She's been called a vixen, a sex bomb, a fiery, feisty scary woman. But there's one thing Garbage's Shirley Manson has
      never been called: A sweetheart.

"Please! I'll pay you $10! I need to stop at Starbucks. I need a fix." Shirley Manson doesn't fancy afternoon tea, she needs a
caffeine hit. And fast. Garbage have just driven through the night from Florida to Atlanta and Steve [Marker, Garbage guitarist]
kept her awake playing Fatboy Slim at "like 10 million decibels". Lesser people would take a sickie, or at least postpone the
shoot while they get a couple of hours' shut eye, but Shirley just grins and says, "I'm very resilient". By the time we arrive at the
studio she's wilting a bit though, and looking through the clothes she mutters, "I'll wear whatever You're lucky you've got me
when I'm tired - I've no fight left in me."

Having read plenty about Shirley Manson, this was the last thing I expected to hear. Many a column inch has been dedicated to
analysing her, and if half of them are to be believed, she's a hard bitch, an outspoken, demanding, troubled wild card. My first
experience of Shirley this morning was in the lobby of her hotel on the outskirts of Atlanta, when I heard her laugh booming out
from the lift. Actually it's more of a guffaw - a huge, throaty noise that makes you want to laugh along with her. It's warm,
welcoming, friendly - a bit like her, it turns out.

Shirley uses pet names for everyone she comes into contact with - she calls the make-up woman
"Mama", the woman behind reception "Honey" and the woman in the coffee shop "Sweetie". Even
her band cohorts are collectively (and very affectionately) referred to as "The Boys". While this
may sound a touch luvvie and false, it's actually incredibly comforting, natural and loveabe: she's
good with people, is Shirley.

When we finally find a coffee shop the girl serving us goes beetrootcoloured and can't even look
Shirley in the eyes. Shirley chats easily, including the girl in the conversation, and is effortlessly
polite and friendly. We get back in the car and I mention that the girl seemed really freaked out
and that is was sweet of Shirley to try and put her at ease. She shrugs and smiles, "I'm very
sensitive to how other people are feeling. I think it's a female thing - I want to alleviate any
embarrassment or nervousness that they might be suffering.

"Starbucks is my main fix and it's usually you people working in there - sometimes they're actually shaking. It just makes me feel
horrendous because I've been in that situation."

She understands because Shirley was, and still is, a fan too. She often talks about music being her salvation when she was a
depressed, suicidal teenager, and now this notoriously insecure and self-depricating woman is an idol herself. Scary, huh?

"No, I like being a role model because I know how much comfort my musical idols brought me. I like the feeling that I'm giving
young women self-confidence. It sounds so clichйd, but it can be very moving. I get letters from young women who tell me 'I
wanted to commit suicide and then I heard your record and it made me feel empowered. Now I'm feeling much better and I'm
back at school and getting great grades' and I feel like 'Yes! Let's go girl!'." She jumps in the air, giving an imaginary high five to
this fan she's just "saved". This isn't usual pop start monotone reciting how important his/her fans are with all the sincerity of a
Tory MP. This is Shirley.

Ever since Garbage's second album, Version 2.0 was released in May '98, life's been mental. Everything takes a backseat to
the schedule: private lives, families, even birthdays. Shirley turned 32 at Reading Festival this year, where she drank a whole
bottle of champagne and went on stage absolutely shitfaced. But Shirley's still stuffed with energy. She's enthusiastic, passionate
and excited. And it's real, it's in her face, it's in the way she gets dreamy when she talks about gigs ("It's like we're all in this big
gang together"). Let's face it, you'd have to love what you do to survive this life of getting an hour's kip on the tour bus and
never getting to go home.

I've got a lot of stamina and I enjoy people, so having lots of people around doesn't freak me out," she shrugs. "Also, I'm not
homey, I'm really adaptable, so I'm really well-equipped emotionally to deal with the pressures that come with being in a band."

These pressures are added to by the fact that her family and husband of two years (partner for "something in the region of seven
years, but neither of us knows exactly") are based in Edinburgh while she trawls around America. Shirley dismisses my
comment that it must be hard to sustain a relationship. "He's an artist, he's got his own studio where he can potter about to his
heart's content."

Shirley temper

Shirley's all made up and ready to be snapped, but she isn't quite as at ease as she was. She goes
very quiet once I front of the camera and mutters to the photographer that she always feels "such a
twat" having her picture taken. I decide it's probably best to stay out of her way - from what I've
heard, you don't mess with Shirley when she's in a bad mood. Later, back at the hotel - after a
much-needed beer - she's cheered up immeasurably, so much so that I feel brave enough to touch on
the subject of her famous bad temper.

"I have a temper on me that could hold back tides. It's not something I'm proud of but it exists, and I
try and keep it away from people that don't deserve it. There's a side to me that's sweet and nice, but
if somebody fucks with me then I'll fuck with them back. And I'll wipe the floor with them. It's as
simple as that. I'm not frightened of anybody, I'm not intimidated by anybody, but if everyone is nice
to me then I'll be nice back."

So that'll be why people constantly call you stuff like fiery, feisty, tough-talking etc... "If you have any opinions at all or if you're
even remotely verbal then they're going to call you fiery. I don't think they can deal with someone being complex and
contradictory; it's not acceptable, you have to be a cartoon, a stereotype. I am a contradictory mess but I see it as my
prerogative to change my mood like the weather. And nobody's going to make me do otherwise. I've been like this since I was
born. You could go back to Edinburgh and ask anybody and they'll tell you that I've always been the same."

The other thing you get called is sex kitten/vixen/sex bomb… I suppose that's because you're female and you don't get all coy
talking about blow jobs.

"Actually, I believe that's because I've never taken my clothes off. I am not a sexy woman, I'm not beautiful, I'm not a sex kitten,
I don't flirt with people, yet I've been tagged more of sex symbol than women who truly are and I that's solely because I don't
reveal too much: people are curious.

"I'm into the whole '30's and '40's vibe in the movies where all you got was a kiss, it's always more erotic when you fantasise
about kissing somebody than when you actually get to kiss them. You can reach a peak of frenzy wondering what it'd be like to
kiss someone like… well, in my case it'd be William Hurt. But then if you saw him with his meat and veg spread all over a
magazine, it'd be like 'Oh my God!'. I mean, women have beautiful bodies, but once you've seen it all it's like, 'But what have
you got to say for yourself, lady?'."

So, do you get asked to take your kit off often? "Many times, and I won't submit to it. Until more women stand up and say 'I'm
not prepared to do that' then it's going to continue. I don't want to perpetuate that kind of stereotype. I don't think it's good to
encourage people to expect to see women on front covers without their clothes on… I don't have any problem with women
doing it, if they want to, but for me personally I find it uncomfortable. I have no problem with , pornography, stripping,
prostitution - nothing. I think that's important to state, when you refuse to take your clothes off, so that people don't mistake it
for prudishness or jealousy of other women taking their clothes off and looking beautiful - in fact I celebrate that. But it offends
me because it's masquerading as something it isn't. if you want to look at nude women, then buy a porn mag."

Ms Motivator

At this point I confess: I'm awe-struck. On the one hand, it sounds completely wanky but, on the other, Shirley is an inspiration.
She's woman's woman and proud of it. "I have a lot of very close girlfriends and sisters - I'm from an all female family. My
father often quips that even the cat was neutered!" That laugh comes booming out again. "I adore men, though, because they're
so simple. I love my girlfriends to death, but they're fucking high maintenance!" Shirley Manson has been in bands since she was
15-years-old. She didn't start doing this to make money, she did it out of love, always has done. She lingered in the shadows
playing keyboards in late '80s guitar-pop outfit Goodbye mr MacKenzie. When they transformed into Angelfish, she became
the front-woman, and after the band were featured on MTV, Butch Vig suspected he might just have seen the singer he'd been
looking for to front his new project. She talks about it like it's a fairy tale.

Up until two years ago, Shirley Manson had never made any money out of music. "I was a
failure for so long. I think it's a great thing to have failed in life and then pulled yourself up
by the boot straps and actually done something, because then you appreciate it more. And
you understand what really matters in life." And what matters to Shirley is her husband, her
family, her friends and her band. Any other trappings that come with her new lifestyle, she
sees as bullshit.

What's so special about Ms Manson is that she doesn't get sucked in by the parties and free coke that many other artists seem
so impressed by. "A lot of people these days are not music lovers - they just want to be famous which is a very different thing to
what I grew up believing in. A lot of celebrities just want money, fame, power, fancy cars, houses all over the world and have
people bow down to them. To me, that's frightful behaviour. A lot of my friends are artists or musicians or single parent families
and I'm totally aware of how difficult it is for them to make ends meet. I couldn't feel good about myself hanging out in Armani
clothes when my girlfriend can't even pay her heating bill. I'd feel foul and I'd be embarrassed."

Last night, Garbage were doing a signing session at Tower Records. Shirley tells me that a woman who'd recently lost her baby
came up to her and gave her a sweet, sad letter saying that their music helps her get through the day. Shirley's voice goes a bit
wobbly as she tells me this. "It moves me to thing we're giving comfort to people. My niece was seven when she died of cancer
and my sister-in-law - her mom - used to hear R.E.M.'s Everybody Hurts on the radio all the time she was in the hospital. She
fell in love with the record and she listened to it all the time. That song was her salvation, it was her medication. To have that
power with a song to bring comfort in a time of untold misery is a beautiful, pure thing."