A week and a half. That’s how much longer we have to wait until Not Your Kind Of People, the first new Garbage record in seven years, comes out. We’ve already heard their first single, “Blood For Poppies” (review), and I still can’t get enough of it. So, to build up the hype just a wee bit more, I’ve got an exclusive interview with drums/percussionist/songwriter/producer/wizard Butch Vig for you to enjoy below!
Forming in 1994, Garbage has gone on to sell over 17 million albums worldwide. Their first album, Garbage, went double platinum in the US while their second album, Version 2.0, went platinum. Make sure to preorder your copy of Not Your Kind Of People on iTunes.
Bloody-Disgusting: Good Morning Butch! How are you doing?
Butch Vig: Good morning! I’m doing good, how are you?
BD: Not too shabby! So, the first and probably most obvious question is why the return of Garbage?
BV: Well, at the end of the cycle for our last record, Bleed Like Me, we were pretty burnt out. Just from doing four long records and four long tours. So, we needed to go away and clear our heads. I thought it would only be two years and it ended up being five [laughs]. It’s funny, there’s never any mention of breaking up. There was also never any talk of when we would get back together, so everybody just did their own thing and, all of the sudden, five years just flew by.
Then, a little over a year ago we got together for someone’s birthday party and we all decided to go into the studio and, basically, fuck around for a couple of days and jam. That’s what we did with no agenda. We sorta talked about how does everybody feel? Do you want to get back together and see if we can write some music? And, without even really thinking about it, all these songs started forming very quickly and I think just having that long break really let a lot of ideas that were dormant or that had been pushed to the side surface. And all these songs ideas started coming out and everybody seemed jazzed. I think part of that was that we were free agents. We didn’t have to deal with any of the contractual bullshit we had in the past.
So we could do whatever we wanted to. With no pressure, I think it really did free everybody’s minds up and the songs started flowing really quickly.
BD: It’s been seven years since Bleed Like Me. What in that time has changed for Garbage and how you approached the return of the band?
BV: Well, for one, this is the first record we’ve done outside of Madison [Wisconsin]. Steve [Marker] and I own a studio, Smart Studios, where we did the first four Garbage records. This record was done in Los Angeles in a tiny little studio in Atwater Village. It’s not a fancy recording studio, it’s like a little clubhouse. We would just sorta hang out there. We use ProTools and samplers, so there’s a high-tech aspect but if you saw the set-up, it’s really kinda trashy and lo-tech. I think the combination of those things that we used in the past but really embracing pushing those two opposites against each other on this record.
I think one of the great things about feeling free allowed us to serve right in a very diverse way. I think we probably ended up writing almost 25 or 26 songs. They’re very diverse. There’s something unusual about the chemistry that we have. If you heard it, you’d go, “Oh, that’s Garbage”, even though the songs sound completely different. There’s a sensibility that we share, there’s a thread in all the songs that somehow we can’t escape, even if we tried to not sound like ourselves, we couldn’t help it. It’s in our blood. And you combine that with Shirley’s singing and it really does give us a lot of leeway in how we want to arrange things sonically and just what kind of vibe we want to create in the music.
We’ve been playing some tracks for friends and people who stop by the studio and they all say, “Wow! It sounds like the first Garbage record!” To me, it doesn’t sound like it but I think there’s this vibe, a spirit or something, that captures what the first Garbage record was like.
BD: Describe the new album for me.
BV: Sonically, the record is what I described earlier. It uses new technology but mixes it with lo-fi, trashy sounds. Some of the songs have an almost atmospheric, almost cinematic quality to them. There are some songs that have a noisy, electro groove. There’s a lot of guitars. One song has a glitched out punk guitar riff that’s pretty cool!
BD: Are you in charge of production?
BV: It’s really a joint production. The four of us all have ideas. So it’s obviously different headspace for me when I’m producing another band. I am in charge, but it’s not my project. It’s the band’s project. It’s my responsibility to channel their ideas and get great performances and make it sonically sound great.
In this instance, I’m a songwriter and a musician and an engineer and a producer all rolled into one. Anyone can be a producer if you have an opinion. That’s one aspect of what a producer is. The four of us are extremely opinionated. Shirley is probably more opinionated than Duke and Steven and myself combined [laughs]. So the four of us collectively make decisions and that’s not always easy to do in a democracy in a band. Sometimes I think it’s easier to get things done with a monarchy. But we, all four of us, threw our opinions in the ring and what comes out is Garbage.
BD: What are the future plans looking like?
BV: We’re talking about playing some smaller gigs in the spring and then maybe some festival shows in the summer.
BD: Do you feel that you have to take digital and social networks heavily into account with this album?
BV: Yeah, I think you do. I think you need to be really smart and get your fan base involved. You can interact so fast these days. There used to be so much red tape involved in getting something out and I think once the record comes out if we want to put out a new track or a remix, we can do it right away. We don’t really have to answer to anybody. We’ve decided we’re going to put the record out in our own label and just hire people for the marketing and distribution.
So, it’s kinda cool in a way. We have all these songs written and we want all of them to come out at some point. We don’t really think of them as B-sides anymore. If we can find someplace where a song would fit, be it giving it away for free or licensing it for a show or movie, we just want to be able to do it and do it quickly. I think that’s the way artists are starting to move. They don’t want to feel constrained by the old rules of the old school record business.
We don’t really know what we’re going to do and it’s terrifying and fantastically thrilling at the same time because it’s a wide-open palette. I think a lot of artists are discovering that and it’s empowering!
BD: Garbage was always edgy and in-your-face. Since I write for BD, which is all about horror and being “in your face”, do you see a connection between horror and music, particularly the style of Garbage?
BV:Every record there have been two or three songs that were very dark and atmospheric. We’re huge film fanatics in Garbage. I went to film school at the University of Wisconsin. I was at a Halloween party and my friend had put together a playlist of music from Carrie, Jaws, Halloween, The Exorcist, and we were remarking on how music is such a big important part of creating the right atmosphere in those films. That’s something that we’ve talked about in Garbage was scoring an entire film. We’ve had offers in the past that just didn’t work out because of scheduling. But that’s something we want to embrace moving forward is to try to find the right opportunity, the right connection with a film or director that would be appropriate and fun to do.
I think, to me, in Garbage music, there has always been a cinematic quality. Even in the stuff that’s been noisy because we like textures and layering. There is a lot of 3D detail in the music. There’s a lot of things going on, some that are obvious and some that are very subversive.
BD: Butch, thanks so much and best of luck to you!
BV: Cool man! Take care!
Got any thoughts/questions/concerns for Jonny B.? Shoot him a message on Twitter!
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