"I believe the cure for any depression is expression in your heart, and Gottfried Helnwein was one of the most supportive people towards me. He was the one who gave me that advice, and he was correct with it.
Personal Jesus says everything that I would say if I were to write a song right now. I was listening to it on a CD I just bought because I wanted to really take a step away from the world. I wasn't sure if I was going to put out a Best Of or if I was going to do anything in general with music, because there's a frustration level that the more commercial you are, the more marginal you are - also, the lack of art that exists in entertainment, and the lack of interest. People are much more content with watching The Real World and reality television, than living their own lives, or watching something that comes from imagination.
You know what it is? It's not even Bush's fault. It's America making itself the Third Reich.
Imagination is a necessity, and I don't think it's any sort of bad. I can dream up some image like I did with Helnwein, and they're 'bad', they're forbidden, but I can take an image that's far worse, that's on CNN and it's reality. So we can't get censored. That's the "real world". But that's a bad message to send to kids growing up, I think.
I was not allowed to put [Helnwein's] paintings on the cover of the record [The Golden Age Of Grotesque]! Our anticipation was not to create album artwork. We wanted to collaborate and create something together, and we did not consider The Golden Age of Grotesque to be limited to an album.
All I can say about it is I'm glad that it makes it into the collection of images that represent me as best as it could. I think that it just scratches the surface of what Gottfried and I could do together"
July 2004, Los Angeles
"Hi, I am Evie Sullivan with the Austrian magazine NEWS. I also conducted this interview for the Japanese rock magazine INROCK. Please bear with me because I have a few specific questions for Japan and, of course, for Austria. I just did a story on your friend, Gottfried Helnwein. I'd love to talk about your collaboration with him as well.
Marilyn Manson "Oh, great! Gottfried is one of my mentors - on any artistic thing I've done."
Let's start with your new album. The title is Lest We Forget. What shouldn't we forget?
"Well, "Lest We Forget" is something that I've seen quite often from World War II to Vietnam. And most recently I think they used it in regards to New York City being destroyed, September 11th. It's generally something that is found on a war memorial.
I have always fought as an individual and as an artist who does not separate his art from his real life, if the word "real life" applies at all for me. It's been a war from Bush I until Bush II, and this music has been the soundtrack. I think that, because we're not a commercial band my fame, or infamy, is much greater than my commercial success.
This has been the case in America since the very first day I created this Frankenstein."
Why did you choose this time to come out with the record?
"Well, I had planned on doing it earlier, and part of it was in conjunction with the third video I had created for The Golden Age of Grotesque called (s)AINT. I ended up paying for that out of my own pocket because I wanted to have absolutely no compromises made or demanded by the record company, or whoever else in charge. I don't even know who is my slave driver at this point. There's too many. The result is probably the darkest, most intimate, and fearless video I've ever done. It's not being afraid to look vulnerable, to look unappealing, to look at the end of my rope. That song is a bitter song about people in relationships, a combination of many, not just one. A lot of people think it's about my ex-girlfriend, but it's just about people trying to change what I am, when what I am is what attracted them in the first place, and the self-hatred that creates, and the loneliness. The video takes place in the hotel over the course of two days, and the agreement was that everything that happened is in part a recreation of past experiences in my life, but also how I was feeling in January, which led to somewhat of a breakdown of sorts - if we're going to use clinically psychiatric terms, which I don't believe in, since I don't believe in Psychiatry."
Is this the DVD that comes in the limited edition? Is it on it?
"Well, here's the thing, it's been forbidden by the label, which is just about the same thing as being banned by MTV. The label I signed to, was supposed to be an artist-label that would grant creative freedom. I did not have anyone stand up and fight for me. So I fought for myself. I'm not going to defend the video. I don't ever want to defend my art. There's no need to. I will say that the contents of it probably should not be played on television. They weren't really intended to. It was an uncompromised look at me - at my absolute worst and lowest point: that I have to look up to see shit, that I'm below that. The end result of that video is unlike any video anyone's ever seen, because it's so naked and wrong. I mean that literally; naked and wrong.
But the other thing is, there wasn't a scene I could take out. They said it was entire content. And it's not meant to shock. It's meant to show people that I may have everything in some people's eyes, or I may have gotten to a point where I should be happy - and I'm not saying that I'm not happy - but I wanted to show people that it's not always smiles and flowers and happy songs."
Will we see it on the DVD?
"It's been banned in America."
So where will we see it?
"I don't know about Japan - maybe. I know that in parts of Europe it is."
"In Austria I believe it will be, because they only asked if they could blur one thing out - I had told them I would make no editorial changes - and what I let them blur out was expectable to me since I knew that it was a shot that really took it from being R-Rated to X-Rated, if you're using the industry standard. It's not an important compromise to me because if you blur it, it just makes people wonder anyway. I just said that I would not take anything out. I am going to make the CD with the uncensored DVD available on my website, so that people don't have to go anywhere else to buy it. They can just go get it there, and it's not going to be higher priced. It's not an attempt to make money off of my fans. I'm even going to autograph them all. I want people to get what they deserve in a good way and in a bad way. I want the fans to get what they're looking for, and I want these people who have not believed in me and not stood up for me to get what they deserve."
You have always made a point of saying that your Triptych and the latest album, The Golden Age Of Grotesque, were conceptually different, but why is it that you combined all of those into one big "best of" album? Wouldn't that contradict itself?
"It does in a sense, but only if I was trying to put together a boxed set for example. I would love to put together a boxed set of the Tryptych, and I probably will in the future. I think that the main thing I wanted to do with this "Best Of" was to show people the growth of the band. I didn't choose only the singles. Someone I talked to earlier was the first one to point out that I open with The Love Song, and with The Reflecting God, which are two very crucial - probably most important songs in the spectrum of politics, and my feelings about the world and how they deal with me, and how they deal with their hypocrisy. I like those songs personally, and I like playing them."
I haven't heard Personal Jesus yet. It's probably very different than the Johnny Cash rendition. Can you talk a little bit about it? How did you come about the song, and what made you decide to do it?
"Hold on a second, and I'll grab the CD and make you hear a bit."
Good! I was playing your CDs all day today, but can you talk a little bit about Personal Jesus?
"As ignorant as I am, I really didn't pay attention to the fact that Johnny Cash had covered it. Generally, his albums are comprised of cover songs, and I'm not one to say that's bad, because I have several on mine. But I did not stray greatly from the original - not as much as I have in the past with Tainted Love and Sweet Dreams. It maintains a basic pumping rhythm to it, which didn't occur to me until I had some sort of moment of awakening ironically - and not in the Christian sense or twelve step program sense. People were trying to convince me that I was in need of mental help, not for the first time (laughs)."
And what did you do?
"Personal Jesus says everything that I would say if I were to write a song right now, and it would come out right now. The main thing that struck me, was when I listened to it, I was actually with my father who came to visit me. I was listening on a CD I just bought because I wanted to just really take a step away from the world. I wasn't sure if I was going to put out a 'Best Of' or if I was going to do anything in general with music because there's a frustration level that the more commercial you are, the more marginal you are. Also, the lack of art that exists in entertainment, and the lack of interest. People are much more content with watching The Real World and reality television, than they are living their own lives, or watching something that is from the imagination. You know what it is? It's not even Bush's fault. It's America making itself the Third Reich. It's where the imagination is a necessary, and I don't think it's any sort of bad. I can dream up some image like I did with Helnwein, and they're 'bad', they're forbidden, but I can take an image that's far worse, that's on CNN and it's reality. So we can't get censored. It's the 'real world'.
That's a bad message to send to kids growing up, I think."
It surprises me that you talk so much about recent politics because you have always stated that you don't want to be involved in politics, one way or another. That doesn't still hold, does it?
"It's really funny. That's what people were asking me at the beginning of The Golden Age Of Grotesque. I had just, months earlier, released the DVD Guns, God, And Government which I think, although it's not directly about politics, is kind of heavy handed in its title. There is this line, "Where were you when I had a cross made out of rifles, and I was on a podium?"
You know, I've made my statements about politics, but I make them in art. That's the place to make them."
Does that mean that you will vote this time?
"No. A lot of people fight with me about that: my friends, my fiancé - but it's not a matter of me thinking my vote is going to make a difference or not. It's a matter of not having an interest in either person, and I'm not going to pick one just because it's the lesser of two evils, or the better of two goods, whichever. I don't fit into that mentality. It's hard for me, because I see the only way to be patriotic is by doing what I do. Which most people would think is an absurd statement, but we're fighting for democracy and freedom of speech. I'm upholding it. I might be doing things that people don't like, but that's what America's about. That's what those people are risking their lives for, but they are really risking their lives because it's about money and it's about religion. So with Personal Jesus, I made a video that really kind of points out money, religion, and the exploitation of everything from the baby Jesus to kissing babies for politics. I left religious imagery out of it, because I've covered every possible avenue of the crucifixion, and the analogies, and metaphors, and parables of the Bible and Christ. I don't feel we need to go there anymore. Plus I think it's too obvious, so I wanted to do something different."
What will be the topic of your next album? It's a follow-up of The Golden Age Of Grotesque, right?
"There're about 35 notebooks sitting on the shelf that I wrote on tour. Doesn't mean they are full, top to bottom, but I write erratically because I lose notebooks, and I'll write in another one. It'll be fun to put them back together because none of it will make sense.
When you write from your subconscious and not from your heart - sometimes it's induced by breaking down the doors with Absinthe or something like that, whatever the case may be. I don't need drugs to create, but sometimes you need to let your subconscious think for you and not your brain. Then emotions aren't involved as much.
A lot of the stuff I think I wrote about is bitter in the sense that I feel that I know I can't change the world. I don't want to change the world, but it's not nihilistic, it's like a father who came home from work and sees toys everywhere on the floor, and wants to not have to yell at his children to pick them up. He wants his children to already realize that it's a bad thing. It's not about morality, or about order versus chaos. It's just about reminding people what's important.
The imagination is precious. Don't lose it. Don't lose the child in you."
Do you think the imagination of artists is censored at this time so the artist can sell more?
"It's bad when the imagination is censored by others, but when you censor it yourself, that's the worst. That's what's happening now with the dying breed of 'artists', if I can use that word. People are afraid to say and do things because of how it will affect their career. Like the Dixie Chicks said what they wanted to say. You know what? I'll tell you right where their fault is. They should have said what they wanted to say in a song, or they should have said what they wanted to say in an essay, or in a well-organized, artistic way. It probably wouldn't have gotten as much media attention or hype, but it probably would have meant a lot more to the people that they were trying to reach. The only people they reached were people that were just looking to hate them anyway. It's the same conversation I had with Anton LeVay, the Church of Satan, maybe eight years ago. I said that 'if you really genuinely want Satanism and the idea, which is based on individuality and humanism, if that's what you really want, don't you think the phrase 'Satanism' is self defeating?'
If he would have called it something like 'The Good Time', or (laughs) - You know what I'm saying."
Talking to you, you sound so reasonable and, excuse the expression but, normal. How much of your personality is Marilyn Manson, and how much is Brian Warner?
"That's an equation that I don't feel I'm qualified to answer. I think it's more 'Who are you today Sybil?' Like that movie or that book, because I don't feel a transition happen. I know that I have very dramatic mood swings, and the people around me are very confused sometimes. Sometime they're scared that they're going to make me mad about stuff, but I try to tell them, 'Look, I'm not a monster that just reacts over nothing. I'm just trying to be myself, and sometimes I don't know who I am.'"
Are you really this sort of an alien with a distaste for mankind in general because you were quoted you feel that way?
"No, because I haven't had a chance to taste all of it. I can turn on the TV, and get in a bad mood before the first tampon commercial comes on, or the first toothpaste commercial comes on."
You are now in a settled relationship, and you said that you are happy. Doesn't that go a little bit against your wild image?
"It depends. I don't know. Being wild is the pursuit of happiness I think. Settling down and having kids, and stopping your work would probably go against it, but I don't have any desire to do that. I think that I wasn't looking to pick someone that would be objectified into being part of my image; but I don't think I could have picked a better mate to suit me if I were trying to impress the world, which I couldn't care less about. I have to bow down to her for being able to handle me."
What's so difficult about you?
"I'm more sensitive and emotional than most people would estimate. That's why I'm so extreme, because people don't realize that you can't have that super powerful, evilness (in the eyes of the world, evilness) without having the person that can hold a baby. Not as a joke. I did this video and I'm singing, and the baby's crying. I haven't been around a lot of babies,you know? I will have a nephew when I get married, but I can count the number of babies I've been around. Anton LaVey's son, whose name was Szandor Satan. I think he's going to have a hard time with that. I think that they would have been better off calling him Jeff. And Johnny Depp's daughter, she was very fond of me. She likes to wear high heels from a very young age. Just recently, the guy I had co-direct my video, his nephew. The baby was crying, we turn on the music, conscious of the child. Not making it too loud. I held the baby and I started singing to him, and he just stopped crying instantly. He had these big blue eyes, and he's just looking at me. Probably looking at me because I had diamonds all over my face, and I decided that I needed white eyelashes because I was really tired of normal black eyelashes (laughs). This baby was just looking at me, and he was so happy. We finished the song, and I realized, in part, that maybe I had soothed him, but he had pissed all over me."
That's almost expected.
"I didn't see it happening though. It was a wonderful suit that John Galliano had made for me. You know, that was my baptism. That was the more religious element of the video. I drop the baby and it shatters, and coins go everywhere - piggy bank, almost. That's just a glimpse into the commentary in the video; politics and religion and what it's worth and why they do it. But the video is also very sexually charged. I wanted to create not a religious theme as much as apocalyptic theme, which is not owned solely by Christianity. Hieronymus Bosch, but without imitating him, I created it on my own. I created a wall of fire, which was no small feat - this is a big wall of fire - and I built mechanical horses to have these four European models ride on them. I had a blonde, a brunette, a red head, and then a black. They represent the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse."
Is Dita in the video?
"No, because we try to keep our work separate. I don't want her to get accused of trying to get fame off of me, because she is very much her own person."
She is absolutely great. Did you go to a Pussycat Dolls show? Did you ever see it on stage?
"I did, and that's a little bit of a sore subject. I'll start this by saying Carmen Electra is nice, and I know Dave Navarro, but the Pussycat Dolls made an appearance in Charlie's Angels 2 where they attempted to steal Dita's act in the martini shot, and I sued them. Now they're doing a cover of Tainted Love. I feel it's like, if they want I can just give them an old notebook of things I've already done, and they can try and do it some more. If you haven't seen them, I'm not going to defame them, but it's not what Dita does. It's not burlesque. They do not take off their clothes, which is not the necessity of burlesque, but they're MTV background dancers, for the most part. It's a pride issue, and it's an authenticity issue. First for Dita, because she's so meticulous about if you're going to recreate an era, and then make it your own, at least don't put your corset on backwards, things like that. For me, I just found it in the words of my keyboard player, he said, 'This must be art, because it sure isn't entertaining.'"
Is it true that you were on your knees and presented Dita with a seven carat, round cut, diamond ring, and asked her to marry you?
"If it's seven carats don't remember, but it's huge, it's big. (laughs) She deserved it, and yes I did. And I played Be My Wife by David Bowie. I told him, because I met him for the first time. He's everything that you would want when you meet someone that you really respect. He and I have agreed, when the tour's over, to work on a song together for my next record."
Speaking of the tour, Austria is longing for you. Are you coming?
"I don't know if we are playing in Austria. I'm trying to think. We're doing ten shows in America, and then I said - well, I demanded Austria, because I love Austria, and I have friends there. I consider, and historians consider Austria and Vienna to be the epicenter and the genesis of the entire European art community - that it all stepped from there. I like Vienna."
For the sake of INROCK: What do you think about Japan, and do you have a message for the Japanese fans?
"Well, tell them that all of the other fans are jealous because they always get more songs on the CD than the American fans. There's always jealousy, but it's not - it's a good-hearted jealousy, I suppose. Kids shouldn't complain about free things, it's a bonus track."
And what do you think of Japan?
"I like going to Japan. I hope that it stays Japanese. If I want America, I will just stay here. It's not as if Japan could possibly ever become entirely like America, but I can tell, even with some of the art that comes out of Japan, that there is a concern. Maybe a dislike, that I respect, about keeping certain traditions and not making the entire world a shopping mall, like America. You'd be surprised at the amount of Japanese films that I watch. One of my Favorites is Audition - Battle Royale, of course, because people would expect me to, but I like it for different reasons than just its violence. I learned a lot from Japanese films. I plan on directing, and I have some acting things coming up as well."
You're doing the video game?
"I did a voice for a video game. That was easy."
We saw you prominently in Bowling For Columbine but missed you in Fahrenheit 911. Do you think that Michael Moore's movies make a difference in today's political climate?
"I thought 911 was a superior film, but only because Bowling For Columbine didn't answer a lot of questions I had. I think it got sidetracked on certain things, and it got a little preachy, but I liked other parts of it. 911 was really missing the love songs from the beginning of my record because it just seemed like it would be perfect. I think that there's two people that have a chance of making an impact; he's already made it, and I continue to try and keep, not just rock music alive, but remind people that artists are the people who affect the way we look at the world, and shape things. Artists should not be owned and controlled by corporations. Artists should also be not loved because they're famous, and not objectified as celebrities. That's fine, and I'm not going to complain that people compliment me, but that's not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because I can't get a job anywhere else."
Do you sometimes feel misunderstood?
"No, actually, I've grown to feel that there is no way you can misunderstand me, because I am abstract in a lot of ways, so everyone should and will have a different interpretation of me.
I am going to play you Personal Jesus." [plays song]
Great! Thanks! Let's talk about Gottfried and the paintings he did of you. Can you elaborate on the portraits with the Mickey Mouse ears, the process, and on your collaboration with Gottfried?
"I was not allowed to put the paintings on the cover of the record! Our anticipation was not to create album artwork. We wanted to create a collaboration, and from that came the idea to use it for the cover, because we did not consider The Golden Age Of Grotesque to be limited to an album. An album is very limited with censorship, and with time constraints and space constraints. We did intend for the white and black images of me with the ears to be the front and back.
I feel the black one is very American, and the white one is very European. The black one is somewhat more evil, and the white one is kind of innocent. I actually think that the white one, visually, strikes me as more evil. It's like a Pierrot. You know, American versus European. The entire time that I did it, I don't think anyone mentioned the blackface and the relevance of it. The relevance of it is the exploitation of a performer, or an artist. The Mickey Mouse was invocative because of the hat, and a lot of people feared that it would be a lawsuit from Disney, but it does not even, in its fullest frame, show both ears. The hat that I ended up making is very similar, but it's asymmetrical, because I have a real problem with symmetry. I like things to be different on both sides, like my brain. The white one, on the other side, is like the child.
All I can say about it is I'm glad that it makes it into the collection of images that represent me as best as it could. I think that it just scratches the surface of what Gottfried and I could do together. Also I think it was most appreciated and understood for its biggest quality and its biggest political impact.
Like I said, people can take it anyway they want. People took it as serious as it could be in Europe, particularly in France and Paris, and in Japan because they saw my commentary on America. They saw as much as people see Mickey Mouse as an American symbol. You cover your mouth with blackface, which really represents a franchise, moneymaking, and slave creation of entertainment, that isn't even human. That's an animal, on top of a podium that is exaggerated - a comedy form of fascism. It sounds very American to me. It sounds like a Happy Meal. That's not to say that's the only way you need to look at it.
There was one comment from one journalist, which I thought was probably the most flattering comment about making this record. He said, 'Every war needs a torch song singer. World War II had Marlene Dietrich, who was the Blue Angel, and Marilyn Manson is our torch song singer, and he's the White Devil.'
That was really flattering to me."
Can I ask you about Arnold Schwarzenegger. People are talking again about changing the Constitution so that foreign-born citizens could become President. Are you in favor of the Arnold Amendment?
"The Arnold Amendment? You know, he's a friend of Helnwein, and for that very reason I assume he's a great person that I would probably like. You can't like everything about everyone, but I'd really have to know what it is to say I support it. But the idea of someone who is not an American by birth being able to become President, is that what it is?"
"I'm not afraid of it as much as everyone else is. First of all, he is an artist. I know that he could make America a place that I would enjoy more, but it might make America a place that doesn't inspire me, because I'd be too happy. I don't think that's possible."
So do you like him as a Governor?
"I don't know. I don't feel the effect of it, but I don't take it as a joke anymore than Ronald Reagan. I think, if anything, someone who is an artist, or has any involvement in the art world making their way into politics, it couldn't be any better. That's the best scenario you can have, because all these other people - all they are is college graduates that either have been in the military, or have not been in the military, smoked pot, or did not smoke pot - but where is their imagination? Don't you need an imagination to run a country?"
So where are you? Can we count on you?
"First of all, of course I don't believe that could ever possibly happen."
"I have too many scars on my record. But that doesn't mean I can't be a part of California. I know that Helnwein is going to be elected in some sort of cultural, diplomatic function.
Which would be fantastic. Maybe I'll be in charge of power and water. I don't know."
"I will be in Austria regardless of if my tour will be, because I'm shooting this film called tentatively Living Beyond Dreams where I play The Red Queen from Alice In Wonderland in a very different, twisted variation of it."
Who is directing?
"Somebody named Jeremy Tarr. It's Nastassja Kinski and Tim Roth. It's a very great story, very interesting. The director is shooting it in Berlin and on a lot of locations where The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari was shot, just because he loves and respects the history of that. I hit it off with him immediately because he is not trying to remake that. He's trying to take the inspiration from it. I think you can really absorb through the dirt, through the atmosphere - whatever. Vienna is an inspirational place. I'm going to be in Berlin, and I'm going to be visiting Vienna. I guarantee that.
This isn't for the article, but I'm probably planning to have my wedding at Helnwein's castle."
"Yes, this is where it probably will be. Although, I kind of wanted to do it in Germany, but Ireland might be nice that time of year."
Thanks for the interview.