Duke Erikson, bassist for Garbage, spoke to the News-Press a day after the legendary 90s rock group wrapped on rehearsals for a tour commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of their self-titled debut album. The tour, in which they’ll play their self-titled debut, rolls through 9:30 Club for a two-night engagement starting Wednesday.
“We’re all really looking forward to it,” Erikson said. “We hatched this idea of doing a 20th anniversary tour and we started rehearsing a couple of weeks ago. And it was a real trip to actually play these songs again. Many of them we haven’t touched in 20 years. I’ve barely even listened to them.”
Of course, Garbage had been playing their biggest hits, “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains,” over the past two decades, but, Erikson said, there are a lot of deep cuts that they “had nearly forgotten about.”
“It was kind of time warp going back and listening to these songs and relearning them,” Erikson said. “It brought back all these emotions and memories and stuff and a lot of wondering why did we do that in that part of the song and how did we ever come up with that sound. It’s been good.”
Before they started Garbage, all of the band’s members had musical careers of their own. Erikson had a twenty year career playing with popular Midwestern bands Spooner and Fire Town, the former of which drummer Butch Vig eventually joined. Erikson and Vig, Garbage’s drummer, created Smart Studios, where Garbage recorded their first four albums, with Steve Marker, who became Garbage’s guitarist.
Marker also famously spotted Shirley Manson, Garbage’s lead vocalist, while she was performing with her band Angelfish on MTV’s “120 Minutes,” which eventually led to her joining Erikson, Vig and Marker’s burgeoning group.
“I immediately fell in love with her voice when I heard her on the Angelfish record and I loved her whole attitude. I read a couple of interviews with her and she was just funny and smart and so I was already converted,” Erikson said.
“But then there’s the whole other side of whether or not you’re gonna get along with this person and whether she’s gonna get along with you and whether you’re gonna have the same kind of artistic temperaments. So there were a whole lot of questions beyond just liking her voice.”
To answer some of those questions, Erikson, Vig and Marker invited Manson to play with them at Smart Studios. Erikson said they hit off really well after an awkward first meeting.
“The first time that she showed up in Madison it was very awkward. We’d never really auditioned anyone or tried to put a band together this way,” Erikson said. “We just came together as friends. So it was very awkward and it was obvious that she felt awkward and I’m sure it was obvious that we didn’t know what we were doing, so it was not a very successful audition.”
But after Erikson, Vig and Marker listened back to the tape of the audition they decided to give Manson one more try because they loved her voice so much. That next time it, Erikson said, it was much more relaxed and natural.
Garbage, who have since recorded five studio albums and sold 17 million records worldwide, don’t have that problem anymore. It’s relatively rare for a group with as much success as they’ve had to stick together for as long as they have, a fact that isn’t lost on Erikson.
“I think it’s an accomplishment, whether it’s a family or a marriage or whatever, to stay tight and stay together for 20 years,” Erikson said. “So it’s worth celebrating.”
• For more information about Garbage, visit garbage.com.