Shirley Manson, Frontman of Garbage For More Than 20 Unholy Years, Loves Following God on Twitter

The rock band’s longtime frontman talks touring with Debbie Harry, publishing a new Garbage book, and more in her culture diet.

Courtesy of Joseph Cultice, from This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake, © 2017 by Garbage Unlimited, used with permission of Garbage and Akashic Books.

“Our lives have been completely mental,” said Shirley Manson of the “extraordinary adventures and misdemeanors” that have made up her life since she’s been the frontman of the rock band Garbage, which has been around for more than 20 years. It’s a milestone she and her bandmates marked this week with the publication of This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake, a book that documents those two decades through various snapshots, lyric pages, cocktail recipes, endless tales of tours and label struggles, and no shortage of ultra-stylized press photos (including one for SPIN that features Manson mid-pee).

“We just decided one day that we wanted to put something together for when we depart this mortal coil, that speaks to what we did in our lives for all the little ‘uns we have in our lives right now that are too young to fully appreciate what it is we do,” Manson said of how the band ended up getting into publishing. That’s not all she’s been up to: Manson is also “beyond thrilled” about the fact that Garbage is about to co-headline a summer-long tour with Blondie. She talks why Debbie Harry is now more important than ever at 72, and shares some of her more present-day adventures and misdemeanors at 50, in her culture diet, here.

What’s the first thing you read in the morning?


What books are on your bedside table right now?

James Baldwin: A Biography by David Leeming, The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch, and Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford.

What TV shows have been keeping you up at night?

The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods, Bloodline, House of Cards, The Americans, and Fargo.

What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?

Get Out.

What’s the last thing you saw at the theater?

I’m ashamed to say I have not been to the theater in 18 months… but to be fair, that’s because I’ve been playing them myself. I was meant to go to Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe by Edward Albee last month at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, but I ended up getting drunk with a bunch of my old school friends instead.

Shirley Manson performing with Garbage in, Belgium, 1998.

Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

What’s the last piece of art you bought, or ogled?

“Archer” by Scottish painter and OBE Alison Watt. But I only ogled it. I don’t own it. I have also ogled quite a few photographs by unknown Polish photographer Marcin Nagraba.

What’s the last museum exhibition that you loved?

Mastry” by Kerry James Marshall at MOCA Los Angeles. It was spectacular and unforgettable. Also, the incredibly moving “Queer British Art” at the Tate Britain in London last month. It made me cry.

What release are you most eagerly anticipating?

Queens of the Stone Age. I am also frothing at the mouth for Blade Runner 2. I literally might die from the anticipation.

What’s the last song you had on repeat?

Big For Your Boots” by Stormzy. I’m obsessed with him.

What’s the last concert you went to?

Nick Cave at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. It was stunning. I’m still thinking about it. He is a true maestro and I’m obsessed with him, too.


Courtesy of Official Garbage Archive, from This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake, © 2017 by Garbage Unlimited, used with permission of Garbage and Akashic Books

Speaking of shows, how would you describe your relationship with Debbie Harry’s music?

I would prefer to describe my relationship with Debbie Harry because it is who she is as a woman that has had the greatest impact on me. It is the fact that she is 72 years old and was just featured on the cover of Nylon magazine which is read primarily by young women. It’s the fact that she just released a record in the so-called twilight of her life, let alone her career, to critical acclaim. It is the fact that she still walks and talks with great authority. It is the fact that she still has a thrust and thrill about her. It is all these things and more that I admire about her and am grateful for. She is a marvelous beacon, and not just for me or for women in music, but for all women all over the world who fear they have lost their agency because they have earned themselves a wrinkle and passed the age of 25.

How do you get your news?, the New York Times, and the Guardian.

Do you read your horoscope?

Rarely. But when I do, if it’s good I cheer it. If it’s bad, I dismiss it.

What are your favorite social media accounts to follow?

Cute Pet Club, Cats of Instagram, Nowness, and AnOther magazine on Instagram, and God on Twitter.

What’s the last thing you do before you go to bed?

Pinch my husband’s bottom and wish him some blissful, peaceful hours devoid of his annoying wife.

Related: Meet the Women at the Birth of Punk, Including Debbie Harry

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