Trash 'n' Treasure
The Drum Media, 24 September 1996 (Australia)

"Wasn't that lady mean?" Garbage's Scottish siren, Shirley Manson purred down the line from Washington D.C. after a completely inoffensive operator connected us up. She sounded for a moment like a bewildered five year old.


"That lady sounded really mean," she partially rephrased before breaking into a giggle.

A matter of seconds later she dropped her telephone. "I'm really sorry," she offered with more laughter. "Let's start again."

Ms. Manson can do all the re-takes she likes. The whole damn movie right from the opening credits if she wishes, thanks to the year that was and still is for her and the twisted pop genius of Garbage. Their debut album has just edged over the million sales mark in the U.S. and rather just being the amazing studio band that some predicted, they've triumphantly graced stages across the world, including a stadium run with a peaking Smashing Pumpkins and "20, 000 kids going crazy". The band and their music have taken on a life all their own and it's a class act all the way. Yep, Shirley Manson can do what she likes. In her pink-feather boa, the singer has literally been rocketed from obscurity into demi-goddess status. And she wears it wonderfully all well.

"You have to make good music but there's so many wonderful bands out there who never see the light of day and who've made wonderful records but just don't get the lucky break. I think it's a combination of good music and good luck."

Contrary to rumour, Manson doesn't suffer anxiety attacks and a damn good thing too. On paper, the resumes of the rest of the band, particularly that of drummer, Butch Vig with it's references to the production of such icons as Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins look stunning. But on stage - the other great leveller, apart from death and taxes - past lives don't count for much. From behind a drum kit, Vig has to stand his ground - or try to - against the new rock Queen of the universe. It's no contest and he probably knows it all too well and wouldn't have it any other way. On stage particularly, Manson is unignorable.

"I don't know if it makes me nervous, but I think I've always got a sense of duty, I feel a sense of duty." Manson said. "You're right. The boys could have the best gig in the world, but if I'm not getting my act together, then things are going to go downhill, so I feel a certain responsibility for sure to entertain."

A good barometer of exactly where Garbage generally and Manson specifically figure into the current sceme of things, came from two magazines. One was of all places, English hard stuff bible, Kerrang, in which Manson was voted Number One of the 100 Coolest Rock Stars Ever. ("That's fucking scarey! I'll have to get a copy of that for my scrap book.") To put it into perspective, Ozzy Ozbourne was placed at 76, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor 42 and Kurt Cobain at a mere 16. The other telling gauge was in a feature in New York's Details magazine. Instead of being your typical interview, it was the world of sex according to Manson, titled the Ten Commandments of Love, which raised more than just a few eyebrows. The singer is however unrepentant about her views. Cringing is for other folks. Folks like her parents.

"They just got a copy about two days ago and my Dad," she laughed "My dad has been telling me that the neighbours keep looking at him with sidelong glances all the time. He's beginning to wish I'd kept my big mouth shut."

Although the band's profile and popularity have shot through the roof since they hit the road, according to Manson, walking down the street isn't really a problem, though it does depend on exactly which street it is. There have been the odd memorable accosting.

"One boy who amused me the other night was telling me to 'come over here! Come over here bitch and give me a kiss!' And I said, 'no, you come over here and give me a kiss.' He stood exactly where he was and said, 'Wwwwwell what's wrong with you? Are you a lesbian?' And then ran off down the street, much to everyone's amusement, because he was so scared."

"The males that have come up to speak to us, tend to be sort of young, fucked up adolescent boys with painted nails and they like to talk nail polish and make-up with me. I haven't really come across a macho element just yet, except for that divy that shouted at me over the electric fence."

There has been at least one notable testosterone carrier in the band's audience though. The scene came about after the outfit, with the exception of Manson, went to see the three ring Kiss circus. Manson by the way hasn't seen and refuses to see the reborn heroine of her youth, Patti Smith.

"Gene Simmons came to our show the following night and came and stood right below me and waggled his tongue at me for the duration of an entire song and then insisted on coming backstage to meet me afterwards. He was absolutely charming. I thought, oh, this guy's going to be a prick, but he was really smart and really very funny. I would probably on the basis of that meeting alone, go out and check out a Kiss concert."

But not even Gene Simmons asked the focus of his attention to dance. In fact, according to Manson, no-one has. Ever. In a perverse sort of way, it's not hard to figure why. For all her delightful conversation on record, the Scot can sound seductive and terrifying all in the one harrowing breath. But now that the band are touring and Manson can be seen in the flesh, is she still seen as intimidating?

"In the real world, probably just the same, but in the fantasy world, probably more so. People seem to find it a little threatening if you're in a successful rock band."

And is it true you once did something on a boyfriend's cornflakes?

"Do I really have to answer this question?" she asked with a worrrying sigh, before laughing. "Yes it's true? It was such jovial circumstances. I was trying to amuse myself and sort of amuse him too, but I think it scared him."