Garbage's Butch Vig seems a bit out of sorts.
Calling from his Los Angeles home, Vig was set to start rehearsals for Garbage's "20 Years Queer" tour, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the band's groundbreaking debut album, and he's having some doubts.
"We're all a bit anxious," he says, laughing. "We're going to play the whole album and all the 'G-sides,' some of which we've never played. It could all be a discombobulated train wreck."
Vig is already thinking about trying to play along with Garbage's cover of The Jam's "Butterfly Collector" and wondering aloud, "Can we even play with it?"
Chances are, that nugget -- as well as the band's classics like "Stupid Girl" and "Only Happy When It Rains" -- will all be fine by the time the "20 Years Queer" tour arrives at The Space at Westbury next Friday, following a month of rehearsals and a couple of weeks on the road. ("In contrast to most anniversary album gigs, Garbage rarely sounded bound to the '90s," wrote Frank Mojica in his review of the band's Los Angeles show in Consequence of Sound. "Their mix of wicked, grungy riffs and trippy, danceable samples and loops exuded freshness because the band was ahead of their time.") After all, Garbage has always thrived on pressure. In fact, it was borne from it.
Though Vig and producer-musician friends Duke Erikson and Steve Marker started working on what would become Garbage's eponymous debut, they thought it would be a simple side project that would serve as a change of pace from their regular jobs.
"We didn't really have a plan," Vig says, adding that they thought they would have a rotating crew of singers like the Golden Palominos. "I always liked being in bands, especially being in bands with friends. We were just bored with producing bands of guitar, bass and drums. It felt like I had produced a thousand of them at the time."
Vig says part of the reason "Garbage" (Almo Sounds) was so different was that the band had been listening to Public Enemy albums. "It sounded so crazy and exciting," he says. "It sounded more rock and roll than what we were hearing."
But even when Shirley Manson joined as the singer, they still didn't expect a major disruption. "We added some fresh sounds," Vig recalls. "We thought, 'Some of these songs are catchy.' "
However, once the world got a load of "Vow," excitement began to build -- as did the pressure.
"If it flopped, it was pretty much my ass on the line," says Vig, who had already become alternative rock's biggest producer, helming Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Smashing Pumpkins' "Siamese Dream." "No one wanted to talk about Garbage. They wanted to talk about what it was like to work with Kurt Cobain. . . . I was really sweating it."
It soon became clear, though, that Manson was going to be the center of attention. "Between the videos and the radio play, Shirley became such a strong presence," Vig says. "I was able to slip into the background."
It also soon became clear that Garbage was going to be huge. "Garbage" went double platinum and spawned a string of hit singles. The launch was so enormous it has carried the band through the past 20 years and five albums.
Vig promises that a sixth album is set for release early next year. "We're almost done," he says. "We have 12 songs almost finished, ranging from classic Garbage to songs that are quite different. Shirley's singing is so strong and that gives us a strong sense of continuity. There's an epic jam and there's a song that's very '80s new wave and really hooky. Garbage has been such a great creative outlet for the four of us. We've got a lot of momentum now."
WHEN | WHERE Friday, Oct. 23, at 8 p.m., The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave.; Saturday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m., Kings Theatre, 1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn
INFO $41.50-$71.50; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Garbage's debut quickly established the new band as one of alternative rock's brightest stars over the course of four distinct singles and videos.
"VOW": The first single showed off what set Garbage apart -- singer Shirley Manson's post-punk, in-your-face delivery and Butch Vig's slick, inventive production. (Peak: No. 26, modern rock chart)
"QUEER": Garbage was provocative on this single, using a double entendre to position them on the side of outsiders, while telling a story of weird sexual dynamics. (Peak: No. 12, modern rock chart)
"STUPID GIRL": Built over a loop of The Clash's "Train in Vain," "Stupid Girl" shows off Manson's edgy vocals, a mix of cool and disdain. The song landed the band Grammy nominations for best rock song and best rock performance by a group. (Peak: No. 2, modern rock chart)
"ONLY HAPPY WHEN IT RAINS": The band flips the doom and gloom of grunge lyrics on its head with "Only Happy When It Rains," finding joy in the angst. (Peak: No. 16, modern rock chart)