Saturday, July 30, 2016


Formed in Madison, Wisconsin in 1993, their group's name came from a comment by someone who had heard their first music and exclaimed, "This shit sounds like garbage!"

And that was Garbage's intention all along. Band member, Steve Marker, said that the band wanted to "take pop music and make it as horrible sounding as we can." They wanted to make pop-like songs which mixed with a variety of genres, including trip hop, grunge, 1980s rock music, techno, power pop, and shoegazing.

In a 2012 interview, Garbage’s guitarist Marker said, “We were all sick of the grunge thing, where it was just guys screaming all the time. I guess other people were too." Shirley Manson, lead singer, has stated that the band itself "used to describe [their sound] as sci-fi pop, because we felt it was taking a futuristic approach."

Butch Vig, one of the band's founders, was born in nearby Viroqua, Wisconsin, and had moved to Madison to study film direction at UW-Madison. He would end up directing musicians instead and would found Smart Studios in 1983 with Marker, a sound engineer, who he'd met at the university. Duke Erikson, also a future member of Garbage, would help to design the studio interior as well as do engineering, production, and remixing work. The studio first opened across the street, but would end up at 1254 East Washington Avenue in Madison.

Vig and Marker had produced The Smashing Pumpkin's Gist and Nirvana's Nevermind at Smart Studios, before forming Garbage. After years of producing an impressive line up of recordings, Smart Studios would eventually close in 2010. It would subsequently re-open as Clutch Sound on September 1, 2013. A documentary was made about Smart Studios in 2016, directed and co-produced by Wendy Schneider.

Vig, Marker, and Erikson, a multi-instrumentalist and producer, would also found and play in several local bands, including Spooner and Firetown. When these groups disbanded, they looked to form a new band with an entirely new sound.

Shirley Manson, from Scotland, was added to the band after they started the search for a female lead singer "who didn't have a high, chirpy, girly quality to her voice." She came to Madison for several days to audition, but failed to impress. In Manson's words, the first audition was "a disaster." Weeks later, she would contact Vig to talk about returning to re-audition, which ended with much better results.

Manson reflects on living in Madison in an article in the Huffington Post...
"It was the beginning of everything for me, the beginning of the rest of my life, I suppose, when I arrived in Madison. I associate the arrival in Madison with the start of the greatest adventure of my life. That is my fond memory of Madison. The extremities of the weather is another thing that I sort of pine for in a funny way now that I live in Los Angeles. I really miss the seasons that Madison offers up. I miss lying in bed at night and listening to the groan and cracking of the ice as spring rears its head and the lake warms up. Those big crusts of ice that were formed for months start to break open. I miss the drama of that and the autumnal colors. Life is good in Madison. It’s a very easy place, I think, for people to live and it’s a progressive city. I really realized the more I traveled in America how precious that is for a girl from Europe." - Shirley Manson
Many of their earlier songs were written and recorded in Madison, with some also being written in a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin.

They're proud of their Wisconsin roots, and Marker said in 2016, "We've had nothing but wonderful support from people in Wisconsin, even from people who didn't listen to our type of music but loved that we were from there. It's always been a treat to go back."

The group has released numerous albums, with top singles, and recently completed their 20th anniversary tour in 2016. A complete list of the Garbage members includes.

While at one time they all lived in Madison, now they're largely based out of the Los Angeles, California and only one member of Garbage, Duke Erikson, still lives there today.

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