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Shirley Manson: "When people say rock is dead, I want to laugh in their face"

Meet Shirley Manson: the Garbage frontwoman with the ‘fuck you’ attitude and an undying belief in the power of rock’n’roll

Shirley Manson has spent three decades kicking down the doors of rock’n’roll’s boys’ club. She joined her first band, Scottish alt.poppers Goodbye Mr Mackenzie, in the 80s, but it was with Garbage that she made her name. In the macho bull pen that was mid-90s alt.rock, Manson stood apart – funny, combustible, allergic to bullshit, she was one of the era’s most charismatic stars. Today she’s older and wiser but no less opinionated.

Garbage co-headlined a tour with Blondie last summer. What was that like?

It was fantastic. It was sort of like the best summer camp you can imagine – to get to go on tour with someone I very much respect and admire, and is something of a beacon for any woman, let alone a woman like me. It was really inspiring.

What do the two bands have in common?

I think it’s an attitude more than anything. A ‘fuck you’ attitude.

Garbage released a new song, No Horses****_, last year, which was inspired by you driving past a field and wondering what the world would be like if there were no more horses. It painted an apocalyptic view of the future._

Obviously it’s an allegory – it’s not specifically about the eradication of all horses [laughs]. But there is a world order currently that focuses purely on making money and profit and corporate interests – it’s more important than the comfort of people and the well‑being of human beings, and I really object to that. I wanted to say something about it. When I looked at these horses I did feel a legitimate panic; if we continue to go down this road, and only value things that make a lot of money, we’re gonna lose everything that’s of any importance to our culture whatsoever.

Are people capable of thinking differently?

Oh God, of course. Human beings are capable of anything, good and bad. And I do believe that human beings will figure out how to survive. Because they have to.

How much of the blame do you put on the rise of social media?

I’m talking more about political attitudes and the men in power – and I use the word ‘men’ deliberately. Power is always going to exist, but let’s at least make it multicultural or multi-gender. It’s all old white men, at least in America right now. There’s a smattering of colour and women, but that’s about it. I don’t think we can blame the internet for all our ills. Great things have come with the internet and horrific things have come with the internet. We have to learn how to negotiate it.

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