The Second Coming

by Paul Elliot

A year in the making, the new Garbage album, "Version 2.0" is finally ready to roll. More extreme and experimental, it features blatant pop, total noisefests and a mad bloke from the '60's...

Garbage guitarist Duke Erikson is happy but tired. Happy because the new Garbage album is finished at long last; tired because it's taken the band the best part of a year to get the damn thing done and dusted.

So why the long wait? Duke insists it's because Garbage are perfectionist, not lazy gits.

"Considering we wrote all the songs from start to finish and recorded everything in 12 months, it's not too bad," Duke says. "Although I'm nor sure that any record should take a year.

"I guess part of the reason it took so long was that we had 20 songs that we really liked and wanted to record them all so we had a lot of songs to pick from." You didn't fancy releasing a double album in the grand old 70's rock style of Led Zeppelin and Pick Floyd?

"God forbid we'd ever do that!" Duke splutters. "It's just hard letting go of some of the songs. You put a lot of work into them and you have to leave some of them off the album. I honestly believe that if we didn't have a deadline for the album we'd still be working on the damn thing! But honestly, we're no total weirdo perfectionists."

The new Garbage album is released on May 11, preceded by a single 'Push It', on April 27. The album is the group's second, hence its jokey title - 'Version 2.0'.

"The title is just a fun take-off of all the computer software stuff," Duke explains. "We didn't want to take the album title from the lyrics of one of the songs, because that tends to make it sound like some kind of concept album," he chuckles.

It's not a double album and its not a concept album. What exactly is the new Garbage record like?

"It's a more extreme record than the first album," claims Duke. "It still sounds like the same band, of course, but whatever directions the music takes we pushed it a little farther this time. The pop songs are more blatantly pop, and the little experiments we made with electronica are pushed a bit farther too.

"There's a song called 'When I Grow Up' which is as pop as we ever get. It's got a kind of 'fa-la-la' chorus. At the other extreme there's 'Hammering in my Head', which has a real driving rhythm. It's a noisefest. I'm really happy with that one."

Are you a bit of a tinker in the studio, so to speak?

"Yes, I confess. But we were using a lot of technology that we'd never used before. It was mind-boggling. We tried everything and anything.

"Often, we're all in the studio together playing with this stuff. Our records are group efforts. We each put our stamp on the music and we're all in the studio to approve or disapprove of whatever's going down."

As Duke Erikson is quick to point out, both Garbage albums are produced by the whole band - Erikson, Butch Vig (drums), Steve Marker (bass) and Edinburgh-based singer Shirley Manson - even though Manson is a self-confessed Luddite and technophobe.

"Mixing is where Garbage take their final form," Duke explains. "Shirley doesn't have any real technical expertise, but she is certainly able to articulate what she does and does not like. Hell, there are only so many knobs in the studio!"

There's a joke in there somewhere.

"Yeah," he snorts, "but I think some things are better left unsaid."

Surprisingly, the new Garbage songs were born out of informal rehearsals which Duke hesitates to call 'jam sessions', wary of sounding like a member of Reef or the Black Crowes. Garbage are not the kind of band you'd expect to find holed up in a warehouse noodling away all night, fuelled by booze and dope.

"Seventy five per cent of the songs were written by jamming, although we hate that word," Duke groans. "Before recording we spent three weeks together in a house on an island off Seattle. We just set up gear and played. Someone would start playing, and from there we'd improvise. We're probably the world's worst jamming band," he laughs. "It's not like we sit around playing the blues or something.

"For the most party, we had a lot of fun making this record, although it was a bit iffy at the outset. We all felt that we needed a sense of direction, but once we started going through the rehearsal tapes from the island, everything kind of worked out."

Several of the songs on the first Garbage album were written by Vig, Erikson and Marker prior to Manson joing the band. 'Version 2.0', says Erikson, is more of a 'band' record.

"We've toured and played together for 18 months, we've lived with each other on the bus and gotten real close, and that has certainly shaped the sound of the record. We bonded somewhat when we were on the road, and now we are able to read each other musically."

Duke reckons the greatest difference between the first and second albums is Shirley Manson's lyrics.

"A lot of the lyrics on the first album were written by committee," he reveals. "Butch and Steve and I al contributed and Shirley would weed through it all, adding her own things. This record is definitely more Shirley. I'd say it was ninety per cent her. It's more her own point of view.

"Basically, the lyrics are much better. They're more direct, they have a more pointed slant - and that's all Shirley."

The first taste of Garbage's new music comes with the release of 'Push It', a song which led to an unlikely dialogue between Garbage and Brian Wilson, the eccentric genius who shaped the classic 60's pop of the Beach Boys.

Duke explains: "Shirley had a line, 'Don't worry baby', so we fooled around with a sample of the Beach boys song 'Don't worry baby'. It sounded amazing, but we knew we weren't going to get away with that because we'd totally copped the melody. We approached Brian Wilson about using the sample, and he got back to us and said he loved our song. He signed a piece of paper and said it was OK for use to use his melody. We're all huge Beach Boy fans, so that was such a thrill.

"People can get very precious about the music they've written, but our song was meant as a homage, not just a rip-off, so it was cool that Brian was so gracious."

And what does Duke Erikson feel about the new Garbage album now that it is finished?

"I don't really have any perspective on it," he says. "I don't have enough distance from it, because we've only just got it done.

"We're all pleased with it, sure - but," he laughs, "I know for a fact that there are things that we'd all like to change."

Duke Erikson may not be a total weirdo perfectionist, but he does a pretty good impression of one.