The Infinite Madness

By Paul Rees

Their first world tour lasted 18 months and subjected them to sickness, stomach parasites, isolation, paranoia, dysfunctional relationships and irritating personal habits. Now, Garbage are getting ready to go through it all again...

Today is a relatively relaxed one for Garbage. There are two interviews, three photo sessions and one trip to Radio 1 to negotiate, and then it's back to their North London hotel. Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker are making noises about going clubbing later. Shirley Manson may or may not join them.

This is child's play compared to the routine Kerrang! saw them endure at a festival in Spain in August 1996. There they spent an entire day being wheeled from press conferences to meet-and-greets. They finally played to 20,000-odd people at midnight.

The refreshing thing about Garbage was the degree to which they seemed to relish the whole business of being in a rock band. If the endless probings of a small army of earnest Euro hacks were a chore, it didn't show. And anyway, the beer was free, and the men were having fun playing around with nail varnish and eyeliner, and Shirley Manson was getting to vamp it up in all manner of nice designer gear.

"Way too many bands take this too seriously," Manson avers. "They have such a stupid, small-minded view of the world. We try and max-out this fantastic opportunity we've had. We're going to enjoy it, for tomorrow we may bomb down the charts."

"It's showbusiness, it's fun," adds Butch Vig. "If you start taking this too seriously, then someone should shoot you in the head." How often over last four years have you wondered when you were going to wake up?

"Oh, every day," says Manson. "We keep thinking somebody's going to come in and go, 'Okay, it was all a big joke - you're not pop stars!'."

When Garbage released their self-titled debut album in 1995, they were neither sure whether anyone would buy it or if they'd ever play together live. 'Garbage' has now sold four million copies around the world, and Garbage spent 18 months on the road.

"Everybody was sick the whole time," recalls Marker, "because you're in this bus with 12 other people and you're all breathing the same air all the time. And you never sleep."

"By the end of the tour, my Mother was really worried," says Manson. "I was so skinny and pale; we'd all been sick and I'd got a parasite in Mexico which affected my stomach. You name it, we got it."

It's a glamorous existence, then?

"It's just weird," notes Marker. "Then again, it's fantastic a lot of the time too. I hate reading about musicians bitching about how terrible the road is."

How hard is it to adjust to being at home after that long on tour?

"It's very difficult to fit back in," replies Manson, "because you become emotionally and physically isolated in some respects. I can't talk for every band, because I know a lot of bands get involved with different people on the road - groupies, whatever. We do not, and we don't wish to live like that. You forget what it's like to have human contact. You get to the point where you haven't had somebody's hand on your back for months.

"You get home, and all of a sudden, your pals are kissing you and grabbing you and it's very intimate. You feel very frosty and freaked out - sort of, "Oh God, don't touch me!'. After a week, you're fine. But the first week you're being depressurised."

"Being on the road is like being sent into outer space," says Erikson. "You come back to find that everybody you knew has gone on with their lives. There's only so much they can tell you when you chat to them on the phone from Paris or Tokyo. Life goes on without you."

Butch: "Your relationships, no matter how hard you struggle to keep them working, become more dysfunctional than maybe they were already were. I found it really hard; I just felt numb. I know it sounds pathetic, but it took me six weeks to feel okay. Then we went back into the studio again. When we came off tour, I was in LA for a month. I was kind of paranoid. I had a tough time, like, going to the supermarket. It just seemed weird going out."

The strangest fan Garbage have encountered kept coming over to their table in a bar to tell them that his brother was a writer. "He was kind of creepy," nods Vig. "But most of the time it's pretty harmless.

"Shirley is extremely sensitive to weirdos or creeps. She can read someone instantly. Some guy will come into the room and she'll go, 'He's a f**king asshole'. He'll have either made some sexist comment or leered at her, and often it'll go right over our heads, but almost all the time she's completely right." "I have had to stop reading our mail," says Shirley. "I have a natural inclination to want to get involved and I just can't do that. We now have people who read things for us, and if t here's anything pressing it's bought to our attention."

What's the strangest thing a fan has sent you?

Shirley: "It's not the strangest thing... A boy sent me a gold coin that his father had given him before he died. He'd told him he had to pass it on to somebody who brought about some sort of change to his life.

"I got this amazing letter from this kid. He had felt suicidal, and he had fallen in love with our band and he'd come to one of our shows, and for some reason I'd picked him out of the audience. God knows why, but he said that this band lit up his day and he wanted me to have this coin. I just couldn't keep it. I sent him a letter back saying, 'Thank you - you've done something for me, so now I have the right to send the coin back'. I'm not trying to place any importance on us as a band because of that; it's extraordinary."

Steve: "I got sent a lump of lead."


Steve: "I don't know."

Next month, Garbage release their second album - the excellent 'Version 2.0'. The ensuing tour is set to last even longer than their first haul. How hard is it to leave your families behind again?

"I think it's way worse for them," replies Manson. "We'll just have to get through as best we can. We call the close friends we're leaving behind the 'Rock Widows'; they keep threatening to write a book about their insight into our tawdry existence. So we'd better behave."

Who got the most irritating personal habits on tour?

Steve: "In order to survive in a small vehicle with the others for a long period of time, you have to keep your annoying habits in check."

Shirley: "Actually, Duke has this irritating habit of never wanting to go to bed, and indeed never going to bed. He will remain sitting upright in a crowd whilst being asleep. And it's really annoying."

What are you most likely to complain about in a hotel?

Shirley: "Steven, you complain about your hotels quite frequently. Come on now, own up..."

"I checked out of one hotel," Marker grimaces. "That place was disgusting." Shirley: "He was in a really big, bad mood. He got his bags and just flounced out and booked himself into a nice place. Meanwhile, I had to slog away in all the filth and degradation. The trouper queen hung on in there..."Џ

Garbage's 'Push It' single is out on April 27. The band start a UK tour on June 4.j

In a small box in the lower left hand corner of the article's page: Death of a Pumpkin Garbage: on that night in New York with Corgan and Co...

In July 1996, Garbage began a US arena tour as special guests of The Smashing Pumpkins. On July 12, the two bands were scheduled to play New York's prestigious Madison Square Garden. At 3:30am on the morning of the show, the Pumpkins' keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin was found dead in his room at the Regency Hotel in Manhattan. He had suffered a heroin overdose.

Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was immediately arrested and charged by New York police with being in possession of a 'controlled substance'. A week later, he was fired from the band. "It was very sad, very heavy thing to be around," says Shirley Manson now. "It was tragic that a young man lost his life like that..." "...For stupid ass reasons," interjects Steve.

"Jimmy Chamberlin," continues Manson, "who's an incredible drummer, just blew his chances. He was in one of the great rock bands of the '90s and he blew it by being a silly boy."

Also in the same issue, under the Singles section:

Single of the Week
'Push It'
KKKKK (essential, highest rating)
Formats: Two-track casette ('Push It'/'Lick The Pavement')
Two-track three-inch limited edition blister-pack CD ('Push It'/'Thirteen')
Three-track CD ('Push It'/'Lick The Pavement'/'Push It (Boom Boom Satellites Remix)')
The mixing of rock and dance music is nothing new, but Garbage do it better than most. The first single from the long-awaited 'Version 2.0' album sees the band pumping up the dance element of their music, although the sound is unmistakably Garabege - and not a bit like the Beach Boys, whose '60s hit 'Don't Worry Baby' was the inspiration for 'Push It's chorus. Top-quality additional tracks make t his a Value For Money package. 'Lick The Pavement' kicks arse and a cover of cult American outfit Big Star's scandalous 'Thirteen' is delicious. Just wait till you hear the album...