Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Garbage

Alternative-rock icons Garbage are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their self-titled debut record. After unleashing their special 20th Anniversary edition of the album (which was packed with exclusives and never before released material), the band kicked off their 20 Years Queer Tour across North America. AMBY gave Garbage’s Duke Erikson a call ahead of their Toronto show tonight to discuss memories, new technology, connecting with people, writing honest music, learning curves, and downtime.

AMBY: Hey Duke. How’s it going?

Garbage: I’m okay. I’m in Houston and am about to hop on my tour bus, heading to Austin.

AMBY: Nice. Have you had any time to enjoy Houston? Or did you play the show and have to leave right after?

Garbage: No, someone told me about a museum I would have really liked to go to. I was going to try and go this morning, but it didn’t happen and I ended up on the phone all morning. I went out to lunch yesterday and I found a nice neighbourhood, actually. All I’ve ever seen of Houston was the metropolitan area, but I got to see a little neighbourhood yesterday which was quite nice. So, there you go.

AMBY: [laughs] That’s great.

Garbage: We had a great show in Houston last night, by the way. It was really good. I’m loving the shows so far.

AMBY: I’m glad it’s been good. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat today, as well. I’m very glad we could make this happen!

Garbage: That’s absolutely fine. That’s for asking.

AMBY: My pleasure. So, you’re celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Garbage’s debut record, Garbage. When you reflect on this album, what’s the first thing you really think about? Which memories come to mind?

Garbage: I remember the three of us still getting to know Shirley. The three boys getting to know her because, as you well know, we had been working together for years and she then joined the band. She had to jump into the studio with us and make a record, which had to be incredibly daunting if not downright scary for her. There was that and I remember us trying to figure out what we were doing exactly; we had an idea, but we didn’t know exactly how to execute it. Song by song, we sort of figured out what we were doing. We were trying to apply this new technology – samplers and new electronics that were available at the time – to pop music. It was very exciting making that record. It was like we stumbled into a whole new territory and we were looking around [laughs].

AMBY: Does it feel like twenty years have actually gone by since that moment of figuring everything out?

Garbage: It feels like forty.

AMBY and Garbage: [laughs]

Garbage: It kind of feels like it flew by. I wish I had paid more attention. It was hard to pay attention of everything little details of our lives and what we experienced back then. We get together and try to remember “what happened there” and “does anyone remember playing this place”. Sometimes we help refresh each other’s’ memories about all of that.

AMBY: Garbage was actually released the year I was born, but I remember singing your music when I was about five. This record spoke to so many people – from the college teens, to goths, to folks who enjoyed mainstream pop, to little me.

Garbage: [laughs] That’s incredible. It was released the year you were born. That’s amazing.

AMBY: Why do you think Garbage touched that nerve to connect with so many different people?

Garbage: I guess it probably depends on where you were in your own personal life when you heard the record. I think we always tried to write honest music, and I think a lot of it is down to Shirley and her being honest in her lyrics and us trying our best to make those lyrics even more powerful or meaningful. That’s how you should write a song, really. I think it all comes down to writing a good song. If you strip away all of the bells and whistles, all of the production and all of that stuff, hopefully underneath all of that there’s still a good song. Once you have that core to work with, you can make it stronger or more meaningful by use of sound, ambiance, and noise. I think it really comes down to writing songs that are important to you. Once you do that, it’s going to be meaningful to someone else out there.

AMBY: Very true. And you’re now touring in support of the anniversary on this 20 Years Queer Tour. Which songs off the album are your favourite to play live right now? Which still heavily resonate with you?

Garbage: It’s different every night, really. It’s great to play songs that we’ve been playing for forever like Stupid Girl and Only Happy. When we decided to do this, we decided that we better rehearse this because I’ve barely even listened to some of these songs in twenty years. There was a bit of a learning curve there. There’s been a learning curve every night; learning how to best serve up these songs like some of the b-sides. Last night, Fix Me Now was great as was Dog New Tricks [laughs]. We wrote them in the studio with absolutely no intention of performing them live. Once we decided to go on tour, we had to figure it out and I think we have now. Every song is coming across very well now.

AMBY: This is the first time you’re playing the debut in its entirety, so similar to what you mentioned it’ll include b-sides like A Stroke of Luck which have never shown light live. How refreshing is it to have this new material to filter into your setlists?

Garbage: Exactly. Our first tour, all we had to pick from was the album tracks really. It was a very limiting catalog. Now we have a few more! We have no strict rules about what we’re doing and I think we’re going to do a different set every now and then; we’re not doing a fixed set every night and we’re trying to have fun with it.

AMBY: Garbage has played over a thousand concerts over the last 20 years as a band. When you have some downtime outside of music and performing, what do you enjoy doing for fun? Is there actually ever any downtime?

AMBY and Garbage: [laughs]

Garbage: I don’t have any downtime. I’ve been working on a documentary over the last eight years which is finally coming to fruition. It’s a documentary on early American music. That’s coming out next year. I play golf, I paint, and I bicycle. That’s what I like to do.

AMBY: Going back to the self-titled for a second, it really was a genre-defying record where you were blending rock, pop, and electronica together along with using super clever samples. Which bands nowadays do you feel are taking a chance and doing something different? Who are you enjoying lately?

Garbage: Who am I listening to as of late? You know, actually, I’m reading a book about Captain Beefheart. Are you familiar?

AMBY: Yes, I am.

Garbage: It’s an amazing book and I highly recommend it. I’ve been getting into that because he’s done stuff that nobody has ever touched since. That’s really all I can remember right now. We were listening to some stuff last night, but I can’t remember what it was. There’s that Swedish band called Alvvays or something?

AMBY: As in a-l-v-v-a-y-s?

Garbage: Yes.

AMBY: They’re a Canadian group, if it’s the same band we’re speaking of?

Garbage: Oh, are they?

AMBY: Yea, from my neck of the woods in Toronto.

Garbage: Someone told me they were Swedish. Maybe they’re Swedes living in Canada.

AMBY and Garbage: [laughs]

AMBY: You’ve grown an incredible fanbase over the years which is ever-growing. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans who will be reading our interview?

Garbage: What can I say except thank you. Thank you for being loyal fans all of these years. If you’ve come on lately, I hope you like it [laughs]. We’re working on a new record for next year, and when this tour’s over, we’re going to go back and finish it up. I hope you all like that.


Thank you Garbage, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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