Despite a lack of emissions on the musical front, Marilyn Manson has barely been out of the news, worldwide. Ignoring the idle gossip, Rock Sound gets the low-down on what the God Of Fuck calls a terrible year...
"When I decided to release a 'best of' I got to the point where I was pretty prepared to never think about making music again." Marilyn Manson is speaking to Rock Sound from his Los Angeles home. It's approaching the witching hour, and he's literally just walked in the door from a shoot for a short film (which shares the title Eat Me, Drink Me with his new album) that he's making with the new, experimental 3D camera technology. As you would expect, the so-called God Of Fuck isn't the type to retire to bed with a mug of cocoa, and despite the lack of studio album releases in recent years (The Golden Age of Grotesque was his last effort in 03), there's plenty that's been keeping him awake at night, from getting hitched to - and divorcing - queen of the burlesque Dita von Teese to opening his own art gallery, The Celebritarian Corporation Gallery Of Fine Art (at 667 Melrose Avenue - unfortunately not 666!), fittingly on Halloween last year. He's even entered the world of the silver screen (both as actor and filmmaker), most recently immersing himself in the writing and directing Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, tipped to be the most frightening psychological horror you'll ever see! With all these extra-curricular activities on his plate, Lest We Forget, the 04-released best of, serves as a reminder of why Manson felt happier venturing into other artistic avenues.
"I felt like the world of image - and music specifically - wasn't allowing me to be creative as much as making film," he reveals, "I started to feel like I didn't do anything that wasn't objectified as anything other than a product. It was not really me feeling like my art has to be understood, it was more like starting to lose my feeling of value as an artist within the way I live and feel as a person. I just didn't feel like there was any reason to do (music) as it wasn't making me happy and I wanted to put all my ideas into opening an art gallery, my paintings, and making this film about Lewis Carroll."
For Better Or For Worse
Taking a step back from the musician persona he'd created to concentrate on other creative pursuits it wasn't without its problems and led Manson to some dark times - especially where his marriage was concerned.
"The idea of concentrating on being an actor and breaking away from the idea that I should always be perceived as I have been prior to this point kind of got to a place where my personal life and marriage were in a weird world," he confesses. "It was effected by the way I felt and affected by the way I felt, there was no real way to understand which caused which - although I ultimately accept responsibility as I'm the only one that can take the responsibility for how I feel. People say, 'You make me feel this way...', but a person can't make you feel, you feel how you want to feel.
If you feel a certain way, you have to make a change or change the way you live. I didn't understand that, got really depressed, and wasn't able to feel creative. I didn't really feel like I had an identity, it just made me really confused about who I wasn’t and who I wanted to be." With Ms Von Teese jetting off - giant champagne glass in tow - for shows around the world, the man formerly known as Brian Warner had a lot of time on his hands to assess his situation.
"For the greater proportion of last year, my then wife was very busy with her career and I wasn't prepared for being by myself. Somehow it made me make decisions and think of things in a different way. I'm still trying to understand why you end up reacting ultimately to things that happen in life and where it takes you. For me, it wasn't that I necessarily needed somebody around, although I planned on having a particular person around. When I didn't, it made me kind of fall apart. I got to a place where I didn't know what to do so I started thinking about music again because that's always been the best place to put emotions."
The thrust for Manson's musical return was former bassist, now guitarist, Tim Skold's advice: "I was just talking about everything that was going on and how it was keeping me from being able to focus and he said, 'Why don't you just write a song'. I started doing that and the record took on a whole different feel."
While Marilyn Manson's former albums such as Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals have followed distinct themes and have been coupled with a new image and identity, the lyrics have never revealed anything about the author.
Specifying exact times and dates, latest full-length Eat Me, Drink Me is a brave new step for someone who has exposed himself on stages (he was arrested for getting his cock out in Italy), but never bared his innermost thoughts.
"It's very autobiographical but not in the stylistic type of way," he explains. "The very first song on the record is If I Was Your Vampire and the first line is, Six-am Christmas morning. I always assume the people that listen to my records know things about my life and it pins it down to everything that was happening at that time."
The Visions Of Marilyn Manson
If Eat Me, Drink Me is the closest you're going to get to reading the Antichrist Superstar's diary, then Phantasmagoria: The Visions Of Lewis Carroll, his film (which has temporarily been put on the back-burner) is the closest you'll get to the torment he's experienced during the past 12 months. Journalists attending a press conference about the film, in which Manson plays Lewis Carroll, were handed a synopsis which described the protagonist as a haunted writer who finds himself becoming a symptom of his own invention. Sound familiar?
"It's a very thick irony!" he laughs. "Ultimately this film, Eat Me, Drink Me and another shorter film, which essentially is going to end up being the video from my first single Heart-Shaped Glasses (When The Heart Guides The Hand), is almost like the visions of Marilyn Manson as opposed to my script for The Visions Of Lewis Carroll. I more than became what I was writing. I was obviously immersed in it out of excitement, dedication, directing and acting, and I wanted to be the character - but I really became the character. I'm glad I have the objectivity now to be able to make that film after my record is released because I would literally only have been this film and that probably would have been my death."
And he's not joking. At the height of his inner turmoil, when he was in a "really distressed mental state and feeling like I didn't know who to trust and what to do with my life", a dark gesture of devotion from a close friend made Manson get his act together again.
"It was as simple as a girl saying to me, 'Well, if you're so upset, you can stab me', and picking up a butchers knife. It was not so much as a joke. She was very serious, but not in a strange, psychotic way, just romantic, caring, 'I'd die for you' - in the true sense of the word. It only became apparent to me then, when you have no hope and someone else is willing to go down in flames with you, that you don't want to go down anymore."
But before mothers everywhere lock up their daughters and The American Family Association add yet another assertion to their defamatory affidavit. Manson is not suggesting anyone should die for him, it was more the symbolic nature of the act.
"There's a connotation that's related to how I felt before where, in sickness and in health, someone will go through anything with you because they care of love you so much. It was that, but it was more than that; it was someone saying, 'I'd rather have nothing in life and to die with you if that's what you want to do', it wasn't 'I want to surrender to you because it's a gesture that'll save you' it was a true sacrifice that ultimately does not want anything in return. It was weird because I don't think I've ever had that experience before. That suddenly made me feel I had a purpose because I wanted to make some sort of gesture to say how I felt. It was also liberating feeling, not in the traditional, almost clichéd sense you always hear from artists - and in particular musicians - where it's about using it as some sort of outlet for exorcising their demons, it was more like feeling 'Why am I so embarrassed, ashamed and so angry about who I am? Why don't I just be me?' Suddenly I realised what I'd been feeling like for too long, almost to the point where there's a good chance that if (that act) hadn't happened I would be dead. I've never been able to say that in a true, honest sense that wasn't anything nihilistic."
He continues: "I can look back at who I was eight months ago and ever, ever want to feel that way, and look at it like it was a different person. I've been through a lot of dark and fucked-up times but never in the same way. When you feel that hopeless you don't want to be saved, you don't want attention - you don't want anything. It's not a cry for help."
So is he happy with the way his life turned out?
"Not necessarily, but am I happy now as a person? Completely. Things have to happen for a reason and if you react to whatever runs this universe - whether it's your own soul, or nature or God - I'm very thankful I paid attention. I'm also thankful I'm not saying this from an Alcoholics Anonymous 'moment of clarity' point of view either. That would just be too clichéd because it was never about that. It was realising that, where the people around me were concerned - and I'm not going to get tabloid and name names - I was in a situation in my life where I don't think I was liked as a person. I might have been loved in an obligatory or sub-conscious traditional sense of the word, and I don't feel like I was misled or anything. I just don't think I was liked. I think a lot of people go through life tolerating other people and they forget about caring. For a lot of my life, I've obviously embraced, enjoyed and encouraged the concept of living like you're in a movie in a completely irrational world to other people. I started to work myself into a situation particularly in my relationship, where I started feeling like that was wrong, which made me feel worthless with no inspiration as an artist, and none as a person. That was my perception. I'm supposed to sleep in the day and work at night; I'm supposed to drink absinthe, be obnoxious and reckless and I forgot that, because I started to feel like I was forced to grow up."
Having said that, with new album Eat Me, Drink Me and late night chats to Rock Sound offering a brief glimpse into the mind of Marilyn Manson, it's refreshing to be reminded that the man that the media and the myth have made into some kind of inhuman icon to be vilified is actually normal after all. Well... almost! Says the man himself: "To be an artist you can't be normal, that's not going to make you creative. There's no mystery in the generalisation that all great art comes from misery or what people call misery. I'm not ashamed to be a fucked-up person and I'm not trying to be a fucked-up person, I just am a fucked-up person!"
EAT ME, DRINK ME: The 3D Film
Yes, another project Marilyn Manson has been involved with - it's a wonder the man gets any sleep!
"My friend James Cameron has created this new 3D technology for cinema which hasn't been seen yet and I somehow got elected to test drive it as they wanted to try something much more cutting-edge than the children's market. I'm lucky I'm getting to do something that's very much without censorship concerns and quite honestly, I don't think that people will want to make films ever again without 3D format as it's pretty unbelievable! It's along the same general theme as Phantasmagoria but a new, completely different film that I'm going to do in a proper feature-length cinema way. It's a short that's a preview - or an element - to be called Eat Me, Drink Me, the same as my album."
A Brief History Of The God Of Fuck
January 05, 1969: Brian Hugh Warner is born in Canton, Ohio
1987: Brian Warner's family relocate to Tampa, Florida, and he enters the music business as a journalist, interviewing the likes of Virgin Prunes, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and crucially, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.
1989-1990: The band started as Marilyn Manson & The Spooky Kids
1992: The band changed their name to just Marilyn Manson
1992-1993: Marilyn Manson tour with Nine Inch Nails and sign with Reznor's Nothing Records
1994: Debut album Portrait Of An American Family is released via Nothing
December 1994: Marilyn Manson is arrested for "exposing" himself on stage in Jacksonville, Florida. Charges for this offence, the first of many for exposure, are later dropped to a misdemeanour.
1995: Second album Smells Like Children is released, again via Nothing
1996: Third album Antichrist Superstar is released via Nothing and Manson reinvents himself by shaving off his eyebrows and finding a love for surgical corsetry.
1997: Manson's dad starts attending his son's shows, proudly telling fans: "I'm the father of The God Of Fuck!"
1997: Remixes and live EP Remix & Repent is released via Nothing
1997: Manson makes his film debut in the role of a pornographic actor in David Lynch's Lost Highway
1998: Fourth album Mechanical Animals is released via Nothing and Manson's image changes to that of an androgynous alien.
1998: Small acting role in Jawbreaker, starring Rose McGowan
1999: Live album The Last Tour On Earth is released via Nothing
2000: Fifth album Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) is released via Nothing
July 30, 2001: Manson is charged with "sexual misconduct" after security officer complains Manson "rubbed his genitals" on the guard's head. Charges are later lowered to a misdemeanour.
2003: Sixth album The Golden Age Of Grotesque is released via Nothing
2004: Lest We Forget, a best of, it released via Interscope
2005: Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese get hitched
October 31, 2006: The Celebritarian Corporation Gallery Of Fine Art is opened in Los Angeles
January 30, 2007: Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Manson officially split
June 04, 2007: Seventh album Eat Me, Drink Me is released via Interscope