Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson is featured in the new issue of Australian Harper’s Bazaar magazine and in her interview, she discusses a range of topics … from the motivation to reunite Garbage, to her opinion of today’s young female singers, to her sense of style … basically the same sort of stuff she always seems to get asked in interviews these days. Even still, Shirley manages to give great responses which are deffo worth reading below. Additionally, Harper’s Bazaar published an amazing photo of Shirley to accompany the features so, yeah, you simply must click below to see the photo and read excerpts from her interview with the mag.
We’ve really loved having you back, and it’s been too long between Australian tours. Can you tell me about the 8 year Garbage break?
“Funnily enough, we called it quits in Perth. Australia was the last place we wanted to play and we decided that we weren’t enjoying ourselves and thought, being in such a privileged position, there must be something wrong if we don’t feel good – it was a disservice not only to our profession and our fellow musicians but also to ourselves. We didn’t really know what was wrong, we just felt depressed. [Laughs] We were a group in depression! We were fatigued from working non-stop for a decade, we hadn’t spent time with our families and we just had no life.”
What was the motivation behind reuniting Garbage?
“It was a lot of things. I think we had taken so much time off, so many things had happened to us in our personal lives. I’d gotten married, I moved to LA, I lost my mother, which was a huge deal for me – she was so sick for two years, I didn’t even want to make music, and then after she died, I didn’t feel there was any point and I didn’t have any music in me. Then, like all things, time heals you and you sort of start to think, ‘My mum, of everybody I’ve ever known in my whole life, would be so devastated to think that I was no longer making music.’ I think that was partly a spur. Then I started to want to be creative, I had ideas and I didn’t have anywhere to put that creative energy. I tried writing music with other people – to me it was a fantastic venture – but my record label didn’t think it was commercial enough so they didn’t want to release it, which drove me insane! Eventually I just waited until my deal came to a close with them and then I was free. I was singing at the memorial for a friend of ours’ little boy and it was a very emotional occasion and I bumped into [drummer] Butch there and he was crying and said, ‘It was so amazing to hear you sing.’ I was desperate to make music; he was too, so I think that was how we moved on and decided to call the boys.”
You’re an icon still, and you’ve endured whilst being completely true to yourself, what do you put that down to?
“I have endured, I realised, it’s funny because when we finally finished our new record, my manager said to me, ‘You realise that you’re probably one of a handful of women who have ever done this? Who have, in their 40s put out a record that popular media are interested in.’ I was kind of laughing like, I hadn’t even given it a thought. As we started to slowly immerse ourselves in the music scene again I was suddenly wondering ‘Yeah, where are all the female fronted bands that were playing in the 90s with us?’ There are very few left. I feel very grateful for that, I put a lot of it down to our fan base who have been remarkably loyal in a time where peoples’ attention spans are 2 seconds long; it’s a miracle to me that anyone gave a shit about us bringing out another record. [laughs]
There are very few women, with my kind of experience, who are interested in making a more defiant stance, because I am defiant – I do know that about myself – and I am truculent, I’m non-compromising in a funny way and I think that’s kind of an outmoded idea for women right now, it seems to me that women are very prevalent in the media but there is very little coming out intellectually or otherwise. I find that a wee bit weird.”
They’re being hushed.
“They’re being hushed! It’s kind of interesting, I do feel for women especially, that’s what was so amazing about the 1990s – there was me and then a billion other girls who were speaking out and pushing back against the mainstream idea of how women should present themselves in the media” … “Oh I would hate to be an artist right now; I think it’s very difficult- there’s no patience for building an artist. I look at what’s happening with someone like Azealia Banks, who I really admire and I think is an incredible talent, 212 was my favourite song bar none of last year, but there’s so much pressure on her now. I’m sure she feels it, maybe she doesn’t, maybe she is free of that concern, but I think that’s a pretty tough spot to be in, where you put out your first single and before you know it, everybody in the world literally knows who you are.
I think that can be a very stifling place for a young artists to try and thrive. I see the pressure on people now to be successful and huge and big right out of the starting gate, it’s insane and unnecessary. They say that you don’t know how to do anything very well until you’ve done at least 10,000 hours -nobody gets that chance anymore. Artists are expected to have hit after hit, after hit, after hit. And if you don’t have a hit, the second you fail, you’re out the door because there are a billion people waiting to fill your shoes. The record companies have no patience with a failing artist so they just throw them out with the garbage and they get a new blood. I think what that leads to is 10-a-penny artists who all sound the same and nobody is taking chances, nobody is taking creative risks.”
What advice would you give young female artists?
“Keep going and listen. If you really want to make this your life, you have to be willing to get smacked in the mouth and lie on the ground all bloodied and have everyone laugh at you and not believe in you and tell you you’re kind of worthless, and be prepared to stand back up and be defiant enough to say, ‘No I think you’re wrong. I think you are all are wrong!’ And that’s the only thing you have to do, keep trying. Now that doesn’t guarantee you success, but let me assure you, you won’t have a career if you’re not willing to do that.
Women in particular, I think, get defeated really easily. I’ve seen it with some of my friends, I’ve seen it sometimes with my family – they get a slap in the face and they go, “Well, that’s it! I tried to do this and it didn’t work out.” Okay, well then, you’re going to have to try again, aren’t you? I think people get scared to take that risk because, “Oh it hurts so bad, the first time I failed, I don’t think I can stand it again.” Well my news to you is yeah, you can stand it. All it is, is just a little loss of your dignity or your self-respect or whatever, you can get over it, if you really want it that bad.”
Can you tell me about your style and how it’s kind of evolved over the years?
“[Laughs] I’ve always been surprised that I’ve had any attention from the fashion world whatsoever! I do know that I have a big personality and that’s what designers like. They’re like, ‘I’m going to dress her because she’s not going to walk into a room and be quiet, she’s has something to say.’ I don’t let the clothes wear me – I tend to wear the clothes… One day I’ll be like, “Okay today I’m just in the mood to look really demure,” and I’ll wear a really demure dress with glasses and I’ll look like a librarian. And then the next day I’m like, “Fuck this! I’m going to wear my thigh-length leather boots!” and do the complete opposite. So I don’t have any real, real aesthetic but I know what I like and I guess I do want to look different to everyone else, particularly when I step on stage.”
I like that when we were prepping our shoot you had an opinion about what you would and would not wear – particularly no fur and no “rock chick” styling. So you still get pigeon holed in to that? Isn’t that boring?
“Yeah I do. It is boring, it’s so dull! It’s so uninspiring, because I always want people to dress me up like an actress from a 1960s Italian movie or like Catherine Deneuve in Belle Du Jour, I always want that! I don’t want to wear what I’d normally wear to the studio every day. The [BAZAAR] shoot was fantastic, so much fun. I mean, they aren’t clothes that I would probably ever wear, but Catherine Deneuve would, so I loved it! It’s like playing with dolls when you’re little and I love that. I guess I see fashion as creating; it’s about escapism and fantasy. And I love creating and I love telling a story.”
Yeah, there is a LOT to read from just these excerpts but you can click HERE to read the interview in full. I just love Shirley so much that I always geek out when I see her featured in any magazine. I believe that Garbage is hard at work on a new album so they will likely be out of the public eye for a bit so this might be the last we hear from Shirl and the boys for a while. I’m really excited to know that they are working on new music right now … and I really cannot wait to hear it so, yeah … woot! Yay, Shirley!