Marilyn Manson sits in the front room of his home in the San Fernando Valley, drinking from a bottle of rose-tinted absinthe. The house feels dark and unwelcoming - his estranged wife, model Dita Von Teese, has recently moved out - and Manson apologizes for the disarray. Without the makeup that he usually wears in public, and dressed casually in black, Manson pours himself into a couch and explains the turmoil that's plagued him for much of the past year - and ultimately led him to restart his musical career with a new album, EAT ME, DRINK ME, due in June. The songs, he says, "are clearly written to seduce somebody," though he is hesitant to divulge whom.
"I don't want people to think that the record is some kind of exploitation of my personal life," says Manson. "At the same time, it also represents exactly who I am and what I feel."
For the next few hours, Manson plays unmastered cuts from EAT ME, DRINK ME and describes his year in hell.
"Halfway through last year I was in such a black hole of depression," he says.
"I couldn't make anything, I couldn't do anything, I lost hope."
At the time, Manson's mother was diagnosed with a mental illness and, he says, "I got trapped in one of the classic rock & roll clichés of having people that work for me rob me behind my back."
He had no interest in making music, and the film project he was focused on - Phantasmagoria, based on the twisted life of Lewis Carroll - became a psychological burden.
Manson says he was finally uplifted by a close friend's morbid gesture of devotion.
"She picked up a butcher's knife and said, 'Here, you can stab me,'" he says.
"When someone was willing to drown with me, I really didn't want to drown anymore."
This theme is depicted in the six-minute epic If I Was Your Vampire, which Manson wrote on Christmas.
"That song is the new Bela Lugosi's Dead," says Manson.
"It's the all-time gothic anthem."
The album's lyrics were written after last Halloween. That night Manson presided over the opening of his Los Angeles art gallery. the next morning he left his home in the Valley and set up temporary digs at a studio-equipped house in the Hollywood Hills.
"Suddenly," he says, "I felt liberated. I'd write a song, walk two doors down the hall and record it right then."
Manson's lyrics, which were recorded over tracks crafted by Tim Skold (who joined Manson's band in 2002 as bassist), came quickly.
"I was writing out of desperation and hope," he says, "The record came out in a rush - like an open wound - and I went with it."
Just A Car Crash Away is a Bic-waving ballad, a death march punctuated by Skold's searing guitar solo. The Red Carpet Grave is classic Manson, echoing with buzz saws and primitive percussion. In fact, on You, Me And The Devil Makes 3 they beat on a metal skunk trap they found outside the house.
Manson wrote the album's first single, Putting Holes In Happiness, on his birthday, and describes it as "a romantic-misogynistic-cannibal-gothic-vampire ballad."
Manson hopes to release a film in conjunction with the disc that he claims "is nothing short of the most horrifying horror that you could ever experience."
He will also tour this summer, debuting live versions of the new songs at European festivals.
"I really wanted to be a singer on this album," he says.
"This is very earnest and uncalculated and raw, in the sense that I know I'm fucked up, and I'm really not ashamed of it."