Garbage have never comfortably fitted in the mainstream and ‘beautifulgarbage’ continues the theme
Shirley Manson, singer with Garbage, is a strangely attractive lady of whom one wouldn’t immediately think of gracing a sexy poster. She is vociferous, animated and opinionated creature offstage but once Shirley steps onstage if is another story: she is electrifying, vampish, a femme fatalistic! There is a transformation of Dr Jekyll turning into a Miss Hyde! Far from the performing crowd she can make controversial statements and contradict herself and is often referred to as “a bitch”.
Opinionated ladies have hardly ever been welcomed in the (male dominated) music industry and Manson is one of the most challenging to that reign. Around her are three male members of Garbage, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker who appear to be happy to let her express all the opinions on the band’s behalf. And she is talking about the band’s third album, ‘beautifulgarbage’, having become a spokes-woman for… whatever section of female population.
The band has had a huge success, the debut album sold four million copies worldwide, against all odds some would says with three middle-aged musician and a lady singer who is not really a conventional babe. That’s some pulling power but she refuses the idea of responsibility when writing and singing lyrics.
“No, I never think of it,” Shirley speaks in her Scottish accent that man find so erotic, “and you can’t think about influencing people because there is nothing you can do about it... What we usually feel before entering a studio is worry about starting work on it but the moment we go into a studio we forget all external anticipations for our records. We genuinely do but the moment we are finished and mixed it, there is a realisation that people are going to listen to it, pull it apart, analyse it... But, there is nothing you can do about it; in the long run we make records for ourselves.”
Beauty and 'the beasts'
For such a talkative person Mrs Manson has managed to keep her private life quite secretive and out of the tabloid interest; the band’s songs are mostly of darker hue and tend to be on the depressive lyrical side although Shirley’s been a happily married woman, for about five years. But, she is so open that doesn’t dodge any questions and has probably become the most famous Scottish person since... Lulu? And considered a sex symbol?
“It is strange to find myself in this position,” Manson confesses with a shrug, “but when you look at the members, who else would be the face of the band, think of them! (Laughter.) I’m a singer, a front person, I’m the most talkative, and I think it is natural that I’m the focus of the band. But, it doesn’t make it easier because I'm misunderstood, misrepresented, things one says are taken out of context, things you do are misreported, but I’m not obsessed with how people see me, how they perceive me, because nobody knows who I’m”
“It is extremely strange to be in this position because I was told to have ‘bloodhound’ eyes on a fish-face at school. That’s part of my life and I’m not going to deny it. I am telling the truth and if people can’t take that, then there is nothing I can do about it.”
Shirley Manson’s career hasn’t been going in leaps and bounds when she was approached to join Garbage. After almost a decade of playing keyboards for Goodbye Mr Mackenzie (they had a couple of minor hits in the UK), she formed Angelfish (one album is behind them) and was touring America when her drummer decided to quit. Manson wasn’t really worried about because earlier that day she had been called by these three who wanted her to join them; she got on the plane that day and ended up leading the band, an event she once described as a “divine intervention.”
Manson is a very strong individual and we wonder what has given her the greatest fright in her life?
”Getting married was the wierdest-bravest-scarriest thing,” she surprisingly admits, “I’ve ever done in my life. But, it’s also been the most rewarding! I’ve been married for about five years and have been blissfully happy ever since. I am married to an exceptional man (Eddie Farrell) and he is the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life. He is in a career (sculpting and painting) which he can follow anywhere and often spends long periods of time with me in America. It is cool and very good for our own relationship.”
Her hubby knows the best that Manson is not a ‘bitch’ as her reputation has it but considering that Missy Elliott once remarked, “bitch is a positive term”, she finds it beneficial to have such a public image.
“Oh, yes,” Manson states with a wicked smile,” it is a very good thing because people are forced to respect you. And, men usually don’t like that. This used to bother me in the past but not anymore, like criticism, these are only opinions and I don’t give a damn anymore.”
A strong kinda woman, and strangely sexy.