MARILYN MANSON, SLAYER, AND AN ARENA FULL OF FREAKY SOCIOPATHS. WELCOME TO THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL TOUR OF THE SUMMER, OR THE FIRST REAL SIGN OF THE IMMINENT APOCALYPSE. OR BOTH.
"Is this watered down?" asks Slayer's Kerry King, suspiciously eyeing the glass of milky red liquid in his right hand.
"Yeah, you're supposed to mix it with water," answers Marilyn Manson, as he pours several fingers of absinthe into a glass of his own.
"That's how you tell it's real absinthe - if you put water in it, it turns milky."
King's bandmate Tom Araya, who rarely drinks anymore, looks on with amusement and mild horror.
"That's dangerous stuff, man," he laughs.
"It is dangerous," Manson concedes.
"And that’s why we like it!" King roars.
The same can easily be said about Manson and Slayer's upcoming co-headlining tour of North America. After all, it's the man who brought us Antichrist Superstar and the band responsible for Hell Awaits, South Of Heaven, and God Hates Us All - two extremely controversial entities who have terrorized concerned parents and would-be guardians of public morality for years - joining forces for what will undoubtedly be the evilest tour of the summer.
What makes this tour additionally intriguing is that both acts really have something to prove. After a hiatus of several years that saw him mired in depression, grappling with thoughts of suicide, and distracted by his unraveling marriage to burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, Manson has finally returned with the triumphant opus EAT ME, DRINK ME.
Slayer, on the other hand, spent much of last year on the road supporting 2006's acclaimed Christ Illusion. Though that album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard charts and eventually garnered a 'Best Metal Performance' Grammy Award for the track Eyes Of The Insane, the band - which is contractually bound to longtime producer Rick Rubin's American label - felt promotion for the record was compromised by Rubin's decision to leave the Warner Music Group, which originally released the record. But now, with Rubin happily situated at Columbia Records (which, in turn, will be issuing an expanded version of Christ Illusion this year), Slayer are finally ready to take their belated Grammy victory lap.
Of course, when you have two of the biggest names in Satan-invoking hard rock and thrash metal on the same bill, the potential for clashing egos is considerable. But when Araya, King, and Manson convene for an interview following Revolver's cover shoot, it's really all about good vibes, mutual respect, and hilarious off-color commentary, even when the talk turns to the lawsuits and persecution that have dogged both acts throughout their careers.
With Manson obligingly offering his services as bartender and absinthe historian to the small gathering, the interview starts off on a heavily alcoholic tip - appropriately enough, considering how much of the stuff will inevitably be consumed on this summer's tour.
Manson, will you be taking a road case full of absinthe on the road with you this summer?
Manson - "Yeah, I have a special road case built for it. I'm not even joking."
King - I just have the Jäger boys drop their stuff off at every show!" [laughs]
Manson - "Absinthe has a similar type of damage level to Jägermeister..."
King - "Oh, this is a lot more damaging!"
Manson - "I don't get a hangover from this, and I don't ever really get drunk."
King - "You will with me on tour!" [laughs]
Manson - "No, I don't mean I don't try to get drunk, but absinthe is not an alcohol thing. It gets you strange - it's an opiate sort of thing, which is what makes it kind of like Jäger. It's not the alcohol; it's the other element, wormwood, which is in The Bible. God sent it down to earth to punish man for his sins. So it's gotta be good! [laughs]
Wormwood, when you distill it, makes this thing called Thujone; it's like the equivalent of THC in marijuana. I have a guy who sends it to me in a dropper; I can put it in Kool-Aid - you don't even need the alcohol."
Kerry, last time I talked to you, you were into doing a shot that was one-third Goldschläger...
King - "...one-third Jäger, and one-third Rumpelminz."
Manson - [whistling] "Shit! Goldschläger, that's got metal and stuff in it, right? That's like getting a drunk stripper and putting your fist up her, and swallowing the rings afterwards." [laughs]
King - "It's a great fucking drink! And now that you've reminded me, I'm going to have to have some of that tonight! I forget about those shots, you know? I get onto one thing, and then someone brings it up again, and I'm like, Fuck yeah!"
Manson - "You're not going to forget around me." [laughs]
Does this mean we can expect some serious post-concert drinking contests between the two of you on this tour?
King - "I don't think it ever starts as being a contest, and I don't think it ever finishes as being a contest. It's just a lot of hard nights, you know?"
Manson - "I've said it before, but I don't know the difference between a party and a problem. [laughs]
People will be like, 'Were you up partying?'.
But it's like, I don't know how to 'party' - I don't wear a hat or anything. I just like to have a good time. A party, it's like you have to schedule an event; people who are not always enjoying life have to make a special day to do that."
King - "Our lives are a party every day!" [laughs]
This upcoming tour reminds me of those old Japanese monster movies, where gigantic creatures team up, either to save the world or destroy it. So which one is it gonna be for you guys?
Manson - "Well, we're definitely not gonna save it!" [laughs]
Okay, I just need to say this - when I was a kid, I bought the Slayer Live Undead picture disc at a place called the Quonset Hut in Ohio. I was at Christian school at the time, and it scared me so bad that I had my mom try and return it. She said it was scratched, but they wouldn't take it back. That was my first introduction to Slayer. And then I saw Monsters Of Rock..."
Tom Araya - "No, you're thinking of Clash Of The Titans [Slayer's legendary 1991 U.S. coheadlining tour with Anthrax and Megadeth]..."
Manson - "Right - I saw that the year I started my band. It was a big deal to me. The difference in the audience when you guys came on, it was scary! I'm not a big fan of a lot of heavy stuff - for me, it's Slayer and Slayer only. I worked with [engineer] Dave Sardy because of the record you did with him [1996's Undisputed Attitude]. That was 100 percent the reason why I picked him. I was like, 'This record sounds fucking hard!'."
Araya - "Yeah, we tried to get him for our last record, as well, because we like the way that record sounds, too!" [laughs]
Manson - "I've blasted that record a lot of times before I've played, so it's great to be able to play a show where you guys will actually be playing. There's going to have to be a moment where we get together and do some kind of I Wanna Be Your Dog jam..."
Your respective fan bases are extremely intense and devoted but also very different from each other. Do you think both factions will co-exist peacefully?
King - "I'm always surprised by who actually comes to our shows. Like, for some reason, about five years ago, girls started coming to our shows. You look out in front, and there's girls in the pit just popping dudes - I don't know where that came from!"
Manson - "That's the most interesting thing about these shows, I think - two completely different audiences. I was actually thinking, if I was a fan, would I be afraid to go to this show? [laughs]
I'm not sure what's going to happen on this one, but I think it's going to be good!"
Araya - "I think just the two names alone will be enough to bring in the curiosity seekers, the ones that normally wouldn't go to a show. They see the two of us together, and they'll be like, Wow, I gotta go check that out!"
King - "I think when we're done, or even halfway through, we'll be saying, 'We gotta take this to Europe!'.
Because I think it's going to be fucking fun, you know? If you're having a good time, that makes it easier, because every day isn't always a good time if you're on a tour you don’t like."
Manson - "Rape Of The World - that's my theory for this tour! [laughs]
If they're into taking it to Europe or wherever, I'm into it. I think the difference in music or audiences is not going to be a friction. The sentiment is shared, I think."
King - "I mean, you've been all over the map in your career, but you've got some fucking heavy shit, so there's no reason why we couldn't do this."
Manson - "I'm not playing any of that, though. I'm playing acoustic on this tour!"
King - [laughs] "That's your misfortune, but..."
Manson - "No, no, I'm kidding - but I wouldn't dare try and out-heavy you guys. It's a lot about the shared sentiment, though, and this new record is as evil as it can get for me, so we're bringin' evil! You're always bringin' it, and I'm always bringin' it - but now we're bringin' it together!"
Araya - "We're bringin' Satan back! We're the dynamic duo! Wait, I'm sorry - the demonic duo!" [laughs]
You guys have taken completely different approaches to your careers - Manson's constantly reinventing his music and image, while Slayer have remained stubbornly true to their original concept - but with similarly successful results. Discuss...
Manson - "Well, the real thing will always exist, as long as it stays real. With a lot of artists - and this has happened to people I like, like Bowie and KISS - there comes a point in your career where you want to get away from what you used to be, because you think you're maturing or you've convinced yourself that what you were doing is old hat. A lot of people make that mistake where they swerve in the wrong direction, and you're like, God, I wish they didn't make that record! But on my new album, I wasn't afraid to make a song called, If I Was Your Vampire or You And Me And The Devil Makes 3, because that's me. I feel like I've made a lot of transformations, but I've never forsaken what I'm about. And Slayer have never forsaken what they're about."
King - "I've referenced AC/DC a million times - we're like the AC/DC of thrash. We don't make the same record [each time], but we always sound like us, and that's what you're going to get. That's why people are into it - there's no confusion about who's playing guitar on this tour, who's singing on this tour. It ain't nothing like that."
Manson, you're coming out with a new record. Kerry and Tom, your most recent record [Christ Illusion] came out last year, but it's already being re-issued...
Araya - "Yeah, because we're on another fucking label, already."
King - "We're kind of at the whim of Rick Rubin. We've been attached to him since fucking '87. If he decides to go somewhere, that's where we go. [laughs]
It's not up to us, and I want to make that clear, because a lot of fans don't know that. It's not like we're company-jumping to make money. But the Christ Illusion album is being re-released, with a song, The Final Six, that we finally just finished. It was supposed to be on the record the first time, but Tom had - what did you have?"
Araya - "Gallbladder surgery." [laughs]
There's never been much love lost between you guys and right-wing Christian organizations. What's your take on the recent passing of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell?
Manson - "Hallelujah!"
King - [shrugs] "My wife was pretty stoked. I can't keep up on current events, because we're so fucking busy."
Araya - "Falwell? He fell well." [laughs]
Manson - "I can't remember if Falwell personally made any comments about me. I know The 700 Club [a talk show on the Christian Broadcasting Network] did - and [Senator Joseph] Lieberman, who is not Christian, said mine was the most evil music ever released by a major record label, which I appreciated. [Turning to Araya and King] I'm sorry, guys, but that's what he said." [laughs]
Araya - "Wait, Lieberman said that?"
Manson - "Yeah, he held up Antichrist Superstar at one of those congressional hearings. But, hey, I'm giving it to you. [laughs]
It's as simple as this: People want to blame me for violence, but [points to Araya and King] I can blame them. That's why I did it! Shit rolls downhill! [all laugh]
And it ends up in Jerry Falwell's coffin! But, yeah, he is credited with creating the Moral Majority."
Araya - "That was his thing?"
Yeah, and he said the 9/11 attacks were God's punishment for all the abortionists, pagans, gays, and liberals in our country.
Manson - "That guy had a lot of balls. But you know what? His death was his punishment for fucking with the devil." [laughs]
Araya - "You know who else is on their deathbed right now? Tammy Faye [Baker]."
Manson - "I once did an interview with Tammy Faye for a magazine. I wore a modified-for-public-consumption SS uniform, of course, and sat very politely. She was asking me for makeup tips, because she has her mascara tattooed on. And then she was asking me about drugs. She said, 'I don't believe in drugs', and she was drinking Diet Coke like a freak. I said, 'Isn't caffeine a drug?'.
And she said, 'Well, God forgives certain things'."
Araya - "Yeah, God forgives a lot of things in their eyes!" [laughs]
Manson - "And I knew so many more things about The Bible than her. She was talking about The Rapture, and I said, 'Well, you know, The Rapture doesn't exist in The King James Bible. It's a 20th-century Christian convention.'
Which I personally was terrified by, which in turn led to my disbelief, and to Marilyn Manson, blah, blah, blah. And she started crying - but her mascara did not run, because it's tattooed on. I took a picture with her, and she told me that I was a very sweet boy, which made me feel very strange. She was telling me about how she started out doing a puppet show, and she started singing in front of me. She was singing This Little Light of Mine or Amazing Grace or something. It was weird. She had on a pink polyester pantsuit. It was ill-fitting. People use the term cameltoe, but..."
Araya - [Laughing hysterically] "How long ago was this?"
Manson - "This was right after Columbine, so at the time, I was kicking it really hardcore - fuck you to the world."
Araya - "We were in Denver when Columbine happened."
Manson - "No shit, you were there? I had just left there. I was in Chicago when it happened."
Araya - "We were there, watching it on TV. We were like, What the hell's going on?"
King - "They tried to cancel our show. They were like, 'Hey, do you want to cancel your show?'
We were like, 'Why? People want to have fun!'
I realize that it's a fucking tragedy, but the people who bought the tickets still wanted to have fun."
Araya - "Do you remember [Televangelist] Bob Larson? I think he's an exorcism specialist now."
Manson - "I used to prank-call him all the time! He's full of shit..."
King - "He rode on our bus for a couple of shows."
Araya - "Yeah, he did an article on us for SPIN; the article was titled, Desperately Seeking Satan. [laughs]
I thought it was cool! In the article, he talked about backstage, he talked about the kids, but he couldn't find Satan anywhere."
Manson - "He must not have ever pulled his pants down, bent over, and looked at his asshole in the mirror - because that's where Satan lives!" [laughs]
King - "As you can imagine, he was a big hypocrite."
Araya - "You would hope someone like that could sit down and have a logical discussion with you, and place themselves out of their own selves, and try to view the world in a different way. But, no - not at all."
King - "Yeah, I'd say, 'I've listened to everything you've had to say, now you listen to what I have to say.'
But he'd be like, 'No! That's not how it is, because that's not how The Bible says it is.'
And I'm like, 'Dude, how do you know? What the fuck?'."
Manson - "When someone defines any of their beliefs as, 'That's what The Bible says', that's like us defining our beliefs by, 'That's what Slayer says!'
But for me, it always goes back to art versus religion. Spirituality is in what you make. The whole idea of God is about creation; we make music. People may like it, or people may hate it, but we're not taking things out of the world. Religion takes things out of this world."
King - "Hey, which reminds me, you don't have to play it every night - but at least one time on this tour, you have to play The Reflecting God."
Manson - "Oh, yeah! That's the song that got blamed at the congressional hearings. 'Shoot, shoot, shoot, motherfucker' - that was the Kip Kinkle song." [15 year-old Kinkle killed his parents and two fellow students, and wounded 25 others during a 1998 shooting spree at his Eugene, Oregon, high school. According to police reports, Kinkle had printed out and framed the lyrics to Manson's The Reflecting God]
King - "That song fucking rules!"
What can we expect from the shows from a visual standpoint? Are you guys bringing any special effects or stage props along?
King - "I don't think we know yet."
Manson - "They're waiting to see what I'm gonna do! We're gonna outdo each other that way!" [laughs]
Araya - "We kind of let the music do the talking for us. If we use visuals, it's to enhance the music that we're playing; we don't want people to watch the visuals and completely ignore the band."
Manson - "Actually, I'm coming out with a wood chipper that shoots shredded red underpants..."
King - "Into the crowd?"
Manson - "No, into my mouth! [laughs]
I've actually looked into it. I'm waiting for a price."
King - "When we did the Reign In Blood thing [in 2004], everybody was saying, 'Shoot the fucking blood on the crowd!'
I was like, 'No way, man. We're gonna get all these fucking dry-cleaning bills from everybody!'.
Manson - "Your merch income would go up, though, because everybody would have to buy clean shirts on the way out."
King - "I don't want to look to give anyone a reason to sue us, because everybody's looking for a reason, anyway."
Manson - "Believe me, I know what you mean. The past five years of my life, I've been devastated financially. I almost went to prison for two years, because some Ozzfest security guard said I humped his head. I went to court, and I won, but the guy was trying to prove that it was a sexual assault, which meant I would have had to register as a sex offender. The guy was mistaken; I mean, I've humped a security guard's head here and there for fun and games, and there's no sexual joy involved in it whatsoever." [Araya and King laugh hysterically.]
Araya - "We went through the same thing that you went through. We were sued in '96 [for allegedly inspiring the rape and murder of a 15-year-old California girl], and it didn't get resolved until 2001."
King - "There was a lot of shit on God Hates Us All about that."
Manson - "But I do have some entertaining things planned for the show. I have a song called The Red Carpet Grave, which is kind of my commentary on fame. I'm actually going to incorporate every tabloid story into the show, and that could nicely segue into all of the fun blame-for-every-teenage-suicide-and-school-shooting things that we share."
Speaking of which, the recent Virginia Tech tragedy seemed to be the first school shooting in two decades where they didn't try to blame it on hard rock or heavy-metal music. Why do you think that is?
Manson - "Because the guy listened to Collective Soul! I'm not kidding, that's what they said on the news. But, I mean, what's the cut-off age for intelligence and responsibility? The kid was in college. If you're old enough to get a driver's license, you have to take credit for your actions. You can't blame someone else."
Araya - "When we touched down in Australia and heard the news about Virginia Tech, my first thought was, 'This motherfucker is trying to mimic Columbine'.
And then, sure enough, two days, three days later, all of that shit comes out in the news."
Manson - "Put it this way - some people think that you can find the devil at the Marilyn Manson/Slayer show. But maybe it's actually a safer place to be than anywhere in the rest of the world."
King - [Laughs] Fuck, yeah! I like that!
So in a nutshell, is this tour A) a sign of the impending apocalypse; B) a chance to give the world the ass-kicking it deserves; or C) a convenient alliance between kindred spirits who happen to have albums to promote?
Manson - "How about D) all of the above? My manager's been very traumatized by working with me, so he always asks me things with a disclaimer built in. He said to me, 'I know that you probably won't like this, but what do you think about doing a tour with Slayer?'
I said, 'Perfect!', and he goes, 'Well, you know, I think it would be good,' like he was still trying to sell it to me. And I go, 'You had me at "Hell"!'. [laughs]
I think the world is so backwards right now, it definitely needs the Devil's cock in its ass. We're just doing what we've always done. Either one of us could have easily smoothed things out, even just a little bit, to get to a bigger level commercially. But now, forget about smoothing it out - it's time to be worse! These guys have put out a lot of great records, but by no means do I look at them as a band that's trying to make a comeback, or that they're 'legendary' because they're older."
King - "That's the weirdest thing when I'm doing interviews and they say, 'How does it feel to be a legend?', I don't know how to answer that!"
Araya - "Yeah, how do you answer that?" [laughs]
King - "I'm not done yet, you know? I just go out, and I fuckin' do my gig. If that makes me a legend, cool! I'm having a good time. It's fucking weird how things are put on you like that.
'You're a legend! You're a legend!'
Sorry, I'm just going out and playing!"
Manson - "I can't speak for Slayer, but I feel fortunate to be someone who's been able to sustain a musical career for so long..."
Araya - "...doing what we like to do!"
Manson - "I think it's because we're creating something that is important to people who are at a period in their life where they need to identify with something. Slayer are holding true to what they do, and I'm really happy that I didn't forget or forsake why I do what I do. We may be living legends, but we're not done. We're..." [pauses]
King - "We're what? [laughs]
Come on - I want to know!"
Manson - "We're balls-deep!"