The Golden Age Of Grotesque Interviews

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Marilyn is visited by Jeff Bussman and shows off his Violet Ray, Michael Jackson doll, and sense of humor.
Marilyn Manson
2003 May

Just as the world has become everything Marilyn Manson wanted, he’s unleashing a big band comeback on an unsuspecting public. And doesn’t he look dandy?! He tells Jane Bussman about trying to get Eminem laid, buying booze with Macaulay Culkin and what he said to Justin Timberlake’s mum.

It’s pitch black in the Hollywood Hills and something is howling. It's almost certainly a werewolf - or at least a very large Shitzu. Somewhere up here is a haunted house with a history of scandal dating back to the Twenties. Humphrey Bogart's co-star Mary Astor used it as a hideout between affairs with film stars John Barrymore and John Huston, and playwright George Kaufman. Mary returned as a ghost, presumably looking for a bunk-up, but her spook power has nothing on the house's current owner, who, despite the prayers of decent society, is still very much alive...

A door swings open. Inside is a room that looks like Doctor Doolittle's horrible secret life: two severed baboon heads, a dead raven and an albino peacock glare down at me and there's something sharp and unfamiliar underfoot. I look down and realize I've got my foot in a bear's mouth. I hurriedly take a seat, only to find it's actually a pair of conjoined lambs.
'I made them,' says a dark figure. Marilyn Manson lurks in the shadows, candlelight illuminating his one blue eye. 'I'm doing something similar with two women in my new show.'

You're creating Siamese twins?

'No, sewing.' Like all the best Antichrists, Manson has a sense of humor.

'Would you like the tour?' he says. We climb the spiral stairs to an attic where, naturally, a seven-foot-tall skeleton sits slumped in a chair. 'I got him in England; he came from an OTO [Ordo Templi Orientis] ceremony.' It seems Mr. High & Mighty had the misfortune to run into Aleister Crowley's all-shagging, all- sacrificing, all-drugs-welcome black magic cult. You'd think, being seven foot, he'd have seen it coming. ~~'1;::

Manson hands me ajar. I'm scared to look inside it. 'This is Ludwig. My girlfriend has told me she doesn't want children right now so this is my only child.' I look. Inside floats an aborted baby the size of a Milky Way. As celebrity pets go, Ludwig makes George Clooney's pot-bellied pig Max seems like a gerbil.

But, unexpectedly, just when he's really starting to live up to his reputation, Manson says quietly, 'this is the first house I've lived in. I grew up in a duplex and I don't like big houses. This one I can handle because the rooms are small.' It's this unholy mixture of depravity and humanity that makes him, in his own dry words, 'strangely loveable'. "I

Manson's tongue-in-cheek world of Nazi helmets, blistering punk rock and Satanism ~~ dared the world to fear him. But after the Columbine School massacre, he got his wish and no one was laughing. In the ensuing moral panic, it wasn't enough for an outraged American public that the killers had simply been a pair of trigger-happy arseholes; 'Manson made them do it' seemed a far more exciting conclusion.

'It's almost a phenomenon that we're sitting here today, because I walked up those stairs to the attic and I didn't come down for three months,' says Manson, genuinely devastated. 'Everyone turned their back on me. Even people you'd think would never even consider something as absurd as blaming me for violence that I had nothing to do with, because I'm just a musician.'

The scapegoating was an insult to a life spent in glorious subversion. Marilyn Manson's immensely entertaining autobiography 71Ioe Long Hard Road Out Of Hell opens with the 13-year-old Brian Warner, as he was then, spying on his grandfather wanking while 'wiping phlegm from around his tracheotomy' in a Norman Rockwell-esque tableau of Vaseline- encrusted dildos and photographs of girls going down on pigs. It was perhaps an unconscious mission to out-perv his granddad that led Manson to form the nastiest band America had ever seen. Soon the people that had bullied weirdo Brian were running scared from Marilyn Manson, the rock star in cock-hole rubber knickers dragging naked girls around on dog leads.

Manson's tours were a triumph of the human spirit: 'I was covered in hash browns and vomit, I had a bag of bones under the bed, I had a Huggy Bear doll on the table filled with cocaine...' he wrote.

'On top of all that, there was a transvestite in a tutu smoking crack on the bed next to me.' Take That's early years, all over again, then. The genuine intelligence behind Manson's devilish persona was made clear when he answered his critics in Michael Moore's 2002 documentary Bowling For Columbine. 'If you're ashamed of your children, remember that you created them: you have no one to blame but yourself,' Manson sighs, looking as world-weary as someone with no eyebrows can. 'I did the interview the day I returned to Denver for the first time. I had about ten undercover cops with me; for all I knew I was going to get assassinated. I decided if this was going to be the day I died, I was going to do the best show I could.'

In 2003, Manson is back, reincarnated as a hellish burlesque creature with a lust for big band music. Since 2001 his girlfriend has been the pinup star and burlesque queen Dita Von These (www.dita.net). He's made the funkiest rock album in years, an ambitious assault on punk with rhythms coming not from off-the-peg remixers, but a different dance era altogether. 'This is big band: he says. Anyone who knows the history of swing, knows that it was the punk rock of the Thirties; terrible gangs of degenerate youths in baggy zoot suits.' It's annihilatingly loud and supremely catchy, featuring four drummers playing simultaneously - 'somewhere between the monkeys in 2001: A Space Odyssey hitting skulls with bones, and a high-school marching band.'

Manson's love life blends seamlessly with his music. 'I'm taking inspiration from Thirties Hollywood. That's why I was attracted to Dita - she looked like she'd stepped out of an Alberto Vargas pin-up. I seduced her by pretending I wanted her in my video. And we hit it off immediately. We're both like kids. We like to play dress- up and do things we're not supposed to when the parents are away.'

Christian fundamentalists might be disappointed to find that, in the flesh, Manson seems not so much Satanic as a mischievous child. 'Grotesque is all about your imagination, seeing things that the status quo considers to be unacceptable. It's about having the pride and confidence to kneel to the height of a child and see that everything you've read in books cannot be as true as your own imagination.'

Why is burlesque hip again?

'The whole theatre of grotesque comes out of wartime, and it's sadly ironic that America finds itself in the midst of war again. Burlesque, vaudeville, cabaret - it all had the same purpose, to take people's minds off things; the idea of your life being entertaining in itself. Sometimes it's about a concert, sometimes it's about placing a gramophone horn in a women's vagina. Or painting an elephant black or setting a piano on lire. I said this in a press conference and people thought I was joking. But I have the pictures to prove it.' And setting your drummer on fire? 'That's in the past.' Did he ask for it? 'He needed it.'

Manson takes time out to nip to the downstairs loo, then thinks better of it and coyly runs to the upstairs bathroom.

'I have a paranoia of people hearing me in the toilet,' he says, the bog-shy Antichrist. 'Maybe it's because 1 had to get enemas a lot when 1 was a kid. 1 had pneumonia about four or five times and they had to fill you full of liquids that showed up on the X-rays. People were always shooting weird-colored liquids up my ass. Kind of like today.'

These days Manson's drug of choice is suitably dandy. 'I've been drinking absinthe for six years. Pot makes me lazy; ecstasy makes me nervous; cocaine makes me hyper, stressed-out and angry. I've never done heroin. 1 find myself getting fond of painkillers now and then, but things like that aren't as productive as absinthe. I can really express strange things on that... I wanted to write a song that sounded like a piano on fire.'

What about the new band?

My guitarist John has never drunk or done drugs in his life, he has a far more debilitating addiction. Well, maybe now he's found a way to overcome it. He's a sex addict.

Is there such a thing?

I don't think it's anyone's business to judge someone, but if somebody has some form of sex more than four times a day, with four different people every day, that's as much an addiction as drink or drugs.

How the hell do you get four women a day?

John's a good-looking guy. But he's also not picky. I wanted him to play the guitar the way he treats women. I ended up blindfolding him and pumping the audio from a pornographic film into his ears and not giving him any beats of the music and that got the result. He probably had a hard-on while he was doing it.

What is the best thing about living in LA?

Disneyland. Unfortunately they won't allow me in with Mickey Mouse ears and black make-up. I attempted to get in, but I found out you can't dress in any sort of costume. Which is very unfair because they're all in costumes.

Britney, Christina or Justin - who's your favorite?

Justin. I met Justin at my girlfriend's show. He was sitting behind me with his mother, and I said, 'you know a woman has three holes between her legs?' Because earlier that day I had watched a sexual education documentary for retarded people. . .

Er... why?

Why not? And they pointed out that a woman has three holes. I don't know the technical stuff, I guess there's a few things going on down there. I saw Justin again on New Year's Eve at the Osbournes', and I said: 'I want to apologise for saying that in front of your mother, I feel a little bad even though I am Marilyn Manson. But I really like your new video because you seem like a depraved stalker, and I think that's very attractive. And I don't mean that in a gay way.' And he said thank you, and I said, 'Can I just tell you one thing: the part of the song where you say" drums", you should have said "tits".'

Why do you think your 'Tainted Love' video was such a hit?

I think it was seeing me expressing my humorous side, doing a parody of the exploitation of women in videos. At the same time, I have to say I enjoyed exploiting the women in the video. Unfortunately, because I'm bound by a relationship, I couldn't have sex with all of them, but I guarantee I would have been able to, because that hot tub warmed up my organs properly.

Have you ever met Michael Jackson?

No, but I have a puppet of him! (Manson dashes out the room and returns gleefully with a horrendous figurine.) I shipped this home and - no lie - the nose broke off! (He shows me. It has no nose.) And I'm very good friends with Lisa Marie Presley, but I forgot about her relationship with Michael Jackson - as she would probably like to- and this was hanging in my hall. I felt kind of bad when she came over. So I did a little puppet show with it and made her laugh.

Isn't she a bonkers Scientologist?

I don't talk about religion with her, but I don't think she's bonkers. I said to her, look, you can't get more punk rock than getting married to and/or fucking a baby dangler. He's a baby dangler! At this point he's saying, "fuck it, my nose has gone, I'm gonna dangle a baby."
Manson suddenly leaps to his feet again. ‘I also have this! Worth about 700 bucks!' He bounces back in clutching another Jackson doll more horrible than the first, 'This is about when he built the big statue and thought he was Stalin. You'll notice they went back and reconfigured his face to look more like now,' He flips a button and the doll sings 'Black or White', Manson is delighted.

Did Macaulay Culkin buy any of your art?

He didn't come to the art show but he did buy me cigarettes. I play this character in Party Monster and I really wanted to go for broke on it." So I put on my man- boobs, this gut and padded ass and I had a fake German accent and I smoked cigarettes. I wanted to practice, so I went with Macaulay to the liquor store. They didn't recognize either one of us! They carded him!

Do you have any bedroom habits that annoy Dita?

She refers to me as turning into a Dracula. If I've been drinking absinthe and it's past four in the morning when I come to bed, I do really depraved things to her against her will. She always likes it in the end, by the time the sun rises.

She gets two hours of teeth action?

Well... (long pause) It's more Vlad the Impaler.

Do you use moisturizer?

In regards to that? Anal-eze or Oil of Olay?

No, err, do you have a beauty routine? Do you cleanse, tone and moisturize?

No, I do not cleanse, tone and moisturize. I sometimes wash. I sometimes apply lotion. But I have a naturally greasy, dirty composition to my body. And if you don't wash off all your make-up at night you don't have to put it on in the morning.

Now that people like Britney Spears wear T-shirts that say 'Fuck' and make rock records, do you have to push things further?

Push things further in regards to her stool?

Is your thunder is being stolen?

Only by her thighs. I'd have Britney Spears kidnapped. (Mutters darkly) Let's see if she's gonna wear a Fuck shirt after I get done with her.

Do you get on with your Interscope label-mate Fred Durst?

People always assume I have some sort of problem with him. I met him and strangely found him to be very likeable. That doesn't mean that I listen to Limp Bizkit - I would rather put a sparkler in my urethra.

Do you get on with Eminem?

I think Eminem is a funny, clever guy. I've hung out with him a few times.

What did you do?

I tried to get him laid. Because I found it very strange that he's probably the most popular person in music but so shy around women…

You toured with the Jim Rose Circus, and did enema Russian Roulette, giving the girls enemas to see who'd poo first. Which brand of cereal did the girls poo into?

Fruit Loops.

As I'm leaving we discuss another favorite collection of Manson's - grotesque medical paraphernalia. He shows me one last toy. 'My Violet Ray!' he exclaims, lighting up. 'I used it on John's genitals to cure him of sex addiction. It didn't work,' says Manson. 'But it did amuse me.' The Violet Ray is a strange white tube that glows ultraviolet when he plugs it in. Manson runs the Violet Ray over my arm and it shoots 'health- promoting' sparks. I've just been electrocuted by the Son of Satan. Mysteriously, it doesn't make me want to commit mass homicide. It makes me want to listen to his album.