Portrait Of An American Family Interviews

Industrial Nation

Marilyn Manson
1994

Where am I calling you at?
"I'm in Boca Raton, Florida. Just doing some writing. This is where I live. We're a Fort Lauderdale based band."

I need some more background on the band. Start from the beginning and tell me how you developed this fairly conceptual group.
"Marilyn Manson started I guess it would be about four years ago now. I had spent a lot of time and still do watching talk shows: Current Affair, Inside Edition, that type of tabloid TV.
I found myself having a sick fascination with watching other people's reactions to certain topics. It seemed like some of the topics that kept coming up were things like what really happened to Marilyn Monroe and all these interviews with Charles Manson. They seemed to be the two most memorable people from the sixties. Pop culture seemed to revolve around these two people for me, the way I was seeing it and I thought putting those two together made a really strange dichotomy.
I thought it would be interesting to take thesis and antithesis and put them together and see what you came up with. I came up with this new, neither male nor female, neither good nor evil kind of concept and that's what I wanted to stand for. I'd never sang before, I had some lyrics that I'd written before, just like free form writing. It wasn't necessarily in song structure.
Then I met a guitar player who had some really interesting approaches with music. We sort of started working together, writing some songs, and he decided to follow suit with the Marilyn Manson theme, taking on the name of Daisy Berkowitz. From there we continued to search for other members who believed in what we stood for, who had the same kind of ideas as us and that's what, over the past four years, has led us to what we are."

How long have you played as Marilyn Manson?
"We played out about three months after [we met] and we've changed a few members along the line but now we have a solid lineup of people that we believe in and who believe in what the band is about."

I only got an advance tape, I didn't get the CD...
"It's got a lot of diversity to it, exploring different boundaries of sounds, not necessarily all hard."

Like Revelation #9, very experimental.
"I like to make a lot of sarcastic plays off things from classic rock and the past, The Beatles being one of our bigger influences I think. I thought that was something worth going off on."

Mr. Reznor has done a lot of work on this album for you guys. How does he have his hand in what you're doing right now? Is he helping you along creatively?
"I guess the easiest way to describe it would be that we initially started working with a different producer, then rolled off and the result was very un-Marilyn Manson. It was very slick and it didn't have the raw edge. It didn't have all the little sprinkles that we put on all our songs. He kind of smoothed it out and made it more commercial for whatever reason, which was strange because he's more of an underground producer."

A producer with Nothing Records?
"No, he's done the Young Gods and Machines of Loving Grace, stuff like that. So when we were finished with that we were unhappy with it and Trent was unhappy with it because he had heard our initial demo and he knew what we were supposed to sound like and it wasn't right. So he and I decided, look, we know what it's supposed to sound like, so let's fix it and produce it together. He basically helped just bring out what we were all about. I don't know if he consciously tried, but he didn't put in too much Nine Inch Nails. In the end, we were kind of pleasantly surprised. He was happy because I think it was that it came out as its own thing. I think we were a great team and we couldn't have had a better thing."

I heard that on stage, I think this was supposed to be Lauderdale, but I'm not sure, but you came out dressed up like a witch.
"It may have been mistaken for a witch, but I took on the disguise of a Puritan because I thought that would be real ironic considering the things I'm saying. I had the pilgrim hat and the plain black dress they take on. That was a sardonic jab."

Do you utilize a lot of stagecraft?
"It depends on the circumstances. Really, it's usually based around what we want to d do at the time, what's going to make us happy, we don't try to go out of our way to plan some kind of theatrical show. We just do whatever lends itself to the music. It's very casual. We don't want to be contrived at all, we just want to come out and do our thing and not have people expect a certain thing from us."

Well, that's the thing about it though. It seems that you've got kind of a good philosophical start on everything. Where do you think what you've developed so far philosophically will take you?
"We're just going to try on a daily basis to push things to the limit that we can. I'm always fighting with censorship and what I can get away with. It's a daily battle but I'm just trying to push things to the limit and show people their fears because people have a weird relationship with their fear. They like fear but they're afraid to see themselves and their own fears.
Some of the photography we wanted to put in the record they wouldn't allow. Not the label, but the owner, Time-Warner, who owns Atlantic Records, the distributor. I had a picture of me that I just found out today we couldn't use and it's from when I'm about six years old. I'm lying on a couch, naked, kind of posing humorously. In the picture I have my hands over my crotch but there's nothing revealed. The point of putting that in there was knowing that people would react and they would be offended and say look at this child pornography, but it's not and for you to see it as child pornography proves that there's something in your mind and that it's not me that's being sick, it's you that's making it sick. They wouldn’t allow that.
I have to fight with those kind of things. There were some other pictures that I wanted to put in that were a little in question."

Do you think that you're going to run into a creative block then in dealing with Atlantic?
"It's not Atlantic, really, it's the laws, record store chains not carrying your stuff because of things. I'm trying to draw that fine line between selling out and not doing what I want to, just working within the boundaries that you're given.
There are some things that you can't get away with and of course I try to get away with as much as possible. A weird analogy that I was talking to somebody about it with, someone said, you know, you remind me of a sideshow barker that has all this crazy stuff that you should come see. Like a freak show. That's what I'm doing. I'm saying come see this freak show and then I lift back the curtain it's just a mirror so everybody can see themselves and that's something that they've never seen before so it scares them.
I tend to be a bit of a recluse and my only real chance to communicate with society is on stage and through the music so it's pretty intensified because I don't have any other opportunity to relate to anyone because I keep to myself."

The troll beneath the bridge.
"Sure. So society is going to make me out to be a villain and the antichrist, this and that, the devil and everything that they're against but I take on that role willingly saying sure, I'm bad and I'm this and that, but is it such a terrible thing? Did I turn out so bad? That's the question."

It's drama.
"Yeah, but close minded people don't..."

Well, that's not necessarily your audience, you're catering to a pretty experimental audience.
"Sure, but I like to attack that crowd too. That's part of what I want to do. Close minded people will always fail to realize that the truth is all according to your perspective. Where I'm at I don't really consider myself bad and what I'm doing as bad. I consider the fact that churches aren't taxed as maybe more evil than what I'm doing. It all depends on where you're standing, y'know, truth is only relative to who believes it."

Did you ever get over to Trent's house? Sharon Tate's House?
"Yeah, some of the songs were done there. About six of the songs were mixed there and I did a lot of the vocals there. Now people ask me that and I can't remember which songs because the whole episode was kind of surreal, like a dream sequence that I've forgotten now.
It's ironic because the very first thing we said when we started the band was it'd be really interesting to find out who lives in the Sharon Tate house now and see if we could record there. This was before Trent moved in and I thought it would be fitting to express all the anger and the fear we're trying to show everyone right in the place where all of those emotions actually manifested themselves.
Some people might think, oh, you're glorifying the crimes, where I'm more pointing out the fact and making a mockery of the fact that society has made Charles Manson equally famous as Marilyn Monroe and it's the same with all the other serial killers.
Society begs for that sensationalism and media feeds them that sensationalism so it's one of those things where what is it, the supply or the demand? Marilyn Manson is constantly like this personal science project of mine, testing all the boundaries of the different things you can go with from this crazy equation."