Q&A: Steve Marker of Garbage
When Garbage began creating the record that came to be 2012's "Not Your Kind of People," the band members didn't expect that anyone would care.
Their previous album, 2005's "Bleed Like Me," was released seven years earlier, and although fan mail indicated that people did care, guitarist/keyboardist Steve Marker was cautiously optimistic.
"We didn't really even tell anybody that we were doing it, other than our families," Marker told SoundSpike via telephone from Japan, where Garbage was touring.
"Nobody cared. Really, literally. We had management that didn't care. We got out of our record deals before we started, which was kind of a good thing. We didn't want to just go back and work for the same old companies. That was all over and done with. We just went and did it because we loved doing it."
Marker said there's a certain kind of magic that appears when he, singer Shirley Manson, drummer Butch Vig and guitarist-keyboardist Duke Erikson get in a room and write songs together.
"We love to do that," he said. "We love the process of recording them. We miss that and so we did it purely for fun, literally. It could have gone badly. Or it could have not turned into a complete album. But we kept going because we were enjoying it so. It turned into a whole album."
The album was released on the band's own STUNVOLUME record label and debuted at No. 1 on the Alternative Album Charts. Garbage is pushing the collection on an extensive world tour that will return to the U.S. Sept. 14.
Marker spoke to SoundSpike about "Not Your Kind of People," the evolving audience and the passion of Garbage's fans.
SoundSpike: How's Japan?
Steve Marker: It's amazing. We just got here last night so I haven't had too much of a chance to get around yet.
I've never been there.
We just came here from Taiwan. We were there for, like, three days and had a great show over there. That's an amazing place too.
Sounds like I'm missing out.
Traveling is good, I think.
I'm from Phoenix and I saw your show at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. That was a great show.
That was hot, I remember. Very, very hot. It was cool though.
It looks like the shows are going well. I've read a lot of reviews of them. How are they going from your vantage point?
Pretty much, it's been amazing all year. It sort of feels like we keep getting better. I think we're really trying as hard as we can to put on the best shows we can, and try to play better. We're really happy with how that's going. I think most of all the audiences have just been blowing our minds. When we made the record, we knew we wanted to go play live. But we didn't really know if the audiences were going to be there or not. The way it's turned out,the turnouts have been great and people come and stand in line all day to get the seat that they want or their place in the hall. A lot of the audiences are a lot younger than we expected. Some of them obviously weren't even around when we first came out, when we put our first album out. That sort of thing, that kind of response is really kind of what keeps you going. We're excited and thrilled that it's going so well.
Why do you feel the audiences are so young?
It's a wide range. There are people that have been around since it started. We weren't super young when we started. We have a really wide range of people coming to see us, which is kind of neat. You get the older music nerds standing at the back and kids down in front going crazy, and that's the good combination.
I couldn't believe the passion of the fans at the Tempe show. Everybody knew words to every song and it was just amazing. It must have been great to get that reaction after being off for so long.
It's really addictive. And yeah, it sort of indicates us wanting to come back. There are so many '90s bands playing right now. Some of them I feel like they're just doing it because they wanted to go tour and make money. We made an album that we're really, really proud of. It stands up to anything we've ever did. We didn't know what was going to happen and if anybody was going to care or not. To have these enthusiastic responses it sort of makes it possible to keep going. The traveling gets long. We've kind of been all over the world. To know that that audience is going to be there every night keeps us moving.
Did you record 'Not Your Kind of People' any differently than your last few records?
It was totally different. Well, for one thing we made all our other records at Smart Studios in Madison, WI, which is our own place. It just kind of got to be like, "OK, make an album, tour, go back to Smart, make another album." I think we got a little tired of that. Obviously we took a few years off this time. It felt a lot fresher, a lot like the first album when we made it. We would go back and forth between L.A. and home, for me, is Colorado. We didn't just go stay in one place for a year like we used to do when we were making an album, which gets really tedious when you're just sitting in a small room with the same three other people for a year. And it turns into torture. We avoided that this time. We would work two weeks, go home for two weeks and work in our little home studios on our laptops or whatever. Email ideas back and forth and the songs would kind of grow that way. Then we would get back together in the studio and it would be fun again because we hadn't seen these people for a couple of weeks. That's kind of how we're approaching everything now. If it's enjoyable we're going to keep doing it. We're traveling to places we want to go play at. We're not going to do stuff we don't want to do, so it gets to be a drag. It's kind of in the past.
What was the inspiration behind starting this record. In other words, why was it time for another Garbage record?
It just felt right. I know I missed it terribly. We are like a little family. I hadn't really hung out with those guys so much for a few years and I missed that. I just love more than anything the process of making songs and recording them. I think we all sort of came to that same place around the same time. We just missed it. It's really all it is. We didn't think we would make an album that has sold, and considering the climate we're in, it sold pretty well. We're really happy with that. We knew it would be fun to go play a few shows. But I think we're up to, probably past, 60 shows now this year and we've been to how many countries? Maybe a dozen or more. We didn't expect any of that to happen. It just all fell into place. We just asked a friend of ours to manage us basically and see if anybody wanted us to play some shows anywhere and it turns out they did.
It must be freeing to be on your own record label.
Yeah, we sell less but we're not giving most of it to some giant corporation that we don't even know or care about and they don't even know or care about us. So that was always sort of really frustrating. When we first made the band up, we were on these really small basically indie labels. It was called Mushroom in the UK for most of the world and Alamo Sounds in the states. They had like three or four bands. It was this tiny little start-up thing that some guys were doing. It was really kind of cool. You knew everybody there. The way the business went, they got consolidated down to these three or four giant corporations that are left. Those little companies got sold to bigger companies. All of a sudden we looked around and we were on Universal and Warner Bros. We didn't know anybody there and it was just a drag. So we have to do it ourselves. We're responsible for every decision and everything that comes out. We can say yes or no to whatever we want to and it's fun again. It's like our own little cottage industry.
How do you feel that "Not Your Kind of People" fits in with catalog?
I personally like it as much as anything we've done. I supposed because it's newer, maybe more. It doesn't feel like we just threw something together for the sake of it, because we were bored. As a band, we've been together now for almost 20 years. We basically got together in '94, so that's gonna happen. What we're seeing is that the music we're making now is as relevant as anything we've done. To me, we still have something important to say and I think that's mainly speaking to the fans that allow us to do this. We're grateful for that. They're kind of the reason why we did get back together, going back to your earlier question, because even when we weren't doing anything really, we would get letters, see things on the Internet and people would write things about how this song or that song in some instances literally saved their life, or got them through a very hard time. I remember music getting me through some very hard times. When you mean something like that to people, a lot of them you don't even know, we call them fans. They're the people who love what you do. It's your responsibility to honor that and we felt we wanted to communicate to them again. I think a lot of the songs on the record speak to those people, the ones who stuck by us when the chips were down.
12 - Monterrey, Mexico - Arena Monterrey
14 - Richmond, VA - The National
15 - Bristow, VA - Jiffy Lube Live (DC101 Kerfluffle)
16 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (106.5 Weenie Roast)
22 - Atlanta, GA - Piedmont Park (Music Midtown Festival)
26 - Seattle, WA - Showbox SoDo
27 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theater
29 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts
1 - San Francisco, CA - Warfield Theatre
2 - Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern
5 - Salt Lake City, UT - In the Venue
6 - Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre
9 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
10 - Austin, TX - La Zona Rosa
22 - Paris, France - Zenith Paris