Shirley Manson remembers early days of Garbage

Garbage is on tour, celebrating its 20th anniversary. (Courtesy Elias Tahan)

Garbage chanteuse Shirley Manson downplays it as “just a little treat for the fans to support a foundation that I really care about.” But it was quite the event when she returned to her native Glasgow two weeks ago to play the Sowing Seeds, Growing Futures benefit concert with her sinister, reformed-for-the-occasion old outfit Angelfish. She never planned on shuttering that group two decades ago, when she recorded experimental vocals for producer Butch Vig. “I thought it was only going to be one song, because initially, he wanted to work with a whole gamut of singers. I didn’t think it would last much longer than six weeks,” she recalls of the project that became Garbage, now celebrating its 20th anniversary with a deluxe edition of its eponymous debut and attendant tour.

You recently found some vintage Garbage footage, where you look supremely confident. But inside, you were feeling tortured?

I was just a hot mess. I just did not believe in myself, and I didn’t think I was doing anything of any real substance. And I was pretty experienced being in a band by the time I got into Garbage, not only with Angelfish, but with Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. But I still didn’t feel like I was good enough to enjoy the privilege of having been picked to play with Butch Vig and his cronies, to be the front person of his band. It felt like a huge honor to me, but one I didn’t really deserve.

What did you learn from Butch over the ensuing years?
Well, a lot of things. Obviously, I’ve been taught a lot about music, about singing, and about hard work and tenacity. And Butch is very socially graceful, and he has a lot of patience and a lot of kindness. He’s a really classy man, so I learned a lot about how to conduct myself from him. He taught me how to understand the motivations and drives of other people. And living these parallel lives, going through heartbreaks and disappointments together, there’s an incredible bond that forms between you.

What else are you up to besides the Angelfish gig?

I don’t have any other projects! People ask me this all the time, but they have no f—— idea what goes in to making a record, or to get a band up and out onto the road. Its crazy! I see young artists being asked, “So, what else are you doing?” And they’re like, “Well, I’m singing, modeling, launching my own fashion line.” And it’s just insanity. I feel like going, “Stop! Everybody just stop! You don’t have to do everything – just do one thing really well, with passion, integrity, and sincerity!”

Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 7
Tickets: $45 (sold out)
Contact: (510) 302-2250,

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