Five years is a long time to wait for one phone call. Butch Vig of Garbage can relate.
“We had all gone our separate ways; we were totally exhausted after years of touring and recording.”
But one phone call can change a half-decade hiatus into new inspiration.
“Shirl rang us up one day, and said, ‘Hey, let’s make a record,’ and we said, ‘Ok.'”
The simplicity of Vig’s words hides a fair amount of history, success and struggle that Garbage has experienced as a band. Debuting to much attention in the mid-90s, Garbage built upon their successful first album with a sophomore hit that garnered them two Grammy nominations. Yet, their continuing success was marked with illness throughout the band and long periods of inactivity, eventually leading to an indefinite break beginning in 2005.
The tumult of a band’s life—as a love of music tugs opposite the very human struggles of the band members—illustrates a truth, which applies to the music industry and beyond. In spite of all the chaos that life can toss unexpectedly in one’s path, the communication of friends can remedy the fear of the unknown.
Shirley Manson wrote this theme into “Blood for Poppies,” the lead single for Garbage’s latest effort Not Your Kind of People. The vocalist identified the chaotic life of the poppy-farmers in Afghanistan as part of the inspiration for the track, but, more importantly, her choice resonated with her career with Garbage.
“It felt like an analogy to being in a band, or being a human being: trying to figure things out, being a bit lost, and finding their way out of the chaos,” said the singer.
Communication, especially through the medium of radio, is what Manson chose to highlight in the chorus. She sings, “Don’t know why they’re calling on the radio/He’s by my side and I know I’m right.” Those simple connections can make all the difference.
“There’s something cool about hearing your songs on the radio that never gets boring,” related Butch Vig.
For an artist like Vig, the connection made through the radio means more than just a shared appreciation for his band. It stands as an audible justification for his career as a recording artist, and a vote of encouragement on the part of the DJ and the listeners to continue that career.
Artists themselves share these relationships through communication as well. Citing their use of a Chrissy Hynde lyric in the song “Special,” Manson described the fax reply they received from The Pretenders’ frontwoman.
“She wrote an amazing, legendary fax back, ‘Sure thing you can use my line, you can use my voice, you can use my very a**.’”
Whether the mode is fax, a phone call, or a radio broadcast, a long-distance message can cut through the chaos. The members of Garbage are no strangers to that simple truth.
Blood For Poppies is available everywhere.
— Zack Nechvatal + Eric Secviar, WXRT Chicago