"We felt like we were playing with our hands tied behind our backs. That will drive a person insane, and it did": Shirley Manson reveals how being pitched against No Doubt almost destroyed Garbage

Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani
(Image credit: Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Shirley Manson has revealed how a record label's decision to prioritise No Doubt over Garbage almost destroyed her band.

In a new interview with NME, promoting a reissue of Garbage's 2005 album Bleed Like Me, Manson reveals that a corporate takeover led to her band becoming labelmates with No Doubt on Interscope Records at the beginning of the millennium, which led to boardroom discussions on which act should be prioritised for 'investment'. The consequences of these discussions, says Manson, almost destroyed Garbage.

The singer says that she was tipped off about her band being sidelined in favour of No Doubt by a rock star friend whose identity she is keeping secret to avoid any potential unpleasant repercussions.

“We got drunk together,” Manson recalls, “and he told me that he’d been present at an Interscope meeting where our future as a band had been discussed and there was a vote taken at the table where they decided if they were going to spend money on No Doubt or on Garbage. They decided to invest in No Doubt.

“No Doubt are friends of ours, we love them dearly and this has no bearing on them whatsoever, but to hear that from a well-known and highly regarded rockstar was devastating. He told me this story, and then it was war. I wasn’t going to do fuck all for that record label ever again.”

As the singer remembers it, there was, at the time, an unspoken belief that there was only 'space' for one female-fronted rock band in the public's affections, and that Garbage were penalised and de-prioritised as a result.

“The domino effect was devastating,” she remembers. “It caused us to turn in on each other because we were so frustrated.

“We couldn’t really move anywhere and we felt like we were playing with our hands tied behind our backs. That will drive a person insane, and it did. We all went mad and we took the pressure out on each other. It caused a lot of heartbreak.”

Manson admits that tensions within the band caused her to take a time-out, after which her life “fell apart”. The fall-out could easily have resulted in the group's demise, but, in time, the group rallied, and re-emerged stronger, more determined and more unified than ever. The singer says that she and her bandmates Butch Vig, Duke Erikson and Steve Marker are on course to finish up a new record next month.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.