Revelations of an Alien-Messiah
By Paul Gargano
The cosmos were obviously looking to strike some accord when the inoffensive looking man I asked for directions pointed me on my way, muttering, “God bless, whatever you’re off to,” as I directed the rental car back towards the restaurant where I was to meet Marilyn Manson. Seconds later, I was once again nestled in the congestion they call L.A. traffic, wrapped up in the stunning Hollywood-inspired Never-Neverland of Manson’s latest opus, Mechanical Animals, a world where Zen-like balance is ruptured by speed-induced anarchy at the drop of a twisted chord. I had to laugh at the dripping irony as “Rock is Dead” blasted from the speakers, the line “God is in the TV” blurting out as though America’s most publicized antichrist was sitting in the passenger seat. Above the street ahead of me, a billboard advertised the virtues of “Must-See TV.”
Things always seem to work that way when Manson is around. Storylines write themselves, introducing characters for color, dismissing them for drama, and eclipsing the standard face served by today’s music industry with a live odyssey that returns music to the three-ring spectacle it once enjoyed. Case in point, his recently-wrapped run with Hole, a package that pitted two of today’s most head-strong superstars in a battle of rock ‘n’ roll egos. “I think she still has balls, which is the only reason why I asked her to do the tour,” Manson-nursing a hangover in an empty Hollywood restaurant - said of Courtney Love, only a few weeks before kicking off the short-lived block of “co-headlining” dated. “I don’t know if she still wants to rock but I think she does. If anything, maybe I’ll help her get back to where she stared with this tour.” Maybe. Or maybe the whole thing was just destined to implode from day one, ending two weeks later in front of a hometown crowd for both bands. Said Manson after the incident: “Our show is bigger and better than ever and Hole leaving the tour won’t alter our plans in any way.”
The dated proceeded as scheduled, with Marilyn Manson and Monster Magnet – most would agree that the pair never needed Love’s support to begin with – besieging North America on a tour that’s still leaving fire and brimstone in its wake. As Manson detailed that afternoon, he’d never have it any other way…
P: This current tour builds on the spectacle of your last American run…
M: It’s bigger and better. [Last tour] we were kind of limited to what we could do. We tried to play a lot of material to kind of give people their money’s worth. This show’s going to be more focused into what I wanted to do originally. Three different parts, that are very separate, that kind of meet together and make for one big show.
P: Is it building on the concept of Mechanical Animals?
M: Its focused a lot more. The show opens revolving around my idea on Mechanical Animals, so I feel like an alien-messiah trying to bring together all the other people who feel the same way. Then it turns into the glam-rock exaggeration, and it ends with the danger of power, which becomes Antichrist Superstar.
P: Watching your success, you became the model for legions of fans. A lot of people feel like you “betrayed the following.” Do you still feel like you are being what everybody expected you to be?
M: It’s a difficult situation because, for me, my nature has always been to try and be something different than what’s around me. And if what I was doing became a bit of a trend, then there was no reason for me to do it because it was self-defeating. It’s not like I decided not to wear make-up and I put on a pair of jeans and started playing folk songs. I think what I did just evolved and it became a little more sophisticated. I figured that since Antichrist Superstar meant so much in my personal transformation, the fans probably, in their own ways, grew from it also. I’m sure everybody doesn’t want to stay trapped into one idea. I think people come to a show and they want to feel liberated. They want music to be an escape. By emulating their favourite bands, I don’t think it’s following. I think it’s their way of saying, “hey, I believe in the same thing you do, “and it’s better than believing in the rest of the world, which has no faith in us. If anyone feels betrayed, I think maybe they’re looking at it from a more shallow point-of –view, because I felt like making this record, I related to my fans more than ever because being thrust into a position of fame and living in a place like Hollywood, I felt more alienated than ever. It was almost like the way you feel in high school, where if you’re popular everyone hates you, if you’re not popular then you can’t hang out with the popular kids. It’s like a weird big version of high school. I felt like I had more in common with my fans now than ever.
P: You’re one of the popular guys now.
M: Well, I got stuck being one of the popular guys, but I’m still a geek
P: It’s almost funny, how mainstream you’ve become.
M: It’s always been important to me to try and reach a lot of people, and I think, intentionally or unintentionally, Mechanical Animals had a lot – the subject matter and sonically – that more people could relate to, because it was more about being human. It wasn’t a matter of trying to be more commercial, I don’t think that I’ve achieved any more commercial success, like being played on the radio. I’m still being treated the same way. I think it’s ironic and amusing to me to make a pop song, but with the lyrics containing the types of things I’m saying. That, to me, is more amusing than just making a song that a small amount of people will hear. I’d rather a lot of people hear it.
P: There’s nothing quite like hearing “I Don’t Like The Drugs” played on the radio!
M: I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “drugs” mentioned so many times in a song and had it played on the radio!
P: Explain the song “Rock Is Dead,” and the lyric, “Rock is deader than dead.”
M: The statement is on a couple of different levels. First of all, it was meant to be sarcastic, because this song is so rock. Musically it pays homage to “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper, it’s got “Jean Genie” by [David] Bowie, and it’s got “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. I deliberately referenced all these great glam-rock songs to say, “Rock isn’t dead.” On the other level, I was saying that so many people tried to suppress not only me, but music in general - whether it’s the Christian right, or it’s hip-hop music trying to drown everything out and take over. Also, we’ve done everything you can do in rock. It’s hard to create something new that’s legitimate. You can do things that are noisy, you can’t do things that are kind of tuneless, but the whole idea of rock, it’s all been done, so you can only reanimate something that’s already dead. So, music is kind of a zombie now either way. The song just had a lot of different levels to it and was just supposed to be a song that shows how effortlessly that it’s rock.
P: American sales aren’t quite platinum yet. With all the attention you’ve gotten, are you disappointed?
M: The funny thing is, mostly because technology is being put into the hands of the wrong people, the media is misusing Soundscan and things like that. It’s silly that my record debuted at No. 1, and in four months I’ve sold as many copies as I sold of Antichrist Superstar in two years. Everything is doing great, then someone says, “Well, it’s disappointing.” It’s disappointing that it only sold 175,000 in the first week? I think it’s just that misuse that goes into kids heads and they think, “Wow, maybe this rock thing’s over. Let’s listen to this instead.” I think it’s just a negative thing that people misuse that.
P: With all the exposure given to “superstars,” do you think the elevated expectations from the public are healthy?
M: It depends on who you are. For me, and even for Courtney, because the media has made us into larger-than-life celebrities, because we’re pretty much as famous as Garth Brooks or Michael Jackson or Cher or Madonna, people kind of expect the same from us. But I’m proud that what I do is so completely more controversial and so much more thought-provoking than any other pop artist out today…Just to be a pop artist at any level and to do what I do is an achievement for me. It makes me feel good that I know that I’m getting a message out that most people would never hear, and being able to make videos that MTV plays a lot aren’t your typical thing.
P: Do you appreciate the media, or do you resent the fact that they make you out to be such an icon?
M: It makes it more of a challenge. The media just becomes another element of what I do. Doing interviews is just as important as writing a song. A lot of people just don’t take things like that as a seriously, but in the end it has to be. I’m doing a lot more press now, but after writing a book I really got tired of doing interviews because I got tired of being asked the same questions. I hope it’s not because I’ve gotten older, but I’ve just had a better attitude towards everything. I guess I’m still very negative and very disappointed. It’s my ailment. I really like where I’m at, and I don’t take for granted. I appreciate the fact that the band has so many fans, that people care enough to listen to what the f.ck we have to say.
P: So, you don’t resent all the attention?
M: Sometimes, depending on what kind of mood I’m in. What I do dislike is when I’m at the airport, for example, and someone who I know for sure isn’t a fan will come up and bother me about an autograph or something like that. Usually I would just say, “No,” but now I have a new test – I say, “Can you name three songs off my new record?” If they can’t, I say, “You know what? I’m sorry. If you go buy the record and you listen to it…” Cause those are the same people that as soon as you turn your back they say, “That guy’s a f.cking asshole.” But they still want a piece of you, though. That I don’t like. And people get really bitter too. A lot of times someone will come up and they’ll say, “Hey, can I take a picture.” And I’ll say, “You know, I don’t really want to right now.” “See I’m really a big fan.” “Well, you know what? I hope you understand; I just don’t want to.” And then they say, “Well, f.ck you, you’re an asshole, I don’t want your picture anyway.” Well you know they’re not a fan because they wouldn’t act like that. I try to think back to when I was younger and I would see someone that I admired – I would be too afraid to even approach them, let alone start yelling at them.
P: The last time we talked, you said you were hoping to market this album a little differently than typical industry practice. Is that still so?
M: I think we concentrated on making this a worldwide success. A lot of bands – White Zombie, Korn – didn’t bother to tour Europe on this album. They didn’t think it was worthwhile, but for me it really paid off because there are fans there, it doesn’t mean that they don’t matter to me. I think we just concentrated on all that. We did a little bit in America, now we’re going to do a lot more America.
P: This tour is slated through the end of April. Will there be a summer tour?
M: It’s a possibility. There’s talk of Woodstock. There’s talk of a lot of different things. We’ll probably do some more shows after we’re finished because there are some cities that we didn’t get to.
P: Are you going to turn your attention towards your movie?
M: I am going to focus on the movie, but I guess the good part is, the movie does revolve a lot around the album, particularly some of the integral parts like “Coma White” and “Great Big White World,” and the storyline that kind of inspired it all. I’m not really sure where things are going to go. I know that I want to start working on that in the summer and hopefully have it out by the end of the year, or the very beginning [of next year] if I could get it done that quickly.
P: Have you started talking to people yet as far as production and distribution?
M: Yeah, I’m just trying to decide on a director now. One of my dreams would be David Lynch. It’s going to be a major motion picture, not a home video or something like that, but that’s also not to say that everyone’s going to want to carry it. The subject matter and the story line which I’ve written is very on the edge.
P: What’s it based on?
M: Well, the story was something that I had in my head, and that’s where the songs came from. As the songs came to life, the story kind of grew also. It’s all really a metaphor for my own life, but the story, without giving away too much, takes place in an alternate dystopia of Hollywood where everything is taken to the extreme. It’s sort of Andy Warhol’s worst nightmare, combined with scientology and communism. If you imagined everything was as far as anyone can take it, the way the movie stars are treated. There are a lot of references to the way that I see John F. Kennedy as a modern day Christ and how religion kind of sprouts from that. It’s a really strange story, but in the end it’s a parable about fame and love and what matters to you the most. It’s strangely got a kind of heart to it, but I can’t say it’s got a happy ending. The video for “Coma White” is adapted from my script, so it will be a bit of a teaser, a hint at what people can expect…Though I’m sure they won’t understand it or make it any clearer.
P: How do you see Kennedy as a Christ figure?
M: First of all, my theory that I’ve really been thinking about since I had so much interaction with Christianity after doing Antichrist Superstar, is that Christ was the blue-print for celebrity. He was the first celebrity, or rock star if want to look at it that way, and he became this image of sexuality and suffering. He’s literally marketed – A crucifix is no different than a concert shirt in some ways. I think for America, in my lifetime, John F. Kennedy kind of took the place of that in some ways. He became lifted up as this icon and this Christ figure. I started to, in my weird, drugged version of Hollywood, dream up a world where these dead stars are really saints. Jackie O[nassis] is kind of like Mary Immaculate. That’s what I was thinking when I was writing the album, and I hinted that in a lot of songs, like “Posthuman.”
P: There are references on Animals that make it seem as though the album could be autobiographical – building where Superstar left off – then it seems to get progressively more vague.
M: Well, specifically, seven songs are more from the perspective of Marilyn Manson, and the other seven songs are meant to be performed by this fictional band, The Mechanical Animals, and are intentionally hollow. They are meant to be like these anthems for the end of the world, just shallow, clever, but still kind of garbage in a way. That’s why they’re intentionally pop sounding, intentionally referential to glam-rock, and a lot of people misunderstood those as just being, “This is what Manson’s voice is now,” but those are very much supposed to be coming from the perspective of a character that is the exaggeration of paparazzi, the person who loves everything. The part that’s underneath is what happens when that mask comes off. So, in a lot of ways the more I had time to look back at the album, it really describes me better than anything I’ve ever done because it shows the Marilyn and it shows the Manson.
P: It’s still commercial though. On the outside, it’s still something radio can grasp. It’s still something that can get you into a mainstream crowd. Was that in the back of your mind, or the front of your mind?
M: I really wanted that from Antichrist Superstar as well. I’ve never tried to keep myself at a level that would be underground. I wanted the beauty of what underground is, and the beauty of having subversive ideas and having controversial songs, and trying to put that in a place where it’s going to be useful. I don’t need to preach to the converted. I think what happened was, working with Trent [Reznor] on Antichrist Superstar, his nature is to veer away from anything that’s typically rock ‘n’ roll. He wants to break new ground and that’s great. I learned so much from him. I’ve always been more about rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal, and I wanted to do something more conventional with this record. I listen to the record and I don’t think it’s that different. I managed to showcase what the band cad do a little bit better.
P: It’s not as dark…
M: At times it’s very dark, it’s just not as obvious.
P: The lyrics tend to be darker, as opposed to the music, so it’s a lot more subtle. Is it indicative of where you’re heading musically?
M: The music that we’ve been writing now is probably… It’s hard, a lot of people assume that an album represents everything that you’re about because with a lot of band who have a very identifiable sound, I guess it does. But for me, Antichrist Superstar, at the time, represented everything I was about, and it still does. That’s what’s still part of our live show. Same with Mechanical Animals, but we’re on that now and I think because of the state of music, the state of my attitude, I’ve got much more focused anger and disappointment, much like I had writing Antichrist Superstar. I think Mechanical Animals was a more depressed album. The new music’s very, very hard and very aggressive. I think it’s a little more sophisticated. And, strangely enough, probably most inspired by early Aerosmith and Guns N’ Roses, like Appetite For Destruction, this really unhinges Stooges kind of raw rock.
P: You’ve always been a fan of Monster Magnet, something along those lines?
M: Maybe a little bit more let loose than Monster Magnet. They’re more spacey, this is more violent. I expect the next album to be extremely violent.
P: More than anything you’ve done before?
M: Probably. But now, taking into consideration me learning more emotional dynamics and more musical dynamics, I think I could make a more balanced record. If you put Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals together they make a great combination…I like to take those two discs and put them on shuffle, it makes a really interesting double-album, like the [Beatles’] White album. I think that’s probably what I would expect - something that has those extreme lows and extreme highs. But I don’t expect the next album to be quite as sarcastic, or having as much humor as I did on some of this album.
P: How much of this album was something that you foresaw happening? Did you know Mechanical Animals was coming up after Antichrist Superstar?
M: In some ways, parts of it were things that I wanted on Antichrist Superstar and I kind of argued with Trent about. A song like “Mr. Superstar,” for example, musically could have been on Mechanical Animals, and when it was written – if I were to play you the demo – it sounds a little bit more like Mechanical Animals, the album. But his production style changes a lot, so… A lot of the songs were a little bit more stylized towards what we did.
P: Had you had more control, what would you have done differently than Trent?
M: It wasn’t a matter of control. I thing the album would have got done a lot quicker and been a lot more focused. It was a time of great confusion because he was probably thinking about his record, and a lot of things he wanted to do, and I think maybe he projected some of those on us, which I don’t regret because I love the album and I wouldn’t change anything about it. It was a real ugly time. The depths that all of us sunk into our personal lives, were just… It was a surprise that the record was even made. I think if we were to work with someone else, it probably would have been very different. It might not have been as big. So, I don’t try and second guess everything.
P: Did you see the image change coming?
M: I think a businessman probably couldn’t go to work in a T-shirt and still operate the same way, and when I was writing the songs I just started feeling different. Because image is so important, I started changing the way I look, and when I cut my hair it just made me into a different person. I kind of felt free of a lot of things. I didn’t want to continue living the past. In a strange way, it’s like Samson and Delilah. I just felt like I didn’t want to become a different person, I just wanted to kind of get beyond things.
P: Is it easier being the glam Marilyn Manson than it was being the Antichrist Superstar Marilyn Manson?
M: No, I think they’re just different. Its is and isn’t, it’s just different. I don’t think it’s even something I can explain to myself. It’s only through the media interpretation and fans’ interpretation that I’m so different, because I don’t feel that different because it came so naturally. It wasn’t like I sat down in an office with the record company and they said, “Listen we want to market your image differently or blah, blah, blah.” It just king of happened. I can’t really explain it. You can only take each thing so far, and I take everything to an extreme.
P: Are you at all disappointed that your perception has become somewhat less dangerous than it was?
M: There are going to be a lot of problems on t his tour, which I welcome. I think the energy those [negative] people bring is very important because it makes everybody realize that what we’re doing is important to society – not just rock concerts. It is that, but it can be so much more. I still feel as dangerous as ever and I think the touring that we’ve done so far… Particularly in Australia… In the middle of the show, when it became Omega and the Mechanical Animals, we started getting this really ugly homophobic response from these Australians. I got hit in the kidney with a Whiskey bottle that broke on me, and then I got hit in the leg with one too. Pogo got a concussion. And I just stopped the show and I’m like, “If you guys want to fight why don’t you just come up here and do it?” And there was a guy, who was obviously the one who did it, and he’s like, “I want to come on.” He got on, he’s in the barricade and I jumped down there with my mic stand and just started beating the shit out of him. The security guards had to break it up. There’s no shortage of danger as far as our shows go. I had to flee from the police in Las Vegas on New Years eve because I burned and American flag at the end of the show, I had to hide in my hotel room. It was my protest to Bill Clinton’s treatment, so I had to burn the flag for people that received blow jobs. I still think he should had cited my book in his defense.
P: There’s talk of you starring in a remake of House On Haunted Hill any chance of that happening?
M: No. They were pestering me to do it, and they offered me a shit load of money, but I just felt that there wasn’t anything about it that I liked. The money was tempting, but it’s an extremely cliché thing for me to do and I’m really focused on doing my film. I’m going to do a small bit in David Lynch’s TV show that he has coming out, Mulholland Drive, and I might be working with Clive Barker on this film that he’s doing that’s not a horror movie. It’, strangely, this surreal movie about drag racing and speed – both kinds of speed.
P: Did you catch yourself on South Park?
M: I was wondering when I was going to be on there! Damn those guys! Those guys are funny. I met them and the way they introduced themselves was: “Hi, we’re Trey Parker and Matt Stone. We do South Park.” I was with Rose and she goes, “Hi, I’m Rose McGowan. I do Marilyn Manson.”
P: It seems like she has a pretty good sense of humour about everything. She even managed to upstage you at the MTV awards…
M: Absoloutely…She’s got balls. She’s a colorful person. Some people may say she’s crazy, I think she’s colorful. Actually, I have a small cameo in her movie Jawbreaker, and the scene is as metal edge as it could possibly be – I have a mostache, I’m having doggy style sex, and the music they’re playing is “Rock You Like A Hurricane,” by the Scorpions. You can’t beat it. That’s as metal as it gets!