The Golden Age Of Grotesque Interviews

The Courier Mail
Manson talks about the problems with showing the Mickey Mouse artwork for the CD, Bowling for Columbine, and how some people's opinions changed about him after viewing the documentary.
Marilyn Manson
2003 May 24

FEW rock stars make an entrance quite like Marilyn Manson. He doesn't do denim; arriving for interviews in full make-up and costume, with sunglasses Elton John would label garish.

"I have a lot to talk about," he says, taking a seat. "And I want to make sure I look good while I'm saying it."

Manson is holed up in the least modern hotel he could find in Los Angeles.

He sits in front of two floor-to-ceiling-size photographs: of himself. They're Manson in Mickey Mouse ears, one with a completely white face, one completely black.

"That's the evil one," Manson says. "He's my favourite, obviously."

Walt Disney's people aren't quite so amused. They've "forbidden" Manson from using the photographs on the cover of his new album, The Golden Age of Grotesque.

But Manson has found a loophole. He can't use the pictures on his CD, but he can't be stopped from displaying them.

"So I'm taking them with me wherever I go," Manson says, proudly.

"That's the way I operate now. I won't be silenced or censored if I create something. My imagination is not going to be imprisoned by anyone."

The past few years have been weird for Marilyn Manson – even his crotch caused trouble
Even by his surreal standards, the past few years have been weird for Marilyn Manson – even his crotch caused trouble.

There were fortune-sapping lawsuits, most salaciously from a security officer who claimed Manson "gyrated and rubbed" his sweaty crotch (while wearing a G-string) on his head during a concert.

The guard claimed "unknown liquids" and "bodily fluid residue" ended up on his face during a Michigan concert in 2001.

Manson ended up paying a small fine, after the incident was downsized from an initial sexual misconduct charge.

"It's a victory for art," Manson said at the time.

He's also had the odd indecent exposure charge for his daring on-stage outfits, plus an ongoing lawsuit from the mother of Jennifer Syme, Keanu Reeves' girlfriend, who died in a car accident after a night out with Manson in 2001. Manson denies claims he gave Syme drugs.

"There's still lawsuits but I'm not taking anything sitting down," Manson says.

"That stuff just rolls off me. All people who are in my position are targets in that way. It's just with me – or someone like Eminem – anybody who's in any way controversial, you hear about it more so than other people. I guarantee there's just as many problems in any celebrity's life."

Most alarmingly, Manson became a scapegoat for the tragic murders at a school in Columbine in 1999.

The young killers were reported to be Manson fans (something that was never proved), and the conservative US media put two and two together and found Manson guilty by association.

He cancelled tours, others were picketed and he became the subject of hate mail and death threats.

However, in last year's Oscar-winning documentary Bowling For Columbine, filmmaker Mike Moore unwillingly became Manson's unofficial PR agent.

Many people who previously had thought he was merely a brainless, incendiary "shock rocker" were surprised at how lucid and clever Manson came across in the film.

Calmly explaining how his image as America's "poster boy for fear" made him an easy target in a media looking for a scapegoat, when Moore asks, "What would you say to the kids of Columbine?" Manson states: "I wouldn't say a word: I'd listen to what they had to say. That's what no one did."

"The climate has changed on how people view me (after Bowling)," Manson admits.

"I just said what I've said for years to him that day, I gave the most honest response I could. I get people coming up to thank me for what I said: It's an awkward thing to be thanked for. I'm appreciative people enjoyed it, but I don't feel like I did anything other than be myself.

"In Europe, for some time, people have seen me as an artist, someone who's being creative. That's always been understood, probably because most of my inspirations have been European, from Oscar Wilde to David Bowie.

"Now, in America and countries like Australia, people are starting to realise what I'm about. It's a time that's very necessary for someone like me to be around. And there's no one like me, so it's going to have to be me."

Enter The Golden Age of Grotesque. It's a record that positively reeks of Marilyn Manson. Review

"This record was very inspired, very exciting to make," he says. "It was just like shoplifting or driving without a licence – it had a reckless abandon to it.

"I had unconventional ways I wanted to do things: illegal and inappropriate ways, strange, unusual, fun . . . however you want to describe it."

In hospital at one point during the recording (for an ailment he declines to discuss), Manson says despite parting with guitarist Twiggy Ramirez over commitment-to-band issues, it was an easy album to make.

Obsessed by Hollywood in the '30s and pre-World War II Berlin and its thriving art scene, Manson says it's the perfect climate for the album to be released.

"The world needs some entertainment to take their minds off their troubles, and that's what vaudeville, burlesque and cabaret – all the things that inspired me – really came from," he says.

"They were all created in the face of fear during times of war when people wanted to go somewhere to escape. I wanted to capture the spirit of that.

"My inspiration came from the innocence and naivete of Hollywood in the '30s, where people lived their lives and looked like they were in movies because it seemed like a fake world.

"And I like the dandy aesthetic – making your entire lifestyle art; making yourself a canvas, expressing yourself through the way you look. As a kid I was never satisfied with Halloween only happening once a year."

And, in parts, it's even a love album – of sorts.

"I wanted to write about relationships and how they all inevitably follow the same pattern – they reach a certain height of greatness and then things end up destroying themselves . . . or someone destroys it."

Manson says he took extra care with his lyrics: even making up words (one song is called Doll-Dagga Buzz-Buzz Ziggety-Zag) when necessary.

"I wanted to capture my inspiration from watching foreign films and getting used to knowing what's happening in a movie without reading the subtitles.

"I wanted to make the opposite of a silent film: express a story not visually but sonically, paint a picture in people's heads even if they don't understand the words.

"And a lot of the words don't exist in the English language anyway. I found myself unable to express all I needed to with the limitations of the dictionary, so I just created a language of my own."

Manson has described Grotesque as his most accessible album. "Hmm, I wasn't trying to make it accessible. I think I'd rather call it likeable.

"It's a fight to be as recognized as Madonna or Britney Spears, but to be a completely different breed of creature. People know me, but that doesn't mean they like me. Not that I want them all to like me, that would probably be a bad thing.

"But this is going to turn a lot of people's heads that maybe had one opinion about me; I think that will change.

"We should never underestimate people's appreciation for something that's honest and raw and new sounding.

"I think you can tell this album is honestly doing and saying what it wants. It operates with its own mind. I look at it like a kid: I gave birth to a child. It's a very bad child. That's what I like about it."