When Garbage exploded on the rock scene in the mid-‘90s, it was more than just their sound that set them apart. Their mix of glamorous pop hooks with grungy guitar riffs heralded a new direction for alternative music, but their immediate popularity was also largely the result of frontwoman Shirley Manson.
At a time when flannelette shirts, Doc Martens and unwashed hair were the norm, Manson juxtaposed her aggressive persona with feminine pink clothing, a shock of red hair and plenty of makeup. And she says it was all something of an accident.
“I have to confess it’s really only in retrospect I’m fully aware this was going on,” Manson tells WHO. “I had to look different from everyone else. Alternative music culture had certain rules that were followed. Women had a uniform, and I rejected it.”
It was a certain Australian pop star, she says, who inspired her look. “I had been studying how Kylie Minogue appropriated indie culture when she came to the UK, and I subverted what she was doing. I chose neon colours, I wore a mini-skirt—which was absolutely unheard of at that point—and I wore a lot of makeup. A lot of girls thought that was anti-feminist. I saw it as a tool of rebellion.”
Manson says she anticipates Garbage—whose latest album Strange Little Birds was released on June 10—will return for another tour of Australia. The 49-year-old says she’d also consider a return to acting; in 2008, she starred in the short-lived TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
When told the band’s 1998 video for “Push It” looks as if it could have inspired a show like American Horror Story, she agrees. “There’s a lot of Push It in American Horror Story, for sure. It’s so flattering.” Would she take a role on AHS if asked?
“Oh, f—k yeah! Are you kidding? I can’t believe they haven’t phoned me yet.”