Not Your Kind of People [Stunvolume] may be less hard-edged
than some previous Garbage albums, but it is nevertheless
chockfull of cool and often aggressive guitar tones. Duke
Erikson and Steve Marker are the band’s official guitarists,
but drummer Butch Vig also sometimes contributes guitar
riffs and ideas. Guitars are often subject to slicing, dicing,
and processing until they sound more like synthesizers—and
Line 6 POD sounds abound—yet plenty of primal instrument-
through-amp goodness still survives.
|Garbage (left to right)—Steve Marker, Shirley Manson, Duke Erikson, and Butch Vig.|
What have you been doing guitar-wise in the seven years since
the last Garbage record?
Marker: I took the time to become a better guitarist.
I did a lot of recording on my own, and tried to discover
what created the sounds I like. I also experimented with
building tube amps. I didn’t get good at it, but it helped
me realize what makes a good amp. I eventually purchased
a Mojave—a handmade Marshall-type amp. That led to
recording some of the demos for songs that ended up on
the latest Garbage record.
Erikson: I have just been writing for myself, usually
using a Gibson J-45. But when I started writing for Garbage
I tailored the songs to Shirley Manson’s voice.
You two have produced other people, as has Butch Vig. How
do you deal with three producers working on the same record?
Marker: It is not a problem. Working on my own, I can
go around and around on an idea. With the four of us in the
room—Shirley has an equal say—there is always someone
to instantly tell you if your idea sucks. We didn’t have as
much time as usual, so we used an hourglass. We had to
make an idea work before the sand ran through or we would
move on. That resulted in more energy and stronger ideas.
How do you divide up the guitar chores?
Marker: There is no set way. If someone has an idea we
try it. And if they are struggling with the execution, sometimes
someone else will play it. There are no set “rhythm”
and “lead” roles. Whomever can best get the job done takes
it, and that may change when we play live.
Though very distorted, the guitar sounds on the album are
tightly controlled and focused. How did you achieve that?
Marker: We don’t really go for metal sounds. Although
the guitars are distorted, it is not that scooped-out, highoutput
pickup sound. We go for more of a vintage guitar
through a beat-up Silvertone amp tone. Our sound is
inspired more by ’60s or early-’70s garage rock than metal.
How do you keep space for Shirley Mason’s vocal frequencies
and still get such massive guitar sounds?
Marker: We use limiting on the guitars when tracking
to Pro Tools, but even playing-wise we are subconsciously
constructing parts that avoid conflict with
the vocals. There is nothing more important
than the vocal. Nobody is going to listen to
the record because there is this one little
awesome guitar part in the background.
Erikson: From the beginning, the whole
idea of Garbage was to surround a voice
with noise. We wanted to cram the records
full of as much stuff as would fit in without
getting in the way of the voice—and therefore
On “Blood for Poppies” how did you get the
distortion on the low bending lick?
Marker: That’s me into a POD, recorded
onto my laptop. With that song and with “Man
on the Wire,” when we got in the studio we
couldn’t recreate the sound, so we just used
the original POD parts.
How do you recreate the sound live?
Marker: You are never going to have the
same guitar, amp, and signal path—but you
get as close as you can. We are using only
PODs live now so it is easier to dial things
Do you remember how you got the vibrato
effect on the clean tone in the verse section of
“Blood for Poppies”?
Marker: That was Duke.
Do you remember, Duke?
Erikson: No [laughs]. I have trouble
with guitar magazine interviews because I
go through so many guitars in the course of
recording an album, I can’t remember what
I used on each song. We had so many guitars
we would just stare at the wall and decide,
On “Big Bright World” there is a cool glissando
part. Is that a finger slide, a Whammy pedal, or
Marker: That is an actual slide part Marker
so hard the sound swells up at the end.
“Control” has a great, slightly broken up guitar
at the beginning. Those sounds are among the hardest
to get. How did you do it?
Marker: That song always seemed Zeppelin-
ish to me. I probably used a Silvertone
amp that engineer Billy Bush had in his
studio. We also got a lot of use out of this
beat-up old Hagstrom that the Foo Fighters
gave Butch when he did their album—it’s like
a ten-dollar guitar from around 1966. There
is no way you are going to get that sound
other than using gear like that.
On “Not Your Kind of People” it sounds like a
combination of tremolo and vibrato at the beginning,
on the spaghetti western lick.
Marker: That was Butch trying to come up
with “the saddest riff of all time.” I thought it
would fit in this song. I ended up using the Line
6 M13 for a lot of the effects. We have boxes
and boxes of pedals but it can get time consuming
plugging them in and then unplugging
them. Sometimes it is nice to have it all right
there in one pedal. That tune has a tremolo,
chorus, and echo on it, and possibly reverb.
For the slide part I channeled David Gilmour,
using two echoes on the M13.
How about the Beatle-esque backward guitar?
Erikson: I had that written in my head,
and I just had to figure out how to play
it backward. That kind of backward thing
sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t,
but when it does, it is great for drawing you
in a little bit farther. I think, even though it
is weird, there is something in the human
psyche that makes sense of it. It is like looking
in a mirror.
What is that great distortion sound on the
Marker: We used the Death By Audio Supersonic
Fuzz Gun and an old Boss Fuzz pedal.
Sometimes we were running two or three
fuzz pedals into each other to get the sound
we were looking for. At that point maintaining
clarity can be a problem [laughs].
Live, do you do the effects and sound switching
yourselves, or is it done offstage by techs, or
by MIDI sequencing?
Erikson: There was talk early on about
not even having pedalboards—having the
effects triggered by MIDI. I wasn’t comfortable
with that. I want to be able to do
whatever I want, and not be tied to that.
But it is programmed on one song, “Not
Your Kind of People,” because I have to do
a quick switch from keyboards to guitar.
It is kind of a mind-f**k, because you are
thinking you have to make the switch and
it is already done.
Are there other sounds on the record that people
might think are synthesizers but are really guitars?
Marker: On “Control” there are guitars
chopped up in Pro Tools that sound like synths.
There are also keyboards run through wahwah
that sound like guitars, mixed with real
wah guitar on “Blood for Poppies.” It takes a
lot of mixing to get the blend right.
What guitars did you use in studio and live?
Marker: I’m using the Henman Mod guitar
that I got around the same time as the Mojave
amp. It inspired me to come up with some
new ideas for the record and to become a
better player in general. I have been using it
as my main guitar on tour. It has a vintage,
Gretsch Filter’Tron-like sound. I also use a
Guild Bluesbird, which isn’t made anymore.
Erikson: I have a Guild Starfire III that I
have been playing for a long time.
Do you have feedback issues with the Starfire,
due to it being hollow?
Erikson: Of course—but we always manage
to reign it in. We are using mostly in-ear monitors
and no amps—just the POD HD Pro. But
we have the side-fill monitors angled toward
the front so the people right in front of the
stage can hear, and that can create feedback.
It is nice to have feedback problems in this
day and age, though. Feedback is analog!