After a six year hiatus, May's Not Your Kind of People marked the return of Garbage, one of the biggest rock acts of the late-90s. No longer under contract with a major label, the band took their time putting their fifth LP together, and the result is a band revitalized -- and an album that revisits the sound of the first two Garbage records. For the latest edition of Tell Me About That Album, we chatted with the band's guitarist Duke Erikson about the record, the ambitious tour to support it and where he heads in Seattle every time he visits. Garbage play the Showbox Sodo on Sept. 26th.
Can you be more specific? I think we felt pressure from record labels and meeting a certain way records were sounding at the time. I think that crept in now and then. I don't think we completely changed the Garbage sound or how we write exactly, but I think that maybe in the production we allowed some of that pressure, some of that influence to creep in. And I think that was unhealthy for us. This time we set up our own label and just went in like we did on our first record, not really knowing what we were going to do. We just started working. We put our heads down and just started working and I enjoyed it immensely.
How was the process different this time from how you'd worked previously? We had no expectations about what kind of record we were going to make. Nobody had a plan about what it was going to sound like. We just started working. When we first got together after this long hiatus we all showed up at the studio and sat in the lounge and drank wine for a couple hours. We laughed and settled back in and reminisced. We didn't even talk about music really. Then we went downstairs where all our gear was set up and just started playing. Somebody would just start a riff or an idea or a chord progression and Shirley had some lyrics that she'd been keeping over the years and it was just a jam. That first day I think we wrote "Battle in Me" from beginning to end.
Is the production process as collaborative as the songwriting? It's rare to have a band with as many producers as Garbage has. Butch's expertise certainly contributes a lot. We all listen really hard to what's going on and we all have an opinion.
Is it democratic? Dysfunctionally so. Sometimes it gets a little weird. It sounds kind of nightmarish when you're discussing it like this, but we actually have fun talking and trying different ideas and on this record, anytime somebody had an idea, we'd try it. Once you run something up the flagpole, usually we're all on the same page and we all salute. And if we're not, we'll work it around a bit to maybe make it work for whoever isn't liking it. I'd say every song, however it comes into the band, is made better by the time its run the gauntlet.
You guys have expressed feeling a new sense of freedom now that you're off the majors and an independent band again. In what ways did your relationship with Geffen have an impact on previous products and what were you free to do this time around that maybe you couldn't before? I don't want to go into specifics, but I will say that we just felt a little bit ignored, overlooked, misunderstood. Maybe we were spoiled by our first two records and working with these relatively small independent labels who were thrilled to have us aboard. We knew everyone in the company and we could call any one of them. There was just a real camaraderie and a way of working that was pleasant. And when you move into that next level some of that gets lost. I think we were also exhausted -- that second tour was 20 months long, so it was a combination of factors. It wasn't just the music business that made us slow down and take a break, it was physical exhaustion as well.
Right, you always seem to book a very ambitious run of dates. Do you enjoy the time on the road as much as the time at home and how grueling is it for you at aged 61 as opposed to 31? We're trying to do it in a much more civilized way [laughs].
What does that mean? The occasional break, flying home for a few days every now and then. We just had a week and half off and now we're out for quite a while - South America, Russia, Europe, the West Coast.
Are there any places that you're going on this tour that you've never been to before? South America -- Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguy, Columbia. We're really excited about it.
Were you and Butch doing extensive touring when the two of you were in Spooner together in the '70s? Spooner never ventured outside of America. For the most part I really enjoy [touring]. I just walked around Richmond, Virginia and walked along the river - stuck my feet in the water and then went to the Civil War museum. It's wonderful stuff. Showing up in a city that you don't know much about and walking around and meeting people and enjoying the food and then going and playing at night - it doesn't get much better.
Do you have any rituals in Seattle when you come? Pike Place. I always go there. We usually end up there for dinner and I always go to breakfast and walk around and just enjoy that.
Can you talk about the origin of the record's title? Which came first, the song or the title, and was there something about that phrase Not Your Kind of People that seemed to sum up the album in some way? Butch came up with that in his car one day.
Did you know immediately that it would be the title? I think we all thought it might be just because it's a bit provocative. We've always written songs about people who don't feel they fit. Anybody at any point in their lives feels like they don't belong in one way or another. Some people spend their whole lives feeling that way and we've always written songs to those folks because I think we feel that way as people quite often, and we feel that way as a band quite often. Rock & roll has always been about the outsider in one way or another. We just decided to put it right there on the front of the record.
Speaking of the front of the record, can you tell me about the cover design and concept? Were there other ideas you played around with? There were lots of other ideas. There was some art that we wanted to do but we didn't want to spend what the artist wanted us to. That would have been a very colorful and complex cover and we just decided to go the other way and do something really simple.
Eric Avery from Jane's Addiction is your touring bass player. How did that association come about? We were at the Sunset Marquis and we talked to him in the lounge for a while and we liked him very much and of course we knew he was good. And there wasn't much discussion. It was probably one of the quickest decisions we've ever made.
Had your paths ever crossed previously? Had you ever played with Jane's Addiction? No. We just hit it off immediately and he's become a great friend beyond just being our bass player. It couldn't have worked out better.