Marilyn Manson is used to courting controversy, so much so that it has dogged his music and life ever since he first came upon the scene in the early 1990s. Yet while the media paints a picture of Manson as public enemy #1 and feeds much misinformation to the public, Manson is nothing like the myth that has sprung up around him or the perception held by many.
In fact, he’s intelligent, well read, open-minded, well-spoken and courageous. A man, whose passion for the truth and his profound insights into much of the world’s affairs provides the impetus behind his music and his very existence. As William Blake once mused, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite”. After suffering a traumatic past couple of years, Manson is back and firing on all cylinders again with Eat Me, Drink Me and ready to take on all comers.
In this exclusive interview, Joe Materacaught up with Marilyn Manson - real name Brain Warner - upon his return to the States from the band’s recent tour of Europe. Here Manson talks about coming close to quitting music, making the new album, the Church of Satan and why the world needs Marilyn Manson.
Ultimate-Guitar: You recently got back from a successful European tour, how was it?
It was pretty phenomenal. I am really happy to be back into performing again after making this record, a record that I didn’t know whether I wanted to make. But of course after I made it, I was very happy with it and to perform it on this tour, I’m feeling more excited, energized and inspired I think than I can remember. So I’m in a really good spot and am ready to start the American tour and ready to kick ass.
Did you find that making Eat Me, Drink Me proved to be some sort of therapy for you?
I don’t think it was really that simple, but looking back it’s hard to really relate to how I was before I started making the record. And in making the record I think it’s probably the best description of how I really felt. Because for the first time, I let my guard down and I wrote exactly at the moment of how I was feeling on pretty much every song. I suppose ultimately it was a salvation of some sorts because if I didn’t make the record, we wouldn’t be talking right now. I’m pretty convinced of that. I know its pretty cliched to say I know the record really changed me and it was cathartic because it was a little bit. But it’s less easy to explain than just that. I think I was really confused as I wasn’t sure if I believed in myself anymore. But it just took a simple step of starting with one song - Just A Car Crash Away - the first song I really sang on the album where I sang it through once, then once more recorded it. And that song became the first thing I did after a couple years of not wanting to do music. I played it to a few people later that same night because I just did it that one time and one person cried. So I realized that if I could make somebody feel something then that made me feel something to because I couldn’t feel anything. And it made me realise I had to change.
In what ways then did it effect a change in you?
Well not so much in the obvious; the one dimensional idea of myself, but in the way that I realized I had to change my surroundings and had to separate myself from everything. So then I could really focused on what would end up being the first real collaboration musically with Tim Skold. It was the first time the guitar player was actually playing almost a score to my life. He was playing exactly what I needed to hear and I didn’t have to tell him what to play. And I wasn’t accustomed to that because I’d always had a little bit more of a problem in steering people in a certain direction that I would want to go. So Tim and I fed off each other and it became the first real collaboration in my career and my life and that translated into my personal life too. I started realizing I had forced my perception of other people’s feelings onto them. I had assumed or rejected the idea in the way I looked at life and romance, the idea that so many people ruin tomorrow by worrying about it today. I think you need to really have a kind of fearlessness. You need to be willing to drive off a cliff and when you have that fearlessness then you’ll realize you don’t have to that, which is the good part. And this helps make a change come about and that is the explanation for the difference in the musical approach to this record. I think it sounds more organic for the simple reason it was the way that I felt and it was the way I was making Tim feel because we were really close as he was the only person I saw on a daily basis last year.
Obviously with Tim’s input the record does sound more guitar oriented than your previous efforts?
Yeah but I think it’s a different kind of guitar orientation. It does come across as more guitar because there is a one minute guitar solo in Putting Holes In Happiness - and to be honest with you, I insisted that it be that long. I thought if Tim was going to go for it, then he really needed to match the vocal take. It’s a little melancholic and sardonic and a little bit arrogant. And I love that guitar solo as I don’t usually invite guitar solos onto my records. I really liked what Tim brought to the table.
You mentioned earlier the album is more organic, you can hear this particularly when it comes to the guitar tracks.
Yeah a lot of the songs have only like two tracks on it compared to the past where some tracks on Antichrist Superstar had anywhere up to 27 guitar tracks! It’s all relative though as that goes to making a sound. Tim was very determined as a guitar player where he felt there was a lot of scrutiny where people were aware of what he could accomplish. So that made him rise to the occasion. We recorded a lot of stuff in a non-modern way, like he played a lot of the guitar parts without stopping or redoing them or cutting and pasting or fixing then within Pro Tools. And a lot of the vocal takes I did especially Just A Car Crash Away are just one take. It wasn’t just for the sake that we wanted to prove something it was just because recording that way had a lot of spirit to it. And lot of the time you can’t really top it.
Speaking of guitars, what sort of guitars and amps did Tim use?
He used a lot of different ones, everything from Gibson Les Pauls to a Thunderbird to even my vintage Ibanez Artist. But for the most part, though I don’t want to be held responsible since he always had his back to me, he was using a Les Paul since he’s very fond of them. On this the tour he is using a Thunderbird that’s been modified to accommodate more of a Les Paul sound through Marshall amplifiers.
You once stated that that music and art expressed much spiritual truths than religion does today?
I think the people at this point don’t even know what they’re worshipping a lot of the times. It’s more about they’ve fallen into, like a habit or something that they’re expected to fall in line with. But ultimately isn’t religion about creation? And if you put something into the world, whether people hate it or like it, at least you’re making people feel something. To me that is as spiritual as I can get.
Do you think the shock value of your music has lost a lot of its effect because kids of today are being bombarded by continuous images of violence and war by the media?
I don’t think my music ever had any shock value to it. I mean there were moments and there will be more moments where something that I do ends up in a place where it seem really odd and controversial. Yet when you compare to what’s been before and after it…people getting all worked up. But they’re not living in the real world. A world where people are fuckin’ each other, drinking alcohol like savages, it’s become a free for all. Yet I get censored. But I think if you can make people think about something, whether they hate it or like it, if you get their attention and they think about then that’s all you can do as an artist. And today we have to combine that with the world we live in where anyone can be famous. Yet because you can’t confuse fame with art, you have to really think about whether it’s going to be a productive thing in the end. Not everyone has the ability to be creative though. The world is always going to want to go to the movies and will always want to go to a concert and honestly I don’t give a shit that my record is downloaded because the record company will make deals with everybody at a time where they’re completely unnecessary. The record companies are all about making money. Honestly for me it’s not about that as to be able to have a longstanding career you have to do shows. And to have people really wanting to see you play, that is something real and not something that you can duplicate in order to make money. And that is something that it will always be about. And if you really think back historically, all the great artists died poor and broke or were beaten and killed.
So how does Marilyn Manson see the world he lives in today compared to the one he saw when he first started the band?
The world has gotten really twisted around and backward now. And I think that it’s important as it really has made me feel inspired again and made me feel the same way as when I first started the band where the world was in kind of the same place. It was a world of Jerry Springer, Geraldo and all that shit on talk shows. Everybody was so completely blind to the fact that CNN is like a 24 hour horror show so there is nothing I can do to be more offensive though I’m not trying to be. To blame entertainment is really a longstanding horrifying tradition where the people who are unable to be creative or artistic, generally the politicians or religious leaders, will always control and suppress and convince the masses that those who are creative are worthless. It’s really bad. I’ve risked my life by standing up for what I do. I think that its time for me now to not give up. It’s time to stand up strong again.
How do you view your association with the late Church Of Satan founder Anton LeVay?
Anton LeVay was in my opinion a modern philosopher in the tradition of Jung or Nietzsche. I was very fortunate to meet him and talk to him and as some sort of honorary gesture whether that was theatrical on his part or not as I was quite young, he bestowed upon me the title of Honorary Ordained Minister. I think that he really felt that I was representing whatever he wanted to accomplish but I never felt like I was in the position to speak on behalf of any sort of content that could be considered religion. I always thought it was more a philosophy. To me, anything that is a church is really just far too close minded.
Do you practice any specific philosophies outlined by the Church of Satan?
I don’t practice anything, I just perform it! This is how I see it as it’s what I believe is ingrained in mind as far as what I do believe and what I condense. Basically it is simple small version of what he wanted to say; that you be yourself and to not be afraid to say what you think and to not don’t simply believe something just because everyone else does.
Finally when it comes to touring is it any less debauched these days out on the road?
I think unfortunately it is not. (laughs) I think it’s more of a renaissance of decadence. I learned that it is not how much or what kind of drug or alcohol you do, it’s why you’re doing it. If you’re doing it because you’re miserable, then you’re doomed. But if you’re doing because you’re having a good time then who is to tell you differently? It’s all about today and having responsibility for your actions because you have to live with the repercussions of what you do. Yet so many people ruin today because they worry about tomorrow.