Shirley Ann Manson (born 26 August 1966) is a Scottish singer, songwriter, musician and actress, best known internationally as the lead singer 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 Scottish 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, Garbage, was a critically acclaimed, worldwide hit, 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 ten 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.
Early life and career
Shirley Ann Manson was born to John Mitchell and Muriel Flora Manson (nÃ©e MacKay) in Edinburgh. John Mitchell, a descendant from the fishing community of Northmavine, Shetland, was a university lecturer while Muriel was a big band singer, who had been adopted by a Lothian-based family at an early age (and took on the family name MacDonald). Shirley was named after an aunt who was herself named after Charlotte BrontÃ«'s novel Shirley. She was born with two years between both older sister Lindy-Jayne and younger sister Sarah, and was brought up in the Comely Bank and Stockbridge areas of the city. She attended Broughton High School, Edinburgh. Manson's childhood education was informed by the Church of Scotland (her father was also her Sunday School teacher), until the age of 12, when she rebelled against organized religion.
Manson's first public performance was in 1970, at age four, with her older sister, in an amateur show held at the local Church Hill Theatre. Enrolled at Flora Stevenson Primary School, Manson received instruction in recorder, clarinet and fiddle, and learned ballet and piano from extramural classes at age seven. Manson was a member of Girlguiding UK throughout this period of her youth as a Brownie and a Guide, Manson attended the City of Edinburgh Music School, the music department of Broughton High. While at Broughton, Manson became an active member of its drama group, performing in amateur dramatic and musical performances such as The American Dream and The Wizard of Oz, while also singing with the Waverley Singers, a local girl choir. Other notable members of the drama group included Hilary MacLean, Neil Bett, Rebecca Pigeon and Sara Stewart; while a production of Maurice the Minotaur (in which Manson played a prophet) during the 1981 Edinburgh Festival Fringe was awarded a Fringe First award by The Scotsman newspaper.
While Manson enjoyed primary school, Manson was bullied while in her first year at secondary school, causing her to suffer from depression, body dysmorphic disorder, and engage in self-injury: she carried a sharp object in the laces of her boots and cut herself when she felt low self-esteem, stress or anxiety. The bullying stopped when Manson associated herself with a rebel crowd â" which resulted in her rebelling herself; playing truant for most of her final year at school, smoking cannabis and sniffing glue, drinking, shoplifting, and on one occasion breaking into Edinburgh Zoo. Manson's first job was volunteer work in a local hospital's cafeteria, then as a breakfast waitress at a local hotel before spending five years as a shop assistant for Miss Selfridge, beginning on the make-up counter. Manson was eventually moved into stockrooms because of her attitude toward customers. Manson became well known throughout Edinburgh's clubbing scene, and making use of free samples from Miss Selfridge, styled hair for a number of local bands. Manson also briefly modeled clothing for Jackie magazine.
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 hit "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 Deborah Harry, bought the Mackenzies contract and issued their second album through his own label Radioactive, a subsidiary of MCA. 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 obligated 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. 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 of the band 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 song-writer 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 modeled 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, who at that point had never co-written material with anyone. Manson presented some of her work to Geffen Records in 2008, who found it "too noir", prompting Manson and Geffen to mutually terminate her contract. 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".
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 got ill with 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 and performing backing vocals on a Gavin Rossdale track. 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 Parales of The New York Times commented, "Temptress, lover, sufferer, scrapper â" 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 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, 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 Ian Brown, Nick Cave, Frank Sinatra, The Clash, The Sugarcubes, Cocteau Twins, Iggy and the Stooges and The Velvet Underground.
Manson has been credited with inspiring a new generation of female artists; including Ritzy Bryan (the lead singer and guitarist of The Joy Formidable), Lady Gaga, Taylor Momsen, Marina Diamandis, Amy Lee, Katy Perry, Peaches, Florence Welch, Liz Anjos of RAC and The Pragmatic, Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls and Skylar Grey as well as her contemporaries such as Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love. Manson has also personally given her support to Peaches, Brody Dalle, Karen O, Skylar Grey, Lana Del Rey, Screaming Females and Le Butcherettes at the beginning of their respective careers.
Credited with lyrics, songwriting, lead vocals, production and guitar
- Garbage (1995)
- Version 2.0 (1998)
- Beautiful Garbage (2001)
- Bleed Like Me (2005)
- Not Your Kind of People (2012)
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 litigation problems 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 SkÃ¶ld 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 performed backing vocals on a track for Gavin Rossdale's solo album Wanderlust, 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 long time inspiration Debbie Harry which remains uncompleted. In 2008, Manson contributed to a Dusty Springfield tribute album, with an unspecified release date.
Upon her taking on the role of Catherine Weaver in Terminator... and on the encouragement of series' composer Bear McCreary, Manson was asked by show runner 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 & 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.
In 2008, Manson became engaged to record producer and Garbage sound engineer Billy Bush. They were married at a Los Angeles court house in May 2010.
Manson is an atheist but has long been interested in spirituality. She recalls, "when I was very small, I was very besotted with the church, absolutely, I loved the theatre of it and I got very involved in all the stories we were taught." Her father was also her Sunday school teacher. When she was about 12, she had an argument with her father at the dinner table, screaming at him that "religion's a sham, ... and I'm not going to church any more, it's just bullshit". She stopped going to church, but continued to have theological debates with her father every Sunday. She became disenchanted with organised religion and although she maintained an interest in spirituality she complained that she "brushed up against too many examples of 'hypocritical' spiritualists."
On aging and the pressures of women resorting to plastic surgery, Manson has said that she doesn't feel frightened, stating that she feels "very opposed to plastic surgery and cheating myself in that regard too." "I've never tried surgery or Botox and I'd like to be able to stay unobsessed by that kind of stuff", adding that "it's hard for any woman, particularly in a city where there's even a remote sense of body and beauty consciousness, and this town definitely has that."
Manson has commented on the subject of children, stating that she
just missed that whole baby calling. I feel a lot of women think you're a freak if you feel like that, and maybe I am strange, but I never got that feeling. In some ways I wish I had had that urge, because I adore children... I feel I can live quite happily with my decision.
Manson identifies as a feminist and has been hailed as a feminist icon.
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, a 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.
In 2010, Manson was one of the final guests to appear on the cult kids show Pancake Mountain. She was featured in a segment titled "Around the World with Shirley Manson", where she would talk 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.
Manson has used her and Garbage's profile to raise awareness and funds for a number of causes. She commissioned a Garbage branded lipgloss online, with all proceeds from the sales split between Grampian Children's Cancer Research and cancer treatment institutions at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital in Scotland and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York.
In 2001, Manson became an ambassador for the Mâ¢Aâ¢C AIDS Fund, fronting their fourth two-year charity lipstick marketing campaign alongside Elton John and Mary J. Blige, beginning with the launch of the VIVAMAC IV lipstick in March 2002, in which all proceeds of the sale of the lipstick goes to help fund AIDS charities and initiatives. While touring, Manson visited several AIDS charities in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Toronto, New York, San Francisco and Madison to make several donations totalling over $300,000 on behalf of the Mâ¢Aâ¢C AIDS Fund.
In 2003, the Mâ¢Aâ¢C AIDS Fund linked with the Elton John AIDS Foundation to produce the White Bedroom campaign, where both Elton John and Manson recorded PSAs promoting condom use and stating facts on AIDS. By 2007, the combined six VIVAMAC campaigns had raised over $100 million U.S. dollars, and as a former ambassador Manson accepted a cheque for Â£51,000 on behalf of HIV charity Waverley Care from the Mâ¢Aâ¢C AIDS Fund on 10 April 2008 at Harvey Nichols Edinburgh store. Manson had become a patron of Waverley Care in October 2002 and previously hosted a fund raiser auction to raise funds for the charity in January 2004 which raised Â£45,000. A Fender guitar owned by Manson raised Â£1,050, while other items auctioned included contributions sourced by Manson herself, from Elton John and Kylie Minogue.
Manson is also a keen lover of animals. In 2007, Manson fronted an international poster campaign for PETA Europe, holding the carcass of a fox under the headline "Here's the rest of your fur coat". Manson has also adopted a rescue dog, a terrier-mix named Veela, named after the veelas from the Harry Potter books.
In 2008, Manson became involved with The Pablove Foundation, a charity founded by Dangerbird Records head Jeff Castelaz, whose son Pablo succumbed to cancer the following year. Castelaz, who's family Manson had befriended in the 90s, had asked Manson to sing "Life on Mars?" at their sons' memorial. Funds raised for The Pablove Foundation fund pediatric cancer research and educational and quality of life programming for families dealing with childhood cancer. Manson reformed Garbage to contribute an exclusive track, "Witness to Your Love", to a charity album for the Foundation; signed off a Pablove poster for auction on eBay; Manson also hosted a fundraiser headlined by the Silversun Pickups, and performed acoustically on-stage at a second fundraiser with Butch Vig and Tom Gabel (for a rendition of "Witness...") and with Greg Kurstin (for a cover of Pablo's favourite song, David Bowie's "Life on Mars?").
In 2010, Shirley Manson donated two hand-decorated T-shirts to Binki Shapiro's (of the band Little Joy) online charity auction "Crafts for a Cause" to raise money for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The two T-shirts raised a total of $1522.00, which was donated to the Artists for Peace and Justice organisation.
In January of 2015, Manson headlined Pablove 6, the sixth-annual fundraiser for the Pablove Foundation. She made a special appearance with Chicago-based David Bowie tribute band Sons of the Silent Age, featuring Matt Walker and Chris Connelly.
- List of awards and nominations received by Garbage
- Garbage discography
- Official website
- Shirley Manson at the Internet Movie Database
- Shirley Manson at AllMusic