Garbage are currently on tour to celebrate the twenty-year anniversary of their debut, self-titled LP, which was (and still is) undeniably one of the most iconic records of the nineties and beyond. I caught up with Duke Erikson (one-fourth of the band, which also includes Shirley Manson, Butch Vig and Steve Marker) a few weeks ago to talk about the impending tour dates (which include VERY sold out gigs at 9:30 Club on 10/28 and 10/29), as well as about how things have changed for the band over the two decades they’ve been in action, the lasting impact they’ve had on the music scene, and what’s up next in terms of new full-lengths, books in the works, etc. Read up on all of that below, pick up a deluxe edition of Garbage (plus the band’s latest release, Not Your Kind of People), and follow Garbage on Facebook and Twitter to stay tuned to all the latest news. HERE WE GO:
So we are SUPER stoked for these upcoming tour dates. What do you guys typically do to prepare?
Yeah, we’re rehearsing right now; we’re in the middle of rehearsals, and this is a little bit different from other rehearsals we’ve done, because we’ve had to go back and learn songs and pay attention a little closer to the sound of the record. Some of the songs have evolved over the years live, they’ve changed a little bit, and we’ve messed with them a bit just to keep ourselves interested in them, so we’ve gotten a little bit away from the original sound and arrangements of the songs. And now we’ve gone back to the record, and we’re studying it again, you know? We’re trying to re-learn (I guess) the original versions, to make this more of a celebration of how that record actually sounded and how we actually played it and performed it way back then. It’s been a bit of a challenge, because to be honest with you, I haven’t really listened to it in twenty years. [Laughs] So we’re having to school ourselves on that as well.
No, I’m sure! I mean, with any creative body of work, for that amount of time to pass there’s SURE to be a kind of waxing and waning connection to what you’ve made. But that’s really cool that you guys are having this kind of “re-think” about the songs.
Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of like going through an old closet! [Laughs] Old photograph album. “Oh yeah, we did that!” [Laughs]
I can imagine! Now, with the actual shows that you play, have you guys developed any techniques over the years to kind of stay sane and healthy on the road?
Well, it helps to start out your tour sane and healthy, and then do your best to maintain that. [Laughs] I mean, we enjoy it so much that I think we all stay pretty sane and healthy. You know, our first tour (when we went out on this record) lasted nearly two years, and it was nearly impossible to stay sane and healthy after all that time. Especially having not expected such a huge success with the record; I mean, that’s the last thing we imagined happening. But, you know, I guess we’re a bit wiser on how we do this now, and this is actually not going to be what you might call a “grueling” tour; it’s going to be very reasonable, do the States and then go over to Europe, and we’re just looking at it as a small celebration of twenty years together, and an album that we have really grown to appreciate going back to it now. I think we all feel rather proud of it.
As you should; the records (especially that one) have gone on to impact so many people. I mean, have you heard any musicians in particular reference Garbage as having been influential and formative to their work? (Because on my end, truthfully, I hear it a lot!)
[Laughs] No one that pops into my head right now. You tell me! I don’t know. I feel…that’s very gratifying to hear that kind of thing, it’s incredible, but I guess you’re right; I guess we blazed a trail a little bit, but I don’t dwell on that, really.
Well, and maybe that’s a good thing; sometimes getting too wrapped up in that sort of thing can lead to its own problems. BUT, what are your thoughts on the music industry right now? A lot of people are obviously not optimistic about the way certain aspects of it have been trending lately, and clearly there have been a lot of changes to the way the industry operates (or doesn’t operate) since you guys started out with Garbage. Do you have any specific thoughts on this?
Well, I think it’s incredibly sad and unfair that musicians don’t get properly paid for their toil; they make this great product, and they pour their hearts and souls into it, and then it just disappears into the ether, and doesn’t really get treated as a viable, marketable item. It doesn’t really have value, so the only way a musician can really make money is to go on tour. It’s always been unfair for musicians, though; the business has always been tilted towards the powers that be. The musician is always last in line to be rewarded for their work, and now it’s even worse.
Right. Well, fortunately you guys came up in a window of time when it wasn’t as brutal. (Differently brutal, I guess you could say.)
Yeah, we felt like we were given the short end of the stick when we were coming up. And we were, you know? Really, when you think about the work that we went into, and how much other people made from our art. But god, now it’s just…I don’t know, it’s almost unspeakable how it’s structured now. You know, I guess we were lucky that we came up when we did.
Absolutely. And you guys were independent when Not Your Kind of People came out, which I’m sure was nice. (Of course, it’s lot of work, too, but creatively I’m sure that was a nice breath of fresh air.) Are you working to put out another full-length anytime soon that you would do in the same way, independently?
Yeah, we’re going to do that all again. We have one that’s almost finished, actually. We’ve had to take time off to prepare for this tour, but there’s a record almost in the can, and will come out next year at some point. (I hope earlier rather than later, but that remains to be seen.) And we’re going to do it basically the same way that we did this. We’ve enjoyed our new arrangement, where we call all the shots and we’re beholden to nobody. It’s great.
Yeah, well so that part was obviously a bit of a shift for you guys, then, but in terms of the actual creative process, I’d read somewhere that things have fairly the same for the band since the outset. Is that accurate? You still work together to create music in the same way you were doing it twenty years ago?
Actually, yeah, Not Your Kind of People felt very much like the first record, because we had taken some time off, and we all came back together, and we felt like we were starting fresh, with no expectations and no rules. Obviously we knew each other very, very well, but we felt like we were coming back to each other as kind of a fresh start, and in that way, it felt very much like the first record. We just went at it and had a good time doing it, and had no goals other than to make a great record, which is what we did with the first one.
Cool. And I also read you guys are working on a book right now?
We’re doing a little thing, yeah. I guess it’s kind of the verbal history. [Laughs] Yeah, it’s an interesting exercise to try to remember. [Laughs] It’s fun; we get together, the four of us, and one person will say something, which will spark another memory, and it’ll just kind of go around. Yeah, we’re going to do something this year. (God, I talk like I’m eighty years old! Our memories are completely fine!) [Laughs]
Well, even trying to remember what happened over the span of three hundred and sixty-five days is a tough task, so multiply that by twenty…I mean, that’s tough for anybody!
Yeah, well, what we discovered was that when we were asked about those tours, I mean, as I said before, those tours were such a surprise! The first one, especially. The second one was even longer, I think. But just keeping up with everything, let alone taking notice of what’s happening and actually putting it in your brain and saying, “I’m going to remember this,”…that just didn’t happen. It was just a blur; it kind of went by, all of it. We should have had someone along to write it all down. [Laughs] But those tours were all amazing. And that last tour for Not Your Kind of People was amazing as well! I already don’t remember half of that. [Laughs]
I bet! Now, if you were to go back to the very beginning, to day one, what would you say would have been a thing you’ve now done or accomplished over the course of this musical project that you’d never have expected at the outset?
Just to see the world the way we did. And to have your music appreciated in Siberia, for Christ’s sake, let alone Europe and South America and Australia and all that. I never dreamed growing up that I would see the world the way I did. And I think that’s probably the biggest thing.