By Ray Sidman
With five studio albums and roughly 20 years together as a band — albeit roughly one-third of those were spent on hiatus — Garbage finally has released its first full-length concert film. Will there be more to come? Garbage’s drummer (and Grammy-winning producer) Butch Vig weighs in.
Goldmine: Why is this the first Garbage full-length concert video?
Butch Vig: You know, we have footage. We’ve released a couple documentaries over our career. There was one with our greatest hits, and it had a little bit of live footage, but it wasn’t really a proper concert DVD, obviously. I think we kind of felt like, in some ways, we’re playing some of the best shows we’ve ever played. We have five albums out, but after going away for seven years and coming out with “Not Your Kind of People,” we were surprised at how great the response was from our fans. I think also, as I’ve said, we’ve kind of felt like we’re playing pretty well. Part of that, I think, is from having been around. You know, we’re experienced as a band, but also I think we felt hungry to go back out and play in front of people. So we just felt like it was a good time to do a live DVD, and we wanted to keep it real simple. No theatrics. No special guest rappers. No over-the-top production. We just wanted to show us basically playing the songs. That’s kind of what you get. I have seen a lot of live DVDs, and I know for a fact, as a producer, that a lot of bands go back and they re-record everything and remix everything so everything sounds perfect. We did not do that. We wanted to leave it a pure representation of what we sound like live. So for better or for worse, you hear us. I mean, there’s little mistakes all over the place, but still, it’s a very honest performance of what Garbage is like in the live environment.
GM: So are there thoughts toward more concert videos?
BV: I don’t know. You know, the one thing being able to sort of tweak with 5.1, to sit in a big theater and listen in a big control room and that kind of a sound environment, we’ve always had offers to mix our records in 5.1 and we never have, you know, in surround sound. I think that’s something that we would love to do. We just have to dedicate some time to go and do it. But I don’t know. We have a bunch of other footage that we filmed from the tour. A lot of it’s like backstage footage and stuff, and so we’ve been talking about trying to make sort of an official documentary, especially since next year is our 20th anniversary of our debut album. So I think we want to do something special for that. But that’s all stuff that we’re still working on.
GM: Why did you choose Denver?
BV: We just started looking around on the schedule really for what’s a cool, small theater that will be great, our fans will be there, and where we can control the environment and keep it real simple. And that just sort of made sense to us. We’ve always had a great fan base there, but it wasn’t like we didn’t want to go film in our hometown. I used to live in Madison [Wis.], so we could’ve filmed there. We had a great show at the Palladium in Los Angeles, and we talked about doing that, but that became sort of also just the nature of, like, the unions and stuff here just started getting really expensive to do. So it just made sense that, logistically, that was a good place for us to record the show.
GM: Watching the DVD and listening to “Not Your Kind of People,” the music is as energetic, creative, and powerful as any album you’ve put out. Looking back, has the motivation, perhaps even the muse behind the songwriting, changed?
BV: It has. I mean, the great thing about “Not Your Kind of People” is that taking seven years off was essential in sort of revitalizing us. We all felt hungry and excited to make a new record and to go out and play again. You know, when we finished the fourth album, “Bleed Like Me,” we were burned out. We were tired, and we’d been having arguments with our labels, which was frustrating. I think we’d been in each other’s face, the four of us, for so long, we were tired of each other, so I thought we would take, like, a two-year break, and that turned into seven years. But we needed that time off, and in doing that, we all sort of cleared our heads out, and we found a new enthusiasm for the band again.
I think now, because we’re all older, you know, we have no idea how long it’s going to last, so you don’t take it for granted. Every night we would walk onstage on this tour, it’s like a celebration. It’s like, ‘We’re going to go out and play, and let’s have fun,” because who knows what tomorrow’s going to bring. I do think in some ways we’re playing the best we’ve ever played. Part of that is, as I said, just the enthusiasm and part of it’s also we just don’t give a sh*t anymore. [Laughs.] I don’t think we really have anything to prove to anybody. We’re not trying to compete with new start-up bands. We’re not trying to compete with pop acts like Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or, you know, we’re not going to compete with someone like U2 or Coldplay. We have our hard-core fan base, and we just want to make music for ourselves and then go out and celebrate that with our fans. So that’s kind of the approach we took when we made the last album.”
GM: What inspired the “Pre-Show Warm Up” extra on the DVD?
BV: You know, there’s all these little things that we like to do … A lot of it is actually quite interesting in some ways because — and every band goes through this — they have their own sort of personal things they do, music they listen to. Like anybody, we’re sort of a quirky band, and we have our own particular quirks. And I think our fans love seeing that kind of stuff, which is one of the reasons I would like to put out — I think we’d all like to see some of this footage come out. Maybe another documentary at some point, because it’s the stuff that makes you human. I think, early on, everyone thought Garbage was a very sort of streamlined, perfect studio machine that we would take on the road, and that’s not the truth at all. We’re competent musicians; we’re not great musicians, and the four of us sort of have created a sound together. But we’re also our own little clubhouse; we’re a little clique. So there’s all these little interesting things that come up between the four of us that I think it would make a pretty good documentary. I think our hard-core fans would really enjoy seeing that.
GM: Artists often have a piece of work that they’re particularly proud of that seems to slip under the radar. Is there such a song for you or your bandmates?
BV: For me, one of the songs I’m really proud of is the title track from our fourth album, “Bleed Like Me.” I just love the way Shirley sings that. I love the lyrics she came up with, and I love the production that we did on it, just the dynamics and the musical arrangement that we came up with. That record, we were thinking of releasing that particular song for a single. We shot a video for it, and then the label never released it as a single. And that was also when we cut the tour. That was the shortest tour that we did because we were at such odds with the label. I think after we’d been out for around a year, we were supposed to go out for another six months, and we cut the tour short. That’s when we decided to take a break. So I think that song kind of fell between the cracks, but it’s one of my favorite tracks that we’ve ever recorded.
GM: Do you have a favorite song you like to play — any song, not just from the Garbage playlist?
BV: I have to think, because it’s got to be a Garbage song because we’ve been on tour for the last year. Well, there’s two, actually. I always love playing “Push It” from “Version 2.0.” That’s one of my favorite Garbage songs. But of the new songs, “Battle in Me” was like the first song that we wrote when we recorded “Not Your Kind of People,” and that’s kind of a crazy, tough song, and I love the real stop-and-go parts and then the chorus, and it’s really heavy and noisy, and Shirley sings it with a lot of swagger. That was always really fun to play every night. So those would probably be my two. I remember in all the shows we did last year, I loved playing those songs, and we pretty much played those every night.
GM: When you first hit it big, you became influences on many musicians of the ’90s and on future musicians. Now you’ve been around long enough to see bands who came after you, heavily influenced by you, who have in turn influenced their own future generation of musicians. How does that make you feel?
BV: Well, when our first record came out, I think it caught people off guard. It caught them by surprise, because it sounded so different than what alternative bands were getting played on the radio at the time. We incorporated beats and electronica and fuzzy guitars and pop melodies and hip-hop and film atmospherics and all these things that we would, sometimes all in the same song. Now, a lot of bands can do that. Initially, when I started hearing bands do that, back in ’95, ’96, ’97, I’d be slightly annoyed. But now I sort of wear that as a badge of honor. I mean, if bands sort of incorporated that style in their songwriting or arrangements, if it sounds like Garbage, we just take that as a compliment. Anytime a band is even moderately successful, there are going to be some other bands who sort of copy that or gravitate towards their sound, so we take it as a compliment.
GM: What are your and the band’s plans for the immediate future? A new album or tour, perhaps?
BV: No touring plans for Garbage, but we are starting to write some new songs. We’re going to start recording, I think, in August and probably record all fall, September through December. We’re hoping that we can write a record pretty quickly, but we have no idea until we actually start doing it. We made “Not Your Kind of People” in six months, which is pretty fast for us. So if the songs come together quickly, we could have a record done by the end of this year, and maybe out next summer. That would be great if that happens, but there’s no way to tell at the moment until we actually get in the process of playing and recording. I’ve been working on some music for film, and I just met with Dave Grohl about producing the new Foo Fighters record, which probably won’t be until sometime maybe in January. But I’m excited about that. It’s going to be cool. GM