Enjoying an evening at home with America's cat-loving super-villain, Marilyn Manson.
As Marilyn Manson himself says, if you expect his living room to be filled with morbid paraphernalia then you not going to be disappointed. On the coffee table sits a wax death mask and an unborn foetus in formaldehyde that he has named Ludwig. The walls and floor are covered with Manson's taxidermy collection, including a mounted turkey ("not one of my favourites"), an entire peacock and a brown bearskin rug, complete with head, which I trip over on my way in.
However, the gothic motif doesn't pervade the entire house. By the front door, just by the old effigy of a child with chicken feet for hands, the bathroom is painted a rather jolly shade of blue with a framed picture of Manson's live-in girlfriend - the stunning fetish model Dita Von Teese - sitting on a shelf next to the basin. The toilet paper is a lavishly quilted white with a pink floral pattern.
It's 9pm. Manson has been up since lunchtime working on the video for "mOBSCENE," the first single form his fifth studio album, "The Golden Age Of Grotesque." A white cat, Lily, skedaddles out of the room, though her owner says it's a good sign that she came in at all. His other pets, two dachshunds called Eva and Greta, have already turned in for the night. Sitting in the corner on a brown couch sipping absinthe and listening to Billie Holiday, Manson moves his grey military cap to ruffle his hair.
Cut like a 1920's gentleman - a long swept-over fringe, the back and sides shorn - the style is in keeping with the themes he is currently exploring in his music and it's associated imagery: the nihilistic Dada art movement, Dandyism and post-WWI, pre-Hitler period of German history known as the Weimar Republic. At home today, high in a remote corner of the Hollywood Hills, he hasn't bothered with full make-up, the milky white contact lens in his left eye the only concession to cosmetics.
Though Manson is a genial host, immediately offering a cold bottle of Corona beer and a seat next to him on the couch, the effect of his wonky pupils is nevertheless quite unnerving. Manson is at once bemused and pleased when this s pointed out. "It's meant to be," he grins.
To start, what should I call you?
"Everyone generally calls me Manson, even my father does nowadays."
Does no one ever call you Marilyn?
"I don't really care what people call me, though they don't generally call me that. People often seem nervous that I'm going to be mad if they call me by my given name."
So you wouldn't get annoyed if someone called you Brian?
"No, it just doesn't really pertain to anything to do with me. If my friends and the band and the girl that I live with don't call me that, then there's no reason for anyone else to."
So it's not like when you're home and the door closes you're Brian Warner?
What's your favourite rumour about yourself?
"My least favourite rumour is the "Wonder Years" thing [that a young Manson played Kevin Arnold's gawky pal, Paul Pfeiffer - he didn't, it was a otherwise undistinguished actor called Josh Saviano]. If anyone ever asks me about that again I'm just going to start punching them in the teeth. My new favourite rumour would be . that's tough. What's a good one you've heard lately?"
That you once chopped off a hamster's feet.
"I'll tell you what my favourite rumour is. I was arrested in Italy for a really absurd crime. It was based on a phonecall they received from an "innocent bystander" and the citation read that I came on stage wearing the outfit of a pope, though the outfit I had was of a lower echelon of the priesthood."
"Yes, a cardinal. It said that I immediately disrobed, tore off my genitals and threw them into the crowd. I tried to tell the police it's very obvious - I can go into the bathroom and show them privately - but I clearly have not torn off my genitals. I should be congratulated if I could do that, but they're still here."
Are you drinking absinthe there? Shouldn't you have hot sugar in it?
"That's sort of a ritual for tourist. Once you've been drinking absinthe for six years you lose all that."
So just a splash of water for you?
"Yeah, I like it in a very French way. I find it amusing that the French are so unpopular right now. I like France because they've provided us with good food, good liquor and they think I'm an artist, so that's very good [laughs]."
They love Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke too.
"Yes. That's why I'm making the joke, so that should be put in italics. And you should write 'Manson chuckles.' I'm just kidding."
Who are your neighbours up here?
" I don't know, quite honestly. I got a letter on my doorstep this morning from one of the neighbours asking for some sort of help with a petition because their rent was raised by some evil landlord. They addressed it to Brian, then in parenthesis Marilyn Manson, which was amusing to me. They were complaining about the exorbitant prices and they spelt exorbitant wrong so I corrected it and sent it back to them. I keep myself to myself. That's the one dichotomy to me living in Hollywood - I'm not someone who really enjoys being around people or being part of a scene. I live in a very secluded, odd area, as you can see."
When was the last time you went to the beach?
"God, in Hawaii, maybe in 1998. I stayed up all night and decided that I was going to walk the entire beach at Honolulu. It didn't work out that way."
Do you ever sunbathe?
"No. I used to as a kid because I lived in Florida and I was told it would be good to clear up my teenage acne, but it only resulted in a tan."
What were your favourite subjects at school?
"Art class was the only one I really got excitement out of. I loved creative writing, too, and I thought I was really great at it but I got bad grades because the said my stories didn't make sense."
And the worst?
"Math. I failed geometry and algebra, but I knew that there was no reason for it. If you can buy a fucking calculator why should you bother to learn how to write it out?"
You could be in a shop and need to work out whether you're getting the right change.
"I knew that I wouldn't need to do that [laughs]."
You were into 'Dungeons & Dragons' when you were younger. What character did you play as?
"I liked being the Dungeon Master because no one did it the way I liked so I couldn't enjoy it being a character. They never made it scary enough and they never made it challenging enough, but then it was defeating because I couldn't enjoy the game because I was the authority figure that had to control everything. That probably played into creating a band, though I don't feel like I have to have the same control that I had in 'Dungeons & Dragons.' The fear and exhilaration of letting go of the wheel while you're driving really fast or shoplifting or tearing off a condom while you're having anal sex with a prostitute [laughs], whatever it might be, is what I try to put into everything I do, especially now. It's always exciting to know you're doing something wrong."
There are degrees.
"Let's say it's more appropriate to compare it to masturbating in your parent's house. It's the fear of getting caught that's always the best part."
You tend to show a lot of flesh when you perform. How do you feel about your body?
"I'm very shy. I refuse to sleep in the nude unless I pass out that way. I have a phobia that I'm going to wake up and be naked in front of the police or someone . my parents! Maybe the insecurity comes out in exhibitionism. That's a pretty general psychological thing with anyone."
What brand of cosmetics do you like to use?
"I don't think any of them pay me enough to endorse them! I use, and have used for years, Mac makeup, which is the preferred makeup of RuPaul [laughs]."
Do you regret any of your tattoos?
"Not really. They're all landmarks of where I was at the time. Actually, for the first time in years I've wanted to get a tattoo so I might get a tattoo this weeks."
There's a rumour that your cock is tattooed black. Would you consider getting that done?
"No. That would hurt."
Another cock rumour has it that you had ribs removed so you could suck yourself off.
"I think that originated from me wearing corsets."
Is that something you've ever attempted?
"I think every guy's tried to do that at some point or another. If I was successful we wouldn't be sitting here right now [laughs]."
Have you ever paid for sex?
"No, but I was paid for sex once. I received $100 in cash and prizes because the girl didn't exactly have the entire $100 but she did have a credit card so she bought me some shoes. This was in New York City right when I first started the band. There was a girl that was a friend of one my bandmates and she was really in love with me and kept begging me to have sex with her and I wouldn't, I wouldn't. She finally offered me $100 so I have to say I'm a cheap prostitute, but I've never paid for sex."
You once wrote a song called "Cake And Sodomy." Which do you prefer?
"I'd have to say sodomy. It takes a strong woman to bear the burden of ass-fucking and I respect any girl that does and I buy her a lot of jewellery. I kick the ones that don't out of my house."
What are your duties as The God Of Fuck, if indeed that's what you still are?
"You can't just walk away from a throne like that [laughs]. I really have to fulfil the prayers of my believers."
What was the last thing you returned to a shop?
"I don't think I've ever done that. The last thing that I returned was something that I had someone make for me - it was an improperly manufactured jawbone made of chrome that didn't fit my head."
Do you still steal things from hotels?
"I was in a hotel recently . I'm trying to think of the last thing I stole. I like to shoplift every now and again. Not like Winona Ryder."
So just small items?
"Yeah, but only because people wouldn't suspect me of doing something like that. What I enjoy most when I go into a store is taking pornography to Blockbuster and putting it in new releases of really shitty movies."
I'm not sure that I believe you.
"I really do that and I really find great pleasure in it [laughs]. I really have to find ways to entertain myself."
Like your painting exhibition last year? You seemed to come out of that quite well.
"I knew people would want to say he's only trying to capitalise on being famous and sell this shit art, but they seemed to genuinely like it. I even had eavesdroppers wandering around listening to their comments. If anything."
That seems a bit insecure.
"No, I was predicting . maybe there was a bit of insecurity . I was predicting what I would say if someone like me were to do an art show, I would be the first one to criticise it if it wasn't."
You were a music journalist before you formed a band. Who was your favourite interview subject?
"Probably the one I learned the most from was Malcolm McLaren. I quite innocently asked him a lot of things that now I know were rather daring to say to him, specifics about Vivienne Westwood - which happens to be the only clothes I wear nowadays - and things about John Lydon, stuff like that. That really pissed him off and so I thought that was enjoyable."
And the worst?
"The Red Hot Chili Peppers was pretty disastrous."
"I was the journalist that would ask the questions that . I realise now that some journalists are just stupid and they ask those questions because they don't know it's going to piss you off, not because they're trying to piss you off. I'm not sure what my intention was but I said something that pissed them off."
What did you say?
"I don't remember. I have the tapes around somewhere - it'd be funny to listen to them now - but they were really rude to me."
What era was that?
"When John Frusciante joined the band, so it was "Mother's Milk," around 89. I've since seen them and the most ironic part is that Flea bought one of my paintings for $30,000. I was discussing this story with him and he was concerned that he was rude to me. I would have been rude to me if some young punk journalist came in and asked me something out of turn. I would have responded the same way."
Isn't there something vaguely ridiculous about one millionaire rock star paying $30,000 to another, I assume, millionaire.
"Wannabe millionaire [laughs]."
"But often sued. Well, the prices for my paintings reflected how I felt about them. The cheapest one was $1000, which was almost the price of the frame alone. I wanted to sell it because it was of some girl that I don't like any more."
"My ex-girlfriend, so I put it in the budget bin of the art show. Comically."
Is that how you are with ex-girlfriends, you just don't have anything to do with them?
"No, no, it's not that. Let me rephrase the whole thing by saying I wanted to get rid of the paintings I did of my ex-girlfriend because they were something that I was very proud of because I created them, I didn't really want to have them anymore. One of the most expensive ones - the one that Flea brought - I didn't want people to buy them but he did, so what was I supposed to say? No?"
Do you have a pension?
"I don't really know what I have, I don't even know what I have in my bank account . in fact, I don't really know where my bank card is. I gave it to my friend who takes a lot GHB so my account is probably empty."
What's the weirdest thing you've ever seen done with cocaine?
"It being disposed of. I find that you can't really accomplish anything while you're on drugs . except feeding baboons."
"Two years ago I took ecstasy for the first time. I've experimented with a lot of things in my life but I never wanted to take ecstasy because someone told me it makes you like people."
That's not always true.
"No, it wasn't true at all. I went to his place called Busch Garden in Florida. It's a zoo and an amusement park, which sounds like my life. So I took ecstasy and they let me in the baboon cage because somebody who worked there was a fan. Baboons are my favourite."
Aren't they incredibly dangerous?
"Absolutely. They don't ever let people do that, so they probably wanted to kill me, they said, 'Whatever you do, don't look it in the eye,' so I of course I'm staring at it [laughs]. I have three baboons, there's one there next to you [it is, of curse, stuffed]. It looked very much like that one. I like watching animals. I never talk to my cat in a way that she's not a person, I always speak to her as if she would understand me and I think that she does. It's the same with kids. They're not stupid."
You once said you got into the business for tits. What makes a really good pair in your book?
"I guess if they match and they're on the same person [laughs]."
Is it true that you really hate smoking?
"I generally do, but sometimes I'll smoke. I decided that I would start smoking to confuse people, because they know that I hate it. It started when I did a small part in this movie "Part Monster" with Macaulay Culkin last year. I play a German transvestite that smokes."
How did you get on with Macaulay?
"He brought me my first packet of cigarettes, strangely enough."
How do you keep your figure?
"I forget to eat because I'm always doing something. In fact, I was supposed to eat right before you came over."
What would you refuse to eat?
"I've been very experimental with food over the past few years, so there's not much I don't eat now except that I don't like mushrooms. They taste a bit like sperm to me, and I only say that because everyone who's ever kissed a girl after oral sex knows what that tasted like. You don't have to be gay to know the flavour."
Do you think that the intelligence you try to put into your work is sometimes undercut by things like putting your nuts on some security guy's head?
"No, I think the balance always has to be there. You can never take yourself too seriously, but people need to know that when I'm being funny I'm still serious about what I do. Not only would I die for what I do, I can't live without doing it. This is what I am. There really is nothing else that interests me."
When you made your court appearance [in Clarkston, Michigan, 2001, for sexual assault - ie lowering his genitals on the aforementioned security guard's head] were you bothered that people got to see you out of your normal get-up?
"Not really, because I was a criminal."
But obviously those pictures were in magazines.
"I was only disappointed that they were such ugly pictures because the lighting was so bad."
They made you look like you had a weak chin.
"Well, I don't have a very strong chin. If I was a judge I would insist upon much more dramatic lighting. It should be like the movies, not like a supermarket."
Are you still into Satanism?
"Satanism was never as much of a religious interest for me as people thought, it was always an artistic thing. If artists had to have a religion, that's what they'd pick though it's more of a belief system."
Do you consider yourself evil at all?
"Just as much as anyone else. I treat people how they treat you, not how you'd like to be treated, so that's probably evil."
That's quite a biblical approach, an eye for an eye.
"It is. If you read the Bible in the way that I do it's not as self-righteous as people think. There are rules that are part of your DNA, a law of the jungle like animals have. You have to respect your surroundings and protect yourself and that's basically what I believe."
Do you have a cellphone?
"I do, but I never use it because I don't really leave the house. Maybe once or twice a week."
What ringtone do you have?
"It has me yelling 'Cocksucker! Motherfucking cocksucker!' . a series of profanities of some sort. The one time that I did receive a phonecall was, of course, in a restaurant at a very quiet moment. What else would one expect from Marilyn Manson?"