After electronic alt-rockers Garbage cut short their previous tour in 2005, vocalist Shirley Manson moved to Los Angeles and took up acting; most notably as a killer android on Fox’s short-lived series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Drummer Butch Vig followed suit, and returned, primarily, to his original calling card as a producer. The man who shaped Nirvana’s Nevermind turned his sights on crafting the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light. Guitarist-keyboardist Steve Marker had moved to Colorado.
This left Duke Erikson (guitar, bass) as the lone remaining member in Wisconsin, where Garbage got its start in 1994 when the three friends saw a video of a Scottish redhead and decided she should be the face of their new band.
“I wasn’t really expecting us to get together again just because we’ve all kind of gone off on our own,” Erikson said recently. “We never talked about (reuniting), and we hardly ever spoke in terms of Garbage. It was just to say ‘hi’ and stuff like that. I’m surprised that we’re back doing this, especially at the level that we’re doing it.”
Garbage’s tour, in support of fifth album Not Your Kind of People, will pass through San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre Monday. And this time, it’s stopping that hasn’t crossed the minds of the quartet.
The band behind ‘90s hits like “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains” is already booking gigs into 2013 and has discussed recording several new songs and releasing them as an EP.
“We’re touring pretty hard right now, and we never expected to be doing that,” Erikson said. “We never expected there to be the demand, and we never expected to have the energy. The fact that it’s so fun keeps us going.”
Getting the four musicians in a room together required work, and many cross-country conference calls. Eventually they decided to book an L.A. studio and test the waters over a couple of wine bottles.
“We were all (anxious) about whether it would work, or not,” Erikson said. “We … had a lot of laughs and talked about old times and what we’d all been up to. It was like we had just seen each other yesterday, really.”
The experience was similar to the first time Garbage wrote and recorded together, Erikson said. Any idea that came up was attempted. The quartet wrote two songs at the first practice, including album track “Battle In Me.”
Erikson said that playing in the band is fun again because the four members are free from the corporate encumbrance of a label; the reason they went on hiatus seven years ago. The new album was released on STUNVOLUME, a label created by the band.
“We’re not really feeling any pressure from any outside forces, you know?” Erikson said. “Because we’re just doing this on our own terms, and we have no expectations or concerns about what anyone else thinks, we don’t really give a damn about any of that. Every night we take the stage, we’re doing it for ourselves and for the fun of it.”
Among several surprises, at least for Garbage, has been the age of its audience. Erikson said he and his bandmates have noticed that teens still make up a large share of the fans near the stage. Those teens were born around the time the band was burning up mainstream radio in the ‘90s.
But selling concert tickets was not the band’s main intent, he said.
“When we got back together, we decided we were going to make a good record, not just something to ‘up’ our profile so we could go tour somewhere,” he said. “We worked really hard on this record, and we took it very seriously. We want to make it better than the last record.”