Bin There, Done That!

By Simon Williams

From getting trashed with Tricky to being framed by the tabloids to selling two million copies of their debut album, 1996 will go down as the year Garbage inherited a lipsmackin' slice of the earth. VOX joins them Down Under to hear those 'phew rock 'n' roll antics in full...

"We've had an amazing year, really. It's just been like... a joke!" The small pale face with the panda eyes wrinkles up in milk bewilderment for a moment. She pauses, then adds: "It literally is a joke, and we keep expecting to get written out of the script..."

It is frequently observed that sexless scamp David Duchovny, aka FBI agent Fox Mulder never expected the X-Files series to take off. If he had held any suspicions that the then-nascent show would last for more than one run, the New Yorker would never have signed the contract and thus committed himself to five years' hard filming labour in sodding Vncouver.

But at east the Mulder-like One knows how ol' panda eyes herself, Shirley Manson, feels. Slumped in the restaurant of the Melbourne Hilton Hotel, the Garbage singer is casting a wary glance back over the past 12 months, metahorically scratching her head with a big stick and wondering aloud: "What the bally bollocks happened there?"

We find Shirley, guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker and drummer Butch Vig in the south-east corner of Australia, fresh from dates in Singapore, winding up for another round of meet 'n' greets and ego-oozing schmoozing with all manner of Antipodean radio, TV, press, distribution and record company tykes, all caught in a seemingly endless circle of handshakes, speeches, parties, in-store signings and idents for Radio Wombat, 106.6FM.

It's all in a good cause, of course: beneath the flesh-pressing and flash-dressing there is an album to be sold, called with typical efficiency, 'Garbage'. This, then, is rational enough behaviour. What is rather less normal is the fact that 'Garbage' was released at the tail-end of 1995 and is fast approaching its 50th week on the Australian Top 40 album chart.

Not bad for a debut release, and doubly not bad for a band who've never even played live in this part of the world before.

And so it is that we find ourselves indulging in some twisted semblance of High Tea with Shirl 'The Girl' and the trio commonly referred to as 'The Boys'. And they are armed with a blistering list of highlights, no-so-highlights and downright oddities which have peppered the last 12 months of Garbage's career, uh, curve. A year in which the band have calmly shifted two million LP units around the globe and enjoyed - at a rough estimate - a grand total of just six weeks away from Garbageland.

A perfect time, them, to sort the wheat from the chaff and the naughty from the hopelessly naff as Garbage give us their cautious, considered opinions on a handful of events which have vibrated the foursome's fun-living, lipstick-smearing, tequila-swigging, demeanour. Complete with the band's very own stoutly accurate date estimates. Sort of.

1: The beginning of a year of madness: Garbage, 'Garbage' and a side order of carnage ("November 1995")

Butch: "We were all pretty exhausted when 'Garbage' was released. It was such a long, incredibly weird process that we hardly realised it was even done."

Shirley: "By the time the album came out in Britain, we were already on our first tour of America, which we were ridiculously under-prepared for. It was quite traumatic really. Hahaha! Our first-ever show was in Minneapolis, in this two-storey club, and when we drove up to the show there were literally hundreds of kids waiting for Garbage's first gig, and we were like: 'God! How are we going to squeeze them all in here? It's a tiny little club!' "Then it turns out that GWAR were playing upstairs and all the kids were going to see them!"

Butch: "We went upstairs and watched GWAR play 'Bring Me The Head Of Jerry Garcia'. We're all standing at the back of this venue and the kids are going nuts and this Jerry Garcia guy comes out and they chop his head off and he's running around with all this blood spurting out."

Steve: "It was very inspirational for our first show."

2: Childhood dreams and teenage idols ("March sometime, we think.")

Shirley: "This was our first appearance on Top of the Pops, and we met Chrissie Hynde - our first brush with our own pop history."

Steve: "We walked into the studio and we were totally freaked out because we were going to be on TV, and Chrissie Hynde was in there singing 'Kid', and orchestral version, and it was just stunning."

Shirley: "Also for me as a Brit, as a Scot, to play on Top Of The Pops was unbelievably exciting. It was like: 'God I've watched this since I was three years old' - literally!"

Butch: "We really had no idea what it was - what the format or the set-up was like. But what I did like was the fact it was very civilised, like, you do your couple of run-throughs, then you go to the pub - the bands, the crew and everybody. You take an hour break and you have some beers and then you go: 'Oh, it's time to go back'..."

Steve: "...And you immediately forget everything you've rehearsed."

3: No Oasis, snow surprise ("Sometime in early spring.")

Shirley: "We played the Snoasis fiasco, which was an Oasis day in the snow in America, and Oasis didn't turn up - quelle surprise! Well, Noel turned up and played one-and-a-half songs and claimed it was too cold for him, got back in the limousine and went off down the hill. "Meanwhile, others weren't so fortunate. I think we managed to play for 40 minutes. I had a woolen hat down to my eyeborws, a scarf up to my nose and parkas and gloves and ski-pants... You could barely see me!"

Butch: "It was in front of 10,000 skateboard punks."

Steve: "But a lot of rock bands don't get the chance to be pelted with snowballs while they're playing."

4: MTV and a twitney called Whitney ("Errr, this was earlier this year.")

Shirley: "So we go to the MTV Movie Awards and it's our first award ceremony and we're playing with Whitney Houston and the Fugees, and Whitney is there in all her glory, exactly like her character out of The Bodyguard - I kid you not. "Everyone's wearing jeans or whatever, but for her in her neat white towelling robe and her shades, and she's got these two enormous seven-foot bouncers and you're sauntering down the corridor and before you know it you're squashed against the wall because Whitney's barged through. And it's absolutely boiling because the air conditioning has been turned off because her vocal chords are going to suffer."

Butch: "Then she went on and performed and we were watching her on the monitor and she was sweating unreal, like somebody had just turned a hose onto her and it was running down her body."

Shirley: "She looked like a heroin addict. I, on the other hand, was cool as a cucumber. Not a bead of sweat passed over my body."

5: That first UK tour and a kind of homecoming ("Oooh, that was in the spring, as well!")

Butch: "We played Glasgow Barrowlands and wore kilts."

Shirley: "Only for the encore, though. That was one of the best shows because it was like bringing The Boys home to meet your mum. Everyone at the show went crazy, all the kids went nuts! It was a brilliant gig in an amazing venue and we really felt good after it so we thought it would be a laugh to put on kilts for the encores. "It's just funny, especially for Americans who'd never been to Scotland before. So we all donned kilts and, of course, the kids went even more nuts and everyone was screaming and laughing and everyone knew it was tongue in cheek or whatever. "Then, of course, all the Scottish reviews said we were really condescending to the Scots and 'How DARE they come into our country and do that?!' But we couldn't have won, anyway: if we'd payed that show and not made any allusions to the fact that I was Scottish we'd have got dissed. But we had a brilliant show and the Scottish audience is just the best."

6: Discovering the terrifying truth about rock economics ("Uh, that was quite recently.")

Shirley: "Our most Rock Star moment is when we chartered a flight to shoot our video for 'Milk' from France, where we'd played in front of 15,000 kids a night - which was really romantic. We ran ff the stage and straight into cars and drove out to a private airfield and got in our own private plane and flew to London! "It was fucking brilliant! We were drinking champagne, smoking cigars and eating as much on the plane as possible - I think we opened every single packet of food, we were so determined to get our money's worth."

Butch: "We knew it was costing us a small fortune so we thought, OK, let's just consume everything on the plane."

Shirley: "And we literally did! We were fit to burst! We were taking photos and videoing everything and it was so sad because the pilots were obviously used to millionaires swaggering on with not a care in the world and swaggering off with not a backward glance. But we're like 'EEEEEEEEK!! WHHEEEEEEEE!!' - the highly excitable children in a sweatshop."

Steve: "In the sick world of rock economics we were going to do this video in Paris, but we would save a boatload of money by renting this plane and going to do it in London. There's no way I'd know why that is. It's just a good example of how asinine and ridiculous things get."

Shirley: "But it was a glorious, glorious moment. I'm so fucking glad, because there are some moments that you know you're never going to relive again."

7: Meeting the Tricky dickster and hanging with the vibe, man ("Oh, another thing that was sometime this year...")

Butch: "We thought Tricky was going to be really introverted and quiet, but he turned out to be the complete opposite - he's really gregarious, with a wicked sense of humour and he's a party animal. We went out and got trashed till 6am in New York and decided we should do some work together. So he flew into Chicago a couple of days later when we had a day off."

Shirley: "Needless to say, he was late. We were pacing the studio floor going: 'Where the fuck is he? Is he gonna turn up> No he's probably not gonna fucking turn up! We've wasted a whole fucking day! Fuck! Fuck!' And then, of course at the very last minute, in he swaggers, cool as a cucumber, going: 'Hi! Let's get started, then.'"

Butch: "It was really fun, really interesting, jsut working from a different perspective. He's totally into getting a vibe and going with it, even if it goes off into some place where you have no idea of what's going on."

Shirley: "It takes a badn a while to get into the vibe in a studio, but he was immediately into it. He was in the vocal booth and switched off all the lights and had his microphone pressed right up against mine. An intense guy."

Butch: "He was also smoking a spliff every five minutes, which helps."

8: Tabloids and how to relax at home. Not ("Whenever possible")

Shirley: "On one of my first forays home to Edinburgh, one of my girlfriends phoned me and said: 'You have to come round and see this - I've got something really horrible to show you.' "So I go round and she's looking rather pale and she opens up the Scottish Sun newspaper and there's this huge big picture of me with the headlines "I Made Sex Bombshell A Star - Now She Treats Me Like Garbage!' "It was my former bandmate - who'd been framed slightly by The Sun, to be fair - but nevertheless it was a really horrible hack piece full of inaccuracies and lies about me and I just thought: 'Oh God, here we go, I'm home.'"

9: Reading and rioting ("Easy! August '96!")

Shirley: The show at Reading was fantastically good fun. The rest of the event, however, was so depressing. Why? Because it was a fucking circus. We were over-worked all day, it was pissing down with rain and it was just... the whole day was drizzly. "We had just come off tour in Europe with the Fun Lovin' Criminals and we'd been having a real blast, and it was a really good vibe, then we came over to this abslute maelstrom. There were about a million bands all sneering and snarling at each other backstage. I don't even know who they were, but I knew they were in bands - you could tell by their black clothes."

Steve: "The amount of press we did that day was unbelievable. It was like: 'Hi, I'm Johnny Danger from XYZ in Chicago! How ya doin!? So tell me, what's it like to be here?'!"

Shirley: "And you're walking to the next interview and the journalists are literally behind you thrusting their mic at you in the pouring rain. And you're trying to be polite, but in the end it's like: 'I'm sorry, I'm not going to stand here and talk about some inanity in this rain.' And then they go: 'Well, fuck you!' "We didn't see any of the bands we wanted to see. We were completely cut off from the whole thing; we just caught a glimpse of Black Grape and that was it - that was our Reading experience! But the actual gig was great fun, hahaha!"

10: One year on - more Garbage, more 'Garbage' and a canny selection of far eastern frights ("Ummm... Right now.")

Butch: "Before you play in Malaysia you have to sign all these documents saying: 'You can't chew gun, you can't swear or drink in public, you can't incite the crowd to do anything...' It was extremely strict, and for some reason we thought the show was gonna be that way. But the crowd went bonkers - they were screaming so loud I couldn't hear the guitars!"

Shirley: "The gigs in Singapore were crazy. The first crowd screamed so loudly I couldn't hear my own voice through my own ear monitor because my microphone was picking up all the screams and sending it straight to the montior! "I wanted to piss myself laughing! It was terrible. I really had to struggle to keep a straight face! Then there was ths girl hurling herself at the windows of our van. I mean, she was literally throwing herself on the windows while we were cowering in fear in the back."

Butch: "Yup, it was Garbagemania!"

Shirley: "We didn't see much of Singapore itself, though. Mind you, we haven't seen anything of Australia, either apart from the insides of clubs and hotel rooms and record stores. Next time we come here we should arrive a few days before the gigs so we get a chance to look around and see something other than dead possums in the road. "In fact, maybe we should do that wherever we travel to - ensure that we have more spare time around the shows."

Duke: "Like, so we only play one gig a week? Sounds good to me!"

Sure does, Dukie. Sadly, like all the other best laid plans in Garbageland, this Utopian touring idea has about as much chance of manifesting itself as a koala bear has of winning the Adelaide Grand Prix.

The next two nights are booked up with Melbourne shows. Before the end of the week they'll be entertaining New Zealand, before flying to Japan. Then they jet back to the States for a two-month tour with Smashing Pumpkins. And then? A swift holiday and, at the very beginning of February it's straight back into the studio to start the second album.

As David Duchovny would almost have it, there's no rest for the whack-ed.