Shirley Manson is the hero we need in these particularly trying times

Outspoken and insightful, the Garbage singer talks #MeToo, Neil Portnow, and being a role model for young artists

Shirley Manson of Garbage
Shirley Manson of Garbage

With more than 30 years in the business and countless hit records under her belt, Garbage singer Shirley Manson is a true rock legend. She also happens to be the rock hero our industry and the music community as a whole so desperately needs during these particularly trying times.

In an interview with Kyle Meredith of 91.9 Radio Louisville, Manson touched on a host of pertinent social and cultural issues, with an emphasis on the protection of artists and female empowerment. Through and through, the Edinburgh-born rocker was a strong yet insightful voice as she championed the rights of underdogs. And who better to lead the fight than someone who’s seen it all? Despite striking success in the ’90s, Garbage was once an unknown group, struggling to get by and be heard, and Manson’s still a woman in a still very much male-dominated field.

Speaking about the state of the music industry, Manson didn’t mince her words. “[It’s] is still a hell hole,” she said. “Its whole purpose is to exploit the artist, and they’re really good at it. And that will never change.” She pointed out the hit-or-miss window of opportunity afforded artists, adding, “There is no middle class at all, it’s either all or nothing.”

The subject of exploitation then naturally led Manson and Meredith to the #MeToo movement. For Manson, the movement is actually more of a “male issue.” “What leaves me despondent is that our culture has sort of looked at the #MeToo movement as a ‘female issue,’ when it’s actually a ‘male issue,'” she explained. “This is a mess you guys made, clean it up.”

Female empowerment has long been something Manson’s been willing to go to battle for. Just this past November, she blasted Morrissey for his comments defending alleged abusers Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. “Fuck YOU,” she said bluntly.

The act of lifting female artists up and giving them the respect and acknowledgement they deserve is also near and dear to her heart. Commenting on how music festivals are making an effort to book more female acts, Manson insisted that it’s initiatives like this that will help change the industry for the better.  “Unless we incorporate positive discrimination, then we’ll never change anything,” said Manson. “People need a hand and we need to start somewhere.”

(Read: Ranking: Every Alternative Rock No. 1 Hit from Worst to Best)

As she well knows, the industry was and still is a brutal battleground for women. In retaliation to the troubling, misogynistic comments from Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, she and Fiona Apple performed a special cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” anthem last month. She had plenty more to say to Meredith about Portnow.

“He revealed himself as the old, out of touch, misogynist that he is … I am very surprised that he remains in that position actually,” Manson shared. “He’s not a female-identifying artist ally.”

She went on, saying, “In same ways I was relieved when he made that kind of silly comment because it’s sort of proof that that’s what women are up against. These attitudes are prevalent in the music industry and they remain that way.”

As a veteran rocker, Manson is aware that she too plays an important role when it comes to being a role model and nurturing today’s young talent, specifically young female musicians. “I want to protect them. At least, put protections in place to have a better change weathering the storm that they’ll inevitability hit them at some point. She added that although she may not personally be a fan of every act’s music, she feels “a kinship” to those that have a certain kind of “drive and ambition.” “I get excited by then … as people as women as little fighters.” Her advice to them, time and time again, as the going gets tough, and then tougher and tougher still: “Hold the line!”

Check out the full interview below. Elsewhere in the clip, Manson reveals Garbage plan to release a new album next year.