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August 01, 2017

Butch Vig can't junk Garbage

The producer of Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and drummer of Garbage says his secret to success has been experimentation

When Butch Vig formed Garbage in 1995, the drummer-producer thought it was a one-off project. He started the act with his Wisconsin pals, guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker. The trio recruited Angelfish vocalist Shirley Manson and created an eponymous album.

“I never intended for this to become more than a one-off kind of thing,” Vig said. 

“My intention was to just produce. I’m a studio kind of guy. The concept of Garbage was purely an experiment.”

The experiment worked greater than anyone could have imagined. The album went double platinum and yielded three top 20 singles.

Garbage, which will co-headline Wednesday, Aug. 2 at the Mann Center with Blondie, has six albums from which to draw, including its latest “Strange Little Birds.” The fresh material has a familiar feel, which recalls the band’s initial release. The project is atmospheric, stylish and dark.

“The key was that we were very loose when we made this album,” Vig said. 

“We decided to be more spontaneous, which is how we made our first album. We experimented once again. There were times I would play guitar and Duke would play drums. At one point, we decided that we would all play keyboards and there would be no guitar, bass or drums on a song. We just went for it and I’m glad we did.”

Vig made his name producing such iconic acts as Nirvana and Sonic Youth. He was behind the board for Nirvana’s breakthrough release, “Nevermind.”

“Nirvana was so visceral,” Vig said. “It was exciting to work with a band like that. The songs on “Nevermind” have huge hooks even though many come at you with that punk attitude. It was a pretty simple production. A lot of people have viewed it as a slick production, but that’s not so. It was just guitars, bass, and drums in a room. Guitars and Kurt Cobain’s voice were double tracked at times and there were some harmonies throw in, but it was pretty simple.”

Vig said Sonic Youth absolutely blew him away when he produced their 1992 album, “Dirty.” 

"There was never a band like Sonic Youth,” he said. 

“My greatest memory is trying to record 'Theresa’s Soundwave.' [Vocalist-guitarist] Thurston [Moore] had given me a variety of different versions of the song. I had no idea what the arrangement would be. But there was one take in which Sonic Youth just took off and played the version that is on the album. It was such a powerful but beautiful five minutes that I’ll never forget it. It was so hypnotic and so intense.

"I’m a pretty fortunate guy to work with bands like Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins as a producer, but the most fortunate thing is being part of Garbage.”

Garbage and Blondie co-headline Wednesday, Aug. 2 at the Mann Center, 52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia. Deap Vally will open. Tickets are $39.50 and $99.50. Show time is 7 p.m. For more information, call 215-546-7900 or click here