- Category : Singer - Popular
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sleeping Phoenix 3
Shirley Ann Manson (born 26 August 1966) is a Scottish recording artist and actress, best known internationally as the lead vocalist of the alternative rock band Garbage. For much of her international career Manson commuted between her home city of Edinburgh to 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 record vocals on a few of their songs; she eventually co-wrote and co-produced an entire album with the band. The resulting self-titled debut, Garbage, was a worldwide hit, and was followed by three 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 the groups fifth studio album Not Your Kind of People.
Life and career
Shirley Ann Manson was born in 1966 to John Mitchell and Muriel Flora Manson (née 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 Brontë'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. Manson attended Presbyterian church until the age of 12, where her father was also her Sunday School teacher.
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, 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 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 – 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 for her attitude to 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. 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.
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 modelled for Calvin Klein. 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, beautifulgarbage, 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 was forced to undergo a 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.
Solo work and unreleased album
"I had taken some of my solo music into the record label. They didn't really care for the direction I was moving in and I found it really disheartening. They wanted a pop hit, which I understand in terms of making money. I get that. But what they were going to ask of me was something I wasn't prepared to deliver and I felt kind of trapped. I just stopped writing. I just stopped. It was stifling".
Manson confirmed in March 2006 that she had begun work on a solo album, working with songwriter Paul Buchanan, producer Greg Kurstin, soundtrack composer David Arnold, and Garbage drummer Butch Vig, stating that she had "no timetable" for completing the project. In 2007, Manson called up a group of artists to collaborate in the creation of songs, including 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 contacted David Byrne and Ray Davies in hopes of potential collaborations. Manson posted three demos on her Facebook profile, written by her and Kurstin, titled "In the Snow", "Pretty Horses" and "Lighten Up". 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."
In 2009, Manson announced she would retire from music, claiming she got sick of the music industry's new practices and had found more excitement in acting. Manson claimed 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 singing after being asked by friends to perform 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, recording duets with Eric Avery and 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 a further 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.
Manson 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 a huge fight with her father over 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." Manson claimed on her Facebook page to be in favour of "science but also maybe a little bit of spirituality... I am not scared of God but I am scared of the word".
Manson became engaged in 2008, and in May 2010, married record producer and Garbage sound engineer Billy Bush in a Los Angeles court house.
"We wanted to work with a female vocalist who didn't have a high, chirpy, quality to her voice, we had discussed who we really respect, and names like Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde came up. And Shirley had some of the same depth."
Manson possesses a contralto vocal range, which has been noted for it's 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".
"We wanted someone who could sing in an understated way, at the moment, a lot of these alterna-rock singers have a tendency to scream. Shirley is just the opposite. By using understatement, she can sound even more subversive."
—Butch Vig describing Manson's voice in the Los Angeles Times interview.
Reviewing a live Garbage performance Jon Parales of The New York Times commented, "Temptress, lover, sufferer, scrapper — 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". 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".
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, 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 and The Velvet Underground.
Manson herself has been credited with inspiring a new generation of female artists; including Ritzy Bryan (the lead singer and guitarist of The Joy Formidable), Taylor Momsen, and Katy Perry 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 and Lana Del Rey at the beginning of their respective careers.