Within three years of forming in 1993, Garbage had sold millions of albums on the strength of hits including “Stupid Girl,” “Vow,” “Queer” and “Only Happy When it Rains.” The group’s second album yielded more radio-friendly singles with “Push It,” “I Think I’m Paranoid,” “Special” and “When I Grow Up.” Somehow, Garbage also managed to have two soundtrack hits with “#1 Crush” from Romeo + Juliet and the Bond movie theme “The World Is Not Enough” in the midst of promoting those two full-lengths. And more hits followed up through the quartet’s 2005 hiatus.
Yet Garbage’s mid-1990s break-through wasn’t the first time any of its members had broken ground in the music business. Vocalist Shirley Manson was part of Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie and Angelfish, which both had released music through the MCA-distributed Radioactive Records. Multi-instrumentalist Duke Erikson was part of Spooner, which would later include drummer Butch Vig, and later the Atlantic Records-signed Fire Town. With Butch, Steve Marker had a record label called Boat Records and co-founded the legendary Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin. And of course Butch produced high-profile albums for Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Helmet and Freedy Johnston before Garbage took off.
After that aforementioned 2005 hiatus, Garbage regrouped for some one-off recordings in 2007, but did not properly return until 2012. May 2012 brought the release of the fifth Garbage album, Not Your Kind Of People. The sixth Garbage studio effort, Strange Little Birds, was released last month, which debuted at #1 on the U.S. Top Rock Albums and #14 on the Billboard 200 charts. Now touring in support of Strange Little Birds, Garbage will be playing at Central Park’s Summerstage on Aug. 1 alongside Dum Dum Girls off-shoot Kristin Kontrol.
Duke kindly caught up with Downtown for some Q&A, keeping the answers concise yet honest. Garbage can be followed on Twitter and Instagram via @Garbage, while the band keeps a website at www.garbage.com.
Is there something you wish more people knew about Garbage?
Duke Erikson: That we are a genius. (laughs)
Prior to Garbage, members of the band had been in signed groups, like Fire Town and Angelfish. Did that make it easier to have success so early into Garbage’s tenure, since you’d known what to expect as a major label artist?
DE: We learned a little bit about the music biz in earlier bands — maybe more about what not to do than the other way around. But you can never learn it all. You’ve gotta follow your heart and your gut because there’s always something new coming down the pike.
What do you remember about the first gig that Garbage had played in New York?
DE: Being very nervous beforehand. It was New York!
You’re currently on the road in support of Strange Little Birds. What inspired this to be a darker album for the band?
DE: Just feeling a bit darker I guess. Not a whole lot to feel all shiny and happy about these days.
Do you have a favorite song on the new album? Any idea if we will be hearing it at Summerstage?
DE: “Empty” is my fave track today, and yes we will play it at Summerstage! No wait, “Blackout” is my fave track now, and yes we will play it at Summerstage.
There are three multi-instrumentalists in Garbage, yet there were outside bassists used on a few tracks. Why is that?
DE: Steve and I have played bass on a couple Garbage tracks in the past, but the bass players we work with now are actually bass players…so…
The new album was made in Los Angeles, yet Garbage originated in Madison and some of its members famously-owned Smart Studios. At what point did Garbage stop being a Wisconsin-rooted band?
DE: One-fourth of Garbage is still rooted in Wisconsin: me. We’ve recorded our last 2 albums in L.A., although bits of it get recorded in my house.
What’s ahead for Garbage after these tour dates? More touring?
DE: Australia, Russia, South America, Europe, Mexico, USA…Whew!
Who would you like to tour with?
DE: Kristin Kontrol.
What is your favorite album of 2016 so far?
DE: Strange Little Birds.
Do you have any upcoming production projects coming up outside of Garbage? Any projects beyond music?
DE: Been working on a TV doc about early American music.
When not busy with work, how do you like to spend your free time?
DE: Biking, painting, drawing, golfing, and sleeping in my own bed.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
DE: Be kids!