Where is the line between where your onstage Marilyn Manson character ends and the 'real' you begins?
"I don't know where it is anymore - or if that line even exists. I guess at some point in my life Marilyn Manson was an act - sort of like my alter ego - but now it's not. What you see on stage, what you hear in the lyrics on the album, is pretty much the same thing you'd see and hear if you were sitting in my hotel room talking to me, it's kind of scary for me, so it must really be scary for the people who expect me to be a completely different person off stage."
You've drawn comparisons to rockers like Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne. But they very clearly were different people on stage and off.
"I guess that is a big difference. I guess I always wanted to believe that the guy who bit the head off of the bat was really that crazy all the time. I always looked up to people like Ozzy, and bands like Sabbath and KISS as my true heroes. When I was having what I guess you could call a troubled childhood, I looked at them on stage and saw what I wanted to be.. But I didn't see Kiss as four guys dressing up and acting out a fantasy on stage - I saw four guys who were living the life they portrayed."
What made your childhood so troubling?
"I had a very strange childhood. I came from a fairly well-off family in Florida. I went to a fairly strict Christian private school and caught a lot of flack from the neighbourhood kids because of that. I wasn't a very big kid, so I used to have the crap beaten out of me all the time. My entire life was lived in fear, and my only escape was listening to heavy metal. It was my escape from reality. It was back then that I started building my own little cocoon that kept me away from what was going on in my life. That's when the whole Marilyn Manson concept was coming to life."
Did the troubles you had in your past lead to the title of the last album, Smells Like Children?
"It [Smells Like Children is/was originally] actually a song about my grandfather, who was one of the most perverted people I ever met. The guy was into every kind of deviant sexual behaviour ever imagined, and I was indoctrinated to all of that when I was about 14. He's the motivation for that song, and he also was the inspiration behind a few of the things we've now done on Antichrist Superstar."
Do people ever have the guts to tell you that all this 'tortured kid' stuff is a load of crap and that you're just trying to sensationalize your way into fame and fortune?
"Well, you just did. Everyone can react to what I'm doing however they wish. If they want to believe it, that's fine. If they don't, that's totally their business. I'm not the one who's going around openly talking about my childhood or what motivates me. People want to ask about them. I know that it's real. I know that I'm never going to end up on game shows like Alice Cooper. I'm going to say what I have to say then, poof, I'll be gone."
Everyone in the band has been criticized in some segments of the media for the stage names they've taken. You, in particular, have caught flack for ripping on an American icon, Marilyn Monroe, and an American devil, Charles Manson.
"I don't know if the 'Marilyn' part of the name has gotten that much attention - not any more than 'Alice' did for Alice Cooper back in the late 60s, a far more repressive time in some respects than today. As far as the 'Manson' part goes, I guess it's just my way of trying to get the attention I've always wanted. I never have expressed any great love for Charles Manson, though I can understand some of what motivated him, I think using the name just shows proper respect for the devil."
What do you mean by saying that you understand what motivated Charles Manson?
"I've often said that if I hadn't found the right outlet for myself, I might have ended up like him. I've read all the books about serial killers and mass murderers - Ted Bundy, David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Dahmer - and I can relate so easily to what they were going through in their minds. They lived every day, with a massive attitude problem, they felt that life had cheated them out of everything good, and that they had no way of getting back at life except to commit some heinous crimes. I'm not saying that I'm crazy enough to go out and kill anyone - I'm just saying that I understand what motivated them, and I know I'm not alone in that sentiment."
You do realize that what you just said is really quite disturbing, don't you?
"Yeah, but it's the truth. I'm sorry if people might find it troubling or disturbing. Sometimes the idea of killing does cross my mind, and the only thing that might keep me with considering it more simply is the fear of getting caught. I don't think I could make it in prison. But that's not going to be my fate. I think I know how it's all going to end - and that's in total destruction."