Friday, November 11, 2016

Catching Up with Butch Vig

Butch Vig recently sat down for an interview with Gothamist; here are some of the highlights:

I interviewed Shirley Manson last year, and I asked her about how when a band is 20 years into their career, their records are not as vital as their earlier material. But I don't feel that way about Garbage. I like a lot of the songs from the most recent records as much as I do the earlier ones. So I'm just curious about how you're still able to keep making good music when most bands can't? Shirley felt it had to do with maintaining honesty.
"There are a couple things I think. One, we took a long break after Bleed Like Me, and we needed that break. We were burnt out from dealing with labels and doing prolonged tours. We kind of hit a wall making that record. I think if we had gone in and tried to make a fifth record, that probably would have been it. But we took an almost seven year hiatus, and when we finally got back into recording Not Your Kind of People I think we were all jazzed. And the one thing that we realized is that Garbage has always been a really great creative outlet for the four of us in the sense that we all get to contribute a variety of different things in the process.

We all make songs. We all make production decisions. I play drums, but I play guitar and bass and keyboards and I program. And I'll order the wine. I can be an engineer and a producer and I can just be the guy who sits back and surfs the internet while someone else is working on a part. So we bounce a lot of the same ideas off each other, and on different days each of us will take on a different role. And not many bands are like that. In a lot of bands, the bass player is the bass player. And the drummer is the drummer. And that's what they do. Maybe they do some social networking. But we've always shared a lot of those responsibilities and assets that Garbage brings to our table. And then there's also the fact that once we took that break, we realized that we do get along really well. Obviously I've been playing with Duke and Steve for many years. They're like brothers to me, and Shirley is like a sister to me. The band that eats together stays together. I've obviously produced bands that were so dysfunctional they can't even get in the same room together. A lot of bands become that way because they move in different directions artistically, or their personalities don't jibe.

We have days in Garbage where we get on each others' cases and we disagree about things, but ultimately I think we are kind of on the same wavelength. And I think that's another one of the reasons that we're still here. We're really pleased with how Strange Little Birds turned out. It's probably the darkest record we've made, but we like this cinematic atmospheric stuff, and I think it's inspired us to go even further out into space on the next record. We're not even sure what that is yet, but I think we want to keep challenging ourselves and to see where can we go next to keep it interesting. Hopefully our fans will keep following us."

For Siamese Dream and certain albums like the second Garbage album, there were tremendous expectations even before they came out. In those situations, did you feel a lot of pressure from outside forces or even from yourself, or did you just tune it all out once you were in the studio? 
"We did feel a lot of pressure making Siamese Dream. To the point where people kept saying "Oh, it's going to be amazing. It's going to be amazing." We had some time booked to go into the studio, and then Billy Corgan called me up and said, "I'm not ready." I had gone down to Chicago and hung out with him for a day, and he played me some demos in the car, but he would only play me snippets. I could tell what was going on. Sometimes when you play music for another person, it gives you a different perspective where that music is at. And I'm sure he had heard the demos a bunch, and the band probably heard them. But then for some reason when playing them for me, I could see he was thinking, "I don't want to play this for you right now." Or he'd play it up to a certain point and stop.

Anyway, he said, "I need to finish a couple of these songs." I think about two months went by, and then he called me, and I went down to Chicago and went to a rehearsal and the band ran through a bunch of stuff and it sounded great. And I sat down and Billy played me a bunch of things. And the stuff that he wrote in the interim included "Disarm" and "Today"—some of the key tracks. And I think he just knew "This has got to just be an amazing record." And I knew it too, and the reason we chose Atlanta was to get away from everything. They didn't want to record in Chicago. We didn't want to go to New York or L.A. We wanted to go to a place where we could be left to our own devices. But even there people kept showing up and saying "Oh man, this is going to be so good, it's going to be so good." It was driving us both a little bit crazy. Even before the thing was recorded. It really pushed us though. That was a really hard record to make. It was five months straight of recording. The first three months it was six days a week, and then we went seven days a week because we realized how much work we needed to do to get it to the point we needed to get to. That was before Pro Tools, so everything was analog, so as good as they are as players, especially Billy, it just took a long time."

You found the singer of Garbage by watching 120 Minutes. How do you think you would've found her now? "Probably surfing the internet. Going on these internet blogs, checking out bands, going, "Oh, this singer's pretty cool. Let's call up and see if they want to collaborate on something." It's a very strange story how we met Shirley. It is true they played her Angelfish video once on 120 Minutes and Steve Marker happened to be taping the song that night, and we fell in love with the way her voice was. That sort of started the whole process in motion."

Read the full interview at Gothamist.

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