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Shirley Manson on Garbage, Azealia Banks and being a CEO

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Seven years ago, Garbage broke up. The band that brought us the chart-toppings anthems “Stupid Girl”, “Happy When it Rains” and “Supervixen” was done with the music industry that helped them sell millions of records and bring their music to the masses. The 90s alt rock band was formed by Butch Vig, Steve Marker and Duke Erikson, three American musician-producers (Vig was best known as the producer of Nirvana’s 1990 album”Nevermind”) who invited Scottish singer Shirley Manson to front the band. Success came quickly, including numerous awards, sold-out stadium shows, and even a James Bond theme song (“The World is Not Enough”). The band was overwhelmed and soon the fun was gone. So they broke up. But now, after a seven-year hiatus, the band is back with a rollicking new album, “Not Your Kind of People”.

Shirley Manson took some time out of her schedule to chat about the 90s, the benefits of running your own company, and being an outsider who sold over 12 million records:

Your band went on indefinite hiatus in 2005, why was now the right time to get back together?

I don’t know why. It just felt like we were ready and had something to say. We felt regenerated and ready for the next phase of our career. I guess we felt excited to work together again and all those reasons made it the right time.

How does it feel to be with the old band again?

It’s amazing. We’re having the time of our life right now. We’re privileged to be playing again and to be playing sold out shows to packed houses. We’re very lucky to still have fans like that, especially in this day and age when there is incredible ADD among fans, that our following has shown they are still curious about what we are doing and what we have to say.

Now you are back and …it kind of sounds like you ever left.

Is that a question or a statement?

Both, I guess. Do you think people will buy the album out of nostalgia or do you think it will appeal to new fans?

Kind of a mixture. But we’ve been surprised to see how young a lot of our audience is. We’ve made a classic sounding Garbage record, for sure, but it’s a competitive record for sure. It fits in with radio programming right now. We want to reach a new audience and we think it will. We don’t sound like anyone else on the radio. Much to our surprise there hasn’t been another band like ours since we came off the road. We have a unique sound and we hope the new album will result in a whole new generation of listeners.

Do you think your sound has been influenced by other bands that have come up during your hiatus?

I’m sure we have. I think there’s a lot of music that’s come up in the last decade that has excited us for one reason or another. I think young artists are always inspiring because they are coming at worlds from a different point of view.

Do you think you’ve matured as a band?

I don’t know if we have matured as a band per se. We definitely have matured as individuals and we view our role in a different way you now. When you’ve had a long career it feels different coming back and playing festivals, meeting other musicians or meeting bands who have been influenced by our music. It’s amazing to meet to meet artists who grew up listening to us. That’s an incredible privilege.

What made you release the album yourselves?

I think we just decided it made more sense for us philosophically. A lot of collective experience lead us to believe that we could do a better job getting our music out to our international audience than a label that was indifferent. We could self propel ourselves. Plus it’s fun to be a CEO.

Do you give yourselves a lot of coffeebreak? Good benefits?

Very good benefits, naps and lots of coffee breaks.

What does the album’s title, “Not Your Kind of People”, mean to you?

I think it’s just a call to arms in a way to anyone who feels like we do about the world. Just to a human being trying to figure life out. As a band we’ve come from a weirdo oddball place. We’ve never fit into a music scene. In my life I’ve never been an insider. I was a redhead and a middle child, both can make you feel excluded. It’s like fighting to be included, in the swim of things. After a while you start to develop a bit of a victim mentality, which isn’t great for a happy life. So this time our attitude has changed. It’s great. It can be great to be outsider.

You say you were a band of outsiders, but you sold over 12 million records. So are you insiders or do your fans think they are outsiders?

I think it’s a bit of both. At the time we sold that many records there wasn’t anything like us on the radio. We had a sound like no one else and I think it resonated with people. We did attract a huge following, internationally too. I just think it was a case of a lot of people identifying with our sound and what we were saying. I think a lot of people in their lives feel like they don’t fit in, even if it looks like they do. People feel like outsiders even if others think we the lives we live have everything. If they are popular or they have everything they are supposed to have. Even then people still don’t feel quite included.

So …we are all outsiders?

Yeah, man is an island. That phrase doesn’t come from nowhere. I think it’s inherent in human nature to feel a little lonely or maybe alone is a better word for it.

In the 90s there were a lot of female-fronted acts like Garbage, No Doubt, Alanis Morissette, and Hole. Courtney Love. Do you think it has changed the face of rock? Or is the glass ceiling still in place?

I feel like my generation burst through the glass ceiling. But, arguably since September 11th, radio programming has become very conservative. Now, there’s a proliferation of pop music from women. Pop music seems to be the way radio programming has chosen to support female artists. They have chosen not to support a more provocative voice from women, which I find disappointing.

The only women being heard right now are the popular girls, the cheerleaders, the pretty ones. There are a lot more voices to be heard. That’s not to say I don’t like pop. There are a lot of pop stars I like. I really like Beyonce and Rihanna and I admire what Lady Gaga and Katy Perry do. The radio just needs to play other voices.

What about the rise of female rappers like Kitty Pryde or Kreayshawn?

My favorite out of those is Azealia Banks. The first time I heard “212” I almost died. It felt dangerous and exciting and really fresh and I have a little crush on Kreayshawn, too. But I don’t know if those girls are getting time on the radio. It’s great that they are getting played via YouTube or Tumblr, but I want them on the radio. Like in the 90s when Missy Elliott was getting played. You know, it’s hard out there right now for women with attitude.

Where did the song Blood for Poppies come from?

It’s come from a lot of things. It’s really an analogy for a story I read about Afghanistan and the opium wars over there. Actually it’s from a few stories, one about a platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan and the other about the opium wars. I use that as a backdrop for a story about maintaining sanity in an out-of-control place.

Check out the video for “Blood for Poppies” by Garbage:

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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