THREE YEARS AFTER WALKING OUT OF MARILYN MANSON, GUITARIST ZIM ZUM IS FINALLY READY TO SHOW THE WORLD EXACTLY WHAT HE CAN DO. AND THAT INCLUDES HIS FORMER COLLEAGUES...
In July 1998 Michael Linton walked out of his job. It was a combination of frustration and anger, the result of months of miscommunication. There was no great drama, no display of emotional fireworks. He simply packed his bags and left, without saying anything to any of his colleagues.
Nothing remarkable there — people quit their jobs every day of the year. Except Michael Linton was known to the world at large as Zim Zum, and, until that point, he had spent two years playing guitar for Marilyn Manson.
"There was a total breakdown in communication," says the guitarist today. "A breakdown in personalities. While we were recording ‘Mechanical Animals’, everything was completely open. Manson looked to me to bring something different to the table, which I did. But the minute the album was done, I felt that I’d woken up to a completely different reality. It went from being, ‘This music that we have written is unique and groundbreaking’ to, in Manson’s mind, ‘This music that Ihave written...’. I took that very personally, because I put a lot of myself into it. It just snowballed from that point. It got ugly. It got business."
THREE YEARS down the line. Zim Zum is ready to emerge from a self-imposed exile with his new band, Pleistocene. It’s been a long, strange time. Following his departure from the Manson camp, the guitarist returned to his native Chicago. He didn’t have a band, he did, however, have a plan.
"I put myself through a social experiment, where I shut off any and every outside influence for almost a year," he explains. "I wanted to make something completely original, so I took a room in the place that I’d just moved into and designated that room as the place in which I would build a studio around myself. I didn’t leave the house for three weeks at a time, didn’t buy CDs, didn’t watch any TV other than the local news every now and then, and that was only to get a general flow of the chaos that was going on outside. Mentally, it was bizarre to go from playing in front of 15,000 people to not speaking to anyone, not going out, not doing anything except making music."
The result, says Zim Zum, was a set of songs that "document moods and psychological situations". He recruited four previously unknown Chicago musicians — vocalist Nyxon Ashur, keyboardist Templeton J York, bassist Taylor Barrett and drummer Crispin Ainsley — to help him give voice to his music and ensure that "people didn’t just see it as the ‘Zim Zum Experience’.
But despite the fact that Pleistocene don’t sound particularly like Marilyn Manson. Zim Zum is aware that comparisons with his past paymasters will plague him for the foreseeable future. Not that he’s overly bothered.
"I adapted to playing in Marilyn Manson," he says.
‘With Pleistocene, the spectrum is very wide. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself — I’ll make it impossible for people to put a tag on us. There are songs that will disturb you and songs that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There’s pop stuff and there’s real experimental stuff, and there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be both. Everything has been so watered down that it’s time for a change. And I truly feel that I have that change."
THE TIES with the past haven’t entirely been severed. For a start, there’s the name. Surely if Zim wanted to establish himself as something other than ‘Former Marilyn Manson Guitarist’, he’d have been better either reverting to plain old Michael Lintan or adopting another monicker entirely?
"No," he counters. "Going into that band, I established a persona that was not like any of the other members. So when I left, part of the deal was that I retained that persona. I created that individual, regardless of who it was with. Even though I stepped out of that situation, it was going to stay with me."
Were you ever particularly close to Manson on a personal level?
"We were as tight as anyone could be," he replies. "We had to be. We were getting death threats every day; we didn’t know whether we’d make it to the next show alive or dead. Everybody was tight, but then it became about business."
Okay, the $64,000 question: did you walk, or were you fired?
"I was not fired from that band." he insists, his voice edged with mild irritation for the first time. "I was presented with some paperwork, and I didn’t agree with what was on it. I packed up my clothes without telling anyone, and jumped on a plane back to Chicago. I needed to be out of all the chaos that was on in LA. After two weeks, I came to a decision: I would fly back to LA, sit down with Manson — only Manson. no managers, no-one else — and talk about the situation.
"At that point, there was no going back for me. I said I would stick around if they needed me, but I would not be doing the tour. Things deteriorated from there. I came to understand that the separation was fine, but when it came to the press, somebody was saying something completely different. I took that personally. But I would do everything exactly the same way again."
After your departure, Manson posted messages on his website saying that you were unreliable, and that you contributed little to the band. That must have been galling.
"Yeah, especially when you can see my name on something like 10 of the 14 tracks on ‘Mechanical Animals’. There came a point when I had to stop paying attention to what he said, because people around me that are close to me knew exactly what was going on. For him to say I didn’t contribute. y’know... that’s just him being Marilyn Manson. That’s part of what he does: stirring the shit."
FIVE YEARS, after he first came to the public’s attention, and three since he walked out on a potentially lucrative financial situation, Zim Zum is finally ready to prove that there’s more to him than past associations. Currently in negotiations with various record companies, the plan for now is to use the band’s website —www.ultra-fag.com — to distribute both information and music. But right now, the guitarist admits that he doesn’t expect an easy ride.
"I don’t at all." he states. "It does feel like I’ve got something to prove."
To Marilyn Manson in particular?
"He knows," comes the reply. "I don’t have to prove anything to him. I proved it to him on ‘Mechanical Animals’. One of the things about me leaving was that I felt the need to take music farther than the limits in the box that kept me in the band. You can only be so musically diverse in the context. No, the only thing I have to prove is to the people who only know me from Marilyn Manson, because they don’t really know me at all."