Throughout a quarter of a century together as a band, Garbage has taken many unconventional and unexpected twists and turns.
When the band’s debut album came out in 1995 to global acclaim, guitarist Steve Marker and his bandmates were “totally taken aback” of the flood of attention they were suddenly receiving. They were unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight. It was a steep learning curve for a group of friends from Madison still learning what their identity as a band was.
“When we started out we didn’t know what the hell we were doing,” he admitted in a recent interview. “[We] kind of weren’t really ready for it.”
Getting to tour for two years after that helped immensely. “Over those two years on the road supporting the first album, we figured out who we were as a band,” Marker says.
Still, it was a daunting task when they returned to Madison with the challenge of making a new album.
“It was a very exciting and scary time because we didn’t know if we’d be able to live up to the expectations that the first album had created,” Marker says.
In 1998, they released the final product, “Version 2.0,” an album that showcased their growth, sonic evolution and newfound confidence.
Featuring singles "Push It", "I Think I'm Paranoid" and "Special", “Version 2.0” went on to sell over 4 million copies worldwide and was nominated for four Grammy Awards.
Marker credits Madison and Smart Studio, the studio he co-founded with Butch Vig, for providing an inviting working environment. They spent much of their time obsessing over new digital recording techniques emerging at the time.
“We were obsessive with the possibilities with what you could do with that and started working with things like ProTools,” says Marker. “We got way carried away with how far you could push things and how many tracks you could record. It was a real learning experience and it turned into our most successful record.”
“I don’t think we could have done all that if we weren’t in Madison because it gave us time away from the record industry, and we were in our little world in Madison trying to create something new and cool. Madison afforded us the opportunity to do that.”
This year the band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the album with a tour that will bring them to The Sylvee on Tuesday, Oct. 16. The band will perform the album in full as well as the album’s B-sides.
“On this tour we are playing pretty much every B-Side we ever put out at that time to go with the singles from that album,” says Marker. “Back then they would put out different versions of the songs all over the world and we would have to write B-Sides to go on the backside of the vinyl. There is some stuff I didn’t remember that well that turned out to be cool songs. There’s one called ‘Afterglow,’ which is a lovely song. It’s been fun to revisit those songs.”
One of his favorite album tracks is “Medication.”
“The song came out fast and organically,” he recalls. “Shirley came up with some beautiful words for a couple musical ideas we had going on. And I was super happy with how the guitars sounded on that recording.”
While the band members no longer live in Madison, Marker is excited to return to the band’s “spiritual hometown.”
“We still say that’s where we come from even though we don’t live there anymore,” he says. “It’s very meaningful especially since we’re celebrating this 20th anniversary of something we did on East Washington. It’s been pretty emotional and really gratifying that people are still coming out and interested in what we’re doing.”
He enjoys hearing from fans about the impact the album had on them and how the music still feels fresh today. That includes emerging female singers, who were motivated by Manson's influence.
“A lot of female singers, who were little kids at the time the album came out, will come up to us and say, ‘we found Shirley (Manson)’s voice and persona to be inspiring and made us want to make music,’” Marker says.
Focusing on Manson’s lyrics and vocals has been key to the band and album having such a lasting impact, says Marker.
“We’ve never been a band with guitar solos and that kind of thing. And we’re not really into showing off technical things,” he says. “It’s about putting the song across. It’s about the vocal more than anything else. That’s what I think is the most important thing in the music that we do. If the vocal isn’t really focused on, we haven’t done our job correctly.”
Following the Version 2.0 tour, the band plans to start work on their next album.
“As soon as we’re off the road, we’ll go to the studio, in L.A. probably, and work on our next album which should come out at the end of next year or the year after,” Marker says. “While it’s really fun revisiting this old stuff, that’s really what we’re fired up about. We’re always excited about writing new songs and coming up with new ways to record them.”