Love him or hate him, it's hard to ignore him. The ever-controversial Marilyn Manson has taken shock rock to a new level and thrill-happy youth along for the ride while pushing the buttons of an outraged Establishment that blames him for the deterioration of society's moral fabric. Is he the Devil incarnate or just the latest in a long line of out-there entertainers who've enthralled kids and pissed off parents? Probably a bit of both. He's also intelligent, articulate, and possessed of a twisted but engaging sense of humor; as I found out when I talked to him about, among other things, his role as a pop culture phenomenon who's become the poster child for free speech.
Where are you today?
"In the trenches of the war against fascist Christian America, in Biloxi, Mississippi. I wouldn't be surprised if at any moment a bomb came through my window!"
Uh-oh. Are there a lot of protesters?
"Oh, there's more than that! It's just gotten to the point where I feel like I'm the only one fighting for rock music in general, because these people are just trying to take away my right to take away everything right - to not only hear what they want but to say and do what they're entitled to under the First Amendment, it's become a full-on revolution for me here."
This hasn't been the first time, this has gone on all through the tour, hasn't it?
"Yeah, but it's gotten a lot worse here in the south."
Are you going to be able to play?
"The show is going on tomorrow, but there was a show that was just canceled in South Carolina, so we're pursuing legal retribution against the state of South Carolina."
How many times have you had to cancel on this tour?
"Just that one."
It's tough trying to stand up, isn't it?
"Oh, it's part of being me!"
How was your reception in Japan and Australia?
"It's just great that people who are outside of the United States have a greater understanding and appreciation for what we do, because they look at the world, and the Western Civilization like I do, from an outside point of view."
They're more open-minded?
"I think they have the distance from American culture to understand it more than Americans do, because Americans are too close to it and how victimized they are by television and religion. The audiences there were very responsive and very supportive."
After your current headlining tour you're on some of the Ozzfest dates. How many?
"I think it's nine shows, but I can't say for sure."
Are you a fan of Ozzy's?
"Black Sabbath was one of the first bands that I ever really got into, and I think Ozzy is there along with everyone else that people know who have inspired me: Bowie, Alice Cooper... So, it's great, it's kind of like the old school coming together with the new school, because I know Ozzy's gone through a lot of the same things that I'm going through right now. So it should be really interesting."
Weren't you supposed to tour with Ozzy at some earlier point?
"When we were recording Antichrist Superstar we were going to do the tour but our guitarist had left, so we weren't able to fulfill that obligation because we didn't have a guitar player at the time."
What have you got planned for your headlining shows and for the shows that you're doing with Ozzy that different from your last tour of America?
"The stage is a lot bigger, it's a lot more representative of the album and what I want it to express, and we're playing a lot of songs that we had never played live before, including the two that we gave to soundtracks: The Suck For Your Solution and Apple of Sodom. And the band that I have performing right before us, Rasputina - three girls that play cello - they're also incorporated into the show."
Will you be able to do a full set with Ozzy, or will you have to cut it down?
"It's more or less a full show."
When the Ozz Fest is over, will you go back to touring on your own?
"We have to go to Europe - the Reading Festival - and then we're going to return and we're going to do another tour through America, probably in the fall when we release our final single from this album."
What single will be next?
"We're doing a video for Dried Up, Tied And Dead To The World."
What have you got planned for it? How are you going to top yourself now, since every time you've got to do something more shocking?
"I've got to do something that surprises people, and now I think people have an appreciation for what I do, and have a preconceived idea of what the next Marilyn Manson video will look like. They should expect the very opposite of what they're expecting, so this will be something very different, very... very elegant and beautiful and something that is what most people wouldn't like to see me do."
Does that also hold true for your new show? Do you always want to get a rise out of the audience, do things that they're not expecting you do?
Both physically and musically, I like to always surprise people, so I think on this tour we're pulling out a lot of interesting musical things that we've never done before, that they haven't seen at a Marilyn Manson show before.
You seem to polarize people. We get a lot of mail, pro and con, and people seem to really love you and the band, or they hate you. Does that bother you? Do you mind being hated by half the people?
"I think it's flattering. I think it takes just as much energy to write a letter that says 'I hate Marilyn Manson' as it does to write one that says 'I love Marilyn Manson'. So, it's affected them, and I think that those are the same people that are going to love us next year anyway, so I forgive them ahead of time!"
That's very magnanimous of you. What about being a role model? Do you wear that burden easily or not, as far as being this anti-hero role model for individuality?
"I've always said that everyone wears a crown, but someone has to stand and be king. I think I'm really the voice that is speaking for everyone and I think that everyone who is a fan or a friend is really a part of everything that I do, so it's one big machine. I think people will be surprised what a big machine can accomplish when it puts its mind to it."
When we talked briefly a couple of months ago, you mentioned an EP that you had in the works. Do you have any more details for me?
"Nothing more than what I said before, except there are a few remixes that we've released just now for The Beautiful People and for Tourniquet. They're more for clubs, I guess. And I'm continuing to take time to collaborate with other artists, and some of those collaborations might appear on the EP that will be out in the fall."
Are you still working with Billy Corgan and Tricky?
"Yes, and I also plan to work with Diamanda Galas, and Rasputina. Some remixes for L7."
When are you going to find time to do this, when you are on tour?
"I'm always working, because it's not really work to me. I enjoy doing it."
Are you working with Trent (Reznor)?
So he's not going to collaborate with you in the future?
"Not that I know of. I think he's got his hands full because he needs to make a new record, and I'm not sure if he's started that yet. And I think ours is a working relationship that we've both probably grown out of. We were very proud of what we've done together, but you can't stay in the same thing for too long."
What about more soundtracks? Anything else in the pipeline?
"I'm doing something for Spawn."
Do you know what song it is yet?
"No, it's not quite official yet."
Are you thinking about the next full-length record?
"Yes. I've already been writing material, particularly while we wore overseas. A lot of the other cultures had a big impact on me. The spirituality of the Japanese people and the people in Spain...
There's a lot more things that I have to look into about religion, because America has left a very dirty taste in my mouth when it comes to the idea of God. But it's more open when it comes to these other cultures, and I think 'God' is a part of all of us. It doesn't necessarily have to be Christianity's idea of God, something that we have to worship and fear. It can be understanding yourself better. There's a lot more insight into my personality that I can bring forth on the next record that is not necessarily so bombastic, that may be more... naked."
I hear tell of some collaboration that you might be doing with Blackie Lawless, a remake of the old W.A.S.P. song Fuck Like A Beast. Is that true?
"Half true. We were asked about working on a remix, not a remake of that song, but after recent interviews I've read with Blackie Lawless where he, I guess, was sort of bragging about his own accomplishments then knocked down some of mine, so I don't know if I necessarily want to do that now. I'm not sure. I'd think about it."
He was quoted as saying that he wanted to 'out-Manson Manson'.
"That's a compliment, that someone would use me as a criteria like that, but at the same time I don't need to be used as somebody's attempt to regain their credibility. I am a fan of what W.A.S.P. has done in the past but... we'll see where that [project] goes."
You've hurt yourself a lot on stage, I keep reading reports of you getting cut and hurt. Is this from just getting 'caught up in the moment' or is this something that you know that you're going to do?
"It's part of the adrenaline of being on stage, there’s a real fearlessness and a sense of numbness and immortality, so often I don't know my own strength and my own limits. In Hawaii, what had happened was I actually... it was a freak accident and I fell off stage and landed on a broken bottle, and it went into my hand and severed an artery and I nearly bled to death so I had to go to the hospital."
Did they give you an IV?
"No, it wasn't that serious. We got it wrapped up in time... with a tourniquet, ironically enough."
What do you say to people who say, 'Marilyn Manson, oh that's just a gimmick and he's just trying to be sensational, and he doesn't believe anything he says'?
"Marilyn Manson is a mockery of gimmicks itself. I mean, anybody who underestimates my own perception of what I do is fooling themselves. Marilyn Manson is all of that: it's a gimmick, and it's not a gimmick. It's so fake that it's real. But everything that I say and I do is sincere as I can possibly be, and it comes from whatever cold, hard rock of a heart that I have in my chest. I do care about the people that care about me, and anybody who doubts me or who doesn't believe in me is only going to be proven wrong in the future."
How did Brian Warner get to be Marilyn Manson?
"The day I decided to believe in myself. As a kid, I was the worm that I talk about on the album, and I became Marilyn Manson. I became the angel that wanted to be God. I think everyone has a desire, an Antichrist potential in them. I think I can feel that in them, and everybody can become strong and not be a victim anymore."
When you grew up, did you feel like you were destined to do this? Did you always want attention in this way and this is your outlet?
"I was always entertaining people one way or another, but there was always a chip on my shoulder and I always had a malicious streak in me because when people told things to me or beat me down and didn't believe in who I was, I always felt like I had the need to 'show them someday', to pay them back in some way."
I've been reading about your escapades as a Catholic schoolboy and how that affected you. Do you think without that bad experience you might not have done this?
"Um, it's hard to say... You know, you never know how, if you would have chosen a different path, what ultimate direction... There's some other world right now where Brian Warner is leading a different life, but I think everything happens for a reason. Despite all of the very negative elements of going through a Christian school, it also taught me to stand out from the rest, because the strict conformity just built into my character the need to break away from that. And, y'know, I used to do a lot of things that, now that I look back on them, were kind of amusing. I would set up myself as a candy dealer, like your modern day drug dealers, because the kids weren't allowed to have gum in Christian school, and I would peddle it to them at overcharged prices. And, obviously, no-one was allowed to listen to heavy metal music, and there was this little group of kids that I used to take their money and I would go buy albums for them. They had no concept of how much a record cost, so I would always charge them twice as much. Then, later in the day, because we had an honor system, there were no locks on the lockers, and I would go back and I would steal the albums out of their lockers and keep them for myself! I remember Mötley Crüe's Shout At The Devil was the one I think I made the most money on. And I'm sure there's kids today doing the same thing with Antichrist Superstar."
Speaking of Mötley Crüe, is it true they wanted to tour with you but you didn't want to?
"I have the utmost respect for Mötley Crüe and the things that they've done in the past. I haven't heard their new album, so I don't know what it has in store for us. I know that they used Dave Ogilvie for some of it, he was a producer on our albums, but right NOW I just have my little thing to do and it's not really appropriate for me to go on tour with them only because it's a conflict of interest as far as what I want to accomplish. But it's nothing personal against them. I think it's great that they're trying to make a comeback, I wish them the best of luck with it."
As you know, there are tons of rumors about you floating around right now. What's your favorite one?
"I like 'em all! I think something that would be interesting for you to see, the American Family Association has a website."
Are you the 'Target of the Week'?
"Not just this week. I think I'm the basis for their entire existence! It's not even funny, the things that they're saying, because they're so libelous, and I'm suing them for them because... they that I force people to mutilate box loads of puppies before I go on stage; that I have Satanic rituals where I inflict multiple slash wounds on teenage girls; that I sodomize 14-year-old boys onstage; that our 'female' guitar player performs naked."
Well, that's pretty ignorant, isn't it?
[laughs] "So it's ironic to me, because these people have taken such an interest in pornography and sin and deviant behaviour, that they've obtained an ability to dream up some very perverted fantasies, and I think if they're pointing the finger at me being sick, they should look at who's making up the stories."
Maybe they've taken some of the stories that they've seen about you and embellished them.
"But they're not even close: They have 'sworn affidavits' from these fictional people that say they've witnessed this, and they say that I pass out bag-loads of marijuana and cocaine at the shows to the audience. It's preposterous. I'd save it all for myself, of course."
There are a couple of stories that I've read and I've wanted to run them by you. There was one that said that you had your 11-year-old brother naked on stage with you. True?
"Half true. Here's what that was based on: Twiggy [Ramirez]'s younger brother, who appears on Portrait Of An American Family as the boy in front of the television set, had run on stage at one of our shows and mooned the audience."
Then there was another one, that you were going to commit suicide on Halloween. Where did that come from?
"That one was true, because obviously I'm dead right now and you're speaking to a ghost. Via the Ouija board!"
I didn't know I could do that! There was another one that you removed your ribs...
"Uh, people said that I removed my two bottom ribs so that I could perform oral sex on myself. But that's untrue. The operation was far too expensive. I think those started because I wear a medical back-brace and created the mythology behind that."
Have you ever had sex on stage, or during a show?
"Um, well, there was an instance on the Nine Inch Nails tour where the guitar player came on stage and pulled down his pants, and I performed oral sex on him for all of about 39 seconds. There was another instance, probably about six years ago in Florida where a girl performed oral sex on me on stage. It was before the band was signed, we were playing in the clubs as a local band. It was during the height of the 2 Live Crew controversy, testing the boundaries, and I found out very ironically, that in Florida white people can do whatever they want; it was only the black people that the police were harassing. I thought that an interesting statement on their prejudice."
Nobody arrested you for that?
"Not at all. In fact, there were cops there and I challenged them to arrest me, but they were being paid off by the Mafia club owners. It's not what's right and wrong, it's only what's popular and who's got the most money in America. Both of those incidents, by the way, were at 21 and over shows. None of that happened in front of minors, for the record. That's what everybody seems to be so up in arms about."
This is another rumor that's a favorite of mine: you were a child actor that appeared on Mr. Belvedere. Did you ever hear that one?
"Nope. I've masturbated during that show when it was on TV, but I've never been on it."
I also heard, seriously now, that you came close to suicide at several points in your life. Can you talk about that at all?
"I don't know what specific points people are talking about. I mean, there's been times, particularly while making an album, that all of us had found ourselves near the edge of whatever sanity we might have. Whether it was worth... [pauses] it had to do with drugs or with psychological evaluation of ourselves. I think we were no more [closer] than anybody else has ever come close to committing suicide. I've always used my bad experiences and closeness with death to appreciate life more, so I wouldn't consider myself a suicidal person at all."
Your band's lineup has changed several times. Do you think this one is going to stick?
"If anybody continues to work as hard and care about the music as much as I do, that's really the only criteria that I've ever had."
So far you've found that it's working?
How do you account for your appeal? What is it about you that people focus on - not your detractors, but the people that like you and like the band? What is it about you?
"Hard for me to say. I think that's for someone like you, someone in your position as a writer probably could say more than me. If I wasn't me I would like me because I represent everything that I like in music and in politics and sex and religion. I'm extreme in every way and that's what I like, as a person. In the end I'm only trying to please myself, so maybe that's why other people are pleased by it, because I have very strong criteria. If I please myself, then it must be good enough for other people, I guess."
You referred to my position as a writer, but didn't you work as a journalist briefly, in Florida?
You're on the other side of the tape recorder right now, and as far as handling the media, did that give you an insight, help a bit?
"I just thought that I had all the right questions and no one had the right answers, and I knew that I had the right answers, so I thought it would be much more beneficial for me to be answering the questions instead of asking them."
You appeared briefly in Lost Highway. What was that experience like?
"It was great, that was really how the whole Lost Highway film kicked off. It was the very first scene shot for the movie, over a year and a half ago. Twiggy and I were in it, it was a bit of a porno snuff scene."
Do you die in it?
"Yes, it's just a real small part, but it was an appropriate way for me to start my acting career because David Lynch is my favorite director, and it was a scene where I was naked and I died, so it had it all. It was very 'Marilyn Manson'."
Do you want to do other films?
"I have plans to do other things."
"I have a lot of offers so I just have to really consider what I'm interested in most."
How interested are you in the internet?
"I think it's important to clarify, when it comes to the internet, that I don't go online, unless it's like an 'official' event, and a lot of people impersonate me, so everyone thinks that they have spoken to me online. I'm creating my own website so that we can clarify... it's almost done."
Are you involved as far as the design and content?
"Yeah, I have to be. I can never trust people to do anything for me because I like things to be the way I like them. Nobody else knows the way I think, so I have to."
Do you feel that the internet is a useful tool as a way to speak to the world?
"Absolutely. I think it's achieved further world domination for Marilyn Manson."
How do you deal with some of the negative aspects of fame and popularity, such as you can't go out without being recognized and you can't be anonymous if you so desire? Does that bug you, or do you deal with it as something that came with the territory?
"I guess that if I wanted to be anonymous, I wouldn't have chosen this as a career. Anybody who complains about that is kind of fooling themselves. I mean, there are times when you wish that you had more privacy, but you make your bed and now you have to sleep in it. It's not something that I'm going to complain about, it's just something that you learn to live with. You change your lifestyle. I have no problem with people as long as they're polite. I understand that people appreciate what I do and that they want to meet me. I'm not going to hate them for that."
What do you do about the real rabid fans who offer you body parts, or ask you to draw blood?
"Well, I treat people with the same amount of respect that they treat themselves - and me."
I hear that your fans offer you prosthetic limbs for your collection now. How many do you have?
"I'm not sure, because I haven't sat down and counted them, but there's quite a few."
Does anything shock you? Is there anything that makes you go 'Whoa!'?
"It shocks me that I'm in America and something like this incident in South Carolina could actually happen, because I thought we were in a different day and age where people were intelligent enough to understand art and music. Apparently that's not the case, and they're proving the points that I've made in my show about the similarities between right-wing religious groups and Christianity to things like totalitarianism and fascist Germany and things like that. They're proving those points now, and I think they don't even see the irony in their own hostile activities."
It must get really wearing on you.
"It's actually become another dimension of what I do. It's not just about music and entertainment now, it's also about standing up for people's rights to express themselves. If they knock me down, they're going to knock somebody else down after me. So I mean, I'm really in the front lines."
Did you want to be in that position, of First Amendment spokesperson?
"It doesn't matter at this point if I want to or not. I've chosen to and now I have to see it to the end, really."
It's similar to KISS and Alice Cooper and anyone else in previous generations who kids liked and parents hated. Do you agree?
"It is the same, and I think that's why I've appreciated these people for what they've done in the past and I think ten years from now some other band will appreciate me for standing for their ability to do the same thing in ten years. If it weren't for people like us, then there wouldn't be this type of music."
Have you seen the KISS reunion?
"I saw it last summer."
I remember that you told me that KISS was your first concert.
"You know, it was like being a kid again. It reminded me of when I was ten years old and I saw the KISS Dynasty Tour."
What did you think of it this time?
"Well, I looked at it differently, but I enjoyed it. KISS are what they are, and they've never changed though the times have changed around them and that's why they've come in and out of style. But they've always stayed at what they've been, and if people think they're cheesy, they need to realize that KISS invented cheesy! They have to be respected for that."
Some off-the-wall questions for you: I heard that the crew was not allowed to mention sports around you, that you get really pissed off about that. True?
"When you move in a detached, kind of supernatural reality that we do, you need to have some sort of taboos, so we've created our own taboos, our own likes, our own dislikes, and sports is one of them. But now, I think I'm going to start liking sports just to find a thrill, to feel like I'm doing something 'bad'. Rules are always made to be broken. Generally, I think it's probably because the people that have played sports at schools when I was growing up never liked me. I think that scarred me."
Between performing live and creating in the studio, do you like both equally, or do you prefer one more than the other?
"Part of me likes each. As for the 'Marilyn' side, the glamorous, show business element of me loves the instant gratification of performing songs, but the darker, philosophical side, the 'Manson' side I think, likes creating and likes to make sure each little note has to correspond with each word."
What about the other parts of touring: The road life, the hotels, the travelling? Does that get to you or do you like it?
"I don't really pay attention to it too much. I like being on tour because it's just second nature to me. I don't own a home or a car."
I have a bunch of questions from our readers. Do you keep in touch with any of your ex-bandmates, like Daisy and Sara Lee?
"I have not heard from Sara Lee Lucas. He is rumored to still be living in Florida, and despite all of the hospitality I have given him in the past, the years that I have babied him during his drug addiction, and the many times that I saved his life, I only get hostility and problems from him, and so I wish him nothing but the worst. And Daisy Berkowitz I saw from time to time, and I have no problems with him. He and I are still on pleasant terms, I guess."
Are you Satanist, bisexual, or both?
"I think 'Satanist' is a limited term. I think 'Marilyn Manson' is a much clearer definition of what I represent, and Satanism is one element of it, as is Christianity, as is little bits of everything. But a lot of my philosophy is obviously based on the writings of people like Aleister Crowley and Friedrich Nietzsche. And bisexual... again, that's like a 'people's term' that kind of limits what you are. I think I like people for who they are, so I don't think it would necessarily matter if it was a guy or a girl, but generally I tend to identify with women more."
I've heard tell that you've had a girlfriend for five years standing, is that so?
How often do you get to see her?
[pauses] "Hard question to answer... I see her as much as I can. She's very understanding."
I guess she'd have to be. Is marriage in your future?
"No, I think that's a Christian American convention."
That you want to flout, I suppose?
"I don't have a controversial relationship. It's not possible for a person like me to, so it's something that I never really talk about, because I don't think people can understand it."
What attracts you to someone else?
"Probably characteristics that are the opposite of my own. People that I can learn things from."
"I don't think so, nothing specifically. I mean there's certain archetypes of women that I consider to be my favorites, like Marilyn Monroe or Bettie Page. But that's just a generalization, I guess, more of an aesthetic thing than something you can ever really have, but it's just an ideal."
What music are you currently listening to?
"I just was listening to Squirrel Nut Zippers... Judas Priest's Point of Entry, the Pretenders first album. Fiona Apple, Monster Magnet's Dopes To Infinity."
This reader wants to know your natural hair color, what color your eyes really are, and your height and weight.
"Well, there's nothing natural about me. In fact I've gone to great lengths to modify my body in different ways, whether it's through coloring, scarification, plastic surgery, all sorts of things, to make myself less of what I used to be. Maybe that's my way of forgetting who I was. It's not that I'm ashamed of what I was, I think it was just part of me recreating myself. So, there's nothing quite natural about me, I tend to consider myself very supernatural and very unreal."
How about the future, in terms of what you look for, what you want, how long you think the band will be together. Where do you see this going?
"The band will be together as long as we enjoy doing this. When we stop enjoying this is when we stop being together. I think the way I think doesn't necessarily have to be limited to music, it could exist in other forms, so... I think I'll always be expressing myself, I can' t promise it will always be in music, but I think music's my favorite way so I'm sure we'll probably remain in music for quite some time."
Do you have anything else to say to your fans?
"I appreciate the ones who take the time to understand. I appreciate the support that they've given us over the years. I don't want the world to bring them down because they can believe in themselves, despite the fact that nobody else does, because I've learned that myself."