On the phone from his home studio in Los Angeles, Butch Vig admits with a chuckle that “the muscle memory has been pretty slow to come back.”
Yes, the seven-year hiatus that Vig and his bandmates in Garbage took between albums seems to have left the electro-rockers a little rusty. But the Grammy-winning producer is having so much fun playing with frontwoman Shirley Manson and his fellow multi-instrumentalists Steve Marker and Duke Erikson again that he assures us by the time they hit the stage at a sold-out Paradise on Saturday, it will be all systems go.
“Shirley is in amazing form,” he raves of Garbage’s fierce Scottish vocalist, who helped power the group to multiplatinum sales in the late 1990s with a string of hits including “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Vow,” “Stupid Girl,” and “I Think I’m Paranoid.”
Garbage is not the only band from the ’90s making an appearance on this summer’s concert circuit. Other faves returning to the stage after some years out of the spotlight include Fiona Apple at the Citi Wang Theatre June 30 and a few mammoth package tours, including a bill with Sugar Ray, Everclear, and Marcy Playground at the Bank of America Pavilion on July 28 and Barenaked Ladies, Cracker, and Blues Traveler at the same venue Aug. 18.
But it’s hard to imagine more eagerness for a reunion than Vig demonstrates. Boosting that enthusiasm is “Not Your Kind of People,” the band’s first release since 2005’s “Bleed Like Me.” The collection mashes up icy electronics with shards of guitar, pop melodies, keyboard eruptions, and churning grooves. In short, the album, out last week, is classic Garbage. The chief difference might be a new relaxation in Manson’s vocals even as she remains a great belter.
“I call it a rough playfulness,” says Vig, of Manson’s lighter touch. “We approached the whole record that way. We didn’t want to get too meticulous, and I think part of that was due to the fact that it was done guerrilla-style. I’m sitting in my bedroom studio here, and it’s really small and there’s a couch, and Shirley did a lot of vocals there with a handheld mike. We always thought, Oh, we’ll go back and redo it for real later, but we just fell in love with it. There’s probably five songs that are first-take vocals.”
Another boost to the project was the band’s decision to release “People” on its own label.
“There was no pressure on us,” says Vig. “We were gone for so long, when we started writing and recording we didn’t even tell anybody. We weren’t signed to a major label, we were between management, so we were kind of just doing it for fun.”
Manson made the initial call to her old pals last year after her record company rejected the songs she had assembled for a solo album. After refusing the label’s suggestion to write with current pop hitmakers, she realized she missed her old writing partners, and when they reconvened it flowed naturally. “When we first started writing there were no expectations, we didn’t even talk about we have to get a record out and go on tour. We just went in and started writing these songs, and they started falling into our lap,” says Vig.
That was a marked contrast to their final days in 2005, when the giant corporations they were signed to didn’t seem to care about what the band wanted. That lack of support and exhaustive touring led to the break, which Vig expected to last for just two years but stretched to seven.
“Everybody reclaimed their lives and started doing their own thing, and I think that was necessary for us,” he says.
Vig kept very busy during the downtime, producing a slew of albums for others including Green Day’s “21st Century Breakdown” and Foo Fighters’ multiple Grammy winner “Wasting Light.” Manson also stayed busy, in part with a recurring role on the sci-fi TV series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”
But there will be no stepping away now. “I think that we feel, on a creative level, that there’s a lot of things that we want to do, so I see Garbage as an ongoing thing, a living breathing entity for a while, and I think that’s good.”Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.