Marilyn Manson Muses On Politics As He Prepares For Tour
Marilyn Manson, one of America's staunchest and most visible defenders of the First Amendment, does not plan to vote in the presidential election.
The hard-rock provocateur couldn't vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket because Sen. Joe Lieberman once labeled his band "the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company." He can't see himself voting for George W. Bush, either, although he told Talk magazine earlier that he might.
"I think that both sides hate me," Manson said two weeks ago from his Hollywood, Calif., home. "Either way, it doesn't matter. I'm not voting unless there was a third party."
Well, how about Green Party candidate Ralph Nader?
"I don't know how much I like him," Manson said. "It's almost by default.
"I just try and make music political in its own way. I think kids, in the end, care more about what someone like me is saying than what Al Gore/George Bush is saying because they know that I'm not lying to them. America has become very cynical, and people don't care about it anymore. Who knows where it will end up?"
He is, however, willing to endorse Eminem, at least in principle. He appeared in the rapper's video for "The Way I Am" without hesitation.
"I don't think it's important to agree with what he says or what he's talking about in his songs. The fact that he has a strong opinion and he says it — that's what I support," Manson said. "I think people should be able to say whatever they want. And I think he does it in a clever way. I think he's a very talented artist."
He finds some of Eminem's songs insightful "even though they may seem very base." The rapper makes good points and often makes Manson laugh. Still, he thinks their bond is more about artistic freedom.
"In some ways, I opened up a door for him," Manson said, "and now he's created an even bigger doorway for me, as far as pushing the boundaries of what you can do or say on a record."
On Friday, Manson returns to the stage with his Guns, God and Government World Tour, which kicks off at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.
It's been a year and a half since his last concert appearance. Shortly after playing Target Center in April 1999, he called a halt to that tour when politicians and protesters blamed him for the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. (The teenage perpetrators were said to have listened to Manson's music, but it later was learned that they didn't even like him.) He canceled his final five shows "out of respect for those lost in the school tragedy."
This tour, aimed at theater-size venues, draws primarily from a trilogy of albums: Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals and the forthcoming Holy Wood.
"The show, while being theatrical, is very much raw, and it's operating on chaos," he said. "So I like to create different elements in the show that have to be followed. But the rest of it, I don't tell anybody else about — even the band. Then it's just whatever happens, happens."
One new element is a costume, designed by Manson, that is made out of animal carcasses. The idea isn't to freak people out, he said — it's about making a statement: "I wanted to make clothing from things people found useless or ugly. I try to add a new beauty to things like horses' tails, goat skins, ostrich spines and things like that. It's kind of exotic. It's not really that grotesque. It does have a bit of road-kill element to it."
He said Minneapolis was a good place to open the tour because "it's one of our best crowds always. I think maybe being from the Midwest, we all have sort of the same attitude."
Manson, 31, grew up as Brian Warner in Canton, Ohio. At 18, he moved to Tampa, Fla., where he formed Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids. After releasing several cassettes, the group was signed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to his Nothing label. Manson's third album, Antichrist Superstar, became a best-seller, and several states tried to ban the band from performing.
In The Valley
He recently moved to Hollywood, purchasing the house in which the Rolling Stones wrote the material for the classic 1969 album Let It Bleed. That's where Manson holed up to write his new disc, Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), which arrives in stores Nov. 14.
He says the disc tells the story of someone who wants to be part of a perfect world.
"You fight your whole life to try to fit in, and when you finally get there, you realize everyone around you are the people who kept you down in the first place. So ... this anger turns into a revolution, and you think, 'I'm going to change all this.' "
What happens, he said, is that the revolution just gets turned inside out, and the protagonist becomes another product sold back to the people. In other words, he becomes everything he's against. So the question is: Does he sell out or become born again as something else?
Although he felt pressure from Interscope Records about the content of Holy Wood, he said he wasn't ordered to change anything.
Manson is painstakingly careful about how he provokes: "You can take things to a complete extreme, but unless you do them right, it's going to be the thing that people [single out and] say, 'That's disgusting.' 'That's offensive.' 'That's going too far.' There's a matter of subtlety and a matter of figuring out ways to get your point across, to be provocative but not just for the sake of shock. That's what I've always tried to do."
He used to want to change the world. Not anymore.
"What you end up finding is you can only change yourself," he said. "The thing that motivates me is seeing my own faults finally, rather than seeing what's wrong with the world. And seeing what can I do to make it a better place — even if it's just a better place for me."
Holy Wood has a companion book that will be published next year. Unlike Manson's 1997 autobiography, "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell," this one is fiction.
He also wrote a piece for Rolling Stone last year about the Columbine massacre, which drove him into seclusion for several weeks. He spent the time writing and thinking about what to do next. Undoubtedly, songs on the new album will be perceived as commentary on the tragedy. In "The Nobodies," he sings: "We are the nobodies/ We wanna be somebodies/ When we're dead/ They'll know just who we are."
Manson feels that he was singled out as a scapegoat but that the real responsibility lies elsewhere.
"While Columbine was a terrible tragedy, it's not the first. It's kind of displeasing to hear people treat it like it is," he said. "It's displeasing for the president to decry violence in America while at the same time he's sending bombs overseas to kill other people. Those are the kind of ironies that pissed me off while making this record.
"People said to me, 'What would you say to these kids who act this way?' My answer is, 'I wouldn't say anything. I'd listen.' Because no one was listening, and that's why it happened."