People just can't help asking Butch Vig about the past. As the album that elevated Vig's career as a rock producer -- Nirvana's "Nevermind" -- turned 20 last month, the '90s nostalgia questions came out in full force… again.
"When I first started Garbage, no one knew who we were," Vig tells Billboard.com. "We would do interviews and say, 'Oh, we made a Garbage record,' they would look at me and say, 'Oh, what was it like working with Kurt Cobain?' But a couple years later, no one wanted to interview me -- they just wanted to talk to Shirley [Manson, Garbage's outspoken vocalist]."
After a five-year hiatus, Garbage is getting back on the horse -- beginning with their currently-untitled fifth album, which Vig (drummer/producer), Manson, bassist Duke Erikson and guitarist Steve Marker are finishing in L.A. throughout the next few weeks, and will tour next year. "The five-year break gave everybody the space to clear any excess baggage out of their head space," Vig says.
The electro-meets-altrock act, formed in Madison, Wis. in 1994, are aiming for a late March to early April 2012 release date for the 12-track album, which Vig says will be self-released. Fans can expect new material before the spring, however; a single will drop in January, and the band recently recorded a cover of U2's "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" for Q Magazine's "Achtung Baby" covers album.
"We're looking at this as free agents," Vig says. "We're out of all our corporate responsibilities from the past, and initially we thought that was terrifying but now we think it's liberating. We're going to put the record out on our own label and just figure out how to license it and market it because we want it under our control."
In the six years since Garbage released "Bleed Like Me," which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 284,000 copies to date (according to Nielsen SoundScan), the bells and whistles of a record campaign have changed. But as Garbage fans have seen thus far, the band has made it a mission to personally master Facebook and Twitter. To Vig's surprise, candid Facebook updates and teaser clips chronicling the studio progress have re-awakened Garbage fans eager for a taste of new songs.
From where Vig stands, the new record conjures dark vibes reminiscent of Garbage's first two albums, 1995's self-titled debut and 1998's "Version 2.0," which spawned hits like "Stupid Girl" and "When I Grow Up," respectively.
"There's lots of elements of things we've always loved: noisy guitars, big electronic beats, atmospheric film moments," Vig says, adding that they "wanted to make a record sound like something that we want to hear when we're driving the car."
"Part of the reason why I started Garbage was that by the time I'd done 'Nevermind,' I'd recorded -- I swear to God -- 1,000 bands that were just guitar-bass-drums," Vig says. "I was reading about all these other records that I was getting excited about -- like Public Enemy using a sampler in the studio -- and I just decided I wanted to do a bit of a U-turn. Everyone told me I was crazy that I wanted to start new band and I probably was, but luckily it worked out for the better. I like that little clique of being with your bandmates, being in the clubhouse. And after a five-year hiatus I'm back in the clubhouse."