Butch Vig recalls his first impressions of a young Shirley Manson

Today, she's one of pop culture's most important role models - a straight-talking feminist figurehead who has influenced innumerable acts and millions of fans around the world.
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But back in 1994, when Edinburgh-born Shirley Manson was the lesser-known singer of local band Anglefish, she auditioned for a soon-to-be-formed new outfit called Garbage, who would eventually go on to become one of the biggest musical acts of the '90s, selling over 15 million albums worldwide.

Stockbridge-raised Shirley, who also sang with Edinburgh indie stalwarts Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, has since said in interviews that her try-out was "embarrassing".

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"It’s a miracle they ever called me back," the former Broughton High School pupil said in an interview with Fox News a few years back.

Edinburgh-born singer Shirley Manson.Edinburgh-born singer Shirley Manson.
Edinburgh-born singer Shirley Manson.

Now, Butch Vig, Garbage founder and producer of Nirvana's iconic Nevermind album, has opened up about his first meeting with the flame-haired singer from the Capital.

In an interview with a US radio station, Vig was asked about his first impressions of Shirley all those years ago.

“Well, Duke [Erikson] and Steve [Marker] and I had been working on some Garbage music for about four or five months, and we knew we wanted to find a female singer and hadn’t really found the right person or the right fit,” he explained.

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“And Steve happened to tape 120 minutes of MTV every Sunday night, and he came in on Monday and said: ‘Here is the singer from this band Angelfish,’ and I really liked this track, and we watched it on the videotape, it was the song Suffocate Me.

“We were all struck by how intense it was, how understated it was. Like, instead of screaming and blowing your voice out like a lot of alternative singers were doing at the time, she did the complete opposite.”

Vig and Erikson got in contact with Shirley to set up a meeting - just to see if they had a connection.

“So we called her up and said, ‘Hey, we got these songs, do you want to maybe meet and see if there’s some chemistry?’

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"We had no plans of even doing a full album at that time, and so we flew to England and we weren’t staying there,” he explains.

“Shirley thought we were staying at some posh hotel, but that’s where we met for tea and some gin and tonics - we had a really great three or four-hour meeting, talking about books and music and food and culture and politics, and we invited her to record.”

After meeting with Shirley, Vig returned to his hotel room - and later that night he found out that pal Kurt Cobain had taken his own life.

“I went back to the hotel, and then I went out to meet a bunch of other producers and engineers, I was just going to enjoy a night out,” he recalled.

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“When I got there, they were all staring at me and they said, ‘Did you hear what happened?’

“I said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘Kurt Cobain is dead.’ And I just kind of freaked out, I had to go back to the hotel and just immediately fly back to the States.

Vig mused that Cobain's suicide felt like a "big turning point" in his career.

“It was like the passing of the torch happened - and I guess I didn’t even realise that at the time, but it did.”

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Soon after, Vig and co recruited Shirley to front their new band - and the following year, in 1995, the genre-bending Garbage released their self-titled debut album.

The record went on to sell over four million copies worldwide, buoyed by the now-classic hits Only Happy When It Rains, Stupid Girl, Vow and Queer.

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