"We’ve always been these strange unicorns operating completely outside of the system"
Garbage have announced details of a special one-off London show to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their second album ‘Version 2.0’. See ticket details and our exclusive Q&A with singer Shirley Manson below.
The alt-rock veterans, who recently completed the ‘Rage And Rapture’ US tour with Blondie, will be bringing ’20 Years Paranoid’ to London’s O2 Academy Brixton to perform their acclaimed second album ‘Version 2.0’ from 1998 in its entirety. The album contains the singles ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’, ‘Push It’, ‘Special’, ‘When I Grow Up’, ‘The Trick Is To Keep Breathing’ and ‘You Look So Fine’.
This follows on from Garbage performing their self-titled debut in full on tour in 2015, and the band airing the first new material since 2016’s ‘Strange Little Birds’ with the politically-charged new single ‘No Horses‘.
Garbage will perform ‘Version 2.0’ at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on Friday September 14, 2018. Tickets will be on sale from 9am on Friday September 8 and will be available here.
Our part of the world and the US is pretty politically divided at the moment. A lot of the freedoms that Garbage celebrate in your music are under threat. Has the current state of affairs been inspiring you musically lately?
Shirley: “Every time in history, when politics go to the far right it helps to create a phenomenal response in return. That’s always good for the arts, you know? It’s a sick thing to say, and it’s a sad situation where in order to really inspire people to really dig in politically it has to be extreme times, but yeah. I’m just astounded really that human beings continue to make mistakes. I don’t really understand why they can’t just look at history books and think ‘ah, this is how the Roman Empire destroyed itself, let’s not make these mistakes in the future’. Yet mankind continues to make the same errors of judgement over and over and over and over again. It’s like a Greek Myth.”
Apparently history moves in 50 year cycles and we’ve been overdue this for a while…
“It’s strange. I’m kind of aghast at the times we’re living in right now. But like you say, it’s historical shifts from the right to the left, from the left to the right, and yet we slowly evolve. Looking back, you see that mankind has evolved – but it’s just a pity that there’s always been these sad swings to the far right that put a lot of people’s lives in peril or make people miserable. In many countries all over the world, they take people’s lives.”
You spend a lot of time in America. How does the atmosphere feel over there?
“It feels very tense. I think the American people are really shocked. The thing we forget as Europeans is that we grew up with our history books and we know that people have struggled for centuries. The American people have really been taken aback by what has occurred in the White House. Lest we forget, there’s been this massive galvanizing movement of inter-sectionalist politics that continues to grow.”
Sign up for the newsletter
“It’s very moving that everyday people are out on the streets in New York City, or in Los Angeles or in Chicago. You know, the American people aren’t taking this sitting down. What is really worrying is that there is a swathe of Americans who have been forgotten about, and that’s just a fact. They feel like they’ve been forgotten about. I don’t think that makes them evil. They don’t want to impinge upon other people’s rights. They just want to be taken seriously, they want their issues to be dealt with. As a result, they’ve voted somebody into power who’s incredibly extreme. They don’t believe the mainstream media at all so I’m not entirely sure how to even begin to change their minds.”
Do you think it’ll take something drastic like an impeachment for the lesser of such an extreme evil to step in?
“It’s just so complex, I’m just baffled by the blatant mis-truths and twisting of the truth. I mean, flat-out lies. I don’t know how you counteract that. I’m at a loss, like many ordinary people, I don’t think any of us know how to counteract that. It’s like insanity it feels like Dadaist performance art to me. It’s crazy. I’m just glad I’m a lowly musician and I don’t have to really take full responsibility for what’s going on here. It’s really really sad. So sad. I don’t know the answers.”
Speaking of America, you’ve just completed the ‘Rage And Rapture’ Tour with Blondie. That must have been pretty awesome?
“Yes it was. I mean I have known Debbie and Blondie since 1989 when my very very first band opened for Debbie in the UK. That’s when I had the first pleasure of meeting her and have had the honour since of hanging with her and learning with her and having my photograph taken with her and singing with her on stage. I also inducted Blondie into the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame. Our two bands have a lot of history together. We’ve got a lot of mutual respect. Debbie’s sort of like the template almost for a contemporary girl, a contemporary woman or artist.”
You’re obviously two very completely different bands but the tour seems to make sense. What would you say is the point in the middle of the Venn diagram where Blondie and Garbage spiritually meet?
“I don’t think of it in those terms. If anything, I feel that perhaps the thing that exists between Blondie and Garbage is that we have always been by ourselves. We never fit in really to any scene, we never properly considered ourselves ‘alternative’. Whatever ‘alternative’ allegedly, supposedly is. We’ve just never really fit in with anyone and we’ve always been these strange unicorns operating completely outside of the system, and I’m proud of that. Nobody has any ownership over us. You know I like that.”
And you played that Hollywood Bowl show with Sky Ferreira…
“She’s a free spirit, Sky. She’s broken a lot of moulds. It would be very easy for Sky to go off and make a pop record that is written and produced by all the cats that write all the songs you hear on the radio. That would be very easy for Sky to do and she’s chosen not to do that. As a result, there’s a lot of love for her out there because people see that. They see that she is not going down the easy route. She’s not selling herself like a little piece of meat for the prince back at the record company. Don’t we all have respect for that? Don’t we all love to see someone who has the sense of self to push against the doors that are sort of slammed shut? I think that’s what makes her so special. She looks like a fucking supermodel, she sounds like fucking Fiona apple. She’s got the world at her feet.”
‘Strange Little Birds’ was very well received. Are you getting ready to let it all go?
“Yeah, unfortunately for me, I speak for 99.9% of most artists when I say I think we just have attention deficit. You get excited about promoting a record in the press and you get excited about playing the songs live, but then you need to move on, and you need to say something else. You don’t want to be repeating yourself over and over again. At least I don’t. What’s weird about that record is that I was speaking a lot about the sort of the global movement against women and women’s rights. And I could hear a lot of journalists looking at me thinking ‘here we go, another hysteric’.”
That should be the name of the new album.
“Right! I was looking back at a lot of the stuff we were saying when we were promoting that record and I was like ‘fucking hell, I was so right!’ It’s heartbreaking. But anyway, we’ll start on the record in the summer and we’ve had a book out, which was an absolute pain in the fucking arse. We’re happy that it’s now finished and we at least have put things down on paper. After 22 years of constantly making new memories it’s harder and harder to remember what happened in the beginning, and so we’ll have that for our families and friends.”
Any thoughts on where you want to take your sound from here on the new album?
“I think each individual has their own ideas. We fluctuate. The record is the dictator. It’s not us. I would love to be the dictator and I’m sure Butch would and Steven would but it’s more about what happens when we get in the room and what occurs when we’re together. God only knows, you know? I do know though, that even when you look at the pop world now everyone’s determined to get their ‘politic’ on. ‘I’m going to write my protest record’, you know? I just feel like ‘it’s a little late to do your protest kids, you would have done well to do that in the last five years’, but yeah who knows? I don’t know I have no idea where it’s going to go.”
Do you feel as if you could make a more defiant record, or make a more escapist album?
“I’ve always been defiant and that’s not going to change. That’s never changed, even if you look at our old songs. I was quite surprised to find all the jewels that we did that were so relevant now – like ‘Boys Wanna Fight’, ‘Sex Is Not The Enemy’, ‘Bleed Like Me’. All these songs really are appropriate to the climate that we find ourselves in. I see a lot of people change their spots out there. One minute they’re pop, the next they’re full of protest and sass and vinegar, the next minute they’re singing really sad love songs…I don’t know. The people now they just jump on whatever bandwagon is in vogue, that’s just not my style. It’s not who I am. I am who I am, for better or for worse. And I am, and always will be, defiant.”