage decided to celebrate the anniversary of their debut record. Not for the sake of nostalgia, but to acknowledge that it changed lives; both their own and those of the many hardcore and new fans who witnessed them on their 20 Years Queer tour.
In a Canadian interview, Manson said she was not one to listen to her own albums, but that she did recently put Garbage on. Listening back, she was surprised to find that it was a ‘good’ album, a sizeable admission from a woman who is very much still, a proud Scot.