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Shirley Manson: “I just wanna come home and see clouds”

We’re delighted to present a two-part interview with an icon of Scottish rock and pop, the magnificent Shirley Manson, who has fronted alt.rockers Garbage for over thirty years now. The band are embarking on their first European tour since the pandemic and there are two opportunities this coming weekend to see them – they play TRNSMT on Friday and then Shirley’s hometown of Edinburgh (at the Usher Hall) on Sunday.

Shirley Manson et al. that are standing in the snow

In the first part of our interview, Shirley considers life as a veteran rock Amazon as well as her Scottish identity and her transatlantic existence, predominantly based in Los Angeles but forever hankering for her regular trips home to Edinburgh. We begin by asking if Los Angeles feels like home, and she pauses to consider.

“You know, it’s funny, it did and then my dog died and now it doesn’t. So make of that what you will. It’s amazing the difference a dog can make in your life and how it makes home and when they’re gone you’re sat there looking at four walls.

“Los Angeles is not my forte. Everybody goes on about ‘it’s so lovely over there’ but I just wanna come home and see clouds. It’s important for me to get back home. My husband claims that I go a bit strange after two or three months away from home. My dad’s still there, my big sister’s still there, my auntie and cousins.

“But the band haven’t been back in a long time. The last time we played the Usher Hall was in 2016, eight years ago. Hard to believe because it feels like it was yesterday and I always relish coming home. It matters to me that we play in my homeland. Every band I’m sure has told you this but I’m not making it up when I say that Scottish audiences are highly regarded within the musical community for being great people to play for. We were excited to hear we’d got TRNSMT but when we found out that we were coming to Edinburgh it seemed like the cherry on the cake.

“It feels sort of surreal to still be able to play as a working musician, to still be able to release records. Older women don’t really get as long a lifespan in the workplace as our male counterparts so it’s still highly unusual for a woman in her fifties to have a career in the music business, which is incredibly difficult and cutthroat and youth-obsessed.

“There is an attitude that you have to have if you want to thrive in the music industry as a woman over fifty. It’s a part of your DNA that you have to possess or they will crush you. I just wish it was much easier for women to thrive in what is essentially a patriarchal designed industry.

“I’m such a forceful personality. I do believe there is something inherent in Scottish culture which gives us a real identity that a lot of people struggle to find in themselves and in their lives. Coming from Scotland, you have a really strong identity – at least I did, I shouldn’t probably speak for everyone in the mainland but it really rooted me and I never feel like I lost my head. Garbage got very successful very quickly and at no point did I ever get ahead of myself and it’s been very helpful as my career has developed that I kept my feet on the ground.”

In the second part of our two-part interview with the brilliant Shirley Manson, she looks back at the turbulent recording of their 2005 album Bleed Like Me as it receives its first every vinyl release. But she starts by teasing some information on Garbage’s forthcoming eighth album, to be released next year…Part two follows on Thursday


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