Garbage picks up where it left off

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Musicians will tell you there is nothing like a little time off to recharge the batteries and refresh the mind. The members of the pop band Garbage thought so, too, but they didn’t expect their hiatus to last seven years.

Garbage, which started in Madison in 1994 and went double platinum with its first album “Garbage” in 1995, cut short its 2005 tour supporting the then-new release “Bleed Like Me.” The quartet felt it needed a break and assured its fans that the band hadn’t broken up.

“When we decided to take some time off, none of us thought it would be seven years – seven months maybe,” says bassist/guitarist Doug “Duke” Erikson. “Perhaps we didn’t realize how exhausted we all were and how completely occupied we had become with Garbage. So we lived life for awhile.”

Erikson returned to his home in Madison and guitarist Steve Marker headed for the mountains of Colorado. Vocalist Shirley Manson, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, began working on a still-unreleased solo album.

Drummer Butch Vig, equally well known as co- founder with Marker of Madison’s Smart Studios and the Grammy Award-winning producer of such seminal albums as Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” and Foo Fighters’ “Wasting Light,” went back to the studio. Vig now lives, produces and records in Los Angeles, where Manson also lives.

The lengthy hiatus had its healing effect, and the band finally began working on its fifth album. “Not Your Kind of People” was independently produced and released May 15 during a lengthy European tour. Reviewers have compared the album to the band’s inaugural effort and “Version 2.0,” its second album, both of which were well received.

“I suppose it’s a step forward in that we had got the album done at all and that we’re on the road promoting it, Erikson  says. ‘We felt the slate had been washed clean when we started recording the album. No preconditions or expectations. We just started working to see what would happen.”

Garbage will play only three U.S. dates this year on the promotional tour, one each in Chicago, Kansas City, Mo., and at Pondamonium, the Aug. 9 outdoor concert at the Madison Mallards baseball field in Warner Park on the city’s north side. Garbage will headline a show also featuring The Flaming Lips, Dum Dum Girls, Royal Bangs and The Congregation.

The Warner Park date marks a homecoming for Erikson, Marker and Vig. The trio played together in the prominent local bands Spooner and Fire Town, developing a sound that moved the grunge rock of the 1980s forward, adding more depth and dimension. The Smart Studios experience and the bands eventually led to the formation of Garbage.

“This has always been about writing songs and recording them,” Erikson says. “Spooner was the incubator for all that came later. That’s where it began, where we all saw the possibilities.”

It was the introduction of vocalist Manson that helped galvanize the band and define its sound. The three met with Manson on April 8, 1994, in London after Marker had seen her perform with the band Angelfish on television. But plans for the future band were put hold after Vig was informed that same day of the suicide of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, whose album he had produced just three days earlier.

The three met Manson again at a later time in Chicago, inviting her to Madison for an audition. Manson’s initial auditions with the band went badly, but things began to gel as the band discovered the singer had musical tastes similar to theirs. The band’s initial demo tapes were recorded at Smart Studios, and the musicians made a valiant effort to rise above the grunge rock label that still occasionally haunts them.

“Anyone who describes Garbage as either grunge or electronica would have only been listening to one song or a few bars of one song, or not listening at all,” Erikson insists. “We are a pop band, and by that I mean we combine any and all musical elements to make something new.”

“Not Your Kind of People” bears this out. Comparisons to the first record have been deliberate, a way to tell fans that after seven years’ rest, the energy that defined the original group is back.

“When we were about to hit the road, we expected to see a lot of Garbage fans out there who had grown up, aged, been through some changes,” Erikson says. “We do see those folks, but we also see a lot of kids who look like they couldn’t have been more than five when we were out last time.”

Credit that to the band’s renewed energy or its evolving sound. At any rate, it’s clear that Garbage has come around and, for Madison fans, will soon be back in town.

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