October 3, 2018 Interview – Steve Marker of Garbage
Back in the early ’90s the Alternative Rock scene was flourishing, maintaining a strong grip on the radio as well as MTV markets. An era in Rock many like to refer to as Grunge, beyond the trends arose a unique band called Garbage. With no divine plan in place, the four musicians, with four different backgrounds, assembled in Madison, Wisconsin of all places, soon to rocket to the top of charts with a unique blend of Alternative Rock, Pop, and Electronic sounds. Maintaining their own style through the years, all while progressing, Garbage has now been established for over twenty years as they continue to meet tremendously positive fanfare around the globe.
Currently visiting cities all over the world in honor of the 20th anniversary of their mega successful 1998 album, Version 2.0, Garbage are celebrating the past, but still have their sights set on the future. Taking the time to reflect on it all, co-founding Guitarist Steve Marker sat down to discuss the history of the band, the importance of democracy in their songwriting, their plans for new music, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Garbage has been established for over two decades and in that time the band has attained a mass of success, toured the world, as well as become a leader in Alternative Rock music. First, tell us, what has the journey been like for you and the band.
Steve Marker – It’s been an incredible journey. It started with a really vague idea of four people who were friends and wanted to make music together, but didn’t know what that was going to be, certainly didn’t know where it was going to go. We went into the studio, started throwing ideas around, and somehow, I don’t know how, it turned into something people liked and we were proud of. We have lived some amazing times, good and bad through this band. We’ve seen the world and been able to interact with people on a level that people don’t experience and we are very lucky to have that.
CrypticRock.com – It is something special. The band has a very unique style, you can tell it is Garbage as soon as you hear it. As four friends going in to make music, over time you developed as a unit. That in mind, how would you describe the creative outlook of the band?
Steve Marker – It’s real important that it is a democracy between four people; it’s an equal partnership. All four of us have ideas in every area – songwriting, a guitar part, or maybe a lyrical melody. Basically, anybody’s ideas are given the opportunity to either work or not work; we will try anything. There isn’t one person bringing a song in and dictating how it’s going to go, or even dictating our next album.
Whatever that thing Garbage is, it is the result of the four of us arguing about things, sifting through ideas, and somehow coming to a consensus. All four of us have to agree that it’s the right thing, otherwise it doesn’t get done. For better or worse, that is how we work.
CrypticRock.com – That is a positive way to do things where everyone has equal input. The band’s 1998 album Version 2.0 recently turned 20-years-old back in May. Obviously a milestone album in the band’s story, looking back, what was that time like for the band?
Steve Marker – It was super exciting because we had this first album that did surprisingly well. Like I said, we didn’t know what we were doing at first – put this first record out and it kind of caught on in a lot of places around the world. We got to tour for two years, all of a sudden, it was a big deal and became the main thing in our lives. Somehow on the second record, we had to take that further, push it harder, and make it better. There was a lot of pressure, because the record company wanted our next record to be a huge Pop thing.
That isn’t necessarily what we were trying to do; we were trying to make something that was sort of our dream album of taking all these wild ideas we had, kind of magnifying them and able to push them further than we ever had before. It was really exciting; nobody knew what was going to happen. It could have been a total failure, but we somehow managed to come up with something that was also a popular record. It enabled us to see even more of the world and tour even harder.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear and that is how the best music is made – it is not made with commercial consideration first; it is made with creative intentions first and then the rest will follow.
Steve Marker – It’s always a battle. Where does what you are doing fall on the spectrum of Pop? We love Pop, but we didn’t want to just be mimicking what was in the Top 40 that week in order to be successful at the Pop game, which is what you often have to do to make it. Pop, to us, also meant a lot of the people we loved growing up – The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, etc.
We also loved experimental Electronic music, so we tried to push that into there to. It’s always a balance you are trying to strike. What we ended up with on that record is what felt natural for us; it is what we came up with and are still very proud of it.
CrypticRock.com – As you should be! In honor of the 20th anniversary of Version 2.0 you released a special anniversary edition of the album and you have continued to tour in celebration. How has the tour been thus far?
Steve Marker – We recently got back from a month in Europe, which was fantastic! We always hope for the best and expect the worst. Everything turned out real good, the reaction from the crowds was unbelievable some nights. We felt, what have we done to deserve this? Especially after all these years. Weren’t not the flavor of the month and the hot new thing. To be able to go out and do something on our own terms that we are really happy with, and have people respond to it the way they are, has been really gratifying.
CrypticRock.com – That is wonderful. You will be visiting cities around the US then off to Mexico.
Steve Marker – Yeah! We are going back to Madison, Wisconsin, where we kind of started out. We are playing a club that is brand new – it’s supposed to be great. We will be at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, New York – that is one of the most beautiful venues in the country, it’s incredible. I think if we were going around doing the same thing every time, it would get boring really fast; getting to play different places and cities keeps it interesting and keeps us on our toes.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you also have not repeated yourself album to album. Speaking of which, you put out a great album in 2016 entitled Strange Little Birds. There has been word the band was working on a new record, is it on schedule to come out in 2019 at some point?
Steve Marker – Either the very end of 2019 or the very beginning of 2020. The year 2020 sounds like a cool year to us. We are working on that and writing songs; that is really what keeps you going. I think if we were just trudging around the world playing old songs, we wouldn’t be that interested in touring. But since we are constantly writing new songs, trying to come up with new ideas with new technologies and using new sounds, that is what we’re really into. It’s what keeps you going and keeps you interested in what you are doing. I think it’s really important to keep moving forward.
CrypticRock.com – It will be exciting to hear the new material. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us what is coming out of the sessions, thus far?
Steve Marker – We just started writing out ideas and it’s a huge jumble of strange ideas at this point. That is usually how our records start, then they get narrowed down and molded into something that starts to make sense. I don’t have the slightest idea of what it’s going to end up sounding like. (Laughs) If I knew, I’d tell you. It really could go off in any number of ways. We never really decide ahead of time exactly how it’s going to end up.
I think the journey and getting to where it’s a finished product is what’s really interesting. Right now it’s rough ideas and it can go in different ways. Arguing amongst ourselves and trying to make it into something coherent is the fun of the whole process. It can be anything at this point.
CrypticRock.com – That is where the excitement and challenge comes from: you have all these ideas coming from everyone in the band, so it has to be fun to work it all together.
Steve Marker – Yeah, if you were a painter, you wouldn’t want to paint the same painting everyday and know what it’s going to look like before you start, right?
CrypticRock.com – Agreed 100%. Last question. Beyond music CrypticRock also covers movies, particularly Horror and Sci-Fi. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?
Steve Marker – Yes! And we listen to film music, as well. Under the Skin (2013) is one where the composer who did it, did some really awesome strings. Her name is Mica Levi, she did something really cool with that soundtrack. The original Blade Runner (1982) is something we refer to a lot, it is perhaps the most atmospheric film every made. The music for that is incredible too. There are a lot, but those are a couple of films we were talking about recently.