A day before his date with Denver, the controversial performer reflects on religion, his new record and reality TV
By Sarah Quelland
Marilyn Manson is spending the day doing phone interviews from Kansas City, Mo. In the past 12 days, OzzFest has hit six cities in four states. Tomorrow, the tour stops in Denver, Colo., and Manson's plans to perform have sparked controversy and divided the community into protesters and defenders.
With a soft, eloquent manner of speaking and the kind of insights you expect from a college professor, Manson is forthcoming with his answers. Only once does he betray any apprehension about playing in Denver, where the community is still reeling from the Columbine tragedy of 1999.
Still, Manson has been wrongfully accused of influencing the school shooting and irrationally persecuted for the acts of violence that seem to be plaguing the nation. He's been the subject of a witch hunt driven by misplaced fear and misdirected anger.
It's unfortunate that many people aren't willing to look past his violent images and listen to what he's really trying to say. He's voicing legitimate frustration with the hypocrisy he sees in society's collective value system and attempting to make people think outside the box.
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make is to think that he's anti-God, but as Manson explains, "The only thing that I dislike about religion is the way people use it to hurt other people. I don't have a problem with the idea of God or what's in The Bible. I just don't think anyone can own a copyright on it, because it's something you should interpret for yourself."
Manson says that he "learned to find really basic psychological symbolisms in the Bible and appreciate it in a nonreligious way and realize that I can find spirituality and find God in what I create, and I don't need to find it in The Bible. It's kind of absurd when you think about it in the end. It's not absurd for people to want to believe in God, but it's absurd to put all of your beliefs into a bunch of paper."
There was talk that Manson would read passages from The Bible at the Denver show. He laughs when I ask him: "I might throw a few quotes out. There's a passage in Psalms that talks about dashing the little ones against the stones [Psalms 137:9]. There's tons of violence, there's tons of sex, there's stories of rape, incest, people putting feces on their faces for punishment, sins against God - it just goes on and on."
"And that's just if you want to look for it. So if they want to look for the bad things in what I do, I just want to show them that there's bad things in any place you want to look. If you see something as being sick, it's probably because you're sick that you're seeing it."
As for the people attacking him for his individualistic ideas, he states, "I think that rather than treating them with the same disrespect and violence that they try to treat me with, I'm just going to give them what they want. I'm going to read them their own Bible."
"I've always thought," Manson adds, "it was ironic and insulting that someone wants to blame me for making music when I'm doing something positive by not hurting others, instead putting my anger into a song. I think that's a positive thing. I think artists should be commended for what they do, not silenced."
Manson was criticised and censored for the graphic cover of his latest record, Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death), on which he was depicted jawless and crucified. He observes, "It's strange that we accept the crucifix as if it were an everyday part of our household or a necklace to be worn. It's a very violent symbol, and if you think about how many people died in the name of that symbol, it's strange to wonder why the hammer and sickle is taboo or a swastika is taboo and the crucifix isn't." Not to mention, he adds, "It's the most successful piece of merchandise ever in the history of the world."
Manson explains Holy Wood saying, "It was sort of pointing out that circle that religion is the origin of entertainment, and I was trying to show that I could relate my life to characters in history like Christ or Kennedy or John Lennon and how people are often martyred for being misunderstood."
Discussing the corresponding novel, which he hopes to release this year, Manson says, "What will probably confuse or make sense in the end to everybody is Holy Wood as a book was something that was existing in a loose form since the creation of Antichrist Superstar. It's very much like my story and 'Holy Wood' is very much an exaggeration of the world we live in to its extreme."
Manson is often defined as a "shock rocker," and when asked what shocks him, he replies, "I'm shocked by the double standards more than anything. I'm shocked that my new video The Nobodies has the word 'dead' censored out of the chorus. It's in no way offensive. But," he continues, "I can watch Jerry Springer and they're chanting 'big fat whore' and there's naked women in a bathtub together. It's blurred out, but it's still just a step away from pornography."
Reflecting on the Kennedy assassination, he says with some horror, "The Zapruder film we all grew up watching, that's a murder, on television, live."
Despite everything, Manson says, "I think we're living in the least violent times ever. No one should have anything to complain about. We're not feeding the Christians to the lions anymore," though he jokes, "I would lobby for that as a reality TV [show] 'cause it would be entertaining.
"But," he continues, "there's nothing [more] violent about the times we're in now. It's just more televised. Everyone's got a camera and everyone wants to see it. But imagine if they had cameras around during the Civil War."
Ultimately, he says, "I think we're in a voyeuristic culture now more than a violent one. People want to live vicariously. They want to see things through other people's eyes. They want to watch college girl webcam. They want to see reality TV. They want to have virtual reality. I try and encourage my fans to express themselves, always create rather than sit in front of a video game. I mean, I'm a big fan of movies, but I like to read books more."
"I think, in a way," he goes on, "we're just living more through our imagination. It might be putting us to a better place, or it might just be making us more stupid. I'm not real sure where it's going. [But] I think if people used the Internet for the knowledge they can gain from it, rather than looking at pornography or gossip, there's a great potential for that to be the place where the revolution of our time will be."
Wrapping up, he says, "Do I have all the answers? No, I don't think so. I just try to make each day the best 'cause I don't know if I'll be here tomorrow. Especially tomorrow," he says with a wry laugh, "since I'm going to Denver."