Go on, Manson

by Dave Simpson

She may look like an angel, but behind the exterior lies and acidic tongue, waiting to be unleashed. We meet Shirley from GARBAGE on the eve of her T in the Park gig - and duck.

Shirley Manson is confused. Sometimes the Garbage ultra-babe feels stifled in Britain, but equally, the longer she's away from it, she misses it terribly. This week, Shirley's in Britain again to play at Kinross' T in the Park festival and, once again, she'll be confronted with her mixed (up) but often very insightful feelings on Blighty.

"The longer I live outside the UK, the more I feel like I can see it," Shirley muses, "and I realise that we hate change. We've taken a long time to embrace the computer revolution, we're morons compared to the rest of the world. And we have such bizarre social niceties, like sandwiches that are cut up into four, prissy little pieces. It's just so... proper!"

Shirley spits the word. And as for British music.

"Most of it is so inconsequential," she splurts. "It has no meaning. I don't like literal stories in lyrics, which was why I could never really relate to Britpop, 'cos it was all, 'Aww, the old man went down to the pub/Smoke a cigarette, was really upset...'"

That's not bad. You aren't collaborating with Damon Albarn, are you?

"Fnarr fnarr. But I just find that a lot of British music over the last three years has had no depth whatsoever."

At the moment, Shirley's pet hates are Space and Chumbawumba. Yup, the same Space and Chumbawumba that are sharing a stage with Garbage at T in the Park.

"Chumbawumba?" spits Manson. "What was it that someone did that was so terrible that the gods decided to inflict Chumbawumba on us? That record ['Tubthumping'] is like a curse on modern humanity. It's truly awful. That woman[Lou]'s vocal... that voice is like a fucking headmistress. It is Miss Jean Brodie! And that song's everywhere, all over the fucking world. You can see why the jocks have latched onto it in America. It's because it's so dunderheaded. It's just sweat, shorts, bad bloody hair, big teeth and... burgers! Horrible!"

Space, Shirl?

"I truly believe Space are the worst British pop group of all time," says Shirley. "They're actually worse than Chumbawumba, which is quite an achievement. That bloke [Tommy Scott] has a voice so nerdy he wouldn't get into cartoons. He's horrible. The band's horrible. And their lyrics! 'Kick ass angels'. I tell you Tommy Scott, I'd like to kick your ass and I'm no angel. Heheheheh!!!!"

Heheheh, angel or no, Shirley Manson is what she always is - opinionated, sassy, intelligent, well-argued and very funny. Which is why she's sure to be a hit at the T in the Park. She's also one of our most honest pop stars, never less than painstakingly open in lyrics and interviews about her tormented childhood, her insecurities, her personal fears and innermost feelings. Except Shirley doesn't see it like this.

"I don't revealing that I have a bad temper is revealing," she hits back. "I don't think saying that I don't wear a bra is revealing. A lot of stuff I have said in interviews is to do with my adolescence, so it's no longer problematic to me. Yes, I have talked about beatings and bullyings, and low self-esteem, but one must always hold back. Believe me, I haven't really revealed anything."

We're talking about touring and Shirley Manson reveals, sorry admits, that she's a lot more prepared nowadays. She carries super-special American head-ache pills to deal with the jet lag. And packs a full waterproof fisherman's outfit in case of revenge attacks by water jug-wielding anarchist bands. (Er, well, OK, she doesn't really.)

"I'm far mire able to cope with touring this time," says SM. "I was totally taken aback by the success we had with the first album. We still haven't come to terms with it. We're in complete denial! I don't go bonkers anymore... well not yet, anyway! There's plenty of time, heheheh!"

When does your alter-ego Queen Helen come out?

"Oh, when Duke decides she comes out. Queen Helen is an exaggeration of me. If I'm getting beyond myself, that's when Queen Helen has arrived. If I'm pissed off at the boys that's Queen Helen. If I'm ranting at the tour manager, that's Queen Helen. It started because they called me the Queen."

Steve Marker, (Garbage guitar/keyboardist) on the other hand...

"Steve calls me Sharon," reveals Shirley, "'cos he thinks it's funny. Sometimes we meet people and they have got all our names wrong and I have actually been called Sharon! Everyone in this band has a nickname: Dukester, Mark Starter [Steve]. Butch is Spaceboy. No, I'm not gonna tell you why!"

Does your husband ever come on tour?

"Sometimes, but not for very long."


"Have you ever watched two people trying to sleep together on a bus?! Sleep deprivation is the worst thing for a marriage, I can tell you!"


There are many contradictions, complexities and paradoxes about Shirley. She's acutely sensible (after being horrendously burned in her days in Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie, she's now learning accountancy on the Internet), but then again , says things like: "I want a man who's willing to let me pee in his bellybutton"!

Somehow, I can never decide whether the real Shirley is a homebody, a wildcat, or, er, well, both.

Is your mother ever shocked by things you say, Shirley?

"I don't think so," she insists. "I have no secrets from my family. I'd say everything to her face. When I said that about the belly button my mum laughed. My parents have more life in them than most 18-yerar-olds I know. Recently she was on the back of a Harley Davidson motorbike in California going at 100mph. She's 62."

Crikey. Your dad?

"He doesn't like it when I say I think I'm ugly," confesses the girl who has confesses to this on several occasions. "He thinks I should get over it. I'm kinda sick of hearing myself say it too. I suppose I should lie now! In interviews I'm embarrassed, I hope the band don't see it because I think they'll think, 'Oh God, she's going on about that again.'

"See, those interviews that I did in the UK recently, I had literally just come out of the studio after a year of making the record. I flew to New York, mastered the record; flew to Los Angeles to make a video, and flew into London and started talking about myself. And I had absolutely no concept of normal life or the band's life or my life, and suddenly we're getting asked all these questions. It's almost like you're on a different speed from everyone else and you're either getting wound up or pulled down into having a conversation with someone whereas all I've been doing for a year is staring at a computer screen and singing into a microphone.

"A lot of the time the question is phrased in a really I inappropriate way. 'So, Shirley, do you think you're a supervixen?'! What do you say to that? 'Oh yeah, I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, 'Hi, supervixen!''"

Er, for someone who's "ugly" you're remarkably confident, Ms Supervix... whoops! "I am a confident person in life," agrees SM. "I'm pretty in control I consider myself strong, and I usually get what I want. I fell like I'm fulfilling my potential as a human being. I have a wonderful life, absolutely wonderful. And I know it's strange that I'm putting out a negative image. But I also think it's hard for me to accept that things are wonderful!"

Hmm, interesting. So do you believe in an afterlife, Shirley?

"No, I think that's it, we just stop. That's why I believe we should cram as many things into our lives as possible. It's like a big cream bun."

"T" and a bun, even?