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Shirley Manson Bio
Shirley Manson (born August 26, 1966) is a Scottish singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. She is the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage. For much of her international career, Manson commuted between her home city of Edinburgh and the United States to record with Garbage; she now lives and works in Los Angeles. Manson gained media attention for her forthright style, rebellious attitude, and distinctive voice.
Manson’s musical career began in her teens when she was approached to perform backing vocals and keyboards for the band Goodbye Mr Mackenzie. Quickly she developed into a prominent member of the group and developed a formidable stage presence. Manson was approached by her band’s record label with the idea of launching her as a solo artist, and recorded an album with her band under the Angelfish name. After seeing Manson in an Angelfish video broadcast only once on MTV‘s 120 Minutes, Garbage invited Manson to audition and record vocals on a couple of unfinished songs; she eventually co-wrote and co-produced an entire album with the band. The resulting self-titled debut album was a critical and commercial success, and was followed by four studio albums, including the multiple Grammy Award-nominated Version 2.0, and a greatest hits album. Garbage toured worldwide and sold 12 million records over 10 years.
In 2006, Manson began to write and record solo material after Garbage was put on “hiatus” and in 2008 was cast in her first professional acting role on the second and final season of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as series regular Catherine Weaver, a liquid metal T-1001 Terminator. Manson returned to the recording studio in 2010 to write and produce material for the group’s fifth studio album Not Your Kind of People, who have since followed up with a sixth album Strange Little Birds.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie
Manson’s first musical experiences came from briefly singing with local Edinburgh acts The Wild Indians and performed backing vocals with Autumn 1984. While she was acting in her group, Manson was approached by Goodbye Mr Mackenzie’s lead Martin Metcalfe to join his band. Manson embarked on a relationship with Metcalfe initially, but remained involved after splitting from him and became a prominent member of the group, performing keyboards, backing vocals and becoming involved in the band’s business side. Manson’s first release with the Mackenzies was a YTS release of “Death of a Salesman” in 1984. The group signed a major-label record deal with Capitol Records in 1987, and they released their first album Good Deeds and Dirty Rags, and their only UK top 40 entry “The Rattler”. In 1990, the group’s contract was transferred to Parlophone, another EMI label, but after two singles failed to chart Parlophone declined to release the group’s second album Hammer and Tongs.
Gary Kurfirst, who managed Talking Heads and Debbie Harry, bought the Mackenzies contract and issued their second album through his own label Radioactive Records, a subsidiary of MCA Records. After another single failed to chart, the group were persuaded to leave Radioactive by their management. The Mackenzies continued to write material; Manson was also given the opportunity to record lead vocals on a number of tracks planned for the band’s third album. Although MCA had no desire to further their commitments to Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, the label expressed interest in recording an album with Manson, and after hearing several demos, Kurfirst signed Manson to Radioactive as a solo artist, with the remaining Mackenzies performing as her backing band to circumvent the band’s existing deal with MCA. Manson’s contract obliged her to deliver at least one album and, at the sole option of Radioactive, up to six additional albums.
Recording under the name Angelfish, and using some of the newly written material and a previously released Mackenzie b-side, Manson and the group recorded the tracks that would make up the Angelfish album in Connecticut with Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. A lead in track “Suffocate Me” was sent to college radio where it was well received. Angelfish and second single “Heartbreak To Hate” followed in 1994. Angelfish toured the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, and co-supported Live on a tour of North America, along with Vic Chestnutt. The music video for “Suffocate Me” was aired on MTV‘s 120 Minutes. Producer and musician Steve Marker caught the broadcast and thought Manson would be a great singer for his band, Garbage, which also featured producers Duke Erikson and Butch Vig.
Vig invited Manson to Smart Studios to sing on a couple of tracks. After an unsuccessful audition, she returned to Angelfish. Manson admitted she felt intimidated showcasing herself to Vig, who produced bands she admired such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and The Smashing Pumpkins, and Vig added that the audition’s disorganized nature along with the Americans not understanding Manson’s Scottish accent caused communication problems. At the end of the Live tour, Angelfish imploded and Manson returned to Smart for a second try. She began to work on the then-skeletal origins of some songs and the band invited her to become a full-time member and finish the album; she co-wrote and co-produced the entire album with the rest of the band. In August 1994, Radioactive gave their permission for Manson to work with Garbage. The band’s debut album Garbage was released in August 1995, and went on to sell over 4 million copies, buoyed by a run of high charting singles including “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl.” Manson quickly became the public face of the band over the course of a tour that took the band through to the end of 1996. Echo & the Bunnymen had asked Manson to sing on their 1997 comeback album.
Manson became the band’s chief songwriter for the follow-up record Version 2.0 which equalled the success of the band’s debut record after its May 1998 release. During the two-year tour in support of the record, Manson modelled for Calvin Klein. Manson lived in hotels throughout the recording periods of the debut and Version 2.0. The group recorded the theme song to the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough, and Manson became the third Scotswoman to sing a Bond theme after Lulu and Sheena Easton. In the accompanying video, she portrays an android assassin. For the recording of Garbage’s third record throughout 2000, Manson became one of the first high-profile artists to write a blog online, while she decided to improve her guitar playing for the band’s next tour. Their third album, Beautiful Garbage, featured Manson’s most forward and personal lyrics to date. The album did not sell as well as its predecessors, but Garbage performed a successful world tour in support of it. During a concert at the Roskilde Festival, Manson’s voice gave out. She afterwards discovered a vocal fold cyst, and had to undergo corrective surgery.
Manson’s lyrics became more overtly political for Garbage’s fourth record, 2005’s Bleed Like Me, which after the surprise success of lead-in single “Why Do You Love Me”, posted some of the band’s highest chart positions upon release. Garbage began an extended hiatus in October 2005. During this period, in 2007, Garbage reformed to perform a short set at a benefit show to raise cash to pay for Wally Ingram’s medical treatment, shared song ideas via the internet, recorded new material, and filmed a music video to promote the band’s Absolute Garbage greatest hits compilation. Garbage returned to the studio in 2010 to write and record material for a fifth album, entitled Not Your Kind of People and subsequently released in May 2012, thus ending the band’s seven-year hiatus from recording.
Garbage’s alternative musical style fuses various genres including electronic rock, industrial rock, punk, grunge, trip hop and shoegaze.
Solo work and unreleased album
Manson confirmed in March 2006 that she had begun work on a solo album, working with musician Paul Buchanan, producer Greg Kurstin, and film composer David Arnold,stating that she had “no timetable” for completing the project. In 2007, Manson collaborated with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. Manson presented some of her work to Geffen Records in 2008, who found it “too noir”, prompting Manson and Geffen to terminate her contract by mutual agreement. Manson later elaborated, “[Geffen] wanted me to have international radio hits and ‘be the Annie Lennox of my generation’. I kid you not; I am quoting directly.” Manson continued to write material while without a record deal and had been in talks with David Byrne and Ray Davies about a potential collaboration. In 2009, Manson posted three demos on her Facebook profile, written by her and Kurstin, titled “In the Snow”, “Pretty Horses” and “Lighten Up”. “Pretty Horses” was later featured in the pilot episode of the show Conviction. 14 additional songs co-written with Kurstin and registered on copyright and performance rights societies included Don’t Want To Pretend, Don’t Want Anyone Hurt, Gone Upside, Hot Shit, Kid Ourselves, Little Dough, Pure Genius, Sweet Old World, Spooky, So Shines A Good Deed, The Desert, No Regrets, Stop, To Be King.
In 2009, Manson announced she was stepping away from music, claiming she got sick of the music industry’s new practices and had found more excitement in acting. Manson said she thought about abandoning the music business as soon as 2008, when her mother developed dementia, and later died, saying that “I didn’t want to make music, didn’t feel creative. I could barely function.” Later that year she reconsidered her words and went back into performing after being asked by friends to sing David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” at their son’s memorial. According to Manson, “we were all in so much pain, but it meant so much to them that I could sing that song and so much to me that I was able to do something. It made me realise how much music sustains people. I don’t know why I’d turned my back on it.”
Manson also worked with a number of artists outside of her solo project, reciting a verse of a long poem for a Chris Connelly album, co-writing and recording a duet with Eric Avery for his solo debut recording with Debbie Harry. Although not recording material with them, Manson also performed on-stage with The Pretenders, Iggy Pop, Incubus and Kings of Leon in Atlantic City, with Gwen Stefani and twice with No Doubt in Universal City. Manson also performed in an uncredited role as a dominatrix in the music video for She Wants Revenge‘s single “These Things”. Most recently Manson performed vocals on a track written by Serj Tankian entitled “The Hunger“, a single from the rock musical Prometheus Bound.
In January 2012, Manson confirmed that work on her solo album had been cancelled, stating the album “[is] dead and buried. We had the funeral. It was sad and I cried a lot but it made such a beautiful corpse that we had an open casket.”
Manson possesses a contralto vocal range, which has been noted for its distinctive qualities as well as her emotive delivery. Elysa Gardner of the Los Angeles Times stated “one of Garbage’s most compelling features is a force of nature: Manson’s vocals, which can convey a multitude of emotions without ever coming across as melodramatic”.
Reviewing a live Garbage performance, Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented, “Temptress, lover, sufferer, scrapper – those have been Ms. Manson’s personae since Garbage started in 1995. In other eras she might have been a pop torch singer, a soul belter or a new-wave frontwoman: a Shirley Bassey, a Dusty Springfield, or a Chrissie Hynde. There’s a little of each of them in her voice” also stating “In the course of each song she let her voice rise in anger, contempt or passion”. Jen Crothers of Green Left Weekly, in a review of Garbage, remarked that “Manson, vocalist and guitarist, has a powerful voice, which soars and dips like a bird. It can plead or demand. It can sound dreamy or psychotic.”Reviewing a 2012 live Garbage performance, Catherine Gee of The Daily Telegraph noted that Manson “remains a striking performer whose distinctive contralto snarl can still raise the hairs on the back of your neck.” In a review of Garbage, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described Manson’s voice as “thin and airy”, whilst Mike Diver of the BBC stated Manson owned “a snarl in her voice but [was] equally capable of a purr to melt away any resistance.” also adding “even at her most vulnerable, Manson maintains her controlling condition”.
Influences and impact
Manson’s earliest musical memories were of her mother, who sang with a big band when Manson was a child. Manson was exposed to classic jazz records as she grew up and work by Nina Simone, Cher, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. Early in Manson’s teenage years, she became a fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees albums The Scream and Kaleidoscope, and taught herself how to sing listening to those albums, later stating “many of the songs of those two albums were massive loves of my life”. Vocalist Siouxsie Sioux embodied how Manson aspired to be as a teen. Manson would later write the foreword to Siouxsie & The Banshees: The Authorised Biography.
At nineteen, Manson discovered Patti Smith, and specifically Smith’s Horses album, which made a “strong impact” on her. Manson was inspired to learn guitar by Chrissie Hynde, who is an admirer of Manson and whose band, Pretenders, she is a fan of while also appreciating the style of Debbie Harry of Blondie, whose 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech was delivered by Manson. The majority of Manson’s influences were female musicians; however she also notes David Bowie as an inspiring male musician. Manson also grew up listening to Nick Cave, Frank Sinatra, The Clash, The Sugarcubes, Cocteau Twins, Iggy and the Stooges and The Velvet Underground.
Manson’s lyrics deal with darker themes, often in a mocking manner. She credits that to her Scottish psyche that leads to a preference for depressing themes, and the fact she always felt like an outsider, even within Garbage – “I’m the odd one out by default. I’m the only girl, I’m younger than they are, they’ve all known each other for 40 years, or something crazy like that. So I always felt, like, off the centre of things.”
Manson has been credited with inspiring later female artists; including Amy Lee, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch, Taylor Momsen, Liz Anjos of RAC and The Pragmatic, Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls, Skylar Grey, Ritzy Bryan (lead singer and guitarist of The Joy Formidable), Potty Mouth’s Ally Einbinder, Radiator Hospital’s Cynthia Schemmer, and The Great Wilderness’ Paola Rogue. Marina Diamandis ofMarina and the Diamonds stated that Manson was one of “my style icons”. Katy Perry‘s fashion sense was inspired by many female singers, including Manson.
The first time Manson contributed her vocals to a project separately from any of her bands was in 1998, when she performed vocals for the chorus of a Garbage-produced remix of Fun Lovin’ Criminals 1999 single “Korean Bodega”. Due to litigationproblems surrounding Manson’s contractual obligation to Radioactive Records, further collaborations with both Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Moby were unable to proceed.
Manson teamed up with Marilyn Manson and Tim Sköld in 2004 to record a cover version of the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” but both felt the track inappropriate for either acts upcoming albums, and remains unreleased. Later that year, Manson and Brody Dalle contributed backing vocals to a Queens of the Stone Age track. In 2006, Manson planned to record a John Lennon cover version for the Amnesty International Instant Karma charity compilation with bassist Eric Avery,however a scheduling misunderstanding left them short of time and unable to record the song. Manson and Avery eventually co-wrote and recorded “Maybe”, a ballad duet for Avery’s album Help Wanted.
The following year, Manson worked with long-time friend Chris Connelly, orating part of a long poem on his eighth album Forgiveness and Exile, and worked on a duet with longtime inspiration Debbie Harry which remains uncompleted.
Upon her taking on the role of Catherine Weaver in Terminator… and on the encouragement of series’ composer Bear McCreary, Manson was asked by showrunner Josh Friedman to perform and co-create a gospel arrangement of “Samson and Delilah” for the opening episode of the second season. After much interest, the track was released on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season one soundtrack at the end of 2008. Three years later Manson recorded vocals to a track composed by Serj Tankian and Steven Sater. The track, “The Hunger“, which Sater describes as exploring “the hunger of the heart”, features on their rock musical adaptation of Prometheus Bound, and was recreated with fresh instrumentation and new lyrics for the digital release, exclusively through iTunes worldwide. All proceeds made from sales of the single will benefit Amnesty International.
Manson has also given two tracks to Sky Ferreira; the 2012 single “Red Lips” and “I’m on Top” in 2013.
In 2002, electronic group West London Deep sampled Manson’s vocal from “You Look So Fine” in their white label track “You’re Taking Me Over”. Manson refused clearance for the sample and the track was scrapped. By that point the track, and remixes by Inner City, Problem Kids and Desyn Masiello and Leon Roberts had already been circulated. The song was reworked and re-released the following year as “Gonna Make You My Lover”, without Manson’s vocal.
Manson was cast in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles in May 2008, after being asked to appear by series creator Josh Friedman and enduring a multiple audition process, beating out other actresses including Julie Ann Emery. She debuted in the season two premiere episode “Samson and Delilah” as Catherine Weaver, CEO of a technology company, ZeiraCorp. At the conclusion of the episode, Weaver is revealed to be a liquid-metal T-1001 Terminator. Manson also performed and co-arranged a rock and blues version of the gospel song “Samson and Delilah” for the episode’s score. Manson cites actress Glenn Close and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as her acting influences for the ambiguous character. Manson also played the human Weaver in archive footage viewed by the T-1001 in the episode “The Tower Is Tall, But the Fall Is Short”.
In 2009, Manson made her first venture into the videogame industry by becoming digitally mapped to create an avatar of herself for the Guitar Hero franchise. In the fifth game in the series, Manson is an unlockable character, while the game also features a licensed Garbage track.
The next year, Manson was one of the final guests to appear on the cult US children’s show Pancake Mountain. Featured in a segment titled “Around the World with Shirley Manson”, she talked about music from other countries. She filmed five such segments but none aired before creator Scott Stuckey and producer JJ Abrams canceled the show. One segment, featuring Germany, was eventually released and featured an original theme song sung by Manson and written by Stuckey.
Shirley Manson (age: 52) is a Scottish singer, songwriter, musician and record producer known as the singer of the band Garbage with song like Queer, Stupid Girl and Only Happy When It Rains. She also played Catherine Weaver in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.