Ozzy Osbourne with Marilyn Manson - five words guaranteed to give apoplexy to censors, evangelists and moral watchdogs everywhere. A few months before this summer's Ozzfest, Guitar World arranged for these two titans of demonic shock rock to meet for the first time, via a conference call. The grandest of devil metal and the music's new Great Dark Hope couldn't be more dissimilar, outwardly.
While Osbourne talks a blue streak, punctuating nearly every sentence with the F-word, Manson is quiet and subdued. Picture it, a genuine, English working-class wildman holding discourse with an equally genuine middle-class Midwestern misfit. But the two found plenty of common ground as soon as they settled down for a Satanic summit meeting.
It's an honor to bring you two guys together for the first time.
MM: "It's definitely an honor for me. Back when I was 16 years old, I never would've thought that one day I'd be playing a tour with Ozzy Osbourne. It's great being a part of something that has an impact on you when you were growing up."
OO: "Of all the new bands, Marilyn Manson is the one that really stands out, for me. I gotta tell you, man, the name of your band is fucking great. I think it's a great angle. Really cool."
MM: "I appreciate that. The name is a statement on American culture."
OO: "They re-run these Charles Manson biographies on TV all the time. I mean Charles Manson, he's in the system, he gets fed every day, he's become institutionalized, and he must be the most publicized fucking mass murderer of all time."
MM: "Well, they created his image - the media. If they'd ignored him, he just would have been like everybody else in jail. But they made him into an icon, then they bitch about the fact that he's an icon. That's something that's always fascinated me - this endless circle. And I think the same thing happens with us. Oz; they make us into these antichrists, then they bitch about us."
OO: "But that's been the story of rock and roll ever since it started - going back to Elvis Presley."
Maybe we can talk about how each of you got into the Satanic imagery that's been so prominent a part of your music.
OO: "Talking about myself, it's not purely Satanic. Black Sabbath was never really persay a Satanic band, although we did touch on topics like Satanism and devil worship in certain songs. It was just a different angle. If you think back to the late 60s and early 70s, it was all fuckin' flower power and how wonderful the fuckin' world is. That just didn't seem true to us. The world was fucked."
MM: "I feel a certain relationship to that as well, because of the way political correctness is now."
OO: "But don't you agree with me?"
MM: "Absolutely. For Marilyn Manson fans and people who are affected a lot by this music, the idea of somebody like Satan doesn't necessarily represent evil; it represents an anti-mainstream mindset."
OO: "Anti-establishment, right. Like yourself, I have been treated like the fucking antichrist. I've now been sued by about 26 people who claim their kids committed suicide from listening to my music. That's total crap."
MM: "I've always said that if someone is stupid enough to want to kill themselves over music, then that's what they deserve. That's one less stupid person in the world."
OO: "It would be a very bad career move on my part, don't you think, if I intentionally put out records that make people commit suicide? If everyone who buys the record is gonna fucking shoot themselves, then the follow-up wouldn't sell many records, would it?"
Marilyn, can you recall the first time you heard an Ozzy Osbourne or Black Sabbath record?
MM: "When I was a kid. I went to a private Christian school where they really discouraged us from listening to music. Once, they had a seminar where they said, "Now this is the type of stuff you can't be listening to."
They held up albums by Black Sabbath, Queen, Led Zeppelin...and played them backwards. Immediately, of course, this is what I became interested in listening to, because I wanted to know why they didn't want me to hear it. One thing I didn't realize was that my parents had the first Black Sabbath in their collection."
OO: "When I was a kid, if my father told me not to do anything I would immediately run out and do it."
MM: "Exactly. So I remember when I first put that first Sabbath record on, it scared me a little bit. It was dark, in its sound and in what was being said. I was immediately attracted to it. I guess that was the part of me that really wanted to get it, because I felt like that had been suppressed for so many years. It kinda just opened me up. I've said this before: Black Sabbath was my introduction to heavy metal."
OO: "I enrolled my kids in a Christian school in LA. The other day my son comes home from school and says, 'Dad, is it true what my teacher said to me today? He said he went to one of your concerts a few years back, and that you handed round a big bowl and made all the audience spit into the bowl, and that you wouldn't perform until you drank all their spit.'
I said to my son, 'Jack, do you think I would do that? Do you think that's true?'
And he said, 'No, it sounds like bollocks. It's bullshit.'
I haven't had my kids baptized or christened or any of that. I haven't made them any religion. I think it should be their choice. But a teacher at this same school told my daughter, "Well you know, if you're not christened, you're not going to go to heaven."
It's just a bunch of fucking bullshit, as far as I'm concerned. I don't believe there's a heaven upstairs and a hell downstairs. I think we've got both hell and heaven here on earth. It's all here for us."
MM: "Yes. The one thing I did learn from going to Christian school was that I enjoyed The Bible. I enjoyed a lot of the stories. I just hate the way America has performed the religion."
OO: "But you see, you can make The Bible say whatever you want it to say. You can take one passage and link it to another passage, like that guy Jim Jones who massacred all those people in his religious cult a while ago. It's very dangerous. Now, on the road, I found that one of the heaviest places for groupies is Salt Lake City. Which is supposed to be all fuckin' Mormons, you know? And the groupies are in fucking droves outside the venue."
Have you found that to be the case, Marilyn?
MM: "Salt Lake City, yeah. There was that incident where I wasn't allowed to play in Salt Lake City."
OO: "You and me both brother. I've had people fucking stop my tour bus and turn me around."
MM: "We had a problem in Salt Lake City in the past, but we did a show there the last leg of our tour that was very successful, despite all the resistance we had. We actually played at a ski lodge outside of Salt Lake City. 'Cause there was no place in town where anyone would let us play. As for the groupie scene, I couldn't say for sure, but I would assume that it's because people who feel so repressed would obviously go more out of their way to react - sexually, musically, however it's gonna be - whenever they're given any kind of chance to. I've found that the best crowds we've had were in Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City... all these places where there was so much resistance against us playing. The audiences were great. It was so worthwhile to go there. It was like missionary work. I've always compared what we do to Christianity, in its own way."
OO: "Years ago, I was on my way to play in a place called Tyler, Texas. And the sheriff told my tour manager he couldn't guarantee my safety because someone from a local quarry had stolen a load of dynamite and they were going to blow the fucking venue up. Of course, I didn't turn up for the gig. I didn't fancy going on in bits and pieces."
MM: "I had an interesting thing happen recently in Texas - I think it was Lubbock, Texas. I like to have oxygen off to the side of the stage when I'm performing."
OO: "Same as me."
MM: "And the paramedics refused to give me oxygen because of who I was. The people had to force them to. Because they were Christians, they didn't want to help me. I don't think that was very Christian of them."
OO: "You're telling me things I've seen through all my career. It shows how hypocritical they all are. 'Cause, in the Book, it says that all men are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Now, I've been injured in gigs and been to the hospital and they wouldn't treat me because of who I was.
Because I'm Ozzy Osbourne and you're Marilyn Manson, if me and you have a car wreck, they're gonna leave us to die in the car."
MM: "It doesn't make any sense."
OO: "Can I explain something to you? Without the likes of you and I, they ain't got a purpose. These fuckin' Bible punchers. One time, I got on my tour bus after a gig and we drive for seven or eight hours. We stopped at a truck stop in the early hours of the morning for a cup of coffee. And this guy walks up to me and gives me one of those leaflets, 'Jesus saves'. And I say to the guy, "Where did you come from? There's nothing for miles and miles around here."
He says, "I've been following you all night."
I said, "You been following the bus all night just to give me this fucking piece of paper? You don't want to go to a church my friend. You want to go see a fucking psychiatrist."
I'm not knocking religion. I don't believe in bad things. I'm not a Satanist. It's just a theatrical role I play. If you want to go on about Satanism and suicide, you've got to go right across the board and pick on Shakespeare, too. Romeo and Juliet was all about suicide. It didn't start with rock and roll. Why do they pick on us? You go into an art gallery and there's pictures of Satan, pictures of nude women... in my opinion, we've got just as much right to be artists as a guy who paints on a piece of canvas or writes a poem or a play or movie script."
Where you two guys seem to differ is in how you draw the line between your onstage personas and who you are offstage. Marilyn, you've told me in the past that you were disappointed in Alice Cooper because he does make that distinction between who he is onstage and who he is offstage.
MM: "Well, you can't be exactly what you are onstage all the time you're offstage. Because then going onstage would no longer be an outlet for you. Your volume knob can't always be on 10 at all times. But at the same time, what has disappointed me about different people in the past is when they say one thing one time and then say something completely different another time."
OO: "I toured with Alice Cooper just over a year ago, in South America. And to be perfectly honest, it was sad. It was vaudeville. I mean he's more interested in playing fucking golf than writing songs."
Well, he's a conservative now, isn't he?
OO: "I mean that's okay, but the kids didn't want to hear it. You can't change horses in midstream. You can't start doing one thing and then decide "Oh, I want to start playing golf with fucking Bob Hope." Or at least I can't. That ain't Ozzy Osbourne. And if you don't like the way I am, fuck you."
MM: "I think that's proof why Ozzy is still as big and great as Ozzy is. You never sold out."
OO: "Well, you know, one thing I never do is explain myself. There's nothing to explain. Like with this tour, they're saying, "Ozzy Osbourne going out with Marilyn Manson? I don't want my kids going to that." But in a funny sort of way, that's the best thing they can ever say. Because the more they say that, the more the kids want to come. 'Cause the kids say, "Well, what is going to happen!" We're gonna kick fucking butts and take names. That's what we're gonna do. We're gonna fucking change their lives. We're gonna change their religion. We're gonna turn them into our people. We're gonna recruit them."
MM: "That's the biggest thing that everyone's afraid of."
OO: "Ok, fuck 'em! It's their loss and our gain."
MM: "The biggest thing the conservatives are afraid of about Ozzy and me is that we're encouraging people to think and be creative and break out of the closed-minded mentality of mainstream America. Thinking for yourself - that's scarier than any devil image. I think people haven't looked closely enough at what Marilyn Manson is. It's extreme positive and extreme negative together. It's not all as dark as people would like to think. I mean, they would love me to be someone who tortured animals or molested children. But I'm way more real. And what I have to offer is the truth. That's more scary than any kind of crime I could commit."
OO: "You think you've been slandered? Cardinal O'Conner in New York actually got on the fucking pulpit one day - this is a cardinal, next one down from being the Pope, you know? He gets up on his fucking thing and tells the congregation that I am the Antichrist. And that's wrong, that is. 'Cause you're gonna get some wacks out there that's gonna buy a Saturday night special and pop me one in the back of the fucking head, thinking that he had a vision from Christ. That is my fear. If it comes from the Church, then it's all right for some of these nutcases. The clergy is in a more dangerous powerful position than you or I will ever be. Because if a Cardinal gets on the pulpit and tells his congregation that I, Ozzy Osbourne, am the reason for all the badness in the world, then you're gonna get some nutcase want to wipe me out, you know"?
MM: "That's like putting a price on your head."
OO: "I've had that. I've had threats to my life. Part of the reason I run around so much onstage is because somebody told me a moving target is harder to hit."
MM: "What do you think is more dangerous, to be standing on stage or in front of an abortion clinic"?
OO: "Well, with the abortion issue, I think that it should be a woman's choice."
MM: "But who's being helped by those who blow up abortion clinics? That's what I always wonder."
OO: "The priorities in America are so fucking weird. I mean, you can't smoke a fucking cigarette in public in California, but you can go buy a machine gun. Just the other night, we were coming out of the studio and some guy got shot five times in the fuckin' 'ead right across the road from us."
MM: "The other thing is that everyone in America feels so guilty, they have to put on this pseudo Puritanism. It makes you feel that you can't fit in if you don't buy the right kind of shampoo. And these religions make you feel guilty - that is you don't believe in their God, you're not going to their heaven. And that is why everyone's so miserable. If people would just relax and enjoy art and music more, they would be happier."
OO: "It's kind of religious blackmail, that's what it is."
MM: "Exactly. Well, it's victimization. They're forcing you into being a victim. You're always feeling guilty because you've been born a sinner, or born a consumer, in TV's case."
Marilyn, do you have the same fear that Ozzy expressed earlier, of maybe being shot onstage by some nutcase?
MM: "I wouldn't call it a fear. But obviously I've asserted myself as an antichrist in my time. So I'm sure there's a lot of people who, because of their belief in God, would feel it a duty or pleasure to put me in the ground. Those people make bomb threats at every show that we play, pretty much. But if I were to live in fear, I wouldn't be able to do what I do. In fact, I think the sense of danger makes life more exciting for me. Without the risk of death, what's the point of living"?
How do you guys feel about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You've both been acknowledged by that institution.
OO: "You know what? It's one big hand job."
MM: "I felt like they didn't do a very good job on my statue. It was great to be in there. But it didn't look like me."
OO: "I got a Grammy and all that shit. I like the recognition. Of course I do, I'd be a fucking liar if I said I didn't. But I'm not pissed off if I don't get one or anything."
MM: "I don't think any of that compares to the feeling you get from being onstage in front of an audience."
OO: "Absolutely. You cannot beat that. If you got a gig that's going great, there's no sex, drug, drink or award that can beat that feeling."
MM: "I agree.That's the real payoff."
OO: "And you know what? That is God given. That is the nearest thing to spirituality that I've ever come across."
MM: "That's right. You and I both, over the years, have read about and researched the occult and magic. But I think the closest thing to that power that I've encountered is being onstage."
OO: "Absolutely. I mean, it's like the Hitler vibe. In my opinion, Hitler was the first guy to get an audience aroused to that degree."
MM: "Oh, it goes back to Julius Caesar: someone discovering the power that exists between a performer or leader and an audience. That's what I've experienced a lot and experimented with. And part of our show is a statement of that."
OO: "I'm glad you agree with me. So many frontmen now just stand there like dorks. My job is to get up on that stage and get that crowd jumping out of their fucking seats, and I will do absolutely anything I can to accomplish that. I don't rehearse. I just go for it. Some nights I suck, some nights I'm okay, but every now and again I have one that really is a ballbuster. I don't drink or take drugs anymore, but I can quite understand why people want to get fucked up after a gig. Because, I don't know about you, but the adrenaline rush I get is like a mega amphetamine. I'm whizzin' around the fucking hotel room all night. I don't want to stop. But then I gotta say, 'Hold back, Ozzy, you've got another nine months of this to do.'"
Marilyn, how do you deal with that post-show exhilaration - being that vibed up, then having to come down to normality?
MM: "It's very hard. I feel drained after a performance, and not just physically. It takes a lot out of me mentally, too. It's hard to deal with. Sometimes I have to be around people. Other times I can't be around anybody. It's different every day. It's never the same."
OO: "Before I go onstage, I have to go through this kind of ritual, to make the transition from being Ozzy offstage to being Ozzy onstage. I have to focus myself. I kind of pre-do the show. But every time I go out on that stage, everything that I thought of beforehand is totally blown out the window. I can't stand people talking to me - like social chats - before I go on fucking stage. I can't do it."
MM: "I can't either."
OO: "It's kind of like a boxer going into a boxing ring. I can't stand it if somebody goes, "Oh, you remember me, Ozzy, from when you came round to my house in 1975?" Fuck off, you know? If any part of the day is the worst possible time to talk to Ozzy Osbourne it's before I go onstage. I still get nervous as hell. I still think it's gonna suck. Sometimes my voice goes out. Sometimes I walk onstage and everything you could possibly imagine goes wrong. But I just get on with it."
How does Marilyn Manson prepare for a show?
MM: "It's very similar to what Ozzy's saying, in that I cannot be talked to or bothered for at least three hours before a show. I like to be by myself and don't like to think about anything or talk to anybody."
OO: "Exactly. That's the sign of a true performer, in my opinion. 'Cause people say to me, "Ozzy, you've been doing it for nearly 30 years, surely you must not have stage fright?" But as time goes on, I get worse. That just shows me that I'm still striving to reach something."
Any chance that we'll see you two together onstage on this tour?
OO: "Listen, there's a possibility of anything."
MM: "If Ozzy invites me, I'll be up there."
OO: "I'm really looking forward to this tour. I know it's gonna be a great time. And I say to you guys from Marilyn Manson, if we can do anything at all to give you assistance in any way, don't you ever hesitate to ask. We're not high and mighty, you know. We're here to accommodate you in every possible way. If anybody on my team does something you don't like, you come straight to us, tell us what the problem is we'll sort it out. And that's from me."
MM: "I appreciate that Ozzy."
OO: "There's nothing worse than being on the road with people you don't like. We're all a fucking team. What's mine is yours, you know"?
MM: "Great. Thanks again."
OO: "'Cause we're out there to do one job, and that's to give them kids the best day of their fucking lives."
MM: "I think we will do that."