Since forming in 1993, Garbage have sold millions of albums, played to thousands of fans worldwide, split up, reformed, performed a Bond theme and been Grammy nominated.
The famous foursome are Butch Vig, Shirley Manson, Duke Erickson and Steve Marker, and BIMM Manchester were thrilled to host them whilst they shared their stories and advice with a rapt audience of students.
Each of the band spoke about their early personal involvement with music and the arts. Vocalist Shirley recalled the music scene in her native Scotland where she joined a youth theatre group and began to make music with her band Angel Fish. It was Shirley’s unique vocal work with Angel Fish that caught the attention of her soon-to-be Garbage bandmates.
Drummer Butch Vig is well known to many for his work outside Garbage as a record producer. Butch worked on era-defining albums such as Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Dirty by Sonic Youth and, of course, Nirvana’s Nevermind. Artists from U2 to Beck, Nine Inch Nails to Depeche Mode have called on his remix work and his sound helped define the 90s charts.
Butch spoke about an early love for British music and his experience of seeing The Beatles live aged 13, an experience which ‘changed my life’. His first band was even named ‘The British’ after his obsession! Various bands and production work led to the formation of Garbage with Duke and Steve in Wisconsin.
The band recalled their early experience writing and playing together, the aim always to make music ‘they could really feel.’ Shirley was new to song writing and the band worked in a small studio owned by Butch and Duke to hone their sound. They spoke of their shock at the enormous success of the first album – the name ‘Garbage’ had sprung from an early appraisal of their sound, after all! Their follow-up album 2.0 saw them on the road for 22 months.
Students asked Butch about his experiences recording and producing high profile artists. He spoke about the notion of being a ‘star’, insisting music is ‘not about being a star but being a musician’. Butch gave great advice such as ‘not to put all of your eggs in one basket!’, advising instead that musicians keep their options open and take on every opportunity that arises.
Shirley spoke about issues specifically facing women in the music industry, such as expectations of conformity and pressures from labels. She spoke about confidence, saying: “It’s important to find yourself a home and build yourself up” and mentioned disappointment about women in contemporary music who lack the power and attitude associated with frontwomen in the 90s.
Kat Kozina, a student in BA3 Music Business said:
“It was so inspirational, and really powerful to hear from such a successful front woman. I definitely got some great advice that will help me in the future.”
The band were generous with their advice and their time, signing autographs and giving away tickets to their gig that evening.
Joseph Glencross, BA2 SW student, spoke for many saying:
“It was very inspirational. It was all great advice that I took to heart!”