Garbage’s Shirley Manson: “We got the shit beaten out of us for our Bond song”

Garbage, 2022. Credit: Brian Ziff

Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson has spoken of the band “getting the shit beaten out of them” by the media for their James Bond song ‘The World Is Not Enough’, and how their upcoming ‘Anthology’ release is a testament to the band’s survival.

The alt-rock veterans release a new career-spanning 35-track collection on Friday (October 28), featuring their now legendary title track from the soundtrack to the 1999 James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough.

“I just love the drama of it, the campness of it and the greediness of it,” Manson told NME of the song; it amuses me.” She continued: “To be part of one of the most successful and enduring franchises in cinematic history and its legacy is extraordinary. There have only been about 25 Bond themes recorded thus far, and to be a member of that very small class is still a thrill 25 years later.”

The band recently performed the single at the recent The Sound Of 007 gig at Royal Albert Hall – celebrating the music from the Bond films alongside the likes of Shirley Bassey and Lulu. Manson described the experience as “magnificent”, but claimed that their partnership with the spy movie had not always been so widely celebrated.”

Asked about what wisdom she’d pass on to anyone hoping to record a Bond theme in future, Manson replied: “You’re gonna get the shit beaten out of you, which is true of us and the people who followed us. The only person who got a free pass was Billie Eilish. Sam Smith got savaged, Adele got savaged, we got savaged; it’s just par of the course.

“Then time passes and people forget that they want to hate on you. Then the song stands on its own two feet and suddenly we’re always in the top 10 of favourite Bond songs. It’s silly.”

Remembering the “shock at the negativity that the were blasted with” upon the song’s release, Manson revealed: “We were really proud of it and felt like we met the moment, but I guess people saw us as this alternative rock band – which in many ways we were, and remain so. But they felt that we had ‘sold out’, which is such a tired and tawdry attitude towards any rock musician who wants to expand themselves and step into different music and expression. It was such a hackneyed attempt to keep us all in our little cages.”

Manson added: “It’s tough; especially on younger artists. We were much older when this amazing opportunity came around, but it’s still difficult to stomach. It really affected our career moving forwards, in a somewhat destructive fashion. Luckily we are tenacious bastards and survived that onslaught of negativity.”

The past NME Icon Award winner said that the band striving against the criticism was symptomatic of the band’s knack for survival – which she argued was showcased on the upcoming anthology.

“When I look at the anthology I’m like, ‘Holy cow – we did not give up and we did not falter’,” she said. “We just kept going against all the odds and now we find ourselves here in this extraordinary position with a career that spans three decades; still getting the opportunity to do things we’ve never done before.”

She continued: “I’m not one for feeling sentimental or nostalgic at all. I think that’s a very dangerous place to be as an artist. It’s important to acknowledge your achievements and what makes our band special. This feels precious because all the songs are all so different and speak of different elements of our fears and our pains and our thrills.”

Garbage, 2022. Credit: Brian Ziff

Manson said that it was “rare” for a band like Garbage to “still be here, captaining our ship” as “so many of our peers from the ‘90s had their confidence smashed, they lost members tragically or they just burned out or withered away”. Arguing that the anthology was not “a greatest hits” but something “more academic”, the singer described the release as an opportunity to “put all our babies together as one, look at the nursery and go, ‘Wow, we raised some pretty cute kids!’”

“As a band that enjoyed this huge wave of popularity at the beginning of the ‘90s, and then were treated as though we had died, to manage to sustain a career where you’re still entering the British charts top 10 and getting to tour the world, you can pay your bills despite what anybody has to say because you’re connecting with enough people to make it something of importance and weight and joy; that just feels like an enormous fuck you to everyone,” she said.

“Fuck you, whether you liked it or not. Fuck you, we’re good at what we do. Fuck you, look at that extraordinary culmination of three decades of work together.”

As a band consisting of the Scottish Manson and her three American bandmates Duke Erikson,  Steve Marker and Butch Vig, the frontwoman labelled Garbage as “a band that don’t belong anywhere” and “the unwanted child that still manages to show up at every party” – heightening their surprise when their 2021 album ‘No Gods No Masters’ was met with widespread acclaim.

“Putting out the anthology didn’t feel as terrifying as it might have done had that record not been so well received,” said Manson. “We did not expect it and we’re always ready for the kick in the teeth.”

With its songs about abuse of power, the climate crisis, institutional misogyny and racism, Manson described ‘No Gods No Masters’ as an album “of the times” and with “increasing presence”.

“Everything that we were talking about on that record had happened but continues to happen,” she said. “It feels prophetic in a way, but it wasn’t as there was already so much shit going on already. It’s talking about some serious shit. There’s no point as an artist, posting shit on your social media if you’re not going to talk about it in your work. I’m proud we did that; even though it didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time.”

Garbage’s Shirley Manson and Savages’ Jehnny Beth after Manson won the Icon Award at the VO5 NME Awards 2018

This weekend saw Garbage play their last show of the year at the charity Audacy’s We Can Survive concert at the Hollywood Bowl – raising money and awareness for “a cause very close to” Manson’s heart: suicide prevention.

Speaking of what’s next, Manson said: “We’re going to do a week of writing then call it a day for the year, but that will be the official start date of us commencing work on our eighth record. Although it does pain me to leave behind ‘No Gods No Masters’ because she didn’t get any promotion because of COVID.”

She continued: “It was all very frustrating, but that’s how life is. Who knows if we’ll make another one after this? We always approach everything thinking, ‘This is it, this is going to be the last record’.”

While teasing some more world tour dates to follow in 2023, Manson remained tight-lipped about the future and what the next record might sound like.

“I think it’s important to keep the stakes high, because otherwise you get a little tired,” she added. “When you set the stakes really high you tend to jump to reach it. We’ve got a great record to follow, which is always a great challenge.

“We’ve had some fraught periods where each member is struggling with their own demons – whether we’ve lost loved ones or someone is struggling with their physicality – there’s always stuff that comes into the group dynamic that causes some strife. I feel like we’re all in a really good place at this point.”

Meanwhile, Manson recently spoke out about the “strain” on touring musicians amidst the global cost of living crisis.

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