SANTA MONICA, California — It's been awhile since we've heard from Garbage, but don't worry, they didn't break up. Or maybe they did.
"It depends on which one of us you ask," bassist/guitarist Steve Marker said during a recent visit from their Madison, Wisconsin, home base to Los Angeles. "I think we took a break, but some of us think that we broke up, so we haven't even resolved that yet. We should probably talk about that. It got pretty weird between the four of us, and the music wasn't really happening, so we took a break. There were times when it felt like we should break up, I suppose, but it didn't quite happen, obviously."
During those times, the band struggled with agreeing on a direction for the new tunes, but in time Garbage regrouped, agreed on a sound and recorded Bleed Like Me, due April 12.
"It sounds to us now like it was done quicker than our other records, but it did take us almost two years," drummer Butch Vig said. "There's less layering, less electronic things. It's basically just a really loud guitar record."
The album's first single, "Why Do You Love Me," officially hit the airwaves Tuesday, with a Sophie Muller-directed video to follow shortly behind.
"It's a very melodic ... Phil Spector girl-group sped-up-fast kind of song," Marker said. "It's one of my favorite cuts on the record. It's gonna be a challenge to play live, especially for our drummer. It's very fast."
"It also has one of the most metal riffs we've ever done," added guitarist/bassist Duke Erikson.
On the track, singer Shirley Manson questions her appeal to a lover and then questions his motivations and eventually his loyalty. "I'm not as pretty as those girls in magazines," she sings in the first verse.
"It's a weird, weird song that kind of deals with three different things in my life going on at one time," Manson explained. "I can't actually articulate it very easily without sounding like a turd. ... I always feel like I have this duty to explain the lyrics, and I always feel like such a turd doing it, so I just decided on this record I'm not gonna do it."
At the start of recording Bleed Like Me, Garbage attempted to work with an outside producer for the first time, John King of the Dust Brothers, but the sessions proved unproductive.
"It made us realize that we do what we do in our own bizarre little way, and nobody else can really help us do that," Erikson said. "In that way it was good; it kicked us in the butt and made us go back and kind of reevaluate where we were at and realize that what we do is really important to us, and we are the only ones who are really gonna get it done. It was kind of seductive to think that maybe someone else was gonna come in and solve all of our problems, but in the end you gotta do it yourself."
Garbage did, however, bring in a guest musician for a track called "Bad Boyfriend," which Manson described as a "filthy, lusty rock song."
"I ran into Dave Grohl at a Christmas party, and after drinking a couple of beers with him, a little light bulb popped up, and I was like, 'Dave, you've got to play drums on one of the new Garbage songs,' " recalled Vig, who knew Grohl from producing Nirvana's Nevermind. "He was like, 'OK, dude, just give me a call.' And we did and we didn't hear anything for two months, and all of a sudden we get a call saying, 'Dave can be in the studio tomorrow.' He came in and did three takes on it, and by the third take he nailed it."
Grohl only played on the one tune, but his presence was felt on all of Bleed Like Me.
"Once he played the drums on that track, that kind of set the bar for how we wanted the rest of the songs on the album to sound," Vig said. "That really forced us to ramp it up more on 'Bad Boyfriend' and 'Metal Heart' and some of the other tracks."
Dates have yet to be set, but Garbage plan on hitting the road before the album hits stores.