An Interview with Garbage: Never Wasted


The year 2015 is going down in the musical yearbook as banner, not necessarily because piles of stellar albums are being released, but ultimately because it’s an anniversary year celebrating debut records from some of the most influential bands of the ’90s.

The band Garbage is celebrating 20 years since the release of their debut self-titled record. This notion dates us all. Crazy as it sounds, it’s been two decades since guitarist Duke Erikson teamed up with drummer Butch Vig and guitarist Steve Marker, saw lead singer Shirley Manson on MTV and brought her to Madison, Wisconsin, to record music.

            The album Garbage went on to sell more than four million copies worldwide and was certified double platinum in five countries including the USA and UK. The success of the four-piece is heavily rooted in their commitment to sound innovation. During their inception grunge was taking off like a hot rocket, and Garbage focused on skating around the genre. A mash-up of musical elements gave life to tracks like “Stupid Girl,” “Vow” and “Queer”. Self described as Sci-Fi Pop”, the band stood out for their fusion of trip hop, blues, and techno.

The band is going to be playing select shows this fall, performing the album in its entirety. The 20th anniversary of their debut is also being marked by a remastered reissue with accompanying B-sides and remixes, which will arrive before the end of 2015.

Guitarist Steve Marker took a moment to reminisce about the band’s last two decades, his personal motivation for playing music, and what fans can expect from the next Garbage record. The interview excerpt follows:

It’s so amazing that it’s been 20 years since Garbage’s debut album came out! For many the record is a call back to adolescence. How do you feel to reflect back on 20 years of making music, particularly with the same band lineup?

I feel grateful to have fans that stuck with us so long. It’s kind of hard to believe because things move so fast and it’s hard for anyone to get the traction to build up the kind of fan base we did. [Our fame] was never “over the top” but it always was real solid. A lot of those people are still with us, right from the very beginning. You see people tweeting on Twitter now—“I was at the Boston show in your first tour in ’95 and I’m going to be there again now in 2015.” That’s kind of mind blowing. Most music gets forgotten really quickly. I’m not sure what we did to deserve it but I’m really grateful that we were able to keep that.

Garbage deserves that recognition and loyalty because you put out interesting and innovative music that stood out in the crowd. It’s challenging to classify Garbage by genre terms, and there also aren’t many mainstream acts to compare sounds with, and it ultimately helped the band stand out.

Thank you. That’s a good compliment. We tried to do it the best we could. The combo of the four of us just happened to be right and made something that hopefully stood out, like you said.

What was your motivation to start writing music and playing shows together again?

What we do is so much fun. I find the most joy in creating stuff. I can sit at home and write or paint, but the combination of the four of us sitting in a room coming up with songs has been one of my favorite things to do of all time. I really missed that. It’s not always a bowl of cherries with four people who have very strong opinions. You’ve got to deal with stuff, but sitting down in a room and writing a song together, recording it and going out to play it—that’s special. I think it’s rare for a band to be able to play what they want to play and know people will come and see it. I missed all those things. It was so fantastic to be able to bring it back and make it work again [in 2012]. Now we’re doing it again this year.

…We were geeks from Wisconsin who happened to do a few things right. Then we found Shirley and that changed our lives. It always has been flattering. There have been times when we didn’t get along the way brothers and sisters don’t get along, but you don’t leave your family because of that. You try to work it out and so we’ve done that, and we do it because we like it and we like each other, and going out and seeing the people we like on the road.

Garbage is one of the few bands with a female singer, which is great because Shirley really gave young girls an interesting, talented role model. Do you think that dynamic is part of the band’s success?

I think people could tell that Shirley was authentic. She wasn’t trying to be somebody she wasn’t. That’s still true. She’s still Shirley. People can sense that.

What can fans expect from the new music the band is writing?

We’ve got an album that’s ready to be mixed; it will be out in the springtime, likely in May 2016. It’s not going in the same direction as radio is these days. We never worry about [being Top 40] too much but now we totally don’t worry about it. The new music is probably a little bit louder and more obnoxious. We do a lot of it off the cuff. A lot of it derives from basement jams on the spot. A lot of that got kept. We want to get more immediate and raw and a little less worried about getting everything perfect and in its place. We want to say what the song wants to say in the most direct way—it’s louder and simpler.

Which guitarists inspire you most instrumentally?

I never really was that knocked out by guitar solos as much as [players] that can fit into songs to make them better. So I would go with a Keith Richards over a jazz virtuoso kind of guy—I like rhythm guys that can really [make the guitar] fit into a song. I won’t do well with this question on modern guys—music today is more keyboard-driven and we’re still trying to keep the guitar thing going in our band.


Garbage will play Oct. 23 at The Space At Westbury in Westbury, NY and Oct. 24 at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. For more information, go to