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"Nirvana was so powerful live that we had to do things in the studio to make them seem larger than life," he says. "Whether it was doubling guitars or how we compressed drums, we tried to push stuff up in your face at times or pull back to make it sound soft or quiet--to give it a sense of dynamics. In a lot of ways, you have to overexaggerate things in the studio, which a lot of young bands don't always understand. A sense of dynamics is one of the great things about music. You can't always control it, but that's what makes the process so much fun."
In the wake of Nevermind, Vig became one of pop's most in-demand commodities. But he continued to collaborate with Erikson and Marker, often on remix projects that allowed them to fiddle around with sound to their heart's delight. Garbage was conceived as an outlet for these efforts and an opportunity for Vig to venture into areas explored by George Martin and the British producers he inspired. "A lot of the records we've liked over the years have been really European-sounding," he contends. "Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, Roxy Music--that stuff to me always seemed really cool and exotic in a way that American records that have a more documentary-like approach don't. They were a big inspiration."
As the voice of this assemblage, the three friends picked Manson, known for her membership in two failed Brit-pop combos, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie and Angelfish. It turned out to be a canny choice. While critics and navel-gazers are captivated by Garbage's dense, noisy backdrops, which drip with the influence of techno, trip-hop and other au courant styles, less twerpy sorts are drawn to Manson, a flamboyant frontwoman with a throaty voice and a distinctive countenance. According to Vig, "She's the focal point. We'll be playing in front of 2,000 kids, and I'll look out and it looks like all 2,000 are watching Shirley and they're not watching me. Which is fine--to me, the music is more important than all the other stuff. Besides, I like being in back playing the drums and seeing all the chaos swirling around the stage. And now I'm enjoying myself even more because I've got this drum sampler that triggers loops and sound effects and samples from the record. And Duke and Steve are both playing MIDI guitars that can drive keyboard sounds and samples, too. We can throw up a hell of a racket."
This combination of elements is effective on CD, and given the frequency with which MTV is airing Garbage's latest video, the Manson showcase "Only Happy When It Rains," a larger public is apt to catch on to the band soon. And if that happens, followers will learn shortly thereafter that Butch Vig in person isn't nearly as impressive as the Butch Vig they've imagined.
"What the band finds funniest," he says, "is that we'll come into a room and there'll be this whisper--'Butch Vig is here.' And I'll almost have to look over my shoulder to try and see who everybody's getting so excited about. And once the kids see me, they usually wonder why they got so excited, too."
Garbage, with Polera. 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, $10-$12, 830-2525 or 1-800-444-