Garbage's original wild child Shirley Manson comes clean on drugs, weird sex and shagging Courtney Love.

"I'm not embarrassed by anything about sex," insists Shirley Manson. "What freaks me out is hearing other people kiss. That turns my stomach. It really makes my toes curl." She pronounces that last word like it's eight syllables long. "I actually do like snogging in movies. If it's done well. No slurping noises. There was one great kiss between Cameron Diaz and Ewan McGregor in A Life Less Ordinary. A really great kiss. And when they pull away there's a string of saliva. I really liked that."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your earthy Garbage frontperson to a tee. A straight-talking lassie who knows what she likes, and that happens to include saliva with her snogs.

Spit suspension bridges aside, another thing you should know about Shirley Manson - supervixen and Red Queen of the alternative rock scene - is that she isn't even slightly vixen-ish off-duty.

We meet in Manchester on the third date of Garbage's global mega-tour. In a few hours time, she fill be jumping around the stage like a demented tree-frog, singing about golden showers and biting men, plus taking the opportunity to diss the London crowd she played to two nights earlier for being a bunch of "cucumber sandwich-eating" stiffs. For now though, she's loafing backstage in baggy jeans and a chunky red fleece. I'd half-expected a sallow vampire in last week's eye make-up, with perhaps a little dried blood around her fangs. In fact, Shirley's as wholesome as a glass of organic milk. She wants to talk about movies and famous redheads, how she suspects she might be Woody Allen reborn as a tall Scottish female. In fact, Madam Manson would like to talk about anything but rude sex and pussy-whipping, two things which traditionally spring to mind at the mention of her name.

So you're not a dominatrix, Shirley? (It seems only proper to clear this one up.)

(She pauses and sighs) I find these conventional ideas, about how women are supposed to be, so tiresome. The whole supervixen dominatrix thing has been stuck on me because I'm not one of those musicians who pose in their underwear looking "come hither". It's like you can only be one or the other.

So you don't keep a whip in your bedroom?

Absolutely not. I'm the complete opposite of that type of lover.

Have you ever been to a fetish club?

Yes, I have (cue uproarious laughter). It's a laugh, but fetishism isn't my thing. Seeing people dressed up in rubber and studs totally turns me off. It's about as unsexy as you can get (she suddenly lets out a noisy honking noise, like a happy donkey). Very unerotic.

So what's the story with Garbage? Three boring-looking guys, plus one fiery, dangerous chick. Surely you're bound together by a weird sexual tension?

(Shirley gives me a cock-eyed look.) For me, anyway, there is zero sexual tension in the band. Mentally, I think there is this extraordinary bond between us. Like, extraordinary. I'm in love with my band, in that sense. I'm mildly obsessed with their psyches, what makes them tick, what turns them on...

It's three years now since Shirley Manson was spotted singing with her band Angelfish on MTV by three mild-mannered Mid-Western musos (Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Nirvana producer Butch Vig), who summoned her to Wisconsin to audition for their band. Back then, no one imagined that the vulnerable Edinburgh redhead, who came with a bruised psyche and eyes so bug she can draw Kohl all the way around without them looking like pissholes in the snow, would emerge as such a potent post-grunge icon.

Four million albums later, plus a handful of Grammy nominations, Shirley Manson has scaled new heights with Garbage's second album, Version 2.0 (lyrically speaking, a triumphant two-finger salute to young Shirley's psycho-sexual demons). Version 2.0 presents us with a Shirley who's more chilled, more humorous and just a little more disco: a flame-haired Debbie Harry for the 90's, in fact.

If Shirley is almost as delirious with happiness now (she isn't - don't be fooled by the Only Happy When It Rains stuff), it's because she spent most of the rest of her life being unhappy. She left school at 15 and spent the next decade in crap bands, doing drink, drugs and destructive relationships. She was in love with the lead singer from Goodbye Mr. MacKenzie, whom she dated and them watched sleeping with other women.

If it wasn't for meeting Eddie - a blond, cuddly, Honey Monster of a man whom Shirley recently married - she says she doubts she would still be alive. "I was not in a very good place mentally. Getting married was the scariest, most terrifying, most punk rock thing I've ever done in my life. It was a huge risk for me. It frightened the living daylights out of me. It has been the most singularly rewarding, most wonderful, most magical thing that has ever happened. It's fantastical."

Eddie rarely sees his wife, as she's mostly recording or touring. When she's at home she likes attacking him with cutlery. "I'm so big-time into prodding him with a fork," she guffaws (I'm beginning to think she's lying about the fetishism). "All kinds of implements. I'm like a cat and I'll get a crazy half-hour when, just for some reason, I'm totally energised and hysterical and we have a chase around the kitchen table/ I've got forks in my hands and he's terrified out of his wits."

Shirley being Shirley (the sort of woman who proudly announces that she's painted her Fender guitar orange to match her fanny), it's hard to imagine how she lived without sex on the road. "Not being physically touched for, like, 18 months is freaky," she concedes. "You start to feel very physically under-appreciated and lose a sense of yourself as a sexual being."

Doesn't she feel like going to bed with the first person who tells her she's pretty? "Somebody telling me I'm pretty really means absolutely zero to me. So you think I'm pretty? So what? So you think that's going to make me want to sleep with you? Hoo hoo. Absolutely not. I want people to understand me. To understand someone you have to have known them for several years, so there's not much chance of me just knocking into bed with somebody. People will sleep with anyone and anything because they think it will make them feel attractive. I did all that when I was a teenager and I quickly learned that it made me hate myself beyond comprehension.

"Having said that, having sex for sex's sake is a completely different thing and I'm all for that. It's just I've chosen not to do that with my life anymore. We've all been there. We've all done it. It made me feels like shit." And with that, she lets out a howl which could turn milk sour. "I'm so fucking well-grounded. It's terrifying."

Shirley Manson is not the sort of girl to fit comfortably ion a box. which is probably why all attempts to do so (supervixen/angry feminist/bonkers redhead) sell her short. She's contrary in all kinds of ways you wouldn't expect. Like, she may be the star of every other Glastonbury punter's wet-dreams, yet she regards festivals with the sort of horror you'd expect from Miss Jean Brodie. "I'm not the kind of girl to walk around in bare feet, wearing a tank T-shirt and a loose skirt," she spits. "I had my biggest sexual disappointment of my life in a tent."

Contrary to her wild woman image, Shirley finds it hard to let loose socially: "I don't get drunk very often, because I'm a control freak. But when I do decide to have no limits, I get loud and obnoxious and argumentative. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, my friend really enjoy it, it's like, 'Whoahoahoahoa! She's on, tonight.'"

And despite a certain wasted image, Garbage are a strictly drug-free zone. "We've all been in bands where we've done drugs. It's something I've learned over the years. Drugs made me paranoid, depressed, totally out of control and freaked out. I've learned to totally remove them from my life. Since then, I've become much happier. We've all been there and it didn't work for us."

Shirley is, however, strongly of the opinion that cannabis should be legalised. "Absolutely. It's insane that it's not, although I would prefer it to be grass rather than cannabis, personally."

The amazing thing about Shirley (don't count the fact that she wakes up some days and thinks she's hideously ugly - who doesn't?) is that she has zero interest in the great international celebrity circle. This makes her unusually honest when discussing the heroes and villains of popular culture. Take her line on the Spice Girls: "Abhorrent. Not even as cool as cartoon characters. To me, the are The Wombles."

And her surprisingly sympathetic take on Geri Halliwell's career change: "Funnily enough Ginger Spice was my least favourite Spice Girl, but now as an individual I have a lot of sympathy for her. She came from a very hard background and up-bringing - unlike the other band members who did all that god-awful stage school, song-and-dance and lad-di-dah-ness. To me, it seems that Geri Spice - or Piggy Spice as she's been called by certain members of my band - has got her knees dirty and her hands dirty and I identify with that." The Ginger Devil of Lad Culture - namely one Chris Evans - escapes with remarkable leniency: "Another very complicated and, for me, poignant character. His public persona is this ultra-confident, obnoxious lad, but I think there's a lot more issues going on in Chris Evans. There's a total air of melancholy about him. He's a redhead, so I can't help but feel a certain compassion for him..."

She's less understanding when it comes to Zoл Ball's pint-in-hand, Geezer Girl posturing: "Why anybody would want to be a beery lad is beyond me, because I think beery lads are a lot to do with the problems we have between men and women."

However, the best of breed in Shirley Manson's celebrity line-up most definitely goes to Courtney Love. "She makes me feel funny. She walks into the room and, physically, I feel a connection with her. There are parts of me in her. Courtney's an animal, in the way that Tina Turner's an animal. There's a danger about her which I really respond to. It shows a lack of calculatedness, a lack of guile."

Natalie Imbruglia, in case you're wondering, represents pure guile as far as Shirley Manson is concerned. "In all those videos, it's, 'Oh, I look so beautiful, and wouldn't you like to fuck me?' God knows, she is beautiful, but you know full well she wouldn't be as great a shag as Courtney Love. Hoo hoo hoo!"

On the subject of great shags, what's she learned about sex since she was adolescent Shirley?

"I started very young and have learned very little since then," she smiles. "I seem to be one of those people who get the idea very quickly."

What about love? "That's a rare thing. And when you find it, you better make sure you safeguard it."

As for what Shirley Manson will do next, she'd like to sing in a big band and be sewn into a dress, like Marilyn Monroe ("It's one of my fantasies").

"I'm a lucky bastard," she announces out of the blue. "I really feel so lucky... I keep waiting for the hand of God to come down and say, 'OK, you've had enough now. It's time for someone else. Send doom down now, to that smiling redhead over there.'"

Can't see it somehow.