When Garbage released its first self-titled album in 1995, it helped launch a career that has so far resulted in 17 million albums sold.
The band will be stopping by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday, Sept. 15.
Started by famed music producer Butch Vig, bassist/keyboardist Duke Erikson and guitarist Steve Marker out of the legendary Smart Studios in Madison, Wis., the group eventually encountered Scottish singer Shirley Manson—and the rest is history.
During a recent phone interview, Vig said Garbage was quite different from the typical guitar/bass/drums bands that were dominating the radio in the 1990s.
“Personally, I felt a lot of pressure when our debut album came out, because everyone expected it to sound grungy like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins,” Vig said. “Quite frankly, I lost interest in guitar/bass/drums and was looking into samplers to bring ways to paint sonic textures and colors in the studio.
“That first record still sounds quite strange to me, and it definitely has a vibe. It caught people by surprise at the time in the way we sort of married the technology with analog tape, using samplers and old-school recording, and also bringing in electronic and hip-hop beats with fuzzy guitars and pop melodies. It stuck out, and we were very lucky that we had songs on there that caught people’s attention. That was a big record for us, but I felt a lot of pressure before it came out, because if it would have flopped, I’d be the one standing there looking bad for it. I’m glad it worked out. We all are, because we’re still standing here after 20 years.”
Garbage was selected to perform the theme song for the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough. The song ranks high on lists of James Bond themes; Grantland ranked it No. 2 behind Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.”
“It was pretty incredible. Shirley got a call one day to go meet with David Arnold, who is the composer who was doing the scores for the Bond films at that point,” Vig said. “He asked her if she wanted to sing for the Bond film, and of course she freaked out and said, ‘Oh my God! Yes! But I want my band. I don’t want it to just be Shirley Manson; I want it to be Garbage.’ They were over the moon to invite us all to record it. It was hard logistically, because we were on tour, and we had to squeeze in recording days on our days off, and … the film company gets a tax credit if they keep it within the Queen’s district: It had to be in England, Canada or Australia, or places like that. We went back to England to record, or we flew into Canada when we were in the States for a day or two to record.
“We’ve been playing that in the shows lately, and it’s been going down great. It’s one of those things, and we’ll always have that. It’s an amazing thing to be involved in something that iconic, and personally, I rank ours up there really high. We tried really hard to make the song sound like a Bond theme, so there are musical elements in there that are reminiscent of the old John Barry scores, and it still sounds like Garbage.”
Garbage’s third album, Beautiful Garbage, came out just a couple of weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.
“It was a horrible time. It completely caught everyone off guard,” Vig said. “What happened is the record labels stopped doing singles promotion; they stopped doing really any kind of promotion. They were taking bands off the radio like Jimmy Eat World, who had a song called ‘Bleed American.’ … Everyone was extremely sensitive. We were scheduled a few days after that to fly to Europe to do press, and first we said, ‘We should cancel it.’ But we didn’t want to cancel it, because that’s what terrorism does to you—it tries to disrupt your life. We flew to England and Europe and did a week-long press tour for the record, and it was a terrible time, because we didn’t want to talk about the record, and neither did the journalists; we just wanted to talk about what was going on politically. It was tough, and because of that, right out of the gates on that record, we felt we had a black cloud hanging over our heads.
“But the industry at that time was changing. Whether Sept. 11 would have happened or not, people’s tastes were shifting, leading from the ’90s into the start of the next decade. We’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and that was a pretty low moment.”
Vig has produced artists including Nirvana, AFI, Green Day, Sonic Youth and many others.
“Garbage is our band. I get to produce; I get to write; I get to play drums, guitar and keyboards; and I can order dinner with wine. We have our own little clique. I like being in a band, and it’s a different mentality,” Vig said. “We’re on tour right now, and the shows are going great, but I really like being in the studio. That’s my first love. Whether it’s producing someone else or being in the studio with Garbage, I’m a studio rat.”
Garbage recently toured with Blondie.
“It was fantastic. It was like a traveling summer camp where these two iconic strong female front women dominated the stage every night,” Vig said. “Debbie Harry is an amazing singer, and Blondie is in peak form; they sounded killer every night. I’m a drummer, and I got to watch Clem Burke play drums every night. He’s like Keith Moon—he’s badass. Shirley is in great form, and we’ve seen at the shows where half of the audiences are female, and there are a lot of young women there. One of the reasons they came to the shows was to watch these two outspoken and iconic singers. Blondie dominated the radio in the ’80s, and Garbage did the same in the ’90s, and we’re both still bringing it every night. That’s inspiring to a younger generation of women.”
Garbage will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.